How can I create a social networking site?
April 12, 2008 3:39 PM   Subscribe

How can I create a social networking site? I am in Southern California (Inland Empire/Orange County) and interested in building a social networking/message board/blog site along the lines of Sermo or Metafilter that isn't really about customizable media and meeting friends, as much as it is for people within a certain specialty, let's say the veterinary community, to share their ideas about their expertise with peers, receive newsletters relevant to their work, and ask for their peers' opinions or advice.

I've come across several names like Elgg and Drupal, but I don't have the technical expertise to even recognize them as potential solutions to my problem!

Are their any open source programs and/or software firms that specialize in developing these types of platforms? Do I even need to go to a large firm, or is an individual software developer sufficient? How did the guy that created Facebook do what he did?

Just to be sufficiently clear, the features I am looking to enable on this site are:
  • Newsletters from the admin and notable writers of the industry
  • Anonymous polling of veterinarians' (members') opinions in current and relevant topics
  • blogs
  • Message boards
  • POSSIBLY a feature that allows individual vets to create friends lists of other vets they meet at conventions and locally, to facilitate their networking abilities.
If anyone here can direct me to someone that can work with me, I would be eternally grateful.
posted by lukeklein to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you could use ning.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 3:40 PM on April 12, 2008

Yeah, Ning was the first thing that occurred to me.

Think of Drupal as the software for running your community. You install it on your own website, you configure it, you run it. (I don't know Elgg, but it seems to be the same idea).

Think of Ning as pre-installed community software that's made available to you as a service. You'll have some configuring to do and fewer options, but less administrivia.

Learning how to administer Drupal and what you can do with it is not trivial, but it's not forbidding either. Many web-hosting companies offer it as a one-click install, which takes care of that problem for you.
posted by adamrice at 3:53 PM on April 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Let me just reiterate that I am NOT TECH SAVVY!!! Please don't just tell me, "Ning will work" or "Drupal is the way to go." I'll need a slightly more explicit answer. If there is a high caliber open source software that I can use, please tell me who I need to see to put it all together, etc.
posted by lukeklein at 3:54 PM on April 12, 2008

Drupal is open-source. Elgg is open-source. And there are a lot of other open-source community CMSs (content-management systems) that would do the job for you, although Drupal may be the most popular (I like it).

It may be that you are NOT TECH SAVVY!!! but either you'll need to get a little savvy, give up on this plan, or prepare to pay someone for every little thing. If you're going to administer a community site, you'll need to deal on a routine basis with quasi-technical issues. Spam being the most obvious. You'll need to learn some of the ins and outs of your system just to make it do what you want and avoid doing things you don't want, otherwise you'll be on the phone daily to a geek charging you $50 to hold your hand.

A complex Drupal setup is kind of like an overstuffed suitcase. Every time you push something in on one side, something pokes out on the other. It will probably be the same with almost any community site except the very simplest. Once you get things up and running, you can do pretty much everything you need through an administrative interface, but you'll still need to learn the capabilities, quirks, and limitations of that system in order to know what's easy, what's possible, and what not to do. In Drupal at least, there are fundamental concepts like user roles, taxonomy, modules, etc that you'll need to learn.

With whatever option you choose, it would behoove you to set up a test site so that you can learn the ropes, and invite a few friends to help you try it out.
posted by adamrice at 4:08 PM on April 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

lukeklein: Do you have a budget for this, or are you expecting "who you need to see" to help you for free?

Drupal will do everything you want and lots more. I could assist you and host it for you on a consulting basis, if you are interested and don't feel comfortable setting it up yourself.
posted by doompuppy at 4:09 PM on April 12, 2008

Best answer: Setting up Ning you really don't have to be tech savvy. If I recall, the steps are:
Sign up for account.
Select "create network"
Fill out things like the name and description of your network.
Drag and drop features you want on the home page.
Select template for the look.

Now, if that isn't simple enough, then yes, you'll need to have someone do it for you. An individual can probably set it up, but if you want a lot of customization, and you want it in a short time frame, you might want to look at a web design firm. Open up the yellow pages and call around for places that are familiar with implementing social networks. Or even check craigslist for web developers.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:35 PM on April 12, 2008

I recently set up a social network site using ning, and am currently implementing an institutional site using Drupal. I would be able to help -- contact details are in my profile.
posted by cbrody at 6:13 PM on April 12, 2008

Best answer: lukeklein,

I am the principal for a Web Development, Web Design company and we have experience building sites with social networking aspects. We are in the process of building one right now with ELGG and Joomla. Shoot me an e-mail and we can talk more offline if you are interested. tinawinslow (at)
posted by free2bme at 6:49 PM on April 12, 2008

Give this a try.
posted by WizKid at 12:26 PM on April 14, 2008

Response by poster: Sorry, I accidentally checked this question of mine form my sister's computer, and posted a comment, from me, in her name (numinous). Here it is again, in response to adamrice

"I am researching this topic for someone who does have a budget and tech savvy people at his disposal, but not the expertise in social networking sites. So when I say point me to someone who can help me, I mean so that they can help me with software solutions, not funding solutions. I have a sizable budget, and if I find a reliable developer, I know where to go to find investors. I'm looking for technical referals only, please. I'll find my own employees later."
posted by lukeklein at 4:29 PM on April 14, 2008

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