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Building a Social Site with Ruby and Rails

Social Network Framework

New Media Journal on Ulitzer

Over the past year or so I’ve been working on an application that serves as a framework for building a feature rich social networking site. I’ve called this project EngineY. EngineY is a Ruby application that uses the Ruby on Rails framework as its base.  As I was building EngineY, I used a real community site to serve as a test bed for the framework. The framework is currently powering the Michigan Ruby Community site, which provides a central hub for Ruby enthusiasts in Michigan. I’ve recently released the EngineY framework as an open source project hosted at Google Code.

The framework supports a widget type of development in that each new feature is built following the same style of implementation allowing new features to be built up relatively quickly. This makes the framework easy to customize and extend with features that you might need for your organization. Some of the current features include blogs, user profiles, events, photos, status posts, groups, bi-directional friending, private messages, twitter integration, and more. In the future, you can expect to see a generator which will auto-generate the skeleton of a new widget that you can then customize to implement a new feature. Widgets can be turned on and off, their display position altered, and configured very easily through a simple Configuration class which will eventually be moved into a configuration file.

Some of the underlying technology that I have used in development of EngineY is the Dojo JavaScript framework, and several Rails plug-ins including restful_authentication,attachment_fu, and acts_as_taggable_on.  Rich text editing is provided with the TinyMCE JavaScript text editor. I’ve also created a Rails plug-in that implements Activity Streams. Using the plug-in it is simple to allow any model class to add content to the activity stream.

The project is still very much under active development with code updates coming almost everyday. Right now, I am still the lone developer on the project, however in the near future I would like to open it up to take on additional developers who would like to contribute. Some of the missing elements which will be coming in the near future include a robuts admin interface, support for blog post comments, more tagging everywhere, a theming system, and search.

With the code download, I have also included the theme for the RubyMI site and a generic company social network site that can serve as a starter place for your social network.  If you take a look at EngineY and decide to make use of it, I’d love to hear from you.

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More Stories By Timothy Fisher

Timothy Fisher has recognized expertise in the areas of Java, Ruby, Rails, Social Media, Web 2.0, and Enterprise 2.o. He has served in technical leadership and senior architecture roles with companies such as Motorola, Cyclone Commerce, and Compuware. He is the author of the Java Phrasebook, and the Ruby on Rails Bible. Currently he is employed as a senior web architect with Compuware in Detroit, Michigan.

Follow Timothy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tfisher