You can work with a developer to build a social network from scratch, or you can have a developer modify existing platforms, or you can start a simple network all by yourself. Too often we SCORE Counselors see clients who are locked into inappropriate agreements with inexperienced developers. Clients were promised an inexpensive site, based on poorly specified requirements. And the inexperienced developers seem unaware of existing platforms that they might select and customize. This post offers very introductory links to existing social network software platforms and a couple links and suggestions for working with developers. Again, I’m no expert. I’m just rounding up the pros and other commentators on this topic.
Social Network Software Platforms
Nine Ways to Build Your Own Social Network Excellent survey from the reputable blog TechCrunch. Chart covers the software Ning, KickApps, CrowdVine, GoingOn, CollectiveX, Me.com, PeopleAggregator, Haystack, and ONEsite Basic versions of all these are free, and you pay to upgrade capabilities. Source: TechCrunch, July 2007
Comparison of Social Networking Software A tabular comparison on Wikipedia. Software covered: PeopleAggregator, Elgg, Mugshot, Drupal, Community Server, Joomula, PhpiZabi, ODS.
Open Source Platforms for a Social Networking Website One user starts with requirements and tests these applications: Joomla, Elgg, WordPress MU, Drupal, Spoon Graphics blog, September 2007.
Build Your Own Social Network 27 links to other sites, including the popular Ning. Just links, no comments, on Social Networking Watch.
RailsSpace: Building a Social Networking Website with Ruby on Rail A chapter by chapter description of a book on the Railspace platform.
A Firm That Builds Niche Networks
I found one firm that specializes in building communities for you. No doubt there are many others.
Affinity Labs “builds online communities to improve the lives, careers and education of our members. In January 2008, Affinity Labs was acquired by Monster Worldwide.” The site shows the home pages of communities for nurses, police, educators, firemen, artists, government, IT professionals, Indians in US, and women.
A Checklist to Review Your Developer Contract
Information required in a web development agreement: Checklist 18 elements to cover in a developer agreement. Source: Out-Law. com, IT and e-commerce legal help.
A Book on Working with Developers
I asked Chris Keslin, Senior Architect with KTSC.com and bdmsinc.com, for advice on working with a developer. He recommended Rapid Development by Steve McConnell. Chris Microsoft Press, $35.
On Amazon, the publisher says: “Designed to be read either as a reference or cover-to-cover, the book describes more than two dozen best practices including evolutionary prototyping, evolutionary delivery, designing for change, Joint Application Development (JAD), outsourcing, timebox development, signing up, and voluntary overtime.
“General topics include rapid-development strategy, core issues in rapid development, classic mistakes, risk management, estimation, scheduling, motivation, teamwork, customer-oriented development, productivity tools, and project recovery. The book’s explanations are enhanced by the inclusion of 27 case studies, life-like descriptions of how the theory and practice of rapid development play out in real-world projects.”
Using Software Platforms and Vendors
Customers Should Avoid Community Software Vendor Lockin: Own Your Data Sample insight by this well-respected expert: “I’m hearing that most vendors have a clause that says that the client owns the data, but when you look deeper there may be vague descriptions or time limitations -which could really muck things up if a client wants to pull out.” Source: Web Strategy by Jeremiah, March 2008.
Picking a Community Partner. Ten questions to ask a potential partner. Source: Beagle Research Group, February 2008.
Choosing a Developer: One Software Architect’s Recommendations
Keslin advises: “Assuming you don’t have the technical skills to judge their capabilities, look at insurance and references:
1) Insurance – “Validate the level of liability and E&O insurance the company holds. While it doesn’t directly speak to an individual or firm’s quality of work, it speaks to the scope and scale of the projects they have taken on.”
2) References – “Phone numbers and verifiable work experience going back at least three years is a good start if you do not have the technical capacity to determine an individual’s qualifications. Examples of work and white papers are nice, but talking to people that have worked with the company is far more revealing in my opinion. Delivering successfully is dependent on the ability of the vender to understand what the business owner is asking for, which unfortunately rarely has to do with technical skills.”
Keslin also reminds those with existing businesses to think about compatibility issues.
“Businesses should take into consideration their existing IT infrastructure when evaluating new technologies. While there are many existing tools to create a social network, the majority cost of any IT project is consultants and or employees time. Matching the tool with the business’s existing infrastructure and available skill sets will provide the greatest cost savings. Maintaining multiple desperate technologies can become prohibitively expensive, especially for small businesses.”
How Tough Is It To Set Up A Simple Social Network?
My answer is — very easy. I set up a beta version of a community for SCORE Chicago clients in a couple of hours using the Ning platform. Here’s my beta site: http://www.scorechicago.ning.com. This is free as long as I can stand those Adsense ads. It’s $19.95 a month to get rid of them and run my own. Another $7.95 a month to remove Ning promo links. And free assuming I don’t need more band width. I conclude that the real work in social networking is the time and dollars it takes to build the community. And, if you’re in it for the money, figuring out the best methods to “monetize” it. Have something to add to the discussion? Please leave a post to share your insights or links with us all. (Pics are “street art” in Santa Barbara that evoke networks to me.)
Best Social Networking Software
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