December 8th, 2008

As I explained last week, the DIY social networking site Ning, which hosts my cybersex matchmaking community Beautiful Stranger, has decided to shut down all “adult” social networks, leaving those of us doing work that’s both legal and sexy (no, that’s not possible!) totally screwed. Needless to say, I’ve been fighting this with the Ning team tooth and nail. Here’s an update on the communication and suggestions they’ve sent my way:

December 2nd, I wrote to ask: If I paid for my Ning site, could I keep it as is? December 2rd, they wrote:

We discussed several options when making this decision to remove all adult networks from the Ning Platform, including this one. However, we decided against charging for keeping adult networks. Even in a paid model, adult networks still require us to dedicate a team to dealing with the consequences of adult networks as we described in the Ning Blog post (http://blog.ning.com/2008/12/the-end-of-the-red-light-district.html). In the end, the only practical solution, and the difficult decision we’ve made, is to discontinue support for all adult social networks under all circumstances.

December 3rd, I asked: What would I need to do so my site would no longer qualify as “adult?” December 4th, they wrote:

If you’d like to keep your network running on the Ning Platform, you’re more than welcome to make the appropriate changes to ensure that your network doesn’t fall into our definition of an adult network. This involves removing any and all adult content from your network.

Adult content includes, but isn’t limited to:
– Pornography
– Depictions of sexual acts
– Sexually explicit or obscene themes

These changes take effect on January 1, 2009, so you’ll need to make your adjustments before then. If you’d like more details, we’ve put up a new blog post clarifying this transition and what we consider an adult network on Ning: http://blog.ning.com/2008/12/a-few-updates-on-the-end-of-the-red-light-district.html. Hope this clears things up!

If you’re planning on leaving Ning, as mentioned in the blog, we are exploring ways for adult networks that will no longer be available on Ning to export their content in addition to their members, which is readily available today from the Manage Members page. As we make progress on the specifics, we’ll communicate them in the Ning Help Center.

December 4th, I saw a blog post that said dating site and sites related to LGBT issues wouldn’t be effected, so I wrote to ask how Beautiful Stranger was really any different from any network for minority hook-ups, minus any questionable images (and Ning’s raunchy ads). At first, they wrote:

From your description, it sounds like your network shouldn’t be affected by this transition. So long as it’s free of adult content, we’ll happily continue to support it! Just please be sure to remove any and all adult content from your network by January 1, 2009.

But then they wrote:

I’ve taken a peek at your network to get a better idea of your situation. We’re happy to support dating networks that are free of adult content, but as yours is a “Cybersex Matchmaking Site,” unfortunately, we won’t be able to support it after this transition. If you’d like to revamp your network, please know that as long as your network is legal and does not contain adult content, we will happily continue to support it! We also recognize that the actions of one member do not reflect the intentions of the entire network or the Network Creator and therefore we’re not looking to classify a network as adult based on the actions of a single member.

So much for tolerance and acceptance. Still no info on how we’re supposed to transfer our data — and only three and a half weeks until the sites get shut down. The fun continues.

The question now is: What should I do? Should I try and make Beautiful Stranger one giant euphemism (“No way, there’s no sex here…”) and hope Ning doesn’t erase it? Should I keep my fingers crossed that they’ll come up with a successful method for transferring the site? Should I start a new version of Beautiful Stranger somewhere else — hopefully a better version? Or should I just let the whole thing go? After all, it’s not a big social network, not even by Ning standards. Still, it’s the principle of the thing — that and the fact that it’s a royal pain in the ass.

Tags: Beautiful Stranger, controversy, social networking

7 Responses to “The saga of Ning and adult networks continues”

  1. Apotropaios Says:

    I’m completely behind you, Bonnie. I’ve been emailing back and forth with them, but honestly it sounds like we’ve both been getting the same vague generic answers from them.

    I tried to get them to answer some questions, but they’ve just been talking nonsense to me. Highlights of it include;

    “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to tell you exactly how we will divide “nudity” from “nudity intended to sexually arouse the viewer” because as you pointed out, this is up to one’s interpretation. We’re not trying to be the arbiters of what is and isn’t adult.”

    Yes, yes you are, you see that bit where you’re deciding what is and isn’t adult? That’s the point where you declared yourselves arbiters, so dear God, I hope you have some sort of method somewhere…

    “everyone should be able to create their own social networks for anything, provided it’s legal.”

    Unless it’s about consenting adults having sex. That hasn’t been legal since Washington put a stop to it, thank God.

    I’d say take this time you still have to set up a new site and get everybody over to it. Ning are fools, and it’ll probably just get worse.

  2. Chris Says:

    I’m in complete agreement with the above post. Cut your losses and move your horny self and smutty friends to another networking site where you all can schedule cyber-y hotness in freedom.

    Allow me also to confide that reading the Saga of Ning has convinced me more than ever just how alluring and awesome you are. I look forward to finding out what your ultimate solution is to this stupid dilemma.

  3. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Thanks for the support, guys. I’ll be sure to keep you posted as things develop. Here’s the latest response from Ning, sent when I tried to get details about how they’d be exporting the site info:

    “If you’re looking to export your content from your network, I want to assure you that you WILL have access to your content and you’ll be able to export all of your content before we make this transition. Please confirm with us that you want us to export your content for you. Once it is ready for you to download, we’ll drop you a note with further instructions. This should be within the next 2 weeks. Essentially, you’ll have your content with which you can create a new network somewhere else, if this is what you choose to do.

    If you’re looking to export your members’ profile information, just go to the Manage tab of your network and click on the “Members” link. Once there, click the link to “Export all member data” at the bottom of the page.”

  4. Sara Says:

    They suck. I know it would be maddening and time consuming, but I’m tempted to advise that you outsmart them by changing every direct reference to sex, cyber or other, to some obvious but non-dirty (by their standards, or filters) euphamisms. Do they have a “find” and “replace” feature like Microsoft Excel? I mean, take them exactly literally and just find a way to describe what the site is about by cloaking it just enough, you know?

    Sara…

  5. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    On the one hand that’s a great suggestion, Sara. The problem is, without clear guidelines from Ning about what they will and won’t delete, they could come to the decision to erase the site anyways. It’s the whole “we’re not the ones who decides what’s too sexy, except when we randomly decide what’s sexy” problem. I just don’t trust them :(.

  6. Sara Says:

    I know what you mean, and there is some stuff on there that’s really too explicit to eupha-mize (is that a word?). It’s a real damn shame though. I’ve never seen anything else out there quite like the network, tiny though it may be, it’s really just getting started. I am really disappointed in Ning, though sadly, not surprised.

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