Some of you may have caught wind of the changes at Eduspaces, the public Elgg community (e.g. on Stephen Downes' web here, which cites Graham Attwell here) that was hosted by Curverider. As you know the Emerge platform is based on Elgg and Curverider is the company that leads the Elgg development. Elgg is the only (afaik) open source social networking platform that can be downloaded and run on your own servers (other than IBM/Lotus Connections). The other major social networking platforms (Ning, mySpace, Facebook, Orkut) are hosted and not open source. Some hosted educational social networks run on modified open source Wordpress platforms (edublogs, FreeFolio) or Ning platforms (myLearningSpace). Movable Type is going open source. There are developments in the Emerge community that may provide an alternative. See Mark van Harmelen's post here. But, if you want to roll your own, Elgg is it, for the moment.
So, can we rely on Elgg and what is the risk-management plan?
The answer to the first question has to be a qualified, "Yes". Our platform support is provided by Joe Rosa who monitors the development forums. He gives me confidence in the stability of the platform. Most of the upset to the community has been in the perception sphere and not the technical sphere. The Elgg development roadmap is aiming for a v. 1.0 launch in April 2009. We are running on the v0.8 platform and plan to switch to 0.9 over the Christmas break with a lot of new functionality ready for the Programme launch on 24 - 25 January.
The Elgg developer community is starting to act as an independent open source development community. As Dave Tosh (Elgg's creator) himself has said, "... v0.9 rc1 is a milestone in terms of Elgg development as it was the first release that was designed and built by the community" (here, may need to log in).
But there is not yet a solid open source governance model for Elgg in the wild. Curverider clearly has other plans. Eduspaces transition was cack-handled. There are wobbles in the Elgg-o-sphere.
The Emerge project will continue to provide a platform for all the projects and participants in the community. We will continue to develop this platform using the best of breed tools available. As the support project for the U&I programme we believe we need to be using pioneering services and will continue to do so.
We plan to stick by our Elgg (v0.9) until at least May 2008. And, if this is all a storm in a teacup look forward to a new and exciting Open Social compliant (at least aspiring towards compliance) Elgg 1.0.
Meanwhile we are actively studying our options. We don't anticipate moving but, if we have to, there will be a managed transition that requires a minimum effort from the community.
Cheers for the season to you all