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mrbeau's picture
Asked by on Tue 12th May 2009
Product-based social network: which CMS (or script) is best?

Hi all,
I am working on setting up a social networking site and have a developer helping me as I don’t have any web development experience myself. I have the basic specifications defined and we are using these as an initial guide.

Basically I want to setup a community surrounding physical goods and user interests. The basic outline is as follows:

Profile
-user picks which camera bodies and lenses he owns, as well as defining interests and location
-user can upload pictures and tag them in multiple ways (body and lens used, location picture was taken etc.)
-user is shown relevant forum posts, products etc (lenses that fit his camera, memory cards (SD if he has a body that accepts SD, CF if it takes CF, camera bags etc)
-forum posts of interest are automatically identified (based on profile and user-identified areas of interest)
-user can search other people with similar interests and/or equipment
-user can generate a blog and tag it for other users to see (e.g. camera shoot London with Canon Rebel/400D concerning airshow on 2/2/2009)

Product page
-a product page has a template that allows for comparison with other products (weight, focal length etc)
-tagged pictures from other users are automatically linked (similar to user uploaded pictures on Amazon)
-similar products and relevant forum posts are identified
-user generated reviews/ratings and wiki functionality

Events
-users can generate events in a calendar that is distributed to people in the same geographic region and/or interest (think bird watchers on a photo shoot)

Classifieds
-users can create classifieds that then get presented to other users based on suitability and/or interests (e.g. an ad for a SD card wouldn’t be shown to another user who has a camera which takes CF cards)

Forum
-posts can be linked to database entries to facilitate searching/filtering (text searching is not great—try searching for AC [Air Conditioning] on an automotive forum, the string is too short and also returns results unrelated to the discussion)

We are evaluating different frameworks that can be used to produce my vision. Some of the options we have shortlisted (though not necessarily evaluated) include:
Elgg, Drupal, Joomla, SocialEngine, Dolphin, Geeklog/AptitudeCMS, DZOIC, TYPO3 PHPizabi, Pligg, vBulletin, Okphp, prosems, introNetworks, ThePort, etc…
Many of these were found on www.techcrunch.com/2007/08/14/34-more-ways-to-build-your-own-social-netw… as well as general research.

In evaluating the popular scripts (SocialEngine, Dolphin) it appears they are far from what I envision—they seem more catered to dating sites. To get them to the functionality required would require a lot of ‘hacking’—modifications that would likely ‘break’ with new revisions.

For that reason we are leaning more towards a CMS-based solution. Taxonomy is very important and ideally the user would ‘tag’ things using the database versus user-defined tags (avoids spelling error, makes filtering easier etc.).

My developer has extensive TYPO3 experience and is good at PHP/MySql if that matters, though he is mainly helping me with the short listing and perhaps initial launch.

Any feedback regarding the options and best forums to discuss this topic would be greatly appreciated. Also any guesses as far as development time (cost!) would be very useful.

Cheers,
Matt

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