I have some first-hand experience with Ning, because I decided awhile back to use it as a tool for helping to plan a journalism school reunion that I’m involved with. It’s been quite awhile since I was at Ryerson in Toronto (don’t ask how long or I’m liable to punch you), and many of my former classmates have scattered to the winds. After a couple of members of the group sent out some emails trying to get a reunion under way, it became obvious that having a single place to co-ordinate things would make a lot of sense. One or two people mentioned MySpace, but it seemed too — well, MySpacey. Then I thought of Ning.com.
The reason Ning came to mind was that a Toronto group — helmed by Mark Dowds — created a site related to a new “open office” concept called Indoor Playground. It seemed relatively simple to add members, send out updates, upload photos and had a nice, clean look to it, so I decided to try it out. In just a few minutes I had the site set up (there is even more customization available with the new features), and apart from a few glitches in getting people signed up — it’s invitation only — it was a no-brainer.
Om has some thoughts about the new Ning, and Scoble has an interview with Marc Andreessen and CEO Gina Bianchini up at Podtech — and Ms. Bianchini has a post on the Ning blog with some of the insights that she has gained from starting the company (I particularly like the “Underhype your service” one). Frantic Industries has a good overview of the service too. Steve O’Hear at ZDNet has some thoughts too, and Don Dodge wonders whether it’s any better than Live Spaces or Yahoo Groups.