Re: Front page Idea – Where do I begin?
No there is no plugin per se for the activity stream, but I sometimes wonder why plugins are so often referred to. As such the activity stream is a loop much like the famed WP loop, in the simplest sense all one has to do is copy the code that calls that loop as is found in the activity/index.php and place it where you need it in your new page, conversely it ought o be straightforward to place that call in a widget I guess so that you could move it around without having to open files.
There are many routes to achieving what you want I suppose, create a new page include the default sidebar call re-structure the main content and sidebar elements to the size you want and position, sidebar on left should simply be achieved by reversing the default styles, which is the point of CSS well formed and semantically correct markup is supposed to be visually renderable through CSS without needing – necessarily – to effect changes to markup.
If you wanted to have controllable regions on that page then you can create widget aware areas and place them in the positions on the page you would like to output content, these then when suitably named will be available on the dashboard widgets page and you can drag widgets into them for display. You can also get clever with the main sidebar and create within that file new widget areas that you could wrap in conditional queries so that a particular widget area only appeared on a stated page such as ‘groups’ or ‘blogs’
As well I guess you could simply tell WP that your reading page is not the blog but the activity stream and then customize that page closer to what you require, which may be easier?