When we last left our hero…
You may have been following my on again off again love affair with Ning. Before Ning announced that it was getting rid of its free social networks I signed on to do two workshops/talks on Ning’s applications for the secondary English classroom. Imagine my embarrassment and consternation with Ning made its big announcement. Well there was a lot of shock and dismay in the Twitterverse and Ning came back announcing that Pearson would sponsor free educator accounts. So naturally I jumped right on it and applied.
Where I’m at right now…
I have six Nings that I’ve created and LOVE. I applied to have them all sponsored but I’ve only heard back about one of them which leaves me a little anxious since I won’t be able to use the other ones after August 20 unless Ning and Pearson agree to sponsor them. I’d really like to stick with Ning if at all possible but the free educator mini version doesn’t allow me to create groups, which means that it doesn’t work as well for book clubs. It also no longer has a chat feature, which is not a huge deal for me, but it’s disappointing. In addition, if it takes this long for Ning and Pearson to respond about whether or not they will sponsor my site, I don’t know how many teachers will be game to try it. So I’m currently test-driving some alternatives:
Ning Alternatives: I’m going to use a completely unscientific rating system to assess these sites. One star is gross; five stars is “just as nice as Ning if not better.” I’ll basically be comparing the sites to the things I like about Ning. Fair? Maybe not, but it works for me.
Bachelor #1: Webs.com
Look: ****Lots of nice templates to choose from.
Ease of set-up and use: ** It’s pretty complicated. I’m sure if I gave it time it would become easier but there are just so many different variables and settings.
Member Profile Pages: ** Meh. You can add text boxes that allow html so I guess it could look engaging and have interesting features.
Blogability: ** The site does have different types of pages including a blog page but as far as I can tell it doesn’t allow members to have their own blogs. They all just post to the same blog, which isn’t really what I’m going for.
Features and apps: **Most of the features seem to come in the form of different types of pages you can add. They’re okay. You can upload pictures, video, and have background music on the pages but what my students really liked was how they could customize their profile pages on our ning. Webs doesn’t have much of that.
Ads: * Pretty bad. I know that’s how these sites make money, but some of the ads that come up would be very distracting to students. One of them was for a free role playing video game site and it played obnoxious music. Not cool.
School Appropriateness: * You can choose “Schools” as a category for your site which is a good sign. Members can’t be under 13, which is pretty standard. I’m finding the privacy settings a little tricky to figure out which concerns me. It doesn’t look like I can make the site privately viewable which means code names and hyper vigilance.
Ning Migration: Negative.
Overall: Don’t think it’s for me. Good option though if someone’s looking to set up a free website I guess.
Bachelor #2: Grouply
Look: **** Pretty nice and customizable while being simple but it’s not as nice as Ning or Webs
Ease of set-up and use: **** Since I can import from Ning, it’s pretty easy. It even kept my bookclub groups and imported them as subgroups.
Member Profile Pages: ***A little better than Webs but still not as cool as Ning.
Blogability: ** Like Webs. You can blog but it all goes to the same blog.
Features and apps: *** I’m not blown away or anything but it does have groups and a chat feature which can be moderated. That’s pretty cool.
Ads:*** All Google ads and they’re not offensive and not too distracting.
School Appropriateness: ** It would appear that Grouply members can search for other Grouply members based on similar interests, etc. This worries me because I liked that with Ning I could ensure that students’ profiles would not be visible to people who weren’t members of our group. When I joined as “Jane Barker” before I had a chance to set my privacy settings I already had two friend requests from people I don’t know. I don’t like that. Anyone can search for me using any part of my name and they would see my profile picture and name even although not my profile. So that means code names again and strict lessons about not adding friends who you don’t know.
You basically create a Grouply identity apart from the group site. In Ning, the profile only exits within this site.
Ning Migration: ***** Yes.
Overall: I need to check out the privacy concerns a little more. Maybe I’m just missing something. Because this would be a pretty good alternative other than that BIG issue.
Bachelor #3: Grou.ps
Bachelor #4: Buddy Press
To be continued…