I’m always looking for the mediating technology that Kathleen mentions (number 4). For a while I thought Plone was going to be my ticket to some kind of librarian-makes-good-via-content-organization consulting goodness. Heck, I even went the conference and got the t-shirt.

I’m still groovin’ on Plone, but you know what? It’s hard. It’s a great tool for managing all your content and maybe for building (and maintaining) a web presence from scratch. But what what about if you already have some stuff going on? You know…. you’ve got an intranet. and maybe some servers with files shares? Or some folks on your team have or want to start their own WordPress or other blog? To make Plone work in a situation like this you either some serious coding ju-ju or you gotta start from scratch.

Sure, a complete Plone site can be effective, cost-efficient, and easy-to-maintain, but starting over is not the answer for everyone. In my past content life I lived with terrible sites I wasn’t allowed to scrap. Many of these, though, these could have been dramatically improved with just the slightest bit of social software love. I suppose that’s why I’ve been thinking lately about ways to integrate some social features into such existing settings.

One potential I’m excited about is the open source tool Elgg. I still need to dig into it more deeply (perhaps in my post-graduation unemployment come June?), but this thing has some potential. According to the blurb at SourceForge, “Elgg is an open source social networking platform developed for LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) which encompasses weblogging, file storage, RSS aggregation, personal profiles, FOAF functionality and more.”

Simply put, it’s a tool that enables you to provide some of those fancy social features all the cool kids today are using — on your existing platform. Want to provide your users a blog? Wiki? Online IDs and messaging? It’s looking to me that Elgg could be your answer. A titillatingly titled Wired article on social software trends in education talks about Elgg is being used at the University of Brighton (UK), France Telecom, and others.

You can get Elgg in a whitebox, open source, customize-it-yourself platform, or you can purchase a ready-to-roll, supported enterprise version. We can talk later about the effective use OSS participation incentives (in this case, the open source developer also runs a company that sells an enterprise version), but that’s another post or two.

So far I’m really taken with the profile page functionality you can provide for users. In many cases that might be all you need (but come on, don’t stop there….). ‘ll dig around in this and report back in a while.

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out where I heard about Elgg — the American Libraries Association! Imagine that…I’m on the web looking for cool stuff all the time and I find this cool software in an ALA email (well, it was actually just a link to the actually pretty poor Wired story, but I think ALA still gets props for sending me in the right direction). Dave Tosh of Elgg and CurveRider posts over at EduSpaces (yes, an Elgg platformed site) clears up some misinformation in the Wired story starts another conversation.

So, anyone out there used Elgg? Have another worthy tool I’ve missed?

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