Community Is More Than Comments

Many moons ago, I wrote a blog post on my personal blog site about how comments do not equate to a community. I had a lot of gripes with the lack of accountability in regular comments, the linear and inflexible nature of the tools available for commenting, and the general one-dimensionality of the experience.

For the longest time Zadi and I were watching the open source projects and commercial sites offering web community tools in the hopes that we could roll out a social component for JETSET. Drupal was the leader and the obvious choice, but quite frankly it lacked attractive templating options. It is also pretty far from a turnkey tool, or at least it was when we were reviewing packages.

Then we found Ning. We were immediately impressed by how easy it was to set up a social network site, customize it, and be up and running. In two days in May, over ten total hours, we built the MIX site that still looks the same today. Our hardcore fans could immediately begin uploading photos and videos, talk in threaded forums, customize their own profile pages, connect over common interests, interact with us about show topics and ideas, and so much more. Just like that, we had a real community.

Ning is always updating their product, but there are a number of tools that are definitely lacking. The inability to make top users low-level admins to help moderate the site is one thing that stands out. And without getting into the source code, it's difficult to change the layout to add things like a leaderboard banner ad across the top of the page.

But on the whole the tools are stellar. Wait til you see what we roll out in a couple of weeks with the JETSET relaunch. Total Ning API and feed integration into the main site with AJAX calls to make it fully dynamic. I can't wait to get that puppy up and running!

We're also glad that we were able to help introduce a number of online web shows to Ning!


Daniel Miller said:

Been very impressed with your Ning implementation! I remember when Ning first started years ago and everyone was kind of WTF? Now it seems so obvious, cool, and well built! They were ahead of their time. At any rate, kudos for finding it and leading the pack w/in the online video world. More online web show Ning implementations are to come! ;)

Also very much looking forward to the new Jetset site relaunch etc...the 2 second tease you gave in a show a while back def made me want to see more...hint!

One question about Ning: is everything hosted on their servers? If so how is the domain handled? Clever forwarding or just DNS?


Steve Woolf said:

Thanks for the kind words, Daniel!

Ning hosts everything on their servers, yes. You can set up a subdomain such as very easily. All you have to do is create it with your domain registrar as a CNAME, and point it to the Ning domain they provide.

They have very easy walkthroughs for all this stuff when you sign up for Ning. It's $4.95 per month to have the Ning site appear under your own domain.