Why Unjoin Ning Networks that Won’t Pay

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues

In Ning’s New Deadline for Pay-Only: Aug. 30, I quoted the announcement of the new deadline set by Ning for paying to keep a network online. It now turns out that creators of Ning networks that won’t do so cannot delete them anymore.  In view of this, the  following passage in the announcement of the new deadline  becomes worrying:

…As a result, we have extended the deadline for selecting one of the three new plans (Ning Mini, Plus and Pro) to August 30, 2010. Beginning on this date, we will block access to any free Ning Network that isn’t subscribed to one of the three plans.

“block access” – and not “delete” – this means that after August 30, Ning will  have sole access  to, and use of:

  • the content posted in these networks
  • the profile data of all members of these networks, which include their e-mail addresses.

E-mail addresses are a particularly marketable commodity, and Ning’s Privacy Policy (dated July 20, 2010; as archived at webcitation.org/5sJi4yzaR)  states that:

…We may share some or all of your Personal Information with our affiliates, in which case we will seek to require those affiliates to honor this Privacy Policy…

“seek to require” is not a strong commitment; moreover,  Ning may change this privacy policy in future.

It therefore seems advisable to protect your data by unjoining Ning networks whose creators do not intend to pay for a Ning plan. This includes talketc.ning.com, the Ning network for ETC Journal. Moreover, when you unjoin a Ning network, you have the option to delete everything you contributed to it – you might wish to do that too.

16 Responses

  1. Claude, thanks for the heads up. I learned that the process for taking TalkETC offline is so convoluted that it requires numerous attempts. Taking it offline still doesn’t mean it’s deleted. It’s simply offline and Ning will “automatically delete these networks after the August 20 deadline.”

    When I tried to unsubscribe from Ning altogether, I found I couldn’t until my networks were deleted. Catch-22! I can’t delete my networks until Aug 20.

    If I weren’t personally upset at Ning in the past, I am now. Why in the world are they making it difficult for clients of the formerly free service to leave? -js

    • Hi Jim,

      You mean they have not even changed the date to Aug 30 in these processes? And they use the word “delete” about offline networks?

      My hunch, based on their “…Beginning on this date, we will block access to any free Ning Network that isn’t subscribed to one of the three plans.”, is that they will keep them on their servers and try to monetize what is monetizable in them – possibly also the profile data that were provided by their members.

  2. Hi, Claude. The “August 20” in the quote is from Ning. Yes, they haven’t changed it. The “Aug 20” in the following paragraph is mine. I meant to say “Aug 30.”

    Yes, they used the word “delete.”

    Ning is foolish beyond words. Whatever goodwill they generated with their free service is quickly being corroded by their present behavior. -js

    P.S. Here’s the announcement I received via email:

    Subject: Ning Deactivation Request ref:00D8cCLt.5004Bw2Gs:ref
    From: View message header detail Ning Help Center
    Date: Saturday, August 28, 2010 2:47 am
    To: “jamess@hawaii.edu”

    Hi there,

    If you would like to deactivate your entire Ning.com account, you’ll first need to delete any Ning Networks you’ve created and cancel any monthly or annual subscriptions you’ve purchased.

    If you’ve created a Ning Network prior to July 20, you can take it offline by heading to My Network > Settings > Privacy and clicking the “take offline” button. We’ll automatically delete these networks after the August 20 deadline. If you’d like to archive your Ning Network’s content before taking it offline, you can use the Ning Network Archiver (My Network > Content > Archive). Once your network is taken offline, please let us know and we can proceed with deactivating your account.

    If you created a network after July 20 and want to cancel your free trial, please reply to this message with your Ning Network’s URL and confirm that we can cancel your free trial. After canceling your trial, we can go ahead and deactivate your account.

    Best,
    The Ning Team

    • Hi Jim

      First things first: can you put talketc.ning.com back online, please? Otherwise people won’t be able to unjoin it.

      It does seem that the Ning people forgot to change the wording after their decision to shift the deadline to Aug. 30.

      In the e-mail they sent network creators on Aug. 20, just before changing their mind about the deadline, they spoke of blocking, not deleting, networks if you didn’t pay. Here is my copy (minus the obit frame, and the dramatic font size and bold effects that messed up this reply):

      From: The Ning Team
      Date: Fri, Aug 20, 2010 at 9:03 AM
      Subject: Last Chance: Pick a Plan by Midnight Tonight
      To: “claude.almansi@gmail.com”

      You have received this email because you created a Ning Network.

      Today is the last day

      Today is the final day for free Ning Networks

      We would like you to stick with us and keep your Ning Network running:

      http://pakfeeds.ning.com

      Less than 24 hours left to choose

      We are contacting you one last time in the hope that you still want to keep your social network. Your Ning Network will be blocked after midnight tonight unless you choose a new plan. We hope you will stick around and take advantage of all the new features! But hurry — the deadline is tonight, Friday, August 20, 2010, at midnight PST.

      I’m Ready to Pick a Plan

      Just released!

      Who’s #1?: Use the new Leaderboard feature to put the best content at the top of your Ning Network — and keep your members hyper-engaged.

      Blogger helper: Our new support for MetaWeblog lets you use powerful third-party blogging tools to post content directly to your Ning Network.

      Got a question about the new plans? Compare Mini, Plus & Pro or check out the Top 5 Questions people have been asking.

      If you do not wish to receive further email notifications like this one, please unsubscribe.
      © 2010, Ning Inc., 285 Hamilton Avenue, Suite 400, Palo Alto, CA 94301

      .

      And in the announcement of the shifting of the deadline to the Aug. 30, they also used the phrase “block access to”

      • Tsk, in Does taking a network offline stop billing?, Deelip Menezes quotes the reply he too got from the help center when he tried to de-activate his Ning account in general.

        Identical to the one you got and quoted, Jim – the difference is that he had subscribed to a paying plan, and therefore might be charged for it even though he does not want his Ning site anymore. This might be one motive why Ning shifted the deadline then prevented all creators from deleting their networks.

      • Ning.com has given the worse customer service when it comes to deleting the networks. That should have been a no-brainer. I left Ning.com months ago before the pricing plan took effect. I deactivated all networks and put all of them in offline mode prior to all of that months ago. I just came back to Ning.com today to look at the Mini package..and all of my old networks were still up…and some of them were in the online mode..even though I specifically put them in offline mode. Why were they not deleted by Ning.com? Why were some of them still in online mode? Ning stated that if you deactivated and put the network in offline mode.then they will delete the network. Okay, so my network should have been deleted in August or at least by mid-September since I left before the pricing plan deadline. I put out several messages today to Ning.com about this…my Ning Creators account was also still working..so Ning.com did not change my status at all…they still had me down as a creator I received one message back from one of the Ning moderators a few minutes ago that just said

        “Hello! The Creators Ning Network is now designed to be a place for Mini, Plus, or Pro subscribers. I’m not seeing you listed as having one of these three types of accounts, so I may simply close out your Creators membership. If, at some point in the future, you rejoin Ning with a Mini, Plus, or Pro subscription, I hope you’ll re-apply to Creators! E”
        Yes, exactly that is the point..I left Ning..but the networks are still up. I put them in offline again just a few minutes ago, so that no one will see them. I was actually coming back to try the Mini package..and consider coming back to Ning.com full time.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andreas Formiconi, Claude. Claude said: Why Unjoin Ning Networks that Won’t Pay « Educational Technology and Change Journal http://bit.ly/cJgefD @rdfrench @etcjournal […]

  4. This article speaks of Ning as if their actions are driven solely by some nefarious purpose. I think this is somewhat disingenuous.

    All the so-called “FREE” services were created to make money! To believe otherwise is naive.

    Facebook, the largest of them all, has paid ads in the right margin and paid services for hire. Those of us who use these services reap the benefit of for-profit business models that do not require us to pay. I personally am grateful.

    Ning, is a me-to service that tried to improve upon the technology and to somewhat copy the business model of Facebook. It accomplished the first and failed at the second. In asking people to pay for the service it was/is trying to correct the second without going out of business.

    I am sympathetic to the cost it takes to maintain and improve the technology because I maintain servers myself at great personal investment in both time and money (time is money)

    I still have a Ning blog. In reaction to the change of circumstances I applied for and received a scholarship offered to every educational site. I received another small grant and am happily operating at no cost to me.

    Ning’s ability to mine email addresses has always existed and was part of their service agreement. There is nothing new here. But even if it wasn’t it is always possible for someone to mine one of these open resources (such as ETC). Again, there is nothing new here. Such mining goes on 24/7/365.

    If one doesn’t want this to happen they can build a server array, hire web programmers, rent a broadband connection, hire a system administrator, monitor it 24/7/365, and still not be sure that they are not being mined. All at great expense!

    If you critically look at WordPress you will find a business model that somehow is funded from sources unknown to you or me.

    I am particularly amused by Ideagora which is created and managed by a for-profit business and who chose to go through the brain damage of creating a new site on a “free” service. I suspect the motive was to preserve the business base for the benefit of profit. That rings somewhat hypocritical to me.

    In conclusion, building and maintaining the free services is not so free. For these services to seek being paid is no difference than accepting a paycheck for services rendered. If one thinks otherwise they should give back their salary the next payday. I see the objections to NING as looking a gift horse in the mouth.

  5. Hi, Reid

    Sorry if I was unclear: I am not beefing against Ning going pay-only per se, but against the messy way they are doing it. They sacked 40% of the staff before introducing complicatedly different plans, and they kept adding new silly gimmicks, presumably with the idea that they would make people happy for having paid.

    So they had to postpone the deadline for choosing one of the paying plans from July 20 to August 20 to August 30 to September 6. And there are lots of bugs and issues with the transfer. And as the help center first had to concentrate on payment and billing issues for most of August, customers who had already paid, but e.g. could not access their networks, saw the events on their calendar disappear etc, and had been promised premium help, got rather rather restless and vocal on the Ning Creators forum. And the harried Ning moderators of that forum got banning-happy, chucking out people who asked questions Ning could not answer.

    When you write “I applied for and received a scholarship offered to every educational site”, which scholarship do you mean? I am only aware of the Pearson’s sponsorship of Mini plans, which, as explained in http://about.ning.com/pearsonsponsorship/, is only offered for North American educational networks.

    And the Mini plan (see About Ning – Pricing Plans) does not fit the needs of many educators: explicitly it does not allow groups, and has a limit of 150 members – plus some other limits implemented but not stated in that Pricing Plans page, like the 3-image limit on blog posts that subscribers to the Mini plan discovered after paying. Another one is the framebusting feature, removed from the Plus and Pro plans”, which prevents simple archiving of a page with Webcite or Diigo. There might be more.

    The mini plan was therefore not an option for Ideagora. The Plus plan at $19.95 Monthly or $199.95/year was the cheapest one Denise Easton could have opted for. Rather expensive considering what it offers. Backing up the network’s content with Ning’s archiving tool to republish it on another, self-hosted site was not an option either: this tool is buggy for non-text media and, for the text parts, produces .json files that are not reusable.

    Denise Easton did not create a new site on grou.ps for Ideagora, she just migrated the content of http://innovate-ideagora.ning.com to http://grou.ps/ideagora: a simple, few-clicks, process where you can automatically send a message to all members of the Ning group. This way she was able, for free, to keep all existing members of the network and all its groups.

    True, the videos didn’t transfer. Thank you for having re-uploaded the one of Jim Morrison’s Towards a Practable and Sustainable Ed-Tech Paradigm on the grou.ps site, Reid.

    It would be possible – thanks to the protraction of the deadline to Sep. 6 – to map the original sources of the videos in http://innovate-ideagora.ning.com/video. But I’ve done that in elencovideo.wikispaces.com for the – then – 574 videos of http://videodidattica.ning.com when it seemed that this network where Italian teachers had been gathering educational videos for three years would get scrapped (eventually, its creator paid for a Plus plan on Aug. 27) and I am a bit weary of that repetitive process.

    Last thing: if your network is indeed on a Pearson-sponsored Mini Plan and if you had videos before, you can still access them and save them, as Catalin Trandafir explains in La puerta trasera de las redes NING.

  6. Ning limbo

    Since I wrote this post, Ning has postponed the deletion of formerly free networks to September 6, then September 13 – not to mention that Ning had already moved the deadline for paying from July 20 to Aug. 20 to Aug. 30.

    Today, September 14, these formerly free networks are still undeleted. Their vizualisation is impeded in fancifully varying ways:

    A) in some cases, they are still fully viewable, except by their creator if s/he is signed in. Example: http://innovate-ideagora.ning.com, although Denise Easton migrated its activity to grou.ps/ideagora on August 9.

    B) For other ones, clicking on their URL opens a page that says: “Network Offline
    This social network has been taken offline by its owner. It is likely that it will be brought back shortly. Please check again later.
    If you are the Network Creator, click here to sign in.”
    with the last for words linked to a sign in page.

    C) At times the message says:
    “404: Not Found
    Please double-check the address you’ve just entered. If you entered “www.example.com/networkname”, try “networkname.com” instead.”

    In some cases the same URL will give message B or C if you change browsers.

    So far the only utterance from Ning about this last – so far – procrastination has been Aaron‘s, in Spanish yesterday, in a reply to a discussion entitled Yo ya estoy pagando, cuando eliminaran a las redes que no? (I am already paying, when will they eliminate networks that don’t?):

    Hola a todos,
    Vamos a empezar este proceso esta semana. Desde ya un creador no puede iniciar una sesión, y con este cambio los miembros tampoco podrán.
    -Aarón

    (“Hi All – We shall start this process this week. From now on creators cannot start a session, and with this change, members won’t be able to either”)

    The issue of members whose ID cannot be deleted has been taken up by Celina (D) and several other network creators in creators.ning.com/forum/topics/id-like-to-delete-members. She originally entitled the first post of this discussion “Why doesn’t Ning allow us to delete members or networks?”, but Ning moderators changed this to “I’d like to delete members completely” for some unfathomable reason (see Celina (D)’s comments 304636 and 304858).

    But the main point is that both in this discussion started by Celina (D), and even in Aaron’s reply quoted above, Ning employees have failed to speak out clearly about actual deletion, whether of members’ data or of content published by users in these formerly free networks.

    Then some paying networks have disappeared for days before Ning made them reappear – see Help!!!. Billing and payment problems are still numerous, etc.

    See ETC Journal’s wiki

    So I will not write another full post about Ning until the non paying groups have been deleted, or Ning gets bought by a more efficient firm, or disappears. But I’ve opened a Ning page on the wiki of ETC Journal where I shall attempt to keep track of what happens at Ning.

    Post-Scriptum

    As I was writing this comment,while http://innovate-ideagora.ning.com still shows normally, its subpages have started to appear greyed with a message saying:

    Ideagora currently unavailable
    Sorry, this network is currently unavailable. If you are the Network Creator, click here to sign in.
    If you have questions, please contact the Ideagora administrators by filling out the form below:

    (followed by an embed of the contact form in http://innovate-ideagora.ning.com/main/embed/contactNC)

    Which is ironic, considering that administrators of formerly free networks have been barred from signing in to these networks and therefore to answer messages.

    However, while the http://innovate-ideagora.ning.com/video/cross-case-study-edit-11-06 page is blocked, I can still get the URL of the video .flv file:
    http://api.ning.com/files/-SWM5SdDmCHYplhFkwR3Z9QsNrkT*VP3Xkwh8-HuGIbmwr3RcyectQifg9g0k8zHyHkUHv4eDqbt5H*CVQn-12XO5DMColrK/tmp71871.flv and the embed code for the video from the page source.

    I can’t use it to insert the video in this comment, because WordPress does not accept Ning embed codes. However, I did embed the video in the The videos did not transfer from Ning discussion (http://grou.ps/ideagora/talks/4099582), and I archived the http://innovate-ideagora.ning.com/video/cross-case-study-edit-11-06 page at http://www.webcitation.org/5siJn1zmN yesterday, just out of precaution. ;-)

    In both cases, the video plays fine – which is great in a way, because it would have been a pity to lose it. However it does raise perplexities about what parts of formerly free networks get and do not get blocked, or will or won/t get deleted by Ning.

  7. Claude, this Ning thing is getting, as Alice says, “Curiouser and curiouser!” Pass the popcorn, please! -js

  8. LOL Jim.

    An interesting intellectual property issue was raised on Ning Creators yesterday, about Ning plans below Pro. In this case, about a network whose creator opted for the Plus plan, where Ning hides music players that were previously displayed in the free version:

    # About the exclusion of the music player in the package “ning plus” I would like to inform the management of Ning that I demand from Ning administration to send me an e-mail with all the tracks that are blocked in order to protect the copyrighted material that now is blocked by the company Ning which has no right to withhold them. (…) So I demand from Ning to send me all that music files. I am giving to Ning a period of two months to send me all the songs as attachments in the e-mail (…)
    # Otherwise I have to inform the official intellectual property protecting organization of Greece for unauthorized restriction of intellectual property from the Ning. The same reasoning applies if the music files are deleted from Ning.

    The discussion originally appeared on http://creators.ning.com/forum/topics/restriction-of-intellectual, but was very quickly deleted. Whether by the author of the first post or by Ning, I don’t know.

    Anyway, I had archived in at http://www.webcitation.org/5skP2mo5H before it disappeared, because of its interest.

    Eric Suesz’ explanation of how the creator of a network on a Plus (or Mini) plan can still download its media content is no satisfactory answer to the complaints by the network’s members referred in that post by its creator according to most European copyright law, which include articles about the moral rights of authors (where “authors” also means artists, musicians etc) , in particular their right to control the publication and display of their works. And this moral right cannot be affected by the license previously granted Ning when the networks were free.

    That’s the kind of material I am collecting pêle-mêle in http://etcjournal.wikispaces.com/Ning

  9. Claude, thanks for the work you’re doing on behalf of all the netizens of the world. This “Ning Thing” is a battlefield for basic rights. At issue is our right to (1) gather, for transfer or archival purposes, the info in our social networks and (2) delete our networks on SN sites.

    The other side of the coin is that SNs such as Ning don’t have the right to obstruct or undo our efforts to gather our network information and to delete our networks.

    I’m sure there are others critical issues, but these are the ones that stand out for me.

    Once again, thanks! -js

  10. It’s good to un-join to delete your email address from that particular website. But who actually bother to do that?

  11. @ christi (November 29, 2010 at 12:26 pm): sorry, WordPress does not allow rerererereplying after a certain number of indents.

    See the You can now ask Ning to really delete networks discussion I started in the Facebook Ning and Privacy group, linking to a fuller description of how in http://etcjournal.wikispaces.com/Deleting_networks.

    But granted, it is not normal to have to ask Ning to delete networks. And it is even less normal that Ning continues to hoard on its server the content of the networks it has taken offline. E.g. all the pictures uploaded to arkitextnetworking.ning.com, which has been put offline by Ning, are still on the api.ning.com server. So are, presumably, all the members’ data.

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