On Sep 3, 2010, at 1:05 PM, J Hull wrote:
As you know we made the final transition to our new plans Ning Mini, Ning Plus and Ning Pro on August 30th. You’ve invested a lot in creating your Ning Network and we want to give you a final opportunity to pick a plan before your Ning Network is removed from the platform on September 6th. Currently you’ll find that your Ning Network is frozen and inaccessible to you and your administrators, but you can lift this block by selecting a plan. In case you are unfamiliar with our new plans, you can view all of the details on them at http://about.ning.com.
As a member of our Strategic Relationships Team, I wanted to personally reach out to offer you any help that I can provide. If you have any questions regarding moving over to one of our new plans please feel free to reach out to me at ———– Once again you need to select a plan by September 6th so your network isn’t removed from the platform, so please act quickly!
Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.
Director of Strategic Relationships
Thank you Jonathan. While I understand your business decision, I am dismayed at there being no further support for free sites despite $75 million of funding. I work at a startup where we’ve managed to still survive for several years in development on less than a third of your funding, and we’re building medical devices and running expensive clinical trials. So I don’t understand where all your funding went.
In any case, I have a network that has almost 900 members, but unless a majority were willing to fund it, it was not fair to collect money from some folks and have many others ride on their backs. I can also say that as someone who has been heavily involved in social networking for some time before it became “cool,” the easiest way to lose participants is to charge them. There’s a reason why FaceBook has many millions of members, and why to this day they do not charge users to participate in their social network.
So we cannot fund Ning’s new annual subscription fees for The Group for New Music Ensembles and Composers (http://newmusicensemblesandcomposers.ning.com/). This is a network that someone else started, abandoned, and I took on as a volunteer effort. I cannot fund it myself, nor can the great majority of its other members, so I suppose that it will be completely removed come September 6.
Interestingly, Ning had originally seemed to suggest that free networks would end in July, and it is now September, so I have a suspicion that The Group for New Music Ensembles and Composers is not the only one to balk at your new subscription fee requirements. I wish you good luck in your new business model which requires signing up other nonprofit networks to pay a yearly subscription fee, but am notifying you that my network will not be among them.
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dtoub 1:34 pm on Friday, September 3, 2010, 1:34 pm Permalink | Reply
Tags: extortion, ning, social networkingLast year, I had gotten invited to a new music network on Facebook that had an international range and included both composers and performers. I joined, in large part because it was unusual to have so many new music performers and composers from all over the planet in one social network, and it was pretty clear that this could lead to many fruitful collaborations. Shortly after I joined the Group for New Music Ensembles and Composers, the main site admin asked if anyone had suggestions for how to create a non-Facebook network on the Web. I wasn’t sure I saw the need for two versions of the same network, although there are advantages to having it open to people who are not on Facebook, but I suggested Ning, which had easy, if sometimes cookie-cutter, templates for building free social networks. Of course, that led to the inevitable request “Can you go ahead and do it?” So I went ahead and created a Ning site that was to do much the same as the Facebook group.The admin, however, started to get a bit weird-changiing color schemes to the point where everyone complained of it being unreadable, etc. After I made some fixes that were requested, the site’s other founder posted a pretty patronizing and insulting message on the network that made several people up and leave. And as I was about to quit myself, the two founders went AWOL, never to be heard from again. They left Facebook as well. So, here was an abandoned social network, one that had a few thousand members on Facebook and a new one on Ning that already had many dozens of participants. So I took both on, and enlisted my friends Mary Jane Leach and Steve Layton to help administer the Ning network.It was a pretty self-sustaining network on Ning, reaching nearly 900 members. It wasn’t the most active network, but that was fine by me, and it did facilitate communication between performers and new music composers from a variety of countries.Then Ning, despite something like $75 million in venture funding, announced earlier this year that it would cease support of all free networks as of July. The subscription fees were announced this past July and were prohibitive, at least to me. Very few folks came forward and offered to help with funding, and I didn’t feel it was right to have a few people help support a network when there were more than 870 others involved as well. So I just responded in the negative to a final plea from Ning to cough up some money and save the site.It was a good run while it lasted, and I feel bad for many nonprofit causes that used Ning to enable them to do their charitable work-some of these are supposed to continue for free, but I doubt all of them will. And any music-related site will either have to pay or become extinct, just as the GNMEC site is now ending. I understand that Ning is a business and all businesses have to, at some point, earn a profit. But then something was wrong with their initial business model. And I also can’t understand where $75 million or thereabouts of venture funding went.
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dtoub 12:41 am on Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 12:41 am Permalink | Reply
Tags: eventbox ( 2 ), fail ( 2 ), social networking, socialite, twitter ( 4 )
All the way back in April, I took a look at the explosion of twitter applications for OS X, after realizing that my then client of choice, twhirl, was essentially end-of-lifed after being acquired by Seesmic. After much exploration, I found EventBox, which was in beta and combined twitter with RSS feeds, Facebook and a bunch of other services. Unlike many of the other social networking clients out there, EventBox had a very Mac-like UI, and while short on some features, did a lot of things really well.
So I paid my $15 and used EventBox to manage my Facebook and Twitter feeds, and after NetNewsWire acquired ads, migrated my RSS feeds to Google Reader, which was supported by EventBox. So with one app, I could manage several things all at once. EventBox had a small development team that was pretty responsive, and while not associated with a large, trendy fan base like Seesmic Desktop, was a cool app nonetheless. Recently, EventBox development forked into a separate beta called Multibox, that had a lot of future features intended for EventBox. It lacked some functionality, though, like smart folders and even Facebook integration, so I kept using my EventBox beta, which served my purposes and held the promise of a lot of new functionality and even an iPhone app. I was a happy, nerdy social networker
Well, all that’s down the toilet.
Several weeks ago, EventBox was acquired by RealMac Software. I thought “Great-now they’ll have resources to bring new functionality to EventBox in a more rapid timeframe.” Boy, was I misguided. First, they renamed the app “Socialite” (note to RealMac Software: if you’re trying to build awareness of a new application whose user base is still pretty small compared with the big apps like TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop, don’t change the name).
Then they released a beta today that broke most of everything.
First I noticed that my Google Reader items, after being marked as Read, reverted to Unread after the service was refreshed. Then I quit Socialite to see if that would help, only to find that after restarting, the main window was not there unless I went into the menu bar and selected it. The Preferences item was grayed out, and a host of bugs ensued. I took the advice of RealMac and rebuilt the various services like Twitter and Facebook, and at least the prefs and window behaved as normal. But then I found that threads were no longer functional, whereas they had worked fine in previous EventBox betas. And Facebook keeps trying to update and fails. And yes, the Google Reader unread items bug is still present.
Realizing that one of my most-used applications no longer works, I went back and tried Seesmic Desktop, and while the interface is, to put it mildly, suboptimal, it works. Even better, it has a lot of functionality that isn’t found in Socialite/EventBox, and probably never will. Seesmic Desktop doesn’t do RSS, but I went back to NetNewsWire, and that works fine as always. I just have to ignore the ads, which is no big deal.
Back to Socialite. It’s a shame that RealMac killed it with this beta. I’m willing to wait it out and see if things improve, but I’d like to see new features, not bug fixes just to get me back to where I was before today. True, I could revert to the last beta of EventBox, but why bother when I have stability and added functionality, albeit with two applications rather than one?
In terms of social networking apps, I use Echofon (neé Twitterfon-what’s with all these social networking applications changing names all of a sudden? Geez…) on my iPhone, but could be convinced to use TweetDeck if I also cared to use it on my MacBook Pro, which I don’t, mainly because its layout is even worse than Seesmic’s. I’d be interested in seeing Seesmic’s forthcoming iPhone app, especially if it enabled syncing. EventBox was planning an iPhone app in the future, but that effort seems kinda dead for the foreseeable future. Which is a shame.
I’d love to have a single application that did twitter/FB/RSS and synced with my iPhone. But that isn’t the case so far. I paid for Twitterfon (now Echofon) and am pretty happy with that. I paid for EventBox (now Socialite) and am no longer happy with that. Seesmic is free, at least for now, and I can put up with the bad UI given that it works pretty well.
So this has been counterintuitive. I thought that a larger company acquiring a small application development team would be a recipe for success from a user perspective. It isn’t, at least in this case. I remember many, many years ago when Symantec acquired the makers of MacTools Pro. MTP was a really great system repair utility, perhaps the best ever. Symantec killed it after buying it. Norton Utilities for the Mac never approached the usability and versatility of MTP. In the case of RealMac buying the manufacturer of EventBox, it’s even worse, since the damned software doesn’t work. And who charges for a beta anyway? Paying for it sorta made sense at the time because it sounded like a 1.0 release was really on the horizon, and I could save a little money over the price when the official release came out. In retrospect, that was stupid. And it’s insane that the original developers (The Cosmic Machine) and now RealMac charged and continue to charge. I’d like a refund, although I doubt that will ever be in the cards. I’ll probably never ever pay for a beta, even as much as I like to support small software developers.
Sigh…back to checking my RSS feeds, Facebook and Twitter feeds. It’s an experience.
dtoub 12:49 am on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 12:49 am Permalink | Reply
Tags: social networking, twhirl, twitter ( 4 )
I’ve been using Twitter for what seems like a long time now. I’ve used a few Twitter clients by now, starting with Twitterific on my Mac, but eventually gravitated towards the Adobe Air-based twhirl on my laptop and twitterfon on my iPhone. Both are free and neither one has any ads. I can’t say enough about twitterfon. It’s pretty fast, has a good interface that avoids excess, and the developer is extremely responsive with updates. twhirl (how’d they come up with that name anyway?) is, like all the Adobe AIR-based applications, marred by a very non-Mac-like, inconsistent interface that is at times confusing and even misleading. But twhirl is nice in several ways:
- It doesn’t take up much screen real estate
- Like the Twitter Web site, there is a window always visible for composing new tweets
- It has pretty full functionality
- twhirl provides growl-like notifications of new tweets
- Font size is relatively customizable, along with the UI colors (although I’d love to see more and better options)
I went to the developer’s site last night out of curiosity, and signed up for what was billed as an opportunity to preview the next version of twhirl. What this is, however, is a preview of a new TweetDeck-like Twitter client called Seesmic Desktop. Apparently twhirl was acquired last April by a French development team, and I’ve now read conflicting accounts as to whether or not twhirl will be replaced by Seesmic Desktop. Anyway, I test-drove Seesmic Desktop and was left wanting. First, the positives:
- Column view, if you want it (I don’t)
- A useful sidebar
- Like twhirl, a window (on top, rather than the bottom, unlike twhirl) to compose new tweets
- Ability to group contacts into different lists
- A unified search field
Now the bad news, although keep in mind this is clearly not a polished application yet, just a preview of a work in progress:
- The notification is weak. It just displays the message that you have received a new tweet, not the content, unlike twhirl (which also color codes the notifications, depending on whether it is a direct message, a reply or a routine message)
- Font size is not customizable, and the fonts are too small for my eyes
- Column size is not expandable, which is a shame since I’d love for my Home column to expand horizontally to take better advantage of my MacBook Pro’s 15“ screen
- No way to view who’s following you, or who you’re following
- Like any AIR application, a crappy interface
- Few preferences whatsoever
- A really lame name (honestly, ”seesmic?“)
I’m hoping most of these issues become moot in the coming week, since the developer seems to be very open to feedback and realizes the key criticisms of the program (that it’s too much like TweetDeck, not enough like twhirl). It has promise, but not enough to make me switch from twhirl. Yet.
Just out of curiosity, I did try TweetDeck, but only briefly. Too many buttons on top, and again, I don’t really need the columns. True, you can remove columns, but then you get a warning message that this can’t be undone, when it’s clear that all one has to do is click the desired button on top. It integrates with FaceBook (as Seesmic Desktop also promises to do eventually), but that’s readily accomplished anyway through FaceBook’s Twitter app, so I’m not sure that’s a compelling reason for me to use TweetDeck.
I also read about Nambu. It caught my attention initially for no other reason than it shares a name with a physics Nobel laureate from my alma mater, but I doubt Yochiro Nambu uses Twitter. It has a Mac-like interface but seems cluttered to me. I’ve also heard that it has some stability issues, so I didn’t see any compelling reason to download it. I probably should, but time is fleeting.
Yesterday, I also heard a flood of information about a new desktop client called Tweetie, which apparently has been very well-received on the iPhone. From all the stuff I’ve read, this is the perfect Twitter application for Mac users, with a great UI, functionality, etc. I read stuff about Tweetie that was as enthusiastic as the stuff I used to read about Twitterific, and that application seems to have less buzz around it nowadays. What that suggests to me is that users of various Twitter apps are fickle. If someone invents a better Twitter client, people will migrate from what they’re currently using since there is little or no cost to doing so.
Well, here’s a reality check on Tweetie, since after road testing it, I’m not a fan:
- It costs. $14.95 for the desktop client, $2.99 for the iPhone client. I’m cheap, and didn’t see any marginal difference worth that much money compared with the free apps out there. True, the desktop client (not the iPhone version) is available in a free version with ads, but you also get reminder popups every so often inviting you to purchase the ad-free version.
- Nice UI, with very readable text and an iChat threaded format that is just like the one used in Twitterfon. But rather than having a window always present to write a new tweet, you have to initiate the process through either the menu bar or a keystroke combination, or the Dock icon or a subtle icon in the lower left corner. I like the open window paradigm.
- Bad name. Sorry, but ”Tweetie“ sounds stupid.
- Retweeting is in a non-customizable format (ie, it’s always ”via @xxxxx, rather than RT @xxxxx). Not a big deal, but I like the RT convention and wish I could choose the format, which I can do in both twhirl and Seesmic Desktop.
So I’m back to twhirl on my desktop and am continuing with Twitterfon on my iPhone. What I’d really love to see is a way to sync between Twitter apps. There’s talk of Nambu, I believe, being able to do this at some point, but at the server level, it would be great to have this as a universal Twitter feature so that it would be application-independent.
What would get me to switch to Tweetie? Drop the onerous reminder windows in the free version, for starters, or at least drop the price. And while many would disagree, I’d love to see the option of having a composition window open all the time, since that’s kind of the Twitter paradigm. I have no issue with shareware and feel that developers should be paid for their efforts if they choose. But I also reserve the right to not bother to purchase someone’s product if it isn’t compelling enough to warrant the price. I just don’t see how it’s worth $14.95.
And since Twitterfon is doing just fine by me and is free, I can’t justify switching to Tweetie on the iPhone either. I was thinking of even trying the iPhone app for three bucks, but after reading some reviews in the iTunes Store, I’m definitely sticking with Twitterfon. There doesn’t seem to be any significant advantage over Twitterfon, which as I mentioned is free, and there are limitations compared with Twitterfon. Tweetie on the iPhone doesn’t cache anything, so startup is slow since it has to reload all the tweets. Also, there is no notification of new messages, unlike Twitterfon, and you have to manually refresh since fetching is not automated.
At the same time, there is a lot to love about Tweetie. It’s compact, yet full featured and has a UI that is very usable and highly readable. It does seem slower than twhirl, at least to me, and I’d be curious how various Twitter clients compare with regard to speed. The main issues for me with Tweetie are its cost and lack of a notification window for incoming tweets. Maybe it could tie in with Growl at some point, which would solve that issue for me. I can live with having to type Command-N for a new tweet, but the other issues are show stoppers for me, at least right now. Still, it is a cool application, and I probably will try it some more, hoping the ads or nuisance window aren’t too intolerable.
dtoub 11:54 am on Wednesday, November 26, 2008, 11:54 am Permalink | Reply
Tags: facebook, social networking
I belong to a lot of social networks. This should provide the proper context:
Not too long ago, I dropped out of both Naymz and Plaxo since they were not useful to me (honestly, are they useful to anyone?). The universe didn’t self-destruct, so that proved that these two weren’t essential. And I almost never go to Within3, D.O.C., Classical Lounge and Dilettante Music as none of these are particularly conducive to ongoing communication. Sermo, which is a large medical forum, was of interest to me at one time but over many months I’ve gone from being the fourth-ranked gynecologist on the network to 71st, because I came to the conclusion that Sermo was largely bogus, contained a lot of angry, snarky conservative physicians and only a small number, relatively speaking, of people in my own specialty of gynecology. The time I mentioned my support for universal health care I nearly got lynched online.
Actually, no social network is absolutely essential, but I have to say that I find LinkedIn and Twitter to be very useful. Twitter keeps me in touch with a small group of friends, and it’s unobtrusive and easy to update (I use twhirl on my MacBook Pro and twitterfon on my iPhone). Similarly, LinkedIn, of which I was skeptical at first, keeps me up to date with over 500 professional contacts, colleagues and friends. It’s more formal in some ways, since it is primarily for business networking, but I find it very helpful. Indeed, I was initially recruited for my current position over LinkedIn.
So I wasn’t in need of, nor was I looking for, another social network to join. I’ve received several e-mails from friends asking me to join Facebook, and I always declined. I’ve read a lot about Facebook, and while their COO, who came from Google, is really talented, their CEO and founder has made some moves that didn’t impress me, perhaps due to his youth, and perhaps because some of Facebook’s tactics raised major privacy flags in my mind. Fortunately, most of this has been fixed or adjusted, so I have fewer privacy concerns.
But still, did I need another network?
But overall, it seems reasonably worthwhile so far. Most of my contacts are not work-related, although I admit to going back and forth as to whether or not to post information about what I read, watch on TV, etc. But the few folks I know professionally already either know I have an alter-ego who composes weird music, or else probably don’t care. Personally, I think that when I read a fellow physician’s page and see that he or she has interests outside medicine, that’s a plus in my mind. I’m syncing my twitter feed to it, which means that more people will be reading it other than the small network of friends I communicate with over twitter.
So anyway, in less than 24 hours I’ve racked up over 100 friends and will undoubtedly hear back from many more in the next day at this rate. Whether or not Facebook is really helpful is hard to say, but it will be an interesting thing to watch over time.