Tag Archives: forums

Microsoft is Pulling the Plug on Newsgroups

Microsoft newsgroups made their debut in April 1996, replacing the discussion forums on CompuServe. Over the years, these groups were used by millions of people to communicate with each other about computers, software and issues. At last count, the company had 2,000 public newsgroups and another 2,200 private groups focused on specific communities such as partners or its MVP (Most Valued Professional) program. However, this style of communication has its own set of problems which Microsoft feels are detrimental to giving their users the best possible experience.

“Newsgroups run on an outdated and discontinued platform that is no longer supported, making them vulnerable to spam and other usability issues,” Microsoft said in a statement. The company said that its forums get 15 million visits a month and have been growing, on average, 12 percent each month. By contrast, it said that participation in newsgroups has dropped nearly in half over the past year. Not only are the newsgroups a hotbed for spam, they often leave users feeling as though their conversations are fragmented. The style and setup leaves a lot to be desired.

Beginning this month, Microsoft will begin phasing out newsgroups, beginning with the least-used ones. The company will post announcements prior to the removal of information and threads, though, so that you can prepare yourself. In the meantime, you are encouraged to make a local backup of any newsgroup that you feel has useful content. During the transition, Microsoft will provide links in each newsgroup which points towards the best possible forum alternative for that particular type of discussion. This should help the newsgroupies be able to find each other – and their proper place within the community – much easier.

This move adds substantial benefits for the community as a whole. On Microsoft Answers, for instance, you’ll find that all of the content is now searchable. This negates the need for multiple postings about the same issue. Content will be easier to find and index for future use. There are also advanced moderating capabilities, meaning the teams and leads can help nip spam and trolls in the bud before they get out of control. The team feels that forums-based communications offer better user management platforms, and give people an overall healthy discussion space.

Are you still a newsgroup user? What are your thoughts about this announcement? I have a feeling there will be many die-hard fans who are not going to be happy with this decision. I have to agree that it’s a good call, and makes perfect sense. The old style became a nightmare to navigate years ago. I’m looking forward to seeing how the team in Redmond will use this change to communicate more with the consumers.

The Future of Ning Communities

A startling announcement came today from the Ning network. Only one month after appointing a new CEO, the company has major reorganization plans in the works. In addition to laying off approximately 40% of its staff, the company is killing off all free accounts. Free account users will have the option to either change over to a premium membership, or move their network to another platform entirely.

As I read this news, I breathed a sigh of relief that both Geeks and Gnomedex are hosted on premium Ning accounts already. As of today, we have more than 27,000 members, 14,000 blog posts, 19,000 forum threads and countless photos and videos that all of you have contributed. That is a LOT of information sharing, folks.

In his message to staff members, CEO Jason Rosenthal stated in part that “So, we are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity. We will judge ourselves by our ability to enable and power Premium Ning Networks at huge scale. And all of our product development capability will be devoted to making paying Network Creators extremely happy.

They want to make us extremely happy? That’s excellent news for our community. There are several things that we hope to see in the very near future. These are very basic things that will help our little slice of Ning continue to thrive. One of the most important things we need to see is a better way to control members. Currently, we have the ability to freeze or ban a member posting spam or other unwanted information. However, there is no way to ban a user by IP address. This is a HUGE problem.

Several times in the past few weeks, our site (along with many other Ning sites) was bombarded by a porn spam bot attack. We’re talking hundreds of posts being made in under an hour. Every single “member” came from the exact same IP address. Whoever was behind the attack knew full well that Ning doesn’t ban by IP. If they did, this attack would have been stopped in a matter of seconds… instead of taking over an hour.

There are several other smaller details that we would like to see worked on by the Ning team. I am happy to talk with them at any point in time in order to help contribute feedback and ideas. For the most part, I am happy with Ning and the features we have (although, half of what makes it a functional community are the “hacks” that had to be put in place). There is always room for improvement, though.

Then again, Ning has never really understood how communities work – and their platform strategy only reflects the lack of insight from the top down.

One large concern I have is the fact that many of our members have free Ning networks of their own. Most of them will not likely have the resources to convert their account to a premium one. What’s to happen to their communities?

Well, unless developers and designers put their collective heads together… Ning communities will remain stranded on a mostly-closed platform. There are ways to export Ning network data, but no translation tool to take those relationships elsewhere. What about a tool to import a Ning community into a WordPress 3.0 / BuddyPress installation?

Heck, I’d host a WordPress hackathon at my house over the weekend for the start of that – would there be any developers and designers interested. I live in the Seattle area, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t work remotely with capable individuals.

Inevitably, we’ll have community hosting set up under Lockergnome’s Premium Services. Signing up now will get you a domain name, WordPress installation and hosting, includes many popular plugins, and Free / Premium themes. Packages start at only $12.77 per month (which includes the domain registration), and there are no contracts. You can cancel anytime you like. This is classic WordPress at the moment, but I’m making moves to go into full WPMU / BuddyPress / WordPress 3.0 hosting.

Sometimes, you get what you pay for – which is to say that freeloaders should probably stop whining.

What Do You Read?

Earlier today, I posted a video (and blog post) filled with tips on how to maximize your comprehension when it comes to whatever you are reading. That video made me reflect on the types of things I tend to read. I don’t often sit down with a book. When I do, though, my concentration is so absolute that I tend to tune out everything else. I let myself become absorbed by the text. This allows me to truly comprehend and digest whatever it is I’m reading.

I also spend a great deal of time reading things online. I’m constantly perusing blogs, forums, website postings, news sites – you name it, and I likely read it if it’s online. Even though it’s something I’m reading on a computer screen, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve my full attention. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t just as important as a book I can hold in my hands.

What do you read the most? Do you spend time curled up with a book, or are you like me… preferring to read what people in the world are up to, thinking, feeling and writing about? If you haven’t been keeping up with what people are doing on Lockergnome and Geeks, now is as good a time as any.

Be sure, as always, to keep your eyes on our downloads pages. We’re constantly updating it to bring you the very best and hottest software and apps at the lowest prices we can get for you!

Stretch Yourself

It’s time to stand up and stretch. Get out of those chairs. Come on – you can do it. Stand up, and reach your arms above your head as high as they will go. Now bend over, and attempt to touch the ground (don’t worry, I can’t quite do that, either). Hold your arms out to your sides and stretch them wide. Heck, why not even twist a little to each side, much like a tree swaying in the breeze.

You have now successfully stretched out your body… but have you stretched your mind? I just stumped some of you, didn’t I? You thought for a second “what the heck, there are no exercises for that!”.

Ah, but that is where you would be wrong, my friends. Every time you read something, you stretch your mind. Every time you think a decision through, you stretch your mind. Every time you look at something through someone else’s eyes, you stretch your mind. Every tiny spec of information you absorb… you get the picture.

Many times, we don’t even realize that we have stretched our minds. We are so rushed through our day that much of what we have seen and done hasn’t even sunk in or made an impression by the time we pass out at night. It’s often much later, when a situation arises that forces us to recall certain pieces of information, when we realize “oh. wow. I knew that/learned that/remember that”. We forget to take the time to stop and marvel at everything that is out there, waiting for us to feast our brain on.

Spread your wings, little birds. Fly beyond your own nests and find those juicy little morsels that will feed and stretch your mind and soul.

You Need a Thick Skin to Participate Online

Earlier, I read a thread on Geeks about Trent Reznor, the Nine Inch Nails frontman, deleting his Twitter account. Trent embraced Twitter quite awhile ago after discovering what an amazing outlet it can be. He quickly recognized the excellent means of communication Twitter provides. He helped raise over a million dollars via Twitter for a fan of his needing a heart transplant. He talked about the band’s upcoming tours and album, and reached out to fans. Trent loved the fact that fans got to know the “real” side of him, and that they learned there is more to him than just being “the NIN singer”.

Trent told the truth as he saw it on Twitter. He wasn’t afraid to say what he thinks about anything or anyone – positive or negative. However, this created some “hate tweets” from users. Reznor wasn’t happy when people lashed out at him for something he thought or said. He withdrew from Twitter for awhile at one point, and posted about his hatred of the site on his own blog. He returned recently for a short while, but it didn’t last. The account is now completely gone. He has stated that “idiots rule” on social networks.

My advice to Mr. Reznor is to grow a thicker skin. When you are in any type of spotlight, you are going to have critics and haters. Heck, I’m not even famous, and I have my share of people who leave idiotic, hateful or rude comments on each and every social networking site I’m on. You just let those roll off your back. If someone gives constructive criticism – learn from it. If they are simply a troll, ignore them and move on with your life. There are thousands upon thousands of GOOD people on social networking sites, ones who support you. They are the ones who buy tickets to your concerts. They are the ones who purchase your CDs. They are the ones whose opinions you should care about.

There are always going to be trolls, idiots and haters. Why let people like that rule your life, how you conduct yourself, or how you perceive yourself? Why would you judge all people on social networks based on the idiocy of a few? Isn’t that a bit much?

This wasn’t the only good story that caught my eye in our community today, but it is the one that spoke to me the most! All of you have been posting some excellent things on both Lockergnome and Geeks. I hope you take the time to check out what others are doing, as well.

This One Time, at Band Camp

This phrase is used all over the world, I think, and can have many different meanings. However, in the case of a thread on Geeks today, it means exactly what it says! The poster is asking who else was (or is) involved in band during high school. I was never in band, but my assistant Kat was. Not only that – she was also the marching band Drum Major for two years!

It’s been said that what happens at band camp stays at band camp. However, I’m curious. Do you have any stories you’re willing to share? Was it as awesome of an experience as people have claimed? Keep your comments/stories family friendly and clean, please! Remember our younger audience!

While you’re thinking up your story, or reliving your memories, make sure to check out what else our community has in store for you today.

Summer is Half Over Already?!

I can’t believe we’re already into July. Where the heck did June go? How did I miss it? I haven’t gone out to tan yet, nor have I played any beach volleyball. Wait a minute… I must have had some odd out-of-body experience for a moment there. Let’s call it a momentary lapse of sanity, ok? I don’t tan. I’m as ghost-white as it gets. The only “sun” I get are the rays that come from my monitors. We all know I’m not one to play sports, either. I’m not sure who took over my keyboard and wrote that garbage!

In any case, summer is half over I suppose. Time flies when you’re too busy to stop to breathe. Gnomedex is only six weeks away, and the team is working hard to get everything ready. I want to thank all of you who have offered your help and services to help make this year rock more than ever before!

Never fear, young grasshoppers. Even though I’m busy, I still make the time to see what you have to say! Your community contributions are the backbone that makes everything I do so much fun.

Is it Even Summer Yet?

The days are going by so fast that I think I lost track somewhere. Here I thought it was already officially Summer – only to realize that it doesn’t actually begin until Sunday! It’s hot out. The sun is shining. Schools are out. People are going to the beach. How is it not summer?

I guess I’ve been so busy lately, what with Gnomedex coming up and all! Things are coming along nicely for the conference, and we’re going to have an amazing time. If you haven’t purchased your ticket yet – what are you waiting for? Don’t be the one sitting at home watching us on the live stream and kicking yourself for not showing up.

Even though I’m crazy busy these days, I still make time to check out what everyone is up to. It’s one of the most important parts of my day – and I hope it’s an important part of yours.

One Small Act of Kindness…

Reading through things today in our community, I came across yet another post that gave me pause for thought. That seems to happen daily, doesn’t it? It’s so great to have all of you posting things that makes us all stop and think about life… often in a different way than we might otherwise have.

With the economy so tough and so many thousands of people out of work, it’s easy to lose hope. The house is getting foreclosed. The bills are stacking up. Luxuries are a thing of the past, as are dinners out – even at McDonald’s. It’s hard to see your way clear to remembering that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. It’s nearly impossible at times like this to keep your hope alive, until one small, random act of kindness restores your faith.

Even though the post I mentioned above talks about a company who reached out to unemployed people, there are things all of us can do in order to help bolster the spirits of those we know and love who are having a rough time. I encourage YOU to reach out. You can do something simple, like taking a home-cooked meal to a family you know is having a hard time making ends meet. You could offer the use of your car to someone whose may have been repossessed due to job loss… they need wheels to go out and put in applications! Why not offer free babysitting time to that neighbor who is stressed out? Take her kids to your house for a few hours, and encourage her to relax and recharge herself.

All it takes is one simple little gesture to remind us that life is so much better than it may appear. Even during our worst times, there’s still hope.

Thank you to all of you who touch MY life each and every day just by being a part of this community. Even on the days when I struggle to do the things I need to do, I simply restore my own hope by reading what all of you contribute. I am so blessed to do something that I love so much – and it’s thanks to all of you.