On the hunt for a good Rails Social Networking Package

In previous posts, we discussed two upcoming Rails social networking how-to books, “Railspace” and “Practical Social Networking on Rails”, which we’ll review as soon as it arrives on our doorstep.  We also discussed the many available social networking open source platforms for PHP developers, including PHPIzabi.net, Vastal’s ambitious mySpace and Youtube clones and Consummating.com’s open source version of its popular social app.  Yet, the missing link in all of this is a social networking platform for Rails.  A CMS that encompasses peer-to-peer relationships, add-as-a-friend and other defacto social features.  Even if Rails helps you deploy more quickly when compared to PHP, you may be slower to market in the long run if social networking platforms come readymade (and free) off the shelf.  Instead of building from scratch you’d work your way out to customize the product for your needs.

On the other hand, while there isn’t a complete Rails social CMS, Rails does have the majority of plugins needed to quickly deploy a social application.  In this repository alone, there is a ton of great plugins, many like make ratable, commentable, google Maps are perfect for a community site.  While I’ve yet to see an all-in-one Rails social platform, there are enough plugins and successful rails social sites (YFly, Curbly, Twittr) to use as inspiration.  There’s also good advice out there (in this case by the makers of Curbly and YFly) To see more, visit “plugins” on the blogroll.

Mobile Social Goes Loco

A big piece in the NYTimes about social going mobile. Social is spreading even faster than initially thought.  Only in its early stages of maturity, it has already leap frogged into mobile – and in a big way.  I’m feeling that Helio Ocean, which was designed with mobile social (with myspace in particular) in mind.   As WAP 2.0 becomes the defacto platform, smart developers will be popping out of the woodwork to develop new, exciting mobile destinations using common XHTML. Not a place to make instant revenue, but a place for dreamers to catch like wildfire and be bought into google’s ecosystem. Twittr, a Rails application, is the first to be widely addictive in a way that Dodgeball, Socialight and others haven’t yet figured out. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/30/technology/30social.html?ref=business

Shoptext Rings in M-Commerce

Out of nowhere comes ShopText, an incubated startlet recently spun off from its creators at Gotham agency Anomoly. Helmed by Mark Kaplan, ShopText’s first steps out of the womb involved working with eBay to develop mobile shopping tools. Having learned a thing or two from eBay, and perhaps seeing that magical golden lightbulb of opportunity, Anomoly spun ShopText into its own company. Beneath the radar, ShopText is now starting to catch buzz because of a recent NYTimes article profiling their company. According to CEO Mark Kaplan, ShopText has just discovered another planet, and it has water.

Car Porn and other Hidden Pleasures of Classifieds

bmw-hardtop-convertible.jpg There’s regular, “old fashioned” porn, and now there’s car porn, gear porn, interior design porn or a plethora of other pleasurable ways of staring at lustful objects of desire. These days, red-blooded Americans aren’t just looking at Lyndsay Lohan, they’re also spending countless hours on ebay, craigslist, cnet, architectural digest and autoblog to oggle at the latest stuff. How how does that affect hykoo? Simple, classified ads on hykoo won’t necessarily just be transactional, utilitarian experiences, but also allow for visual gratification for lurkers and casual browsers. In other words, most people aren’t really going to be buying that BMW convertible you have for sale, but they can still oggle at the lusty photos, and in doing so they may pass the ad around to their friends. Certainly the person who does end up showing interest in the car will want to spend as much time not only reading the fine print (mileage, price, etc) but also gratifying himself over the half-naked shot of that BMW hardtop convertible in mid-pose. Hykoo can help facilitate this by encouraging people to upload lots of photos and showcasing them in big, bold layouts, – its not just a classifieds listing anymore, its also an experience, and often a slightly erotic one.

Two turnkey Social Networking Sites

Buddy Zone from Vastal.com has cloned Myspace and Youtube and will sell you the customizable apps for around $400.  There’s even a free, open source social networking platform called phpizabi – the problem for me is that they’re both written in PHP and support is nonexistent.  Still, it may be a good way to quickly build a prototype, find money and build again.

Rails Toolbox & Helpful Plugins

I’m going to keep this updated as more useful tidbits pour in. A ton of great Rails articles here.  The folks behind food social site Chow.com reveals some of their favorite Rails toolkits. The guys behind Curbly.com – a social network for interior designer wannabees has a great list of social network friendly Rails plugins here

Ruby on Rails Social Network case study

Developer Bruce Tate goes through the technical hurdles and decision-making when it came time to build ChangingthePresent.org – a social network for good deeds. He goes over why he chose Rails, the agile environment, and some of the key database configurations he chose. Here’s an example:

“First, let’s get the basics out of the way. Rails is fundamentally a LAMP architecture, We deploy our site on Sun hardware, behind BigIP load balancers. Like many newer Rails sites, we chose Mongrel as our application server, a lighttpd derivative for static content, and MySQL. Our database is deployed in a master/master/slave configuration for fail over, performance, and scalability.”

Read the case study here.