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.

End of an era, start of a new one

April 9, 2009 | 12 comments

Update: Interested in what I’m doing now? Check out my about page.

I have a major announcement to make:

I co-founded Elgg with Dave Tosh five years ago, and it’s been a heck of a ride. I’ve been immensely proud of what we’ve been able to achieve, not least establishing the most popular open source social networking platform, helping establish the first social network to run campus-wide at a university, and developing a commercial business with a first-class team of brilliantly intelligent, creative people. Each major milestone has been both a thrill and an honour.

However, I have decided that the time has come to move onto other projects. As of Wednesday, April 15th, I’ll no longer be part of Curverider or the core Elgg team. I’m immensely excited about my next projects, and announcements will be made about these later in the year – it’s too early to talk about them now, but I intend to continue pushing the envelope of what’s possible on the Web. I’ll also be providing expert advice to organizations who want to create excellent Web-based services.

I’m also very excited about Elgg’s future plans. I’m very proud of the team we’ve created, and the platform is about to enter its own new era. Keep an eye on Elgg.com.