A note on me, Elgg, and social networking projects

May 26, 2010 | 3 comments

Note: As of 2011, this is no longer true.

Enough people have asked me about this over the last year, that I thought I’d write a little more about why I don’t do social networking work.

Elgg communities

Most regular readers will be aware that I co-founded Elgg, the open source social networking framework. If you weren’t, it’s not hard to work out: my last name is Werdmuller von Elgg, and my work centers around the open web. In fact, Elgg is so named because I had bought the domain name elgg.net for my personal email, and didn’t have anything to put there. When Dave Tosh and I conceived of the project, it seemed easier to put it there than anywhere else. (It’s a great domain name: short, memorable and not immediately definable.)

I also co-founded Curverider, the company created to provide commercial Elgg support, which allowed us to build it into the project it is today: an enormously popular social networking platform used by organizations like the WWF and the World Bank.

For various reasons, I chose to leave Elgg and Curverider last year to go freelance and work on some of my own projects. (The last version I was involved with in any way was 1.5 – since then I haven’t been privy to development decisions or involved in the process.) Because of this prior association, however, people still ask me about working on social networking projects all the time – whether that’s a distributed social network, a new platform, or an Elgg-based site.

My answer is always the same: I’d love to, but I can’t.

As you’d expect for a founder, I’m a shareholder in Curverider. As part of this, I am forbidden from competing with the company’s business (which, of course, is social networking – a rapidly growing portion of the entire software market, but that’s a conversation for another time). As a result, I don’t work on social networking platforms, and I’m unable to provide Elgg services, despite it being an open source framework. A process exists for me to obtain an exception for potentially competing products, but this would involve divulging the project and business model, which I don’t believe is an ethical way to treat a consultancy client’s information. So I don’t do it.

Of course, I’m available for web strategy advice, writing opportunities and development services in a range of other areas, including publishing, e-learning and mobile content. I’m also developing a few new ideas that you should see in action soon. As ever, if you’d like my feedback, please feel free to get in touch.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Ben! I have been reading your blog. I don’t really know how I got here in the first place, but I’m glad to know you are a Curverider founder! We are Elgg services providers at my firm, we also organized the Elgg Camp in Buenos Aires last year, big Elgg fans as you see! Thank you very much for all de hard work at the beggining! Hope to see your new projects soon!
    Good Luck!

    Lucila May 27, 2010 (6:05 pm)
  2. I am confused. It sounds like Curverider got a very restrictive covenant imposed to limit your professional work. How does that fit in with their “open source” philosophy? If all of us can use and develop Elgg, why can’t you? I can see that most of us associate you with the actual production of Elgg, giving you an advantage over the perhaps more administrative management team that runs the company now, but I am still puzzled by theis disconnect. Didn’t you leave the Curverider almost a year ago?

    Alfonse June 16, 2010 (8:09 am)
  3. WTHeck?! I can’t believe Curverider is doing something so counterproductive to Elgg and its community. Even if you were competing directly with them (which is it clear you are not), it would only enlarge the pie and strengthen the community. I contacted them regarding a couple of projects and they were either too busy or too disorganized to help me, so I am not looking at Elgg anymore.

    Michael July 20, 2010 (12:40 pm)

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