What's the best affordable community platform?
December 1, 2014 6:22 AM   Subscribe

I run Ada Lovelace Day, and want to create an online community where people can discuss a variety of topics including women in STEM, equality and diversity issues, STEM news. I'm looking for an affordable hosted community platform with a bit more functionality than a standard forum, including an events calendar, private messaging, static pages, blog-like functionality and flexible design.

I've started testing SocialGo, but to be frank, I'm not very impressed with it. It's not very intuitive, the UX is pretty awful, and I am worried people won't engage with it because it's not instantly obvious how some things work. What are the best alternatives? I'm willing to pay, but I don't have a huge budget.
posted by Suw to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Does it need to be the same platform for all the things you just mentioned? Two things spring to mind.

1) Wordpress with the correct plugins to do all the extra bits (forums, etc)

2) A forum setup (Vanilla Forums is really nice) again with plugins for anything missing.

You could also roll your own, but that would be a ton of work.
posted by phildini at 11:25 AM on December 1, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for that suggestion. I had been hoping to have everything in one spot, but I'm not finding a solution that ticks my boxes with regard to functionality, reliability and price. Even Ning, which used to be the go-to solution for social networks, is getting panned after releasing a half-finished upgrade.

I'm not opposed to trying to find a way to do it all on Wordpress - that is what the main site uses and I guess it would make sense to have a forum on my main site rather than hosted somewhere else. I just worry a bit about it all falling over and me not having the right skills to fix it.

So, let's say that I go the Wordpress plug-in route, Vanilla Forums appears to have a WP plugin which I will investigate. But what would people recommend for calendaring?

My particular use case is that every year, people round the world organise their own Ada Lovelace Day events, completely independently of what we do officially. We ask people to fill in a Google Form, and then we copy and paste the details into our website (you can see that here). We had 65+ events globally this year, on 5 continents, and it got unwieldy quickly, so what I need is something where people can submit an event, and we can moderate it and push it live to a proper events calendar on the site if it meets our standards.

Any ideas for how we might do this would also be very gratefully received!!
posted by Suw at 11:51 AM on December 1, 2014

I'm reluctant to point this out, but there has only been one response here and so I have to say that I use Facebook for a group like you are asking about. (only after not finding anything better)
And, wow, I hope this doesn't come out racist, but all of my Asian female friends and relatives are on Facebook. They embrace Facebook. They don't do Google+, Pinterest or Yahoo groups like I do.
Could you tell me if it is true, the assumption I have, that Asian women are at the top of percentages of women who ARE getting math education? If that is true then maybe Facebook is the place for women from other backgrounds to be mentored and to network with women who do come from a culture that is leading in STEM education for women.
(a lot of my argument depends on if my assumption is correct and if you can accept my mini poll, I realize that)
Facebook also has automatic translation of messages with one click.
It is possible to have a Facebook account and not use it for trivial stuff but only to connect to work or education related groups like I do. I, being forced into it because everyone I wanted to get together for my group already had an account.
posted by cda at 12:02 PM on December 1, 2014

Response by poster: Facebook is not an option.
posted by Suw at 12:12 PM on December 1, 2014

Response by poster: Just had a look at Vanilla Forums and was getting all enthusiastic, right up until the point I saw their pricing. :( My budget for this is very, very small - $25 to $35 pcm. Someone else also suggested Discourse.org, but same problem.
posted by Suw at 12:15 PM on December 1, 2014

Do you care if the user accounts are shared between the blog and forum? The fora plugins I've used with WP have been a bit clunky and under-developed, but it's not too hard to install a forum on the same server as your blog and skin it to have a consistent look and feel. Or depending on your use cases, your forum software may not need to be super robust, in which case a plugin may work just fine for you. There are also slightly clunky "blog" plugins for forum software-- it just depends on what's your most important use case. Feel free to PM me if you want to bat it around a bit more.
posted by instamatic at 5:30 PM on December 1, 2014

How about involving some other volonteersi n your work? I am having a slightly difficult time getting my head around having 65 sets of people impassioned about Lady Ada and. Women in STEM but being held back by a WordPress forum plugin. There's a bunch of excellent IT grrls out there that would love to solve this for you.
posted by Iteki at 4:59 AM on December 2, 2014

Response by poster: Instamatic: Thanks for your response and your kind offer of further discussions about it. I've a deadline to meet, then I'll be looking into this further and may drop you a note!

Iteki: Organising an event is very different to providing technical assistance, and I'm literally at the beginning of trying to figure out what might work given the constraints of my situation.
posted by Suw at 4:57 PM on December 2, 2014

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