Unlike most previous talks I've given, this one is less "here's how to do something with PHP" and more "here's an interesting problem to think about." I am also pleased to be doing my part to advance the nascent discipline of HTTP status code humor.
Yoz and I gave a talk at the Emerging Technology conference today. I was very pleased at how it went. We went through a few examples of clone-and-customize, talked about apps sharing data with each other, and showed off the brand new Atom API.
We released a new version of Ning today. (Well, for me in NYC it was today. For the crew in Palo Alto, it was a last-night-and-this-morning experience. For the Australian connection, I'm not sure which day(s) we covered!).
Lots of neat new stuff in this release:
Totally revamped and rewired UI for browsing around the playground, profile management, looking at your app's stats, and other system functions. As someone whose expertise tends towards the "functional but not so pretty", I am really in love with all of Paul's hard work on this design.
That redesign extends to the Developer Documentation too -- I think it'll be easier and more pleasant to find tech specs and API docs now.
Speaking of developer stuff, there are a bunch of new skeleton apps that make building web services apps ridiculously quick. Yoz has also put together a snazzy screencast on building a basic photo sharing app with Flickr integration.
All the Example Apps have been given thorough overhauls, too. Jon did a lot of work on all sorts of color palette arithmetic and GD wizardry so apps now have slick setup pages that let you tweak colors and have that automatically update your entire app.
The article provides an overview of working in the Ning playground -- in addition to all the regular PHP you know and love, it covers using the Ning Content Store, simplifying file uploads, and using our Ajax components.
So there was this inflammatory Techcrunch post about Ning. Diego has already done a good job of walking through the inaccuracies, so I won't repeat that. The interesting things to me about this whole episode are:
When it comes to developer relations, (just about) no question or comment should be dismissed. There are the obvious areas -- folks asking for support for new features, reporting bugs, making suggestions on how things could work better. The slightly less obvious category of comments not to dismiss are ones that are just factually incorrect (such as "there's no support for key web service APIs out there that people are really excited about mashing up"). That's still an important piece of feedback to deal with. Ning supports just about whatever web service API you want, since you can stick random PHP code in your app and have it mash up the universe. If someone thinks otherwise, it points not to a technical failing, but a need to educate users and developers more.
The alternative to constantly tooting one's own horn is not total horn silence. When it comes to publicity, hype, marketing, whatever, I have a pretty typical programmer attitude: no thanks. Show me the code. I'd rather have something silent and functional than lots of promises about the future. To be frank, that's one of the things that made me excited to work at Ning in the first place. The emphasis has been on doing things, not talking about doing things. I can see why people are critical of this approach, but the alternative of pouring too much hype on an early product is worse. I'll join Diego in pledging to blog a bit more about what we're doing. Yoz and I are giving a talk at Etech, too.
The old saw is true: "all publicity is good publicity." The conversation that sprung up due to the Techcrunch post was pleasantly positive -- lots of great things said about Ning, the repeated point that the product is only three months old, some constructive criticism, and even a suggestion that the back-and-forth about Ning can be an inspiration for political hot-heads.
If you've wanted to play around with Ning but haven't thought of an app idea, consider this my lazyweb (lazyning?) request to built a corrupt CD tracker. Cloning Restaurant Reviews or Wishlist could be good places to start.