Most Important Upgrades for Ning:
Assuming that all goes well with the current roadmap, this is what I would personally like to see slotted into the next product roadmap. I’ve created a list of what I personally believe are the most important upgrades that Ning networks as a whole would benefit from. Of course many people will disagree with this list because their favorite feature might not be on it or they might disagree with the order of importance. My only message to them is to try and understand that not all one million of their requests can be fulfilled and not everybody will agree with one another. So without further ado, this is my list of the most important upgrades for Ning in a general order of importance:
1. Continued Security, Speed, Reliability, and Consistency
Reasoning: Technically, this is not an upgrade and should not actually be written on the next roadmap. However, there is nothing more important to Ning than this. Not a single upgrade to the platform would matter in the slightest bit if we don’t have secure, speedy, reliable networks that were consistently updated. There should never be any security risks with our networks, no matter how big or small. Our networks should load fast with as little downtime as possible. The platform should continue to be updated on a regular basis, as these roadmaps already do for us. Without all of this incredibly important stuff Ning does behind the scenes to keep our networks up and running, nothing on the roadmap would even matter to us. So Ning, don’t ever let a new feature get in the way of what really matters to us: A secure, speedy, and reliable website that we can trust to be running day and night.
2. Fix the Old Before Adding New
Reasoning: You shouldn’t add new features until the regular features are 100% polished. Why should we charge for memberships when there are so many things we can’t do with the basic features we already have? Gifts should not cost money for creators and should be much more customizable. Events should be recurring. We should be able to have forum signatures and turn discussions into “stickys”. The video and photo size limits should be increased. We should be able to tag members in videos, photos, and statuses. And a million more of the features we already have on our networks are in need of updating. There are seven huge features that I have on this list that would help our networks so much. But they wouldn’t really help anything if the small stuff we already have hasn’t reached its maximum potential. So Ning, fix the old before adding new. Go back to the videos, photos, forums, blogs, groups, events, leaderboards, gifts, notes, and pages before adding anything extra for us. It definitely won't put you on TechCrunch, but it'll make your customers much more happy and your product much better overall.
3. On-Network Notifications
Reasoning: So you’ve just posted two discussions, a blog, a video, and a photo album on your network. Great! I’m sure you’re going to get quite a few comments, replies, and messages for all that. The problem here is that you have to actually open up a new tab and go to a separate website just to keep track of what’s going on! This is ridiculous. First of all, you should never be forced to leave the network, especially just to keep track of your own activity. Second, the majority of people (especially the younger generation) do not use email any more. I’m not saying that email is dead; I’m merely suggesting that because there is such little need for email these days that most people don’t use it. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are some of the world’s largest websites and you can keep track of everything right there on the website. No need to leave. So Ning, don’t make us leave the actual network and go to a different website to track our activity! That is barbaric!
4. Ning Chat Upgrade
Reasoning: Do I really need to explain? Every single employee at Ning Headquarters, even the 16-year-old kid mopping the floor, knows that Ning Chat is in need of an upgrade. It is the single most requested feature on Ning Creators, no doubt about it. And the funny thing is, it doesn’t really need much work. All you have to do is give us the ability to customize colors and make new messages pop out. We’re not talking about a complete rebuild. We just need the basic essentials of chat. If anyone needs anything more than that, they can invest in Skysa or Wibiya. So Ning, don’t leave the most basic feature of a social network looking like crap! Fix the chat or continue to lose customers.
5. Customer Support Upgrade
Reasoning: Unless you are a Pro network creator, you aren’t getting respectable support from Ning when your network encounters a problem. Your support ticket will not be responded to for a few days, possibly even a week, and this is unacceptable. No matter how great Ning’s features are, they are meaningless if our networks break and we can’t get the help we need. Ning’s customer support makes them look like a weak company and is most likely the main cause of NC’s leaving Ning. My advice would be to either staff more customer support representatives or create a phone support service. Whatever you do, customer support needs to be improved by well over 300%.
6. Invitation Leaderboard/Referral System
Reasoning: The member count of the average Ning network could easily double within a week if Ning implemented some sort of an invitation leaderboard or referral system. This has been requested before several times. If current members were able to move up a leaderboard when their friends joined the network, they’d be very pleased. They’d invite as many people as they could, especially if they earned rewards or prizes from the network creator for being the top inviter. All it takes is an addition to the current leaderboard feature for tracking the top inviters. Members would enjoy moving up this leaderboard and gaining popularity on the site and many many members would join.
7. Content Manager (Mass Feature and Delete)Reasoning: Ever tried to feature or delete a large amount of items on your network? Not fun. We need an easy way to feature, unfeature, and delete all types of content on our network. I suggest building a “Content Manager” where we can view all content on the network categorized by time, member, and type of content. This is crucial for networks that are spammed with large amounts of content, need to feature a large amount of videos, photos, etc, and want to delete unwanted content.
8. More Control over Moderators’ Roles
Reasoning: If you are a Ning creator and give a member control over the Members feature, they could easily sabotage the entire network in minutes. They could delete all the members or even steal all the emails and create a network of their own. Moderators have way too much power! I wouldn’t let my own mother have this sort of power because it’s just so easy to accidentally delete everything. Even if you don’t give a member control over the members, they could delete or edit videos, photos, blogs, groups, events, and discussions leaving your network a disaster. So Ning, please give us limits on what moderators and admins can do. They are just way too powerful and our networks are too large for us to handle on our own.
9. Subscribe to Members’ ContentReasoning: I have over 100 friends on my network, yet I have no way of keeping track of what they are doing. They post really interesting videos and blogs, yet I have to search all over the place to find them. Don’t you think I should be notified when they post certain things? There should be a clear “Subscribe” button on all members’ profiles. You should be able to choose which features you want to follow from them and have notifications of new content sent to your email (or Notifications box as seen in feature #1).
So that's my view on what Ning needs to update in the next roadmap. You may disagree and that's fine with me. I just wanted to share my view on what Ning should focus on next. The main thing I want to highlight here is that Ning needs to update the old before adding new. Once that is complete, numbers three through nine on this list should immediately be worked on.
What do you think about Ning's future? What are your top requests? Leave a reply with your opinion. Let's give Ning a sense of what we want from them :)
there are a lot of good things on this list, and i recognize your calling chat out as an area that needs work. That said...
I don't think ning needs a chat upgrade.
I know its crazy, but i said it. I even have a completely chat oriented site, so this may sound strange to those of you who know me.
I think what they need to do instead is build in RICH compatibility for a variety of industry standard chat applications. Userplane, Meebo, Flashcoms, 123flashchat, tokbox, etc.
There is no one size fits all approach to chat. By partnering with the leading applications and pounding through the integration details, we could get 5 new chat programs for less work than it would take to "fix" the ning chat. And even if they did update and "fix" chat, it would probably be in a way that only 1/5th of the people would be happy with.
All good points.
Personally, I've given up making suggestions or posting a 'wishlist' on what I'd like in future NING releases. Reason being is that I've had virtually zero response from NING whenever I've posted something like this.
From my point of view I'd like NING to create some better productivity features - something that allows people to collaborate more effectively. I'm starting to notice many people are kinda getting fed up with multiple social networks - so i believe the way forward, and to make our networks standout from the crowd, we need to deliver networks that are really useful for members. What features would do this is open to debate - but I believe thats the way to go.
Marshall, great post. You highlight some crucial points that need to be rectified asap by NING.
I get the impression that there is so much they need to fix, that they are giving up in trying to improve NING,but rather just focussing on putting out fires with the existing tickets backlog.
I do not want to hijack your post and list the issues I am personally having on my network. (If asked to by Ning I will gladly list my issues).
Getting back to your list. Great Job. I truly hope this does not fall on deaf ears.
Hi - I am new to this forum and relatively new to Ning. I created a network just last year.
I joined the Creators network because I wanted to find out how to do 'simple' things that I was sure were possible but could not find in the standard help. I thought a few diligent searches here would put everything to rights - and the first post I read is this one!
I agree absolutely with the underlying premise of this post that getting the current model fixed before bolting new goodies on to it should be Ning's focus.
The message from the comments seems to be that Ning are not interested in resolving them either - so what hope is there? How depressing!!
You have a bright future ahead of you as a blogger. :-) I get what you are saying and I can definitely see them honoring you as a contributor. Criteria for selection I think was a little vague but one thing I looked at is contribution to discussions and you have over 1600 which is not too shabby and I was surprised to find that Thunder X had even more than Jen and she was here before him. I guess I am saying that what you say is valid and there is some merit to acknowledging you as a contributor.
I guess we will just wait in suspense for when the next Superstars will get picked. It's no secret though that Ning Creators is designed for us to give FReedback and the developer's count on it. It is the most valuable aspect of Ning Creators for Ning. The real Superstars are people who take the time to report bugs because if that didn't happen Ning would be a lot worse than it already is. Negative Feedback of the kind you speak is certainly not the kind that would get any of the people you mentioned banned and those who provide are very passionate about the product and often contribute a lot too. I hope Ning takes that into consideration as well if "Negative Feedback" hurts their feelings and effects the selection process.
I think the major problem with all of this is developers seem to like building "new stuff" they like and wouldn't have a clue what their customers want.
This is a common problem in many saas companies. Freshbooks and 37 Signals are two good examples. You look at some of the new enhancements and think "how could they release this when they dont even do this". The other problem you have is players who dominate their market (not sure where Ning sits but I think their market share in this space would be siginificant) unfortunately by nature become arrogant.
I do think however the developer who builds what they want ("like building") and not what customers want is the bigger problem and has been for a long time.
I agree Marshall. I'm sure it's a combination of all these things. I must confess I'm not across "all" the issues...maybe they think that only a small part of the community think they are issues? One thing they would know is there "churn rate" on losing networks and maybe its low? Which makes them think - "it can't be that bad".
But all they would have to do is a comprehensive survey and they would find out pretty quickly what network owners really think - I can never understand why companies don't want to know this? The other problem is where do you go if you not happy? I was with SocialGo - but (who would have figured!) I found that they didn't do a lot of listening either! Sad but true unless they get serious competition and the "move is on" they will continue to prioritise based on what "they" think is important.
To confirm your point Marshall we where attracted to Ning because they seemed very proactive (with new initiatives!)....but we didn't have a clear understanding of the "current" issues. We haven't even gone live with our network yet and I must admit, all of this discussion with (from what I can see) little response (or lack of a plan - "we hear you" doesn't provide comfort) from Ning makes me nervous. For us it seemed the good out weighed the bad - and I hope I am right!