Nings are great for setting up your own social networks and for making connections with people with similar interests and infinitely preferable in my view to Facebook for social networking. The best example of a Ning I know is Blurbonline, which has been embraced lovingly by the creative communities and in particular an individual who I had been trying and failing for years to get socially networked.
But Nings undoubtedly have their flaws. Chris has just told me about some issues that are solved by adding an 's' into the URL (an introduction to URL-hacking that isn't necessarily well suited for early stage web development). When I set up Stoke100.ning, I got very embroiled in problems like the 'x' not showing up on some computers, making it impossible for them to delete contributions they'd added in the wrong place and the navigation being completely incomprehensive to a user who was obviously fairly comfortable with email. It didn't go down at all well.
I think what is handy about Ning though is that there are workarounds and particularly the fact that they make RSS feeds so easily available. Does anybody have any tips or examples of Ning workarounds that can be built and easily used without explanation for people with limited web connectivity and/or website literacy? So that we can have the best of both worlds?
It's something I'm going to be playing with over the next few weeks and maybe organising a practical Night of Ning in Stoke - if I dare :) All ideas welcome.