I've spent a great deal of time in the past few weeks working on a platform for building social and business networking sites. Not just for social communication, but also for document sharing, project management, and workflow management. I've decided to begin a blog to talk about my progress in finding the right technology and developing several sites.
I've worked on the .NET framework for the past several years, and even though I've successfully hosted several Wordpress blogs, I decided to use the Dotnetnuke platform to develop my new sites. DotNetNuke is an open source content management system (CMS) built on .NET. It started in 2003 as an offshoot of a Microsoft demonstration system, and is now up to Version 5 with several hundred thousand installations. I've installed DNN multiple times and overall I'm impressed with it's stability and flexibility, though it is not perfect by any means. I've also been impressed with the wide range of 3rd party modules and skins that have been developed to work with DNN. Most of these are sold on the Snowcovered website.
DNN is a decent CMS, and it also includes several modules for blogs, events, newsletters, feeds, etc. If your only purpose is blogging, I think Wordpress is a much better alternative since it is very simple to implement, intuitive enough for a non-technical person to set up, and focused on blogging. But if you are looking for a general platform for portal development, DNN is well worth a serious look.
With regards to setting up a social network, there are two popular modules that run on DNN. the first is Vivoware, which is an open source module. The second is Activesocial, from Activemodules, which sells for $400 per DNN database. Both systems have demo sites. Because Vivo is open source, you can download it and try it out. Active Social does not have a trial version, but it has the demo site and excellent documentation available online. I found that Vivoware has more features than Active, including excellent indexing and search capabilities. it has an integrated CMS that can be used for blogs, articles, news, etc. Categories can be set up to define the different modules within your site almost any way you want. The downside that i found with Vivo is its complexity. I spent several weeks learning how to navigate the various modules and settings and still don't feel that I know the package very well. By contrast, Active Social looks fairly easy to set up and this was confirmed to me by a non technical person who evaluated both packages and went with Active.
The result of my research is that I decided to use Vivoware to set up my first social network. the site is called Greencarbuzz, and my plan is to make it into a news and community site for fans of green cars - hybrids, electrics, clean diesels, and other fuel efficient technology. Over the next several blogs, I'll talk about how I launched the site, and what I'm doing to market it. Please visit my site as well as my greencarbuzz twitter page!