To Ning or not to Ning? That is the question.

August 25, 2008 at 12:29 am (Louisiana 2.0, Musings, Technology)

A while back, I started a Ning group called Louisiana 2.0, and had just about given up on the whole idea (of the Ning group, not the larger idea that motivated me to start it), but now two more people have joined the group.  This may not seem like a big deal, but when you think about the fact that 2 people represents a 50% increase (more if you don’t count me as a member, which maybe you shouldn’t), and that these people not only joined the group without me asking them to, but even invited other people to join, well, makes me hestitate to write the site off as a failure before I give it a chance.

Louisiana Needs a Technology Database

That’s how this whole thing started.  I was at lunch with Chris Schultz and Geoff Daily a few weeks ago, and one of the things that came out of our conversation was galvanizing me to make something happen toward cataloging all the awesome technology companies, initatives and resources we have going on in Louisiana.  See Chris’s original Louisiana 2.0 blog post that was the inspiration for the Ning group’s name.

We’ve gone back and forth about the best way to go about collecting information for the tech database, and what platform we should use.  Eventually, it should look something like Tech Crunch, maybe, which of course Ning is never going to be.  That said, at one point I decided that the Ning group was part of a two pronged plan, which would eventually result in the Lousiana 2.0 database (which will probably be built with a wiki).

But then, I changed my mind.

Does Ning ever work?  For anybody?

Okay.  I know the answer to this question.  Of course there have been successful Ning groups.  Look at the Book Marketing Network, for one.  This group was part of the reason I thought Ning would be a good idea for Louisiana 2.0, because the point is to create a platform for technology companies and geeks to promote themselves and find one another.  The fact that you could search “author of three books” and come up with a list of results in the Book Marketing Network (try it–you’ll see), made me think that maybe you could search “ISP small business web host” and find what you were looking for in the Louisiana 2.0 network.  Ultimately, that’s what I’d like to see happen.

Because right now, if you’re looking for some kind of technology product or service, you probably haven’t even bothered to look for it in Louisiana.  For the most part, people assume they’re never going to find it here, because it simply doesn’t exist.  This assumption is false, at least in part.  My experience has been that a surprising array of technology companies exist in the state.  But you’d be right to assume you’re never going to find what you’re looking for–not because it doesn’t exist, but because there’s no good way to go about finding it.  There is no searchable database of technology companies in the state.

The question isn’t whether or not we need such a database.  The question is how to go about building it when you’re one person and have zero money with which to build it.  Hence, Louisiana 2.0 (beta) on Ning.

Louisiana 2.0 (beta) on Ning – Worth the Effort?

At first I was starting to think no, it’s not worth it.  But then Paul Chaney joined, and reminded me exactly why this needs to be done in the first place.  I’ve been so lucky to have worked with people in Lafayette, especially from Bizzuka, because they (along with the Greater Lafayette Business Journal, LITE, LANtec and others) made it possible for me to organize an LTC event in their city.  And although the LTC thing seems to have died on the vine (that is a story for another post, and by “story” I mean “rant”), the relationships that were started as a result of this effort don’t need to.  I think we’re finally ready to get over the political bullshit, the my city is better than yours attitude, and realize that we are stronger by working together, and if we cooperate we can start competing not at the local, New Orleans vs. Baton Rouge vs. Lafayette level where nothing important will ever come out of winning these childish games, but at the national level, where Louisiana AS A STATE becomes a viable economic competitor, particularly in the technology arena.  We.  Can.  Do.  This.  “We” being the operative word.

So perhaps Louisiana 2.0 (beta) on Ning could be the start of making the invisible spirit of cooperation (that I know exists, you people can’t deny it anymore) visible.  Tangible, albeit in a virtual, electronic way.  But you’ve got to start somewhere if you’re going to build a network out of the relationships between cities, and between people.  Maybe this is a viable first step?

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