I hesitate to post this because I really don’t want to invite anyone’s ire, but I think with all the discussions and focus going on now about different Ning networks this is something people need to be aware of.

When you receive a “friend request” on Ning, beware of what other networks the person has joined or is a member of. As an example, last week I received a Ning friend request from a Ning user named “JOJO” with the username “dahuisun.” The user’s profile has a picture of a young woman, claims she is 22 years old, and for some reason claims to live simultaneously in “Paris” and “China, mainland.” Here is the current profile:

Beware of Ning friend requests

I have received quite a few Ning friend requests in the past few weeks, and I admit that I haven’t throughly checked out the profile of every one before I’ve added them as a “friend.” A better word for this might be “contact.” Many of the people I’ve added to my Ning personal network are actually “friends,” but many are people I don’t personally know. I’d call these “contacts.” For some reason, I did check out the Ning profile of “JOJO” and saw that s/he is a member of a Ning network titled “Sex Stories” that is inappropriate / offensive and certainly not something I want to have any connection to or affiliation with. So, I chose to NOT accept this user as a “Ning friend” and also took additional the step of banning/blocking mail from them in Ning. (You can choose that by selecting the link “Block messages from this user” in the lower left corner of a person’s Ning profile.”)

It is also suspicious and I think telling that this user currently has 2,323 “friends” on Ning. That is a remarkable number. I have no idea why this person has so many Ning friends, but given the Ning networks s/he is currently a part of, I think it is safe to assume their social networking intentions on Ning are not limited to discussions about educational reform, libary 2.0, classroom 2.0, digital dialog, etc.

Working in digital social networking environments is new stuff for all of us. Beware when you receive a Ning friend request. At a minimum, consider checking out the person’s Ning profile first to see what other Ning social networks they are a member of, before you add them as a Ning “friend.”

I have some very positive vibes about Ning overall, but I’m paying attention to comments like Miguel’s. It is worth thinking critically about the value of jumping on a bandwagon… even if you have metaphorically already jumped on it, at least in part. Steve Hargadon cross posted his comment over on the Classroom 2.0 Ning, and the fact that there have already been 25 THREADED responses to it there I think makes a strong case for Ning’s value. There are several big challenges to following and participating in conversations in the edublogosphere at present, and one is this idea of following conversation threads. Ning makes that easier, and that has value. Could a similar social networking environment be built with free, open source tools like Elgg or DrupalEd? Probably. But would an isolated site created with one of those tools be as DIGITALLY RELEVANT and ACCESSIBLE to people as a social network on Ning? I don’t think so.

Ning clearly has some great advantages and benefits, but it IS an open network– so beware of the friend requests you receive. The Classroom 2.0 Ning now has over 500 members, last time I checked I think it had 150. So these social networks (just like MySpace) are certainly poised to explode. Keep the conversations going, but encourage others to be saavy as we do so! :-)

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  • http://webexplorer.edublogs.org Cheryl Lykowski

    Wes,
    I had the same request from ‘JOJO” and did the same as you and checked out the profile and ‘friends’. For the same reason of who she was associated with I quickly declined. Even as adults, we sometimes need to be reminded of being smart and savvy in this world, just like we instruct our students to be. Thanks for the post.

  • http://funnymonkey.com Bill Fitzgerald

    Hello, Wes,

    DrupalEd could contain a series of groups that would function like Ning social networks — wrt DrupalEd being a closed system, it’s only as closed as the restrictions a site admin places on membership. If anybody can join (like Ning), then it’s as open as Ning. If a site administrator wants to restrict membership to people with a certain email domain (like a group of people within a school district) they can do that.

    But, with OpenID already in place for Drupal, the notion of a content silo within any Drupal site (DrupalEd or otherwise) is becoming a dated concept.

    And who knows: if I get bored, or some time, or an interested client, I just might build this: http://wiki.openacademic.org/index.php/Remote_Friends, with more commentary here: http://www.funnymonkey.com/closed-social-networks

    And, btw, I had the same friendship request from JOJO :)

    Cheers,

    Bill

  • http://www.edtechlife.com Mark Wagner

    Wes,

    I, too, had the same experience with JOJO (I wonder how many of us did)… and I blocked the profile. I didn’t think to write about it though, and I’m glad you did. It would’ve just continued to seem like an isolated incident (and a quickly forgotten one), but instead we’re all able to learn from it.

  • http://shoemap.edublogs.org Pam Shoemaker

    I also received a request from JOJO a few weeks ago. I have noticed that I receive an email telling me about the request from legit folks from classroom 2.0, but no email about the request from JOJO (and a few others that I have also blocked).

  • Jim Cottrell

    Not so personal social-networking site. Watch out for http://www.tagged.com .

    One has to also watch out for some social-networking sites as well as being associated with supposed “friends” or “contacts.” I know of two sites/services that mislead users into give away their webmail’s password during the registration process to the site.

    Tagged.com has a feature that misleads users to give away their webmail’s password and then sends everyone in that address book an invitation that looks like it is from that user. This blog calls it spam2.0.
    http://www.istokpavlovic.com/blog/?p=5

    Also watch out for http://www.Ringo.com. “Ringo (a photo and video sharing site) also has a feature that can retrieve a user’s contacts, provided the address book is on one of the major webmail services. Again the user is mislead into giving away their webmail password. Ringo has been criticized for misleading potential users about this feature during the sign-up procedure. This is something that not all users are comfortable with.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ringo.com

    Spread the word. People who have my address seem to be making the mistake of giving their webmail’s passwords to these sites.

  • http://www.coordinator2.wordpress.com Jose Rodriguez

    I have been playing around Classroom 2.0 the last week or so. Surprise, Surprise! I am getting friend requests from users that belong to other Ning networks. I got a false feeling of security when I joined Classroom 2.0 network. I felt it was a walled garden. Obviously not. The only positive thing I have found so far is the participation of edtech people form my own district. But then again if they are close enough for F2F I don’t need to see them here!

  • http://iteacher.blogspot.com Susan

    In the summer I experimented with kickapps a hosted platform that allows webmasters to deploy user-generated content and social networking functionality directly on their websites. While I couldn’t use kickapps as unfortunately it does not support Hebrew text, I imagine that it could be a viable alternative for schools etc to run their own social networks. All member applications can be moderated as can media uploaded to the site. Of course this would place a lot of extra work on the administrators, that’s the price of security I suppose.

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