Book: “Drupal 7 Social Networking”

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The book Drupal 7 Social Networking will guide you from start to finish on all aspects of building a social networking website using the Drupal open-source content management system.   Following along with the book, you will go through the example of building a social networking site for owners of pet dinosaurs.   This is known as a niche social networking site.  As you all know, Facebook has dominated the social network scene.  But that does not mean there is no room on the Internet to have a niche social network for enthusiasts of a particular subject or topic.

Understandably, if you are picking up a Drupal book, you most likely already know what is a social network and content management system (CMS).  But to be comprehensive, the book start from the very beginning by explaining the concepts of social networks and how Drupal content management system fits in. You will learn how to install Drupal and in the appendix you will learn how to set up your local development environment. This will get you going even if you are new to CMS development.

Chapter two will present to you an overview of the Drupal concept and taxonomy.  Drupal can be thought of as a content management framework with the “node” as its central content building block.  Other types of content are just derivations of the “node”.   Modules are encapsulated pieces of functionality of the site.  And themes are the skin for the look-and-feel of the user-facing web pages.

The user is central in a social network site.  A social network site is all about the users interactions with each other as well as their contributions to the site.  This can be in the form of blog, forums, collaborative writing, polls, groups, and guestbooks.  Chapter 4, 5, and 6 will cover these.

Although Drupal comes with many of the social networking features out-of-the-box, there are some useful third-party modules that can be particularly useful in a social networking site. The Disqus and AddThis module are two popular modules that the book shows us how to add to our Drupal installation.

Facebook and Twitter at the moment are the two predominate social networks. Therefore, it makes sense to incorporate into our site some additional interactions with Facebook and Twitter. The book will show you how to add a “Facebook Like” button and a “Tweet This” button on your site. In the course of doing so, you will learn how to enable the ability to insert PHP code into a content block. This is one of the powers of Drupal that comes right off the shelf; whereas other content management systems may require extra plugin to do so the same.

This book is geared towards beginners and seasoned developers. Starting at chapter 7, it starts to get a bit more advanced — showing you the under-the-hood workings of a module. You will even get an introduction to custom module development as well as how to create new custom content type.

This chapter is followed by an overview of custom themeing, also known as “skinning”. Note that this book is not about teaching you how to create custom Drupal themes. There are other books specific for that. However, chapter 8 does provides just a brief overview of Drupal theme structure and how to override it to make certain customization. Experienced front-end web developers would then be able to take it from there.

When administering a social network, spam is one things that you will have to content with. The book will shows how tools like CAPTCHA and Mollom can help alleviate this problem.

Towards the end, the book provide guidance on deploying your social network to the live web. These include brief tips on web hosting, performance, database backup, and keeping up to date with Drupal security.

Once the site has been deployed, you have to attract traffic. The book has some suggestions of using Pay-per-click campaigns and newsletters to attract visitors. Topic of search-engine-optimization (SEO) is so vast that entire books are written just on SEO. So there is only enough room in this book for a quick overview of SEO.

There is a lot of aspects involved in building, deploying, and running a social network. This provides you with an big picture overview and you will at least know what are all the various pieces that one has to consider when building a social network. This will provide you with a jumping off point to research into greater detail as needed for your particular social network project.

Disclosure: Article was written October 2011 and is only opinion at the time of writing. Author has received complimentary review copy of book from publisher.