fun times & startup launches

Ahhh, there’s nothing like that new startup smell. And unlike the new car smell, it’s not carcinogenic (at least, not that I’m aware of). A project I’ve been working on for the past three months has launched, and it’s rocketed up to #1 on delicious. I keep having friends join IRC channels I frequent, or IM me, and ask me if I’ve heard of Ning. Heard of it? I ask. Heck, I work for them.

Not directly, of course—as you can see on my little sidebar tidbit, I work at OmniTI in Columbia, MD, not 24 Hour Laundry somewhere off on the left coast. But 24 Hour Laundry hired OmniTI to do a bunch of interesting and Ning-related projects, and I’ve enjoyed the ride immensely. Most corporate consulting clients aren’t generally going to have projects that are interesting in and of themselves, but I’ve been lucky enough to be assigned to do the Ning folks’ bidding full-time. I’ve had a lot of fun getting to research new technologies more fully than before, writing wrapper classes and APIs, and writing example applications. And I’m not just saying that because they’ve sent us startup schwag. It hasn’t all been fun—QAing documentation probably isn’t anyone’s cup of tea—but on the balance, I’ve loved it.

But enough preening (I worked at a startup! Marc Andreesen has actually spoken to me!). Ning is a very neat idea and the people behind it—well, “passionate” could be an understatement. It’s unfortunate that most people reading and writing about Ning yesterday (and presumably today) don’t seem to really “get” what really makes Ning special. I hope that as this becomes apparent, the marketing material will shift to really show off its strength: the data.

The content store makes it pretty easy for people with no database experience to do simple CRUD. But Ning’s not just a hosted framework. What really makes Ning a very, very interesting social experiment is the openness of the data in the content store. When you’re crafting the “queries” to get content for your application, you need to add a clause so the data returned is only data that was created by your application. Unless, of course, you know there’s another application—or many applications—whose data you’d like to integrate into your application. And you can integrate data from other applications. All content is available to everyone else, unless it’s marked private.

So what we have is not a hosted framework service, but an ecosystem. An ecosystem that not only allows but relies on the ideas of remixing, mashups, and openness. A friend asked me, Why on earth would I use that? People will be able to copy my application and use my data. Obviously, he’s thinking with his wallet, which is a perfectly valid way to think. But if community and social networks are what you’re really interested in, Ning could be the latest, coolest thing to make your eyes light up.

Hey, why not get a shiny
Freckle Time Tracking