Advice for social network web dev software

I’m well-invested in traditional media. In one particular subject, I’ve written 3 books and about 50 articles, and created all or part of several websites. I’m looking at ways to move into new media, using the material I have rights to.

For background, I used to be a software engineer, and I’ve done a lot of code work recently in HTML, PHP, and SQL. To date, I’ve never found a tool for building websites that I really liked. Looking over templated sites lately (e.g., squarespace), things have come a long way…

I want to build a new site that rolls in all of my content and builds a social network around it. I’ve already written code for another website to handle article databases, calendars, product/service databases, different levels of member privileges, private messaging, comments on articles, and all the basics. I have not, however, written blog software or a message board, both of which I’d like to incorporate in this design.

I know it would be easy to have a vBulletin board, a Blogspot blog, and my own custom site, but then users would need to create three different userIDs to use them. I want a single user database that works for everything.

Is there a template-based site that offers everything I want? Is there a tool that could make it easier to create? I really don’t want to code a message board and blogging system from scratch when there are good ones out there already.

I should point out that I’m not looking for free. If I code it myself, I’ll have to put in a lot of time and pay for hosting, so if I find a good template tool that can save me time and/or hosting cost, that’s worth something to me.

I won’t go with a solution that puts someone else’s ads on my site, though. I will have control over advertising.

Generally, there zare systems that provide each of al tht things you want, sometimes in combinations with plugins. sometimes there are plugins designed to integrate to membership information for different systems.

If there is not, it is not really the end of the world to write such a beast, and it is certainly much easier than wrtiing everything from scratch.

many things, loosely connected.

you could probably do everything you wanted in a wordpress site, and probably a drupal or joomla site right out of the box with plugins, and never spend a dime.

Hmmm. Hadn’t looked into plugins that integrate membership information.

I’ve used Drupal. I had the site up and running quickly, but ongoing maintenance was really slow and the process was a royal pain in the butt. It would have been quicker just to hand-code things. In the sites I’ve built, if you’re logged in as a site administrator, there are “edit this” buttons everywhere. You don’t have to go searching through the menu system to find the page you want to modify. I was also frustrated because some items can go in some blocks but not others. I couldn’t get my site menus structured the way I wanted them.

Haven’t tried Wordpress or Joomla. I’ll take a look at them.

What about PHP Nuke? An oldie but a goodie.

Wow. A lot of add-ins for that. I’ll dig around and see if it can do what I want. Thanks!

I don’t know what it takes to implement, but a lot of sites these days are using Facebook Connect so you can login and comment using your Facebook account.

There’s also OpenID, but I haven’t really used it and I have heard that down that way lies madness.

I’ve not used it, but I’ve heard reasonably good things about Dolphin.