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Elgg is an open source social networking software that I found while searching for free community building platforms. I really didn’t have a very good idea for a site, but I wanted to play around with Elgg, so I bought a domain and created a site for fans of classic TV shows.

I was enamored with Elgg for about a week before I started getting bored with it. I created some groups, set up my profile, and configured some settings in the administration area. There was a strange plugin setup where the lowest plugin in the list weighed the heaviest and would take precedence over others, or something to that effect.

The software is group based where users join and create groups for different topics. While that might seem like a good idea for social networking, I thought it was clunky and wasteful as people seemed to want to create new groups for topics equivalent to that of a new forum thread.

About three months after I abandoned the site, I went back to see how the site was doing and to my surprise I had about fifty users and over two hundred blog posts. All spamming users, all spamming blog posts. I’m sure there are ways to secure the site, but I just didn’t feel that it was worth spending the time learning any more about this software.

You can’t beat the fact that it’s free software to build your own community, but so far the commercial scripts I’ve tried are much more user friendly than any part of Elgg. The pay scripts seem to have features and settings that are easier to configure with much less of a learning curve and Elgg just can’t compare at this point.

There’s also a lack of support for Elgg right now. There are some plugin developers and a few theme developers, but overall I still felt the choices were limited. I only found a few different sites that created plugins and themes for Elgg, and a number of them were not free, so your open source site will incur some costs right off the bat unless you can develop your own add-ons and site designs.

If you want to give social networking a shot on the cheap, then by all means give Elgg a shot. You’ll be able to have a functional  and unique social networking site up pretty quickly, but what you sacrifice in money will unfortunately cost you in time. And hey, if you’re a television sitcom fan, I have an Elgg site to sell you.