May the 4th be with you.

It’s a big day for Ning. Since announcing the end of free networks, Creators and community managers have waited in limbo for a new pricing structure. Educators and non-profits too. Free Nings ushered in a proliferation of new world networks, connected people, and made a lot of really cool stuff possible. For one particularly inspiring example, check out Ontario teacher Danika Barker’s use of the platform in her high school English Literature program.
In the weeks since the announcement, the Twittersphere and other portals of wired warriors have been abuzz with speculation, disappointment, and debate. It seems that while few begrudge Ning the necessity of a business model, many feel that the demise of free networks is a step away from a purposeful social venture. Ning had a chance to be something really, really good. Good for the causes, good for the kids, and good for the world. And then, Ning made everyone wait for several weeks in order to find out what it would mean for them. Meanwhile, other community platforms have sprouted into awareness. Group.LY (who sent us an interesting personal email). Spruz. BuddyPress for WordPress. Most recently, I’ve seen one particularly successful migration as the Canada Mom Blog Network embraced their inner Spruz and became MomNation. For members, the migration seems seamless. The network creators ensured that the functionality their members were trained for would remain consistent in the new platform. They’ve done a good job. Ning, who?

And then came today. Creators received a cryptic note in their inboxes. TechCrunch attempted to sum it up. The New York Times covered it. And you know what? The sky is not falling.

But for the networks hanging most precariously in the balance – teachers and non-profits – the disappointment at NingMini is palpable. No groups. No file uploads. 150 member limit. A $200 yearly cost (I won’t mention here that my daughter’s teacher recently shared her photocopying costs with me. She shuddered. I shuddered. Whoops, I mentioned it.).

And then, the cherry on the cupcake. Again, cryptically, in the typical fashion of their recent announcements, Ning announced that a major educational company would be sponsoring networks for K-12 educators. Speculation is rife. Will said educational company now own teachers’ network content and information (the only logical reason Ning wouldn’t sponsor this themselves)? Will networks be subjected to marketing beyond the margin ads we’ve all learned to ignore? Membership has it’s privileges?

It’s a fascinating discussion, to be sure. Ning should hurry up and share the truth. Now that the peanut gallery IS the PR, they aren’t winning any fans.


The full report is ready for download. So are other local government action resources.