As I have written here before, I am a big fan of the social networking site Ning, which allows anyone to create a social network. Over the past two years, I have created four or five Nings, including the Teach English Network, the Shakespeare Connects Conference site, a Vampire Literature Ning for one of my courses, the Michigan Council of Teachers of English social network, and most recently. the Baldwin Street Ning for middle school English teachers and their students. Ning is just getting better and better: as I create more, I learn more about its fairly flexible coding, which gives me control over the look and feel of the ning. Ning has also opened its doors to open social API, letting outside developers create interesting widgets.

More importantly, Ning is very education friendly, offering ad-free services to 8-12 educators (students must be over 13 to use Ning). Students can keep blogs, upload video and audio projects, read related news and blog posts via RSS feeds, participate in discussion forums, and more. And as TechCrunch reports, they are not likely to encounter adult material: Ning kicked out the porn peddlers late last year. Better still, Ning is not suffering economically because of this decision. Take a look at their post-porn returns:

Ning chart

PS: One a related note, many students have asked me if I am teaching the Vampire Literature course again next fall (English 330). The answer is yes. Insert evil laugh here.