Teaching Examples

Tools for creating a social network
June 22, 2007, 1:16 pm
Filed under: culture, future, socialnetworks

If you’re going to build a social networking site online for a geographical community — what I like to think of as a “real world” community — what software will you use?

You might think with all the free and open source tools available, the hardest part would be choosing one. Not so. According to an interview with JD Lasica, one of the Knight Challenge Grant awardees (submit new ideas starting July 1), there’s a list (read it!) of essential tools that are NOT out there waiting to be picked up and used — including an “out-of-the-box community publishing solution.”

As someone who’s been writing HTML since 1994, I know that existing solutions and tools (which you may have heard about) are both powerful and complex. One example is MediaWiki — the software that runs Wikipedia. It can be installed on a Web server pretty easily, if you know what you’re doing. It’s free. It works just like Wikipedia (and looks like it too), so you already understand what it can do. The trouble is, there are just so many options! It’s as if you moved into a house with a bare interior. All the plumbing and electrical outlets are in place, but it’s left to you to erect the very walls, hang the doors and install the sinks. Yeah — daunting!

This is a conversation we need to start having in journalism now: What are the requirements of a social networking site? How do we make such a site easy to set up and begin operating? How do we make it open and customizable? How to we empower the people in the network to self-regulate, to police trolls and flamers, to vote the best contents to the top?

I don’t mean “how” in a way that can be answered by “Look at Slashdot.” I mean “how” in a way that enables someone to manage options and configurations without reading the Help files for six weeks before they start.

We need to have more journalists and editors — who are not programmers — involved hands-on in the process of inventing these systems so that the end product is usable and understandable to the people who will be configuring it.

Digg the original article and JD’s list.

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4 Comments so far
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I recently came across a new one called SocialEngine that sounds super cool:

“SocialEngine is a PHP-based social network platform that lets you create a social network on your website. Right out of the box, your social network will offer nearly all of the features found on today’s wildly popular social networks. Unlike other social network apps, you are given absolute control over the appearance and structure of your social network.”

Comment by Angela Grant

Hi, here is my list of tools that let you build SN sites for free (http://longstock.blogspot.com/2007/06/make-your-own-myspace-instant-and-for.html).
Includes: Momo, Ning, Vox, etribes…

Comment by David Ingram

Those are:





And David’s post.

But none of these is the kind of solution a community publisher is searching for, in my opinion.

Comment by Mindy McAdams

I recently came across this link, but haven’t really had time to investigate the product: http://www.hyperlocalmedia.com

Do you know anything about them? I don’t know what goes into setting up the site, but it looked like it might be a good turnkey solution to getting some kind of community going.

Comment by Chuck

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