Building Community With Ning


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Nursing at the OSU Medical Center is a huge profession.  Of the 16,000 people employed here, almost 5,500 are nurses.  It takes a lot of good people to take care of all the patients.  And it takes one heck of a management structure to take care of all of those good people.

Enter: shared governance.  I wasn’t really sure what shared governance meant (outside of the denotation).  I found this post from Arnold van der Valk which provided some good insight.  Shared governance was a new way for the members of the nursing community to take ownership of their decisions, and to build community around their management. 

Clearly, they needed a tool that would help them collaborate… and communicate about some of the pitfalls van der Valk describes. 

I did some looking around and found Ning to be a useful community building tool that would allow us to carry on open conversations, share ideas and thoughts, post pictures and files, and even post video (when we get to that point).  We also looked at some good-old-fashioned message boards, but decided Ning would allow us to do everything we wanted in a social sort of way.

I had seen what Alvin Borromeo had done with Ning when he created Majelly and liked the functionality.  So I decided to give it a whirl.

photo courtesy:

photo courtesy:

One HUGE difference between what Alvin had done and what I needed to do was that the shared governance Ning community needed to be completely locked down.  It might contain patient information, which is protected by HIPPA laws, and other sensitive information. 

Ning let me create a closed network which is not searchable.  I would have to invite each person (about 200) individually, but I could upload a .csv file easily to do that.  Then I turned on an option to accept each person… so they would need a specific email to find the site and sign up, but I still had the option of denying them access if they weren’t on my list.  Most of the security problem is solved because I’ve addressed who can and can’t get in to see content.

Working with Amanada Thatcher (who works in Communications and Marketing for the nursing population), we built the ning site in about 3 hours.  I found the graphics to be a bit difficult to use, but everything else was very easy. 

But when the initial site was shared with the population, they had a couple of concerns.  I expected a couple of concerns… this was something completely new and way out of the box. 

The two concerns: security (no elaboration) and a concern about this tool allowing people to work from home on their own time (not getting paid).

The security concern is valid, but they don’t even know what specific questions they have.  Can the site be hacked?  It doesn’t sit behind our  firewall, can other people get into it?  How safe is the information inside?  I’m pushing back on them to think more specifically about some of these security concerns.  Don’t just say “It doesn’t feel secure” and then expect me to fix it.  I think this is just conversation and education here.  When I get those security concerns nailed down, I’ll find the people I need to get the questions answered… Ning has a good support staff, and locally, Brian Lockery is very knowledgeable regarding security  (I’ve not yet talked to Brian about this).  Unless there are real security issues with Ning, we will get this resolved.  If you have any thoughts or resources, please let me know.

The second concern is people doing work on their own time at home.  I’m going to resist the urge to rant here… suffice it to say that I work from home 24 hours a day, my work is a big part of who I am, and I like it that way.  I understand we don’t want employees to work from home, but in this case,  a shared governance Ning website is no different than a piece of paper with “Shared Governance” written on the top and a pen sitting next to that paper.  If the employee chooses to pick it up and use it, they are choosing to work from home… that’s not something I think we should be trying to control. 

I get that it is easy to use, that’s the point.  What do you think is the best way to resolve these issues?

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Filed under Building a Social Media Program

5 responses to “Building Community With Ning

  1. Rick Wackernagel

    Hi, Ryan,

    I’m interested in setting up a closed, secure social network with Ning. with You’re blog post was very helpful. I’m getting some pushback from potential members about security. Your blog post said you expected to be able to work thru security issues with education and Ning tech support. Have you been successful either education or support? Are there any outstanding technical security problems?

    Thanks for your thoughts,

    • Ryan Squire

      Hi Rick,
      I never got to the point where I needed to inquire with because we have a policy that no site on the public side of the firewall may contain private health information until many forms are signed. We decided to wait and utilize SharePoint when it is eventually rolled out. With that said, support was very responsive to any questions I did have. Try them on twitter for a quick answer or to get directed to the proper person.

  2. Curtis

    I can think of two primary security concerns with Ning. 1) You don’t control the server and you don’t know who does. A server that is not well-maintained can be broken into, exposing your confidential data. 2) Information is not transmitted in a secure fashion. If someone posts or reads an item on a wireless network, say at a coffee shop or at home, a hacker can potentially snoop in on that wireless traffic and access any information read or posted. A secure connection would require the use of https protocol. Some services, like GMail, use https, but Ning does not.

  3. Stephan Eggermont

    You better shut it down at once. No https -> security malpractice

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