Recently, ironically as it is, myself and some other IT professionals were answering a question on Linkedin about creating social networks for churches. There are probably quite a few people out there wondering the same thing… and with good reason, as churches grow it get difficult to keep people in the loop and connected. The answer is yes, it is possible; moreover, it is not particularly difficult to get the framework up and going. Here are a few of the better free and open source (FOSS) social networking packages:
Elgg is quite popular and is in use at many universities and clubs. It has been around quite some time and as such is pretty stable. I’d recommend it as one of the first jumping off points for creating your own social network.
Buddypress is actually a plugin for WordPress (the content management system that makes this and thousands of other blogs and websites possible). Given the popularity and relative ease of use that WordPress offers it can also be a great jumping off point. One of the advantages of WordPress is that it tends to be well known by many web developers/designers.
Oxwall is also regarded as one of the quicker and easier to setup social networking platforms. It also features a pretty massive library of plugins and addons to add functionality to your site.
Xoops is a bit more complicated than Elgg or Buddypress, it originated as enterprise/corporate portal system and is known for being a good base for building websites that need to do something complex like enforce publishing rules along a chain of managers. Personally I tend to avoid it, but it certainly has it’s niche where it shines.
Anahita describes itself as a social networking framework, this is a fitting description. Anahita is meant to build functionality on top of rather than having a total and complete social network. This isn’t to say it doesn’t already have all the basics, just that they expect people to modify it substantially.
Pligg is a CMS for unlimited authors. It really shines if you want to do something like social based news sites. Technically, Pligg can also be used much like twitter or can do Q&A.
We hope this helps those of you considering social networks in your church. If you need assistance with setting up or hosting your social network, feel free to contact us.