Do we have a messaging problem?

"Social networking" seems to be a loaded term that implies something much narrower than what Elgg has to offer. What can we do to clear up the confusion?

From :

ON isn’t designed for social networking. Though you’re welcome to do so, this isn’t the place to post snaps of you out on the lash, or to connect with your old school friends.

ON is built on Elgg. But it's "not designed for social networking." The writer then goes on to describe the purpose of the site is political organizing, something I personally consider broadly under the category of social networking.

I'm glad they found and decided to use Elgg, but this gives me the impression that people may be reading "social networking engine" and thinking "nope, I need something for political organizing." Are we losing a lot of people who could be well served by our software due to this terminology confusion?

Similarly, I had an experience where someone was building a site for people to log in and discuss a workbook. He knew I worked on Elgg and had intended to try it out but that no clients had need of "social networking sites" at the moment. In my mind logging in and discussing a book is very much a "social networking" activity!

If you've seen the new docs at, you'll notice I've made the pitch on the home page slightly different than what we've had before to address the wide applicability of the platform.

Elgg helps communities get connected while retaining control of their data and brand. It is a great fit for building any app where users log in and share information.

Does anyone else have thoughts on this? Have you noticed similar issues? Does this new pitch make things any clearer? Am I broadening the purpose of Elgg too widely?

  • Well my opinion when i encountered elgg my first impression...was this, elgg is a social base platform for creating and building all manner of socially interactive apps and i think it would just be fair to call elgg an interactive social  development engine otr framework.....

    But to tag it as building facebook clones is totally wrong....clones are majorly in the part of UI and feel....but elgg is way more than that its an engine a totally different framework...for different social purpose..

  • Great discussion, all. Cool to see everyone pitching in here.

    I do like the "rapid development framework" language. If that's how dev shops understand it, then perhaps that is a good way to explain it.

  • I like it too, pitching on developers. That might speed up innovation. But where is the social part ? Elgg in its current form is not a general development framework pur sang, like Zendworks or Rational.

    We probably need a development environment to add, maybe Eclipse wit preloaded libraries and help. Similar to what Google did for building apps for android.

    But maybe I am drifting to far away from the intented discussion now.

  • It's the question of leaving out terms that could create a certain image in the mind of someone who does not yet know Elgg is the better way or not. I would say it's better to include such terms and trying to put them into context. People might come across Elgg just because they used certain common terms for their search for an application to be used as a basis for the site they want to built.

    "Social network" might be a term that some people associate with FB, G+, Twitter so closely that they might think that Elgg would allow them only to create "yet another" FB clone site. On the other hand, Elgg would allow them to do just that (with some Elggish flavour) if they want to. A "social network site" is among the thing possible with Elgg. But it might be important to indicate that there are many different flavours of a social network" or a "community" based site while the examples given by FB and its siblings are just one possibility.

    "Framework" is another term that makes sense to be included in the description as Elgg gives you a foundation you can extend to your likings. But this is also only one of the possibilities Elgg offers (and surely a very important advantage in the long run when building a site). On the other hand (new users in mind), Elgg comes already with a nice selection of plugins plus there are many more existing plugins for a lot of use cases. So, you would not need to build everything on top of the Elgg framework on your own if you don't want to or are not capable to do (if this impression would be given it could discourage people). "Open source" is a term that might be good to mention, too, as it adds to the fact that you can adjust the framework fully to your likings. But I think it's important to not use a too technical language within such an introduction either.

    I think it's also important to point out that you can built up a community but keep full control of all the data and content added by the site members. Privacy is getting more important and there are people who might be afraid of losing the control of their content to some company (FB, G+ etc.) or don't have full control over hosting their site (Ning comes to my mind here). Walled-garden / private (closed) network / Intranet sites are additional use cases, i.e. you don't have to host your site on a public webserver but can host it also within a LAN and if you host it on a public server you can still build a closed community.

    I wanted to suggest linking to the showcases page in addition to giving the list of examples cases possible with Elgg but then I noticed you already do.

  • We recommend Elgg as a framework only on which you can built any sort of website. Elgg can be easily used for all sort of sites, which needs a user login. We have used it for business websites, learning communities, health care sector, alumni connect etc. In some projects we have used only 5-6 core plugins (groups, profiles, htmlawed, garbagecollector, logrotate).

    The word framework suits best for Elgg. Especially the hooks and events makes it very flexible.

  • Elgg - Multipurpose Interactive Engine?

    I've been using elgg for a project without its social networking capabilies.

    In our experience, it was hard to pitch elgg because it was branded as social networking engine. Branding has to be reconsidered in order to atract more users.


  • @rjcalifornia -- did you eventually convince them? What helped clarify it for them?

  • @Evan

    Well, that was the long story short. Here's the full story.

    We wanted to use elgg as an educational platform, a Learning Management System, a blackboard competitor. That was two and a half years ago we started the project. We kept the "powered by elgg" (we even made the logos bigger) and we thought at the moment that the best way for our potential clients to believe in the project was to keep the name elgg, in fact we said it was built with elgg, and it is hard to say but that didn't land well.

    We mainly mentioned elgg because we wanted to make the elgg userbase larger, make elgg have a bigger name because we really love elgg. The potential clients at the time were using a proprietary learning platform (not a big one) and were interested in ours. However they searched "elgg" in the Internet and we met with several of them to try to arrange a deal, they said that they didn't need a "Facebook Site" for schools, they wanted a something that was merely for interactive learning. We explained that we were not using the social networking features. So everything fell through.

    We just recently picked up the project after a looooooooooooooooooong hiatus (frustration), and as of right now it has been accepted and more teachers (hopefully schools) want to get involved. However, we are not mentioning we are using elgg, because we're afraid of being classified again as a "facebook clone site", even though it is not. So, we were forced to rebrand it to something else to avoid that situation (hence why I said "Branding had to be reconsidered"). We don't like that but we can't take any risk right now.

  • That is so sad! I appreciate your efforts to promote Elgg, and wish others would do the same, but this is exactly the situation I was afraid of, except it's even worse than I thought. I didn't realize people could actually be so resistant to it even once it's been explained. This is especially unfortunate given the history and original purpose of Elgg as a learning platform. That is a very common use case indeed.

    I truly hope this is an exceptional case.

  • There seem to be a lot of people commercially involved with Elgg, including me (besides the effort I invest in giving back, like most others do, still having a professional interest).

    I am just speaking outloud here, would there be a way to join forces and try to fix these marketing issues on the fly ? Is it possible to find sufficient mutually benifits in working together professionally, beyond programming and sharing thoughts and code is what I am asking here.

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