Social networking and social news

Come October, I’m relocating from South Africa to Thailand. You know, to bring some more spice to my life. Well, actually, it’s because for my next steady job I will be based in Chiang Mai. Indeed, I hear you thinking: “Steady?”; this is my first steady job since working in Afghanistan, two years ago.
And I keep surprising myself how, with the rather limited cash I make, I keep getting fatter year on year.

I’ll be working for an NGO called HDN, Health & Development Networks (in June, I set up their new website, but that hasn’t gone live yet), which basically busies itself with facilitating NGOs in developing countries who work on HIV and TB education.
Quite a bit of HDN’s support for these organizations goes through two online platforms they created. One is fairly recent,, but lacks functionality. The other has been going for some 8 years,, but is badly in need of an upgrade.
You feel it coming, I’ll be combining and structurally upgrading these services come mid-October.

I’m looking at reconfiguring these two services into a socially driven news website, focusing on the developing world and AIDS and TB. Socially driven news? The most well known socially driven news website is Digg, but the one which pretty much pioneered it is Slashdot. However, both of these more typically link to stories, instead of hosting or facilitating news makers. One that allows for members to create their own news and one which I actually use is Newsvine.
But, for HDN, I will have to create something that holds the middle between a Newsvine-like website and a Digg-like site, as members need to be able to post links to stories on the web (which is basically what’s happening at and post stories themselves (which is happening at

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So I’ve been scouting for existing solutions which I might be able to build upon. The obvious choice would be Pligg, an open source Digg clone, but that also has its disadvantages, being modeled on Digg. And it’s currently going through turbulent times.
Two solutions out there that have caught my attention are Plime and Thoof, both doing personalized news (this one links to Thoof). Both are similar to Digg in many ways, but with the powerful difference that the content is basically open. That is, anyone can manipulate the extracts which are listed on these two sites. As this is functionality I want to implement, it’s these two websites which I find the most interesting of the (very large) bunch that offer similar stuff. The problem? Neither has open code, so I either have to convince HDN to start using either one of these websites (which I don’t think is too smart as it would make the organization too dependent), or build my own.
You see, I got my work cut out for me.