User contribution site

Hey guys,

I am primarily a designer and user experience specialist with relatively little knowledge of programming. I know enough PHP to get me through Wordpress theming and basic dynamic content, but I have never built a full on application before and I don’t know where to start or what is feasible. I have been looking for a good excuse to get lost in PHP and venture into actual programming, but have never really found one.

To give some context…

An old friend of mine wants to build a site similar to “FML” If you’re not familiar, it is a website that anyone can post to describing an extraordinary situation which usually ends with the contributing poster having some sort of particularly bad experience. The protocol for such a post is, “Today… (extraordinary situation, negative result)… Eff my life.” Each post has two feedback options for users reading the post, one option signifies sympathy, while the other signifies punishment (you deserved it.) Anyone with more experience using the site, please correct my mistakes or interject with relevant information that I left out. I don’t use the site, but I am aware of it. Each post can either be approved or rejected by site admins before posting.

My friend wants a site with identical in functionality to this website, centered on a completely different kind of content. My question is, how would I go about building something like this?

If I had to do everything from comfort (and I know this is a terrible terrible hacky hacky way to do this, and I wouldn’t do it unless it was my only solution or the other solutions were far too difficult to master, which is rare on the web, now-a-days) I would probably just install wordpress and hack the front page to have all the content I wanted, and use a comments template as the post input field on the front page, for people to contribute their stories, then set comments to need approval, and then just have approved comments be queried on that front page.

Something to note is that this project needs to be able to scale. She seems to think this can go viral (typical fashion of most people who have no idea what it takes to build and/or market a website and/or market in general.) But realistically I could see this service being used by at least a small community of a few hundred or so. However given the .0000001% chance that this does blow up, what should I be considering? Maybe give me a suggestion for the realistic estimate and another for the fat chance estimate? Everything is welcome from start from scratch to robust frameworks!

Thank you everyone!