At this point in human history we are all pretty well versed in social networking. Our pets are even getting in on the whole social web experience. We’re all familiar with what social networks are and why we should, or should not, use them. But how does one go about building one from scratch? While the overall complexity of building a social networking site really depends on the requirements, the typical features for most networks (relationships, etc.) can get rather complex. Before you start pulling your hair out or reverse engineering Drupal, there is a new book called PHP5 Social Networking that might be just the thing to help you out. In this post I’m going to give you a glance at this new book published by Packt and tell you if it’s worth adding to your tech library.
What’s it about?
PHP5 Social Networking by Michael Peacock is a complete detail packed reference on how to build your own social network. Weighing in at over 400 pages this book isn’t a quick read but it has a wealth of information for those people looking for answers to common social network construction questions. Everything is covered from user profiles and groups to activity streams and events. You will even construct your own API.
The author starts off deconstructing a handfull of popular social networks down to their most basic features and functions. He then puts together a list of the features they all have in common and that becomes the feature list of the network you will build throughout the book. From that point on the author walks you step by step through the creation of your own PHP framework and social network for dinosaur owners (yeah, I said dinosaurs). Finally, the book wraps up with some sections on hosting and maintaining your site as well as marketing it to your users.
Pros and Cons
I could have really used this book a year or two ago when I first started building myScoutPath. Everything is here to get you well on your way to a fully functioning social network with all the bells and whistles. The author does a good job at walking the reader through each solution and what they can do to improve them further. The examples are also clear enough where you can take what you learn and implement it with whatever framework or architecture you choose.
If they could improve anything I would say cut down on the code samples a little bit. Complete code libraries are printed throughout the book and I think it makes it unnecessarily big and potentially overwhelming to some. Maybe just provide excerpts from libraries within the book; users can view the complete source code later on if they wish anyway.
I don’t recommend sitting down and reading this book cover to cover unless you’re in for a nap (as with any technical book). Seek out the sections that you’re curious about the most and dig in. There’s a little something for everybody.