A BuddyPress Christmas Wish: Why Ning Users are Clamoring for a BuddyPress Migration Tool

Update 19th April 2010: You can now migrate your Ning site to BuddyPress using this excellent plugin.

Dissatisfied Ning users are raising the demand for a BuddyPress migration tool.

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Controversial changes to Ning’s business model, wherein sites and members are aggregated, have recently spawned a host of unhappy Ning network creators. New features allow all members to share their favorite Ning social networks and content with all their friends across Ning sites. As you may have guessed, this feature can be easily abused and is undesirable for niche social networks that require more privacy, instead of showing up on Ning.com.

When the changes happened recently, network owners had no choice to opt out of the multi-site aggregation on ning.com. Although many Ning network creators have been paying for years to keep their sites free of advertising, this recent loss of community control has contributed to the greater numbers of unhappy site owners. This is one of the major reasons BuddyPress presents itself as a more self-contained option, allowing for greater privacy control and full ownership of the community. There is a new BuddyPress group for those interested to contribute to the process of building a Ning migration tool. Currently the migration process is very crude and is incomplete. The Ning community creator must dump an xml file from Ning and then convert it to a csv file. You could use the Batch Create plugin to create users and blogs by importing the csv file. Unfortunately, blog posts would need to be copied and pasted manually, which is overwhelming, if not impossible, for some larger communities.

The popularity of niche social networks is growing, as they quickly develop features and functionality that can compete with larger, more dominant networks. If there is progress on building user-friendly migration tools, the BuddyPress community stands to grow substantially. In a recent podcast interview on SitePoint.com, Andy Peatling, the lead developer for the BuddyPress project, responded to a question about the availability of importing tools. He stated that the problem is many social networks, BuddyPress included, do not offer a full, usable export or their communities. The better we are able to develop connectivity between BuddyPress and other networks with API’s for remotely accessing information, the more versatile the BP platform will become.

BuddyPress is currently one of the most robust platforms available for creating your own social network with full ownership independent of a controlling service. Unhappy Ning community creators will always be at the mercy of the Ning service, whereas an unhappy BuddyPress site owner is limited only by his own ingenuity. If you’ve successfully migrated a social network from Ning or any other social network to BuddyPress and have some innovative solutions, let us know your process in the comments below.