User centric or Community centric?

Several people have been talking about Ning recently – it’s come up in discussion with my students – “egrommet” has used it with his students, Josie noted that several of the nominations for this years Eddies were Ning based communities.

I’m just not sure about Ning. I find it irritating that I have to login to each community, as well as in general. If I look at “My Page” in each community, while some things are core to all (e.g. the photo), others seem to need to be set in each community. While this can be useful in some ways; it’s also annoying to have to enter the same details again and again. The ideal would be the ability to enter general info on my “Ning Profile” page – and then to alter particular bits for particular communities.

The “My Page” also seems to have a blog – again, one per community – and the summary of posts that apply to that community.

It strikes me that Ning is very much community centric. So, while you can have several groups in a community; you can’t easily have an overview of your activity in several different communities. It reminds me of WebCT – having discussion boards/ blogs per unit – without an easy way of seeing all of your work at the same time.

Eduspaces (Elgg powered) and Facebook, on the other hand, seem to be far more user centric. I can see on my Blog page (Eduspaces), or my Profile page (Facebook) everything that I & my friends have done.

From an Educational point of view, I think that it’s important to have that easy access to the personal overview. Because of the unitisation of the curriculum, many students find it quite difficult to see how one unit relates to another. WebCT doesn’t enable an easy overview – whereas something that’s more User Centric can.

While it can be useful to have that separation between aspects of ones life – integration is also important.

I guess that the ideal Social Networking site would allow the ability to have a (private) view of your personal activity in all areas – while a public view that could, if wished be customised for particular communities.

I think all three have their strengths in the way that they work – but all three have limitations.

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