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.


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.

7 Responses

  • Thank goodness someone is paying attention to this! I am one of those Ning to BuddyPress converts and since I have made the switch I am not at all worried if I made the right choice! Over year ago I created my first Network on Ning and had hoped to create many more. However the prevailing attitude within Ning is that they are not a white-label product and therefore since you are using their software, on their servers you are subject to their rules. OK… Playing by the rules is fine but when you make sweeping often destructive changes of the sorts they did, it made it far too difficult for me to ever really trust them. The irony is that only now that software like BuddyPress has developed so fast has Ning realized that it doesn’t matter one bit if you have the best software on the fastest servers if no one with really creative ideas uses your service! It’s the creativity and diversity of the Network Creators that has always been their strongest asset because a Ning network on it’s own is a bland boring thing.

    I only wished that more people I knew that were unhappy with Ning made the switch. It became such an oppressive and stifling environment for me that my communities suffered. However I am reinvigorated so much more now that I am on a platform that is going to allow me to be creative in my own way, on my own terms. BuddyPress for life!

  • A full-featured Ning->BuddyPress migration tool is in the works. I now have a full export of my biggest network and some friends and I are working on the importer now. Having just gotten hold of the export, it is hard to nail down the delivery date, but I am hoping we’ll see it in Q1 of 2010. Follow our group (Migration Tool Development) on BuddyPress.org for more details as they become available.

  • I feel your pain. I’ve been involved with ning related projects twice now. The first time, was for a community site some friends were working on. At the time, I found ning combersome, annoyingly obtuse, and difficult to use and administrate. Two years later, I’m part of a committee at an ad company to create a social network for our clients. One of the options was ning. I voted against it, given my experiences the first time around.

    This time, ning wasn’t so bad. I mean, it was still irritatingly non intuitive in spots, but it had improved considerably over two years prior. Still, they had some ridiculous policies, like the fact that you pay them once for a premium membership, and even then you still have to pay them again to remove ads from your site. These ads can’t convert well on their side. I’ve seen community sites on the web like the ones ning hosts where not a single ad registers even so much as a single click for years at a time.

    I guess my point is that it’s bad policy.
    And that shows up right off the bat when you work with them. My thought at present, why would you work with someone that is more interested in marketing their own company, than providing you a reasonably competent service?

  • I couldn’t agree more with Derek’s comments. I was on Ning testing the system for years hoping that someday it would develop into something better than the Geo Cities of social networks. I finally got tired as I developed my own concept of what I wanted Boon Republic to become. I do believe that Buddypress and WordPress are great platforms to get behind and develop on. I believe that the next year will be a Boon(pardon the expression ;-)) to buddypress as more individuals discover it and create niche social networks.

    Carlos Hernandez
    Boon Republic in BETA

  • We need this NOW! Ning announced yesterday the end of support for free networks. Now is the perfect time for us to transition to self hosted BuddyPress.

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