The first social community I have experienced is Facebook. Now, I did have a Facebook page before the start of my master's program, but I have been more active on the network due to my classes. Facebook began as a site for college students. When I first signed up for Facebook a person had to to have a college or university email address. In three short years, Facebook has changed tremendously. Now, any person with an email account can create their own Facebook site. I have thought long and hard about whether it is a good or bad thing that there are no longer restrictions on who can join Facebook. My conclusion is that the lax restrictions are both a good thing and a bad thing. First, I like that now many of my family members, younger and older, are on Facebook. Sometimes this is the only way I communicate with my very busy sister. On the other hand, recently I have discovered it can be a bad thing as well. I had one of my students try to add me on Facebook to her friend list. Now some people might not think this is a bad thing, but I try to keep my personal and professional life separate and I felt it was not appropriate for a junior high student to ask me to be her friend on Facebook. Furthermore, in a staff meeting our principal and superintendent stressed how important it was for us to not have these types of sites, because some teachers were having lawsuits brought against them due to students changing information on their sites and taking their photos off of Facebook and altering them to show precarious situations.
The second social community I have experienced is Ning. When using Ning, the creator chooses everything from the layout to what videos and photos will be posted. The Ning site can be customized from the original layout chosen. Ning members can join in one of two ways. First, members can be invited by other members or the creator of the community. Secondly, they can sign up for the site. When invited, each member created his or her own page that cannot be changed by other members. Videos and photos can be uploaded to the group page or the individual's page. Discussion Forums can be added or posted to by any group member. There is also an event tab where events can be announced. The Ning Community members also have the ability to add links to Google-docs and weblogs. The possibilities are amazing.
Comparing Facebook and Ning
There are advantages and disadvantages to both social communities, personal preferences play a big role in determining which site is best. Facebook offers an easier way of connection as compared to Ning. There are thousands, maybe even millions, of people on Facebook. It is easy to find people that you have lost contact with, by just simple typing in their name. Ning does not offer this feature. Ning's searches are more geared toward content, not people.
Nest, there are many more choices for the creator on Ning as compared to Facebook. Ning has many different layout options and each layout can be customized with new colors and pictures. Facebook does not offer any choice on the layout or colors of your page. Both sites offer applications that can de added to your page. Facebook allows friends to send invites to new applications, which can sometimes cover your how page with invites. Ning does not have invites like Facebook. Finally, both sites offer group pages. Facebook has group links on individual pages and Ning has an individual page for each group you have joined that matches the layout of the group. Both sites are useful in different ways.