You asked for it, you got it.
Finally! For all the Pingophobes, iTunes 10.1, just released, lets you disable Ping and remove it from the iTunes sidebar. There are two ways to do this.
Go to the General preferences and uncheck the Ping box:
Or go to the Parental preferences, and check the Ping box:
Thank you, Apple. We can now ignore Ping if we choose.
Now, if we could only get some color back in that sidebar…