I love open source. A bunch of developers working out their latest programming skills for everyone to share. Anyone who wants to learn new code has a free opportunity to learn from some of the most cutting edge guys.

I’ve been researching open source social network platforms trying to find, well basically the next wordpress of social apps… It’s not very apparent to me which is the most popular platform.  Even with wildly popular social sites like myspace, facebook, social networking is still in its infancy in the open source. But where theres a demand, there is supply… and people talking about it.

I’ve been looking at new platforms along the lines of membership, classroom and/or social networking. I dont know if you’ve been through the internet marketing guru slam, but it’s interesting to get inside their programs and see how they have things set up. I just finished up a month with PPC Classroom, a go-at-your-own-pace online course to learn the in’s and outs of Pay Per Click. A very viable internet marketing method, but somewhat risky for the little guy.

A look inside this bad boy had my mouth watering to learn programming once again.  They had segmented learning modules according to a course plan, with embedded video for better understanding. At the end of each segment, they integrated quizzes, where a passing score was required to move on to the next segment. It was automated and also saved student data. Way sheik. And to add the finishing touch, as soon as the forum opened up, it really started to feel like a community very quickly. If you wanted to learn pay per click, you couldn’t have asked for a better learning environment.

Justin Brookes SiteFlipAcademy, sadly no more, had an excellent 2.0 style membership platform. (I stand corrected, read Justin’ comment below) This was a video learning environment with a super user friendly interface and ultra fast page loads. His info was easy to learn, quick to put into action, and it actually worked. I made money flipping websites and templates. The marketplace for mere templates kinda ebbed right now, but Justin Brooke is the man! I highly recommend getting on his list. His site is at sitefling.com

SiteRev5 is a community driven free membership networking site. I found it when I was flipping sites. One thing I dont like about social sites and blogs is that they’re so cluttered and difficult to use. No so with SiteRev5. Their layout is easy to navigate with a lot great information, submitted by knowlegable  members. If the market returns for siteflippers, I’ll be the first one back to this site.

So while considering a new platform, I wanted to integrate the following things. A way to present information in the fast loading 2.0 style platform with uncluttered pages. And I want people to be able to sign up, with an easy way to communicate with those subscribers.

WordPress a fantastic way to present info, and communicate with feeds, but it gets confusing at the subscriber stage. Also, any social abilities outside of commenting would require a forum. Not a big deal, but I’ve seen better ways to put it all together.

I’ve also looked through straight social networking platforms and picked the top 3 most talked about.

Elgg.org winning the BOSSIE award for “Best Open Source Social Networking Platform 2008” comes in on top. Seems to be the easiest to use as well.

PHPizabi.net is a close 2nd. Seems more powerful, but looks much harder to work with.

People Aggregator
is probably the best all in one solution. Easy to use, with more power. To me, it looks difficult to customize. As a designer, that’s kind of important to me.

I’ve also looked into content management with membership and communication ability. Joomla immediately comes to mind, but after a week inside Joomla I never wanted to look at another CMS again.

Since Pact publishing announced Drupal as the winner of the 2008 Open Source CMS Award, its time to dig a little deeper. Drupal known for community building capabilities. Its easy to install, set up and create content with. Templates are clean and easy to customize. Member signup and user control is rock solid. And there’s a lot of documentation if I have questions.

Some things out of the box that I dont see: Nicely optimized urls for SEO (default story is http://site.com/node/1) Drupal says URLs can be customized. Also, I’d like a way to contact my subscribers, preferrably by email. There are a few mail modules to add on which should do the job. All in all this is a great solution for a membership and community sites.

With a little help, Drupal goes all the way. Im learning to custom design better navigation and also learning the taxonomy. Will have some more info on that soon. In the meantime,  Acquia has a great modules for drupal including an rss aggregator, forums, comments, contact forms, user profiles, polls, and also fixes the SEO problem for urls.