I Wanted a Social Space, so I Built One

Since December of last year, I’m part of a community of curious, ambitious and critical people. This community are the participants of the education program Praxis. This community is currently hosted on a Facebook Workplace website. There we used to discuss work, philosophy, personal struggles, technology, memes… pretty much everything that we were interested in. Each of these themes were organized into groups.

But the thing is that this community was never put together with the intent of discussing personal issues. The community was created on Facebook Workplace with the purpose to become a productive place where we could find opportunities and better ourselves as professionals. Receive valuable critics about our work, recommend a useful tool, and bring insights about our current job, these were the different activities that the administrators envisioned.

To focus on those objectives, they decided to reorganize the website. Instead of letting everyone create any group they like, they archived those which weren’t aiming at the defined objectives of the community. Naturally, many people weren’t happy with the change. Those groups were important for them, even if they weren’t aligned with the community’s objectives.

People started discussing an alternative solution - ideally free - for discussing non-work related themes. They would keep the Workplace website for work-related discussions and have another place to talk about anything else. Since Facebook Workplace was too expensive for us, some have proposed to create a simple Facebook group, but a simple group couldn’t efficiently organize different topics like Workplace did. We could have then created multiple groups, but this wouldn’t have the benefit of having a central directory with all the groups in.

With the intent of fulfilling this clear need that the community had, I started to look for alternatives. That’s when I found the open source social platform, HumHub. It was almost a perfect fit. At first hand, I tried to convince people by asking them to check out their website, but that wasn’t very effective. It was important for me to get their approval so we could split the costs for hosting the platform.

Then I had the idea of accepting donations instead of dividing the costs between us. This form of financing would give me much more flexibility to just start creating the platform. I arrived home after work, I started my computer and went searching for a hosting solution. I rented a VPS server at Vultur, installed a Web LEMP stack on it with all the configurations, bought a domain and configured the social platform. After 3-4 hours of work, everything was working. I just needed to inform the community about it.

Social platform

I wrote a simple post on Workplace explaining that I built a social platform, and that I was covering the costs of it. No one was obligated to pay anything for it, but if they wanted to support my work and help pay the costs they could make me a donation.

Members of the community started to sign up on the new platform and expressed good feedback about the work that was done. Now we just have to wait some time to see if the demand for this platform was real and adapt if it’s necessary.