Ning.com?

At work we’re looking to make a social network function for quite a large and geographically distant internal network, which in an ideal world would have 5 or 6 related but distinct subgroups.

Our overall goal is to use a system to efficiently get information around these groups. Email is not cutting it.  We would like to free ourselves from its grip.

We were initially very excited about Drupal, but I’m told that we would have had to rely on a programmer to make it happen for us, and he has evidently fallen off the face of the earth.  I hope he’s ok, wherever he is.

In lieu of outside help, I’ve been looking around at other options.  I heard Ning.com mentioned a few times, and as far as I can tell it’s just Moodle.  Regardless of which nonsense-word social network service we use, I’m excited about several features:

  • Initial setup was intuitive
  • I can post events, announcements, links, and other information
  • Groups
  • A blog, forum, etc.

My concerns about Ning.com in particular are:

  • I have an alarming quantity of information to post, including a forms library.  Is there a good way to do this using Ning.com?  Or is this where Moodle really shines?
  • I’m having trouble editing the layout of my page, as opposed to the main network page.
  • Will it be intuitive enough for enough of our network to make it worth trying?

I also have a more general concern about Web 2.0-ing my program.  Within our program, there are a lot of details, complications, and restrictions, not all of which are intuitive.  It’s the nature of our funding streams, and is even a little extreme in a nonprofit context.  We definitely want our network to collaborate with each other, talk, share stories, etc.  We also need the rules, regulations, and expectations, and their relatively strict natures to be abundantly clear.  How do other networks walk that line?  What are some tips for success?

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Being Web 2.0 Brokers

It’s extremely busy “season” at work the past few months, and I was recently explaining Google Reader to my office mate.  She looked at me blankly and said that if we did any more talk about new tech stuff that day her head would explode.  

Cut to a scene about 1 hour later at a staff check-in meeting.  Coworker A says, “Emily, what’s so great about wikis?”  Right on cue, Office Mate makes an exploding noise and a little mushroom cloud motion with her hands.  The room goes silent and she and I try not to giggle.  Other coworkers are mystified, lengthy explanations ensue, and universal amusement is eventually achieved.  End scene.

The point of relating this mini-drama is that there are so many awesome tools out there, it’s almost funny.  It’s not surprising that so many people are overwhelmed. 

This is where I’ve found it important to be a Web 2.0 broker (with thanks to Mary Pipher’s “How To Be A Cultural Broker”).  In unfamiliar territory, people often need a little guidance.  You don’t have to be the most qualified or knowledgeable person around to help; you can share what you know and then learn the rest together.  It is about getting people connected with tools (therefore information, therefore power), and also a great excuse to build relationships with people you might not work with very often otherwise.

I’m excited that the handful of Web 2.0 brokers in our organization have put together a wiki (thanks Coworker S!) to let us support the personal verbal conversations with a small “sandbox” to play in.  We have a place for meeting notes and a brief, hand-picked list of resources.  It’s local, limited, and simple, and I can’t think of a better way to start.

How have others helped ease their coworkers into the Web 2.0 waters?  What tips would you share with other would-be brokers?