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That's right! Read all about it here in the blog .
He joins the team as Lead Developer for the PHP product line. Some of you will recognize him as founder of phpFox. He announced his resignation from phpFox here on this site a few weeks back.
I would suggest to get a platform to start on and use it as your foundation. It takes a lot less time to start up this way.
I used to work for phpfox and now work for SocialEngine so I have knowledge of each script. The founder of phpFox also works for SocialEngine now.
I suggest to try the trial versions of each script you are considering. SocialEngine offers a full 30 day trial. Use that time to evaluate. If you decide to purchase, you'll already have the site started as you can use the trial site with your license.
I moved one of my sites from phpFox to SocialEngine as I wasn't fond of the phpFox v4 product. I plan on moving my other site to SE as well, once I have time.
Which features do you need? What features can you do without (this is an important question too)?
Whatever you start with, don't over load the site with features. It will make it a difficult site for users to use and it will load down the site and make it slower for any script.
For hosting, don't choose a shared plan for any sort of social network as they are dynamic with lots of moving parts. The host I use, now named Cazaratech.com , offers VPS for about $5 per month. They host for any script.
I hope this has been helpful.
They've announced the winning name, Spencer W. Ebligo! More info at the SocialEngine blog.
5 runners up were also announced. Great name and congrats to the winners and runners up!