As the online community provider Ning moves from freemium to pay-for services (and eventual death, by Christmas, I reckon) they are sending out warning, reminder notices on email. None of those emails tell you how to remove or delete your Ning network:

TODAY IS THE LAST DAY
Today is the final day for free Ning Networks

We would like you to stick with us and keep your Ning Network running:
http://theshoshialites.ning.com
Less than 24 hours left to choose

We are contacting you one last time in the hope that you still want to keep your social network. Your Ning Network will be blocked after midnight tonight unless you choose a new plan. We hope you will stick around and take advantage of all the new features! But hurry — the deadline is tonight, Friday, August 20, 2010, at midnight PST.

I’M READY TO PICK A PLAN
Just released!

• Who’s #1?: Use the new Leaderboard feature to put the best content at the top of your Ning Network — and keep your members hyper-engaged.
• Blogger helper: Our new support for MetaWeblog lets you use powerful third-party blogging tools to post content directly to your Ning Network.
Got a question about the new plans? Compare Mini, Plus & Pro or check out the Top 5 Questions people have been asking.

So I logged into kill off a bunch of networks I had created over the years – example sites for students, and working sites for lecturers, companies and celebrity bloggers.  Only I couldn’t. The “remove network” button had been removed from Management tab:

Delete or remove Ning Network

The response from Ning was that THEY would remove the networks when it suited them:

Evan, Ning Product Manager had just told them to put the Ning networks into “offline” mode and they would delete them No explanation on why the delete button had been removed. Very insightful response from Earl J a Customer “when given no reason for removing the ability to delete the network ourselves wihtout warning … and having some delete buttons continue to appear to work properly… we’re left to bring reason to ourselves….”

Pain in the patootie – I missed the August 20th date, wondering if mine will actually be deleted now? Or held hostage until I pay at least a month to delete them? Trust has diminished substantial with Ning, they clearly haven’t used an online community manager/strategist experienced in moving/shut downs of communities. I’m guessing they don’t want a mass exodus and deletions on day one hence the removal of the delete button but why it’s not in Top 5 Ning questions I have no idea. It’s a question that is asked a lot on the Ning Help forums too. Including WHY ARE ALL THE “HOW TO DELETE MY NING NETWORK” INSTRUCTIONS REMOVED FROM THE NING WEBSITE? – she’s even put up screenshots of the “error” messages you get when you try to access the instructions. Very poorly handled – though it did eventually lead me to the answer on how to delete my networks:

Network Deletion
The “Delete Ning Network” link and functionality on the Manage page of your Ning Network has been disabled as part of the product release of the three new plans. If you would like to delete one of your Ning Networks, simply click the “Take Offline” link located at the bottom of the Manage page of your Ning Network. If you haven’t purchased one of the plans for this offline network by August 20th, we will automatically delete it.

Thanks, as always, for your patience while we make the big switch to our new plans.

I’m not a big fan on deleting networks – sustainability of identity is the most likely reason people will come back to Ning after a while. Or at least won’t act as a barrier to entry if they do want to come back. Pixels cost less than you think.  But Ning have their own mistakes to make. … *shrugs*

Anyway, I recommend you move across to WordPress 3.0 (free), enable Multiuser (free), add the plugin Buddypress (free) and Ning to BuddyPress Importer (under WordPress- All Plugins) and off you go. If you think it’s a bit beyond you, lemme know, and our developer will do it for you.  Yes you will have to pay $7 for hosting and other bits and bobs but it’s under your control. Not a company that will close down in the next 6 months.  With WordPress you have control of your hub and a strong expanding solution that the majority of solo social media sites run on. Give it a go.