Tuesday, September 22, 2009

will anybody use a ning?

I went to chat to a young volunteer who was keen to support a local youth council/forum group to make a website yesterday. They'd done some layouts in word, and wanted to know about "what was possible"?

It's very much one of those "how long is a piece of string?" questions. If you want to buy a web address, get some web space, and knock together something using the free templates provided, you just can, assuming you've got no problem with shelling out a few dollars, know a bit of html and are prepared to fiddle with the settings a bit. Setting up a blog and sorting out some photo hosting and tying it into a Facebook Group is even easier and completely free.

In fact, it's so easy, that the world is littered with built-and-abandoned websites, blogs, streams profiles and forums. So I asked them a few questions:

  • What do you need the website for?
  • What are the expectations of the young people?
  • How will you maintain it?

They're going back to the group to ask about the first two (they'd already considered the third, well done!). I've also suggested that they ask around the group to find out:

  • Which social networking site is most widely used and would they like a group set up?
  • Is there a young person with experience of creating websites who could make them a website?
  • Here's what I can do for you, is it what you want?

They were, however, disappointed. They wanted me to recommend a short training course that would teach the young volunteer how to make a website, ideally one run by the volunteer's manager's employer. Then she would make the website.

Maybe I should be running one. I'm sure I wrote one, a few years ago.

But, instead, I suggested that they set up a Ning. I'm in three or four, and I think they ought to fit the needs of a group of young people who want something to be:

  • Separate from the main social networking sites
  • Serious in appearance and use, but easily cutomisable and flexible
  • Friendly to multimedia content
  • Closed, only accessible to a particular group

I don't know if they'll go for it yet, but the last two groups I suggested it to did not, and I'm still not quite sure why not -- or why I don't use my Nings as much as I should, for that matter.

Although it might have something to do with the comment notification, which irritates me every time it turns up; it says there's a comment, but not what it says. It has that in common with Fiends Reunited; it won't tell you what's going on until you're actually on the site. And frankly, that's not very social.