Stuart Blog 2: A toy for the Civic Innovation Lab

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A toy for the Civic Innovation Lab

Ning is a very promising new project from Gina Bianchini and Marc Andreesen. Mr. Andreesen is credited with inventing the web. This is from the faq:
What is Ning?
Ning is a free online service (or, as we like to call it, a Playground) for people to build and run social applications. Social "apps" are web applications that enable anyone to match, transact, and communicate with other people.

Our goal with Ning is to see what happens when you open things up and make it easy to create, share, and discover new social apps. These might include for any city, your own take on Craigslist...for any passion, your own take on any interest, your own take on Zagat...for any event, your own take on Flickr...for any school, your own take on the Facebook...for any topic, your own take on any mammal, your own take on Hot or Not or Kitten War.

You choose the app, decide for whom it's most relevant, create the categories, define the features, choose the language - or just clone an app that's already up and running on Ning - and be on your way.
I hope Ning lives up to its potential. It's going to depend on developing a community of competent programmers who develop clone-worthy apps. It's not going to grow based on a community of people like me whose computer skills are taxed by finding "your city" and replacing it with "Cleveland". I went to Ning because I wanted to do a very specific thing. I wanted to clone some existing app, sprinkle in a little Ning-salt and a little Ning-paprika and end up with a prediction market for Cleveland themed propositions. It turns out that to do that, I still really need a working knowledge of computer programming.

I did end up with something though. In fact, I ended up with something far more interesting than what I ever could have imagined before Ning. It wasn't a prediction market. I guess you could call it an idea exchange. This is Ning's reality. Ning's potential is that smarter programmers continually contribute apps closer and closer to what I need until I can clone my beautiful market.

Do you think that the right sort of user will embrace Ning? What does Ning offer them that they don't have programming PHP applications on their own servers? (It's times like these when I wish my blog actually had readers.)

Creating a prediction market was an idea that I hadn't really thought through. I'm not sure now why I thought it would be interesting to anyone but me in the first place. Maybe it's for the best that I ended up with the idea exchange. If it's publicized and widely adopted there's a possibility it might be genuinely useful. Please allow me to introduce the Cleveland Idea Bank Web Posterboard.

There are several idea exchange sites and I don't really have in-depth experience with any of them. I'd be very interested in hearing some success stories. Has a cyber idea bank ever cultivated an idea that grew into a meatspace implementation?
Since Sliced Bread
Why Not?

Now I'm off to see see if I can't kludge together an prediction market. Isn't it enough that I'll be entertained?

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