Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

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Joomla! Social Networking with JomSocial

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Learn how to develop a high quality social network using JomSocial

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by Beatrice A. Boateng Kwasi Boateng | July 2010 | Joomla! Open Source

A website (social network) is only as good as its content. You can have the flashiest,most gimmick-filled website, but if it does not have content, is not user friendly, and does not attract users to come back to it, then it will become another nine-day wonder and no one will remember it.

In this article by Beatrice A. Boateng and Kwasi Boateng, Author of Joomla! Social Networking with JomSocial we are going to create content for our site in order to attract more appheads (the name for users of our site) by:

  • Extending our social network to include a ratings system by using SOBI, a Joomla! directory extension
  • Listing apps
  • Reviewing apps
  • Displaying listings in profiles
  • Sharing multimedia content such as videos and pictures

We want our website (http://www.kifari.com) to be the next most discussed thing in the blogosphere. Our site is a social networking site that can list and review cell phone applications.Cell phone applications are currently grouped into Apple and Droid apps, and one needs to visit a specific brand or cell phone company site to find out more about these applications. The Apple store provides product overviews of their apps and identifies staff picks and the pick of the week. There are also some customer reviews.A rating system for Droid apps with any of the mobile phone companies is yet to be set up by any of the cell phone companies.

The idea here is to set up a social networking system that will offer a system for rating iPhone and Droid apps that is independent of the companies that sell or manufacture these products. The site is aimed at providing an open and transparent social networking environment for the exchange of listings and reviews. This information sharing and rating system will provide users with a platform on which to showcase what they have done or can do with the specific apps they have on their phones.

The information from this network could provide app developers with insightful information about specific apps. And it could help provide users and potential buyers with valuable information regarding product capabilities and limitations.Such a service has the potential to provide users with information and thereby offer potential users of specific apps the opportunity to make informed purchases. It may also provide developers with insight to product capabilities and limitations, which could be used to improve existing products or facilitate the creation of new apps.

Installing SOBI2

SOBI is a free GPL Joomla! component that allows for the creation of professional directory and review systems for Joomla!-driven sites. And it integrates seamlessly with JomSocial through the requisite plugins. SOBI can be downloaded from the official website, at http://www.sigsiu.net. To perform this installation and integration, we will need the following:

  • SOBI2 for Joomla! 1.5 (com_sobi2-RC2.9.2.4.j15).
  • The Latest Reviews Module (SOBI2_LatestReviewed_Module). We may need to unzip this file and upload the one for Joomla! 1.5.
  • The Latest Entries Module (SOBI2_Latest_Module). We may also need to unzip this file and upload the one for Joomla! 1.5.
  • The SOBI2 Reviews & Ratings Plugin (reviews_plugin), this should be the one compatible with SOBI2 (2.9.x). This plugin should be installed through the SOBI2 plugin system, and not through the regular Joomla! extension installation system.
  • A plugin to integrate SOBI2 with JomSocial, which can be found on the JomSocial website (under Addons). The My SOBI2 Entries plugin will enable users to display their listings under their profile (plg_sobiposts-0.2.zip).

The SOBI2 component, modules, and plugins are installed just like any other Joomla! extension. As with similar Joomla! components, it is always good to configure the extension before using it. To configure SOBI, we need to do the following:

  1. Go to the administrative back-end, and then click on Components | SOBI2 | General Configuration. Most of the default configuration settings work well.
  2. The SOBI2 Configuration has various options, namely:
    • Custom Fields Manager: This allows us to edit, add, or remove information fields that we want users to include in their entries.
    • General Configuration: Some of the notable features that we may want to change under General Configuration include the Component Name, which will be the name of our directory. We will name ours "Rate, Share and Review Apps". The other thing would be how many entries per line; the default is 1; this can always be changed depending on the intended final look.
    • Entry Configuration: These settings define how we want entries to be categorized. This also includes an option to charge a fee for entries. All our entries are free.
    • View Configuration: This includes how we want entries to appear.
    • Payment Options: If users are charged, this provides options for payment.
    • Language Manager: This comprises of the languages that we want to use on the site.
    • Registry Editor: Leave it as it is.
    • Recount Categories: To re-count how many categories are available.
    • Uninstall SOBI2: To uninstall SOBI2.
  3. We also want to categorize apps by phone type, such as Droid, Apple,Blackberry, or Others, with other broad categories such as games, business,books, music, shopping, fitness, and so forth.
  4. Click on Entries & Categories | Add Category. We can also add brief descriptions of each category. Here are the categories that we have created.

    Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

  5. Click on Configuration | Custom Fields Manager. This allows us to customize the types of reviews and items that we want users to write about on our site. Our listings will include:
    • Name of the app
    • Cost
    • Brief description of what it does
  6. In the end, users will have the ability to select the categories that the app belongs to. We can specify that users can put in apps up to five categories, or whatever the settings may determine.
  7. Now, let's install the SOBI2 ratings and review system. This is done through the SOBI Configuration | Plugins | Plugin Manager. Install the reviews plugin.

    Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

  8. Click on the plugin to configure it. Towards the end of the configuration settings, there are additional things that need to be done to the code. This shows us different files where we need to insert specific codes.
    Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!
  9. Let's take the first line, and break it down:

    Place "<?php echo $plugins['reviews']; ?>" in your Details View Template on the place where you want to show the reviews and the add review/ ratings form.

     

    This is telling us to place the part in quotes "<?php echo $plugins['reviews'];?>" in a specific template called Details View Template. To do that:

    • First, save this configuration.
    • Go to Templates & CSS, and then click on the Details View Template, as illustrated in the following screenshot.

    Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

  10. This will open the editable code of the Details View Template. (Note that the Details View Template is what appears after users complete the forms list apps.) This will make a review link appear on each entry. We want the form to appear at the end of the description.

    <?php
    /**
    * @version $Id: sobi2.details.tmpl.php 5379 2010-02-26 17:30:01Z
    Sigrid Suski $
    * @package: Sigsiu Online Business Index 2
    * ===================================================
    * @author
    * Name: Sigrid & Radek Suski, Sigsiu.NET GmbH
    * Email: sobi[at]sigsiu.net
    * Url: http://www.sigsiu.net
    * ===================================================
    * @copyright Copyright (C) 2006 - 2010 Sigsiu.NET GmbH (http://
    www.sigsiu.net). All rights reserved.
    * @license see http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-
    2.0.html GNU/GPL.
    * You can use, redistribute this file and/or modify
    * it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as
    published by
    * the Free Software Foundation.
    */

    /*please do not remove this line */
    defined( '_SOBI2_' ) || ( trigger_error("Restricted access", E_
    USER_ERROR) && exit() );

    /* --------------------------------------------------------------
    * This is the template for the Details View
    * -------------------------------------------------------
    */
    ?>
    <?php HTML_SOBI::renewal( $config,$mySobi ); ?>
    <table class="sobi2Details" <?php echo $style; ?> >
    <tr>
    <td><?php echo $ico; ?><h1><?php echo $mySobi->title; ?></
    h1></td>
    </tr>
    <tr>
    <td><?php echo $img; ?></td>
    </tr>
    <tr>
    <td><?php HTML_SOBI::showGoogleMaps($mySobi, $config); ?></td>
    </tr>
    <tr>
    <td>
    <div id="sobi2outer">
    <?php HTML_SOBI::waySearchUrl( $waySearchLink,$config );
    ?>
    <?php echo HTML_SOBI::customFieldsData( $fieldsFormatted
    );?>
    <br />
    </div>
    </td>
    </tr>
    </table>
    <table class="sobi2DetailsFooter" width="100%">
    <tr>
    <td>
    <?php HTML_SOBI::addedDate($config,$mySobi); ?>
    &nbsp;&nbsp;
    <?php HTML_SOBI::showHits($config,$mySobi);?>
    </td>
    <td><?php HTML_SOBI::editButtons($config,$mySobi); ?></td>
    </tr>
    </table>
    <?php echo $plugins['reviews']; ?>

  11. Place "<?php echo $this->plugins['reviews']->showRating($mySobi->id);?>" in your Details View Template on the place where you want to show the rating results (stars).
  12. We want this to appear alongside the title:

    Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

  13. Save and go to the V-Card Template.
  14. Place "<?php echo $plugins['reviews']; ?>" in your V-Card Template on the place where you want to show the reviews (numbers) and ratings(stars) results.

    Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

  15. We placed the code below the title.
  16. We saved any changes that we made.

Comprehensive documentation is available on the SOBI2 website (http://www.sigsiu.net/).

After setting up SOBI2, we need to activate the SOBI2's JomSocial plugins, similar to activating any plugin. This can be done by clicking on Components | JomSocial | Applications.

Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

We will rename My SOBI Entries to My Listings.

Because the main goal of this site is for users to provide app reviews, we will make My Listings part of the core profile applications (that is, all users will have this as part of their core profile, and cannot remove it).

Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

 

A Joomla! component cannot be used without a link to it. So we need to go to our menu manager and create a link to our SOBI2 component.

To create a link to our new component, carry out the steps below:

  1. Create a link to the SOBI2 component and call it Listings. Go to Menu | Main Menu | New SOBI2 | Latest entries. SOBI2 provides us with various menu options. We will create a menu for visitors to our site to view listings ,as shown in the following screenshot:
  2. Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

  3. Save, refresh, and let's view what we have on the front-end.
  4. Notice that we have a new link. When we click on this link as a guest to the site, we will see the latest app review listings.

    Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

There are no apps listed at this time because we have not entered any. We have configured the SOBI component and it is ready for use.

Joomla! Social Networking with JomSocial Learn how to develop a high quality social network using JomSocial
Published: July 2010
eBook Price: $20.99
Book Price: $34.99
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Listing apps

At this time, we have no listings and we have barely started our community. We have still not given people a reason to come to our site. Content is the key. Well,advertising is probably the best way to tell people about our site, but then if we do not have content, they will probably not return.

Let's list some apps:

  1. Click on Add Entry.

    Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

  2. We, of course, cannot enter listings unless we are a registered member. So we need to click on Sign up--Become a Reviewer, and then log in, go to the listings menu to add an entry.
  3. Complete the form and select all of the categories to which this app belongs.The form has been broken down into three parts as follows.
    • PART 1: Enter the title, description, and the cost of the app.

      Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

    • PART 2: Enter any additional information. We can also upload images for this app.

      Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

    • PART 3: Select all of the categories associated with this app, and then click on Send.
      Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!
  4. Apps are set to be automatically published, so let's click on the listings link again to view the apps that we have listed.
    Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!
  5. Notice that there are now two listings, and they look pretty good, with an image. We should encourage our users to include images with their listings.Click on the title of the app to learn more about it.

Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

Reviewing apps

Reviewing listed apps is intuitive. After we click on the title to learn more about the app, the view provides us with the opportunity to review the app. We do this by selecting how many stars that we want to attribute to the app, and then clicking on Write Review.

Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

Reviews are published instantaneously. Click on the Listings menu to see the difference. Notice that the listings have stars.

Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

When we click on the title, we will notice that in addition to the description of the app, the app reviews also appear on this page.

Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

SOBI2 makes it very easy to add an app rating system to our site. Although the SOBI component is primarily designed to be a directory extension, a few plugin additions and code tweaks to the extension can turn it into an effective rating system.

Another Joomla! review extension to consider is JReviews.JReviews can be purchased from the JReviews website (http://www.reviewsforjoomla.com/). Make sure that your host server supports the following requirements: PHP5.2.x with json and mbstring extensions, as well as ionCube loaders.

Displaying listings in profiles

The SOBI2 Entries plugin enables users to display their listings on their profile(plg_sobiposts-0.2.zip). This plugin, found on the JomSocial website (under Addons), permits us to integrate JomSocial and SOBI2. The plugin is installed through the same process as is used for JomSocial plugins(from the back-end, install/uninstall).

Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

 

Once installed, the plugin becomes one of the applications that users can add to their profile.

Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

Users' app listings will then appear under their profile.

Creating Content in Social Networking using Joomla!

Notice that we gave users the option to make this app a part of their profile.Administrators can also make this a core application, in which case, it will be a part of everyone's profile.

Summary

Our website is becoming exciting. Users can add content to our site; a few apps have been listed and reviewed.Joomla! and JomSocial are fully extensible and allow integration with other Joomla! components. The system can work as-is, without any extensions. It mostly depends on the overall goal of your site.

Joomla! Social Networking with JomSocial Learn how to develop a high quality social network using JomSocial
Published: July 2010
eBook Price: $20.99
Book Price: $34.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


Beatrice A. Boateng

Beatrice A. Boateng is an Assistant Professor in the department of pediatrics, College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She is also the co-director of faculty development in the department of pediatrics. She holds a doctorate from the Instructional Technology program, College of Education at Ohio University. Beatrice's research interest is in the millennials, instructional technology in medical education, and open sources source tools for education. She has authored articles, book chapters, and a book on technology applications in rural schools.

Kwasi Boateng

Kwasi Boateng is an Assistant Professor at the School of Mass Communication in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has a doctorate from The School of Media Arts and Studies (formerly the School of Telecommunications); Scripps College of Communication, Ohio University. Kwasi has research interest in new technologies in electronic communication and open source tools for online communication. He has authored various articles, book chapters, and a book on electronic media. He teaches courses on web design, motion graphics, media and culture, and the Internet regulation and policy. He has worked with students to build websites for non-profit organizations using open source content management systems, and organizes workshops to introduce high and middle school students to open source tools for online communication.

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