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Free site lets you build your own social network

Feel constricted by Facebook or MySpace? Ning may be your next thing.

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Of late, Michael Rubin’s life has been transformed by a website that lets anyone create their own online social network within minutes free of charge. The site, called Ning, allows the mild-mannered family man from Santa Cruz, Calif., to inhabit more personas than a superhero as he dashes heroically between several of his social networks.

Mr. Rubin used Ning to start a loyal customer base for his chain of “paint your own ceramics” studios and foster a community around a book he’s written about digital filmmaking. During a past job as a product manager for Netflix, Rubin created a Netflix fan community on Ning where he still interacts with fellow film aficionados. Outside of work, he has a private Ning network for his extended family – though he rues that his older relatives aren’t up to speed on Ning features such as photo uploads, video-sharing, forums, personal profiles, and blogs. Rubin even developed a Ning site for a babysitting co-op in his neighborhood.

“Once you know about Ning, [you wonder], ‘how many places can you apply this?,’ ”
says Rubin. “Over the spring of this year, I experimented: I must have made six or seven different communities of different sizes.”

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