Just noticed this post (No more Ning) from James Clay which comments on this post on the Ning creator’s network which tell’s us that Ning is planning to phase out its free social networks to concentrate on their paid customers. The timing is immaculate: on the day as on which I’d been promoting Ning to this community, creating a new Ning site for evaluation as a host for Sea SALT, and encouraging people to sign up, on the other side of the Atlantic the newly installed CEO of Ning is laying off staff and pulling out the rug from under me!
As for Sea SALT, I guess that you get what you pay for, and even though there are hints that educational sites may be a special case, it seems prudent to hold back from investing further time and effort to grow communities on top of a service that may be gone tomorrow. But if this community likes the idea of a social-network based community, we need to have a plan B. Self hosted free open-source social network services include Elgg (which used to host Oremi) and the Buddy Press plugin for the WordPress Multiuser edition. In addition Learning Objects’ new Campus Pack Fusion Community Areas look to have potential. All three would be perfectly viable, but all would require support from LIS. The current pricing of Ning is currently $4.95 a month to use our own domain and $25 per month to go add free. That be low enough for SALT to bear the cost. On the other hand, we are already paying for Learning objects and I’m told that the new Campus pack will cost the same as we’re currently paying.