I am proposing to start a community site to support a learner group we help here. I am a member of this site, on Ning, and like it. I am a member of a site that uses BuddyPress (ShareAndLearn) and that's not too bad either.
I'd like to keep the cost down, but at £170 or so a year, Ning as a paid platform is not really that expensive over and above the hosting costs of Linux server space for the open-source alternatives, so the cost argument is almost removed from the equation.
From the experience of users here, is Ning a better user-experience or could we get the same effect from the alternatives? Have I missed one that I should consider? I'm conscious that we are largely IT literate early adopters so our experience of using these things may not chime too closely with my target user group.
Any thoughts from you guys are very welcome.
I'll be following this discussion with some interest as I am embarking on a similar project. This Ning works well for me but I think that the reason for that is that it is a really well-managed community and I think this is the key ingredient to success. How many people today have come to this discussion in response to Don's email, for example? So when you cost the project, I think it's important to cost in the time of whoever will be in charge of stewarding the site. In my experience, even the most enthusiastic users will be tempted elsewhere, unless there is a reason to keep coming back and contributing.
You are absolutely right in what you say about managing the community. I am really looking to set up a site for a group to perhaps take on themselves, with us keeping an eye on things. Without poking and encouragement it could indeed die away unless there are killer reasons to get people to log in - something that as you say, Don does very well.
You never mentioned this last night - sorry I was busy. That's a lot of users you have in your sights - I'm not sure that your initial user group might not be about much less than what we might reasonably hope to achieve as an endgame!
That in itself hits the crux of the problem - would a community site work with a potentially small user community of volunteers? Could a traditional website meet the needs of the people involved instead? Perhaps with an attached forum board attached for discussion purposes. Heck, I'm even wondering if I couldn't rustle up the basics on our Moodle site - secure login, file sharing, wikis and discussion are all possible there...