Ning’s new features: anti-spam and email verification


Ning has added two good features for helping your network avoid spammers. Better moderator tools are essential if Ning is to compete in the market for paid-for community platforms. I’m glad to see that they’re beginning to offer good value with their well-priced new services.

The first new feature prevents spammers and unwanted members by requiring new members to correctly answer a quiz to join. The second requires all members to verify their email address. These are some of the most useful tools for a community manager or facilitator.

I have spotted spammers for some time by asking members to fill in an extra few fields to join the ELESIG community. It asks them their institution or organisation, their e-learning interested and their involvement in any learner experience project. It is not compulsory to complete these fields, but in the context of the community of practice members nearly always complete them.

The first advantage of this is that spammers are very quickly detected because they complete the fields in an irrelevant ways “e-learning interests = walking and reading” or not at all.

The second advantage is that we can immediately see what our members are interested in and direct them to relevant groups, discussions, events or just other members who share those interests. It’s quite a simple and powerful way to get everyone’s involvement off to a good start. And if we have any information of interest to a subgroup – for example, if we run a webinar on a particular topic, I can do a search and find members who have that interest and invite them specifically. A verified email address is helpful for the manager to contact members in this way.  Members are much likely to respond to specific, focused contact than blanket mailouts.

A third advantage of profile questions is that members can find out more about each other, what they have in common, etc. over and above a name and location, which is all some networks ask for.

I thoroughly recommend making sure your community or network has good profile questions – and it’s worth thinking about what those should be right from the start. If most people haven’t filled in a profile they’re not going to want to go back at a later date to fill them in.