LibDems' Ning-based social network

When the new LibDems website was launched a week or so ago, there was also mention of ‘a new social action network site called ACT’, which promised the ability to ‘join groups, organise events, watch videos, talk politics and join in campaigns… to mobilize an online community that reaches beyond the boundaries of formal party membership’.
It didn’t take a lot of guesswork to find the site, at and it turns out, it’s just a Ning site with paid-for options to use your own domain name, remove any mention of Ning, and hide third-party adverts.
Here’s the video intro to what it can do:
It’s certainly a cost-effective solution: those ‘pro’ options are costing them £33/month at a guess, and make for a pretty rich social network. Ning also implements the OpenSocial protocols, so in theory there are ways to access and play with the underlying data – although they don’t make it easy, at first glance. So although it’s the cheap option, that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad one.
But they may hit problems due to the inability to really customise the platform. Where you’d love to offer dropdown lists, for example a list of Westminster constituencies for event locations, all you get is a free text field for location: and searching isn’t all that clever, so you’ll need a lot of discipline to ensure consistent tagging.
Of course, it looks like what it is: a generic Ning site with a few LibDem logos stuck on it. So in that sense, it doesn’t measure up to the Tories’ custom-built But if the site connects people, and those people go out and do things, it will have served its purpose, for a tiny amount of money.