LOCATING ELGG IN THE
By Ed Lyons
ElggCamp Boston 2009
THE BIG QUESTION
“If I can use Facebook, Ning, Drupal,
Wordpress, or my own custom site, why
should I use Elgg?”
Elgg is a community-backed open platform that
is focused on social technology and will give
you control over your features, your data, and
WHAT ABOUT FACEBOOK?
Giving your data to Facebook is like giving your financial
information to an accountant who is heavily in debt to the mob.
(They’re not really working for you. They owe a lot of money
to some faceless people who are going to get paid.)
WHAT ABOUT NING?
Ning is a fantastic platform with more than 1 million networks.
At least Ning charges something for many of its sites! (Yes, they are
also in debt to the mob, but they are at least making payments!
However, with that latest $15 million, I don’t think they’ll catch up.)
Ning is the best choice for people who want standard social
networking features, easy setup, low cost and maintenance.
Customization is limited, but getting better.
You really can’t make big changes to it or integrate it with something
else when you need to. You get just a social network, not a social
networking platform like Elgg.
WHAT ABOUT DRUPAL?
Drupal is a truly great project that made the world safe for PHP-
based open source web platforms. They have a huge community.
Everyone uses Drupal. (Even Obama)
I have absolutely nothing bad to say about these people!
You can create a social network by combining a lot of modules.
If you need a content-managed website with social networking
features added to it, Drupal is the right choice.
But Drupal is not focused on this, and figuring out what modules to
use is not the simplest thing. Organic groups not designed for this.
WHAT ABOUT WORDPRESS?
WordPress is open source, and is therefore, in the family. (Therefore,
I won’t speak ill of them.)
However, BuddyPress is a good example of a project trying to bolt
social networking on to what they already. (Everyone these days is
adding social features to their project.)
If you want a blog and a simple community around that, then use
WordPress + BuddyPress. Some people say WordPress is really a
CMS at this point, so I wonder why you wouldn’t use Drupal for your
content management and social network instead of WP+BP.
WHAT ABOUT CUSTOM?
At this point, you’d be out of your mind to create your own network.
(Even with a speedy framework like Rails.)
It isn’t that the core features are difficult to implement. But there are
thousands of little things that you’d have to deal with that you
wouldn’t necessarily think of. Some design issues (like defining the
relationships between things) are actually quite difficult to do in a
way that will scale. Don’t believe me? Just spend some time with the
Elgg source code.
If you have a very different take on what social networking should be,
and want to start anew, good for you! And good luck.
The Elgg community has been focused on the issues in social
technologies for several years.
For the people who are focused on social networking, they will
continue to use Elgg and contribute their work to this
community, not others.
Elgg is probably not the right choice for the majority of “I need
a social network” situations. However, for millions of people,
the Elgg platform is the right choice.