BuddyPress - "Social Networking in a box"

For WordPress, we have WordPress.com as the hosted service; For bbPress we have TalkPress; VideoPress plugin is also a hosted service in its own way; Not to forget about Akismet plugin either(well these are plugins however, they are useless if they don’t use the resources provided by Automattic as API). Automattic’s all major ventures have two things in common 1) they are open-source 2) they all are hosted services. However, one of the most sought-after plugin i.e. BuddyPress is only available as a plugin and there are no signs of the fact if its features will be provided as a hosted service any time soon or not.

Well, to me it will make sense if BuddyPress will become part of WordPress.com. Using the strong user base of WordPress.com, team Automattic should plan to include this “Social Networking in a box” and should plan to popularize it amongst users. This way the users will become more familiar with BuddyPress and will understand its power as well.

Recently, I’ve been looking into BuddyPress and was astonished to find out that one can literally build a Facebook out of it, if they plan to spend some time and money on it (well, not exactly but still it can be very close). Yet, publishers aren’t making full use of its power. In fact, I’ve  also noticed that even the developers like us haven’t really done much towards BuddyPress, even though its now available as a plugin for WordPress & WordPress MU both (not to forget that they become just “WordPress” in version 3).

I guess time is certainly not the factor since TalkPress came out after a long time since the inception of bbPress, however the business sense will be to ensure that users who were betrayed by Ning should get a chance to transfer their little social networks to hosted BuddyPress. Its been time since BuddyPress 1.0 surfaced and with the latest version it looks even more tempting.

Ning, a hosted social network that lets you create social networks of your own has recently changed their policy where they are asking a fee of $4.95 to $ 24.75 per month. In order to win the hearts of Ning users, Automattic did release an importer that will take the content from Ning and will make it run with BuddyPress. Matt from webmaster resource also adds that if Automattic will not launch the service anytime soon, then most likely some other enterprising developer or business owner will try and come up with a solution in that space, since popularity of Ning has proven that there are lot of people who want to start their little social networks!

Well, if you ask me that why I’m advocating the inclusion of BuddyPress in WordPress then here are little points that make me feel so -

1. Unleash the power of BuddyPress – As we all know that BuddyPress has grown a lot in features and matured as a platform in itself. You can check out these fantastic 59 excellent sites that are powered by BuddyPress to check out its power. Once people will become used to it, there will be quite a few who would want to come up with the next big idea that would drive the internet world in one way or the other. If WordPress was not made available then do you think Andy Peatling would have created BuddyPress?

2. More popularity of WordPress platform – To be honest, if someone would want to create a social network with features that come with default installation of WordPress & BuddyPress together, they would have to shell out hundreds and thousands of dollars however, with both scripts being open-source they’d become the choice of people and that would mean it would be an easier option for the webmasters as compared to dealing with much more complex Drupal.

3. More business and services – As we all know that WordPress has been really popular in the blogosphere and is becoming “hot cake” where business owners are embracing it as the choice of their CMS. It not only helps the team Automattic, however it helps thousands of developers in making a living. There are various WordPress plugin developers, theme developers and some have even created services around it, I’m sure there will be a lot more if BuddyPress will become common.

What are your thoughts about making BuddyPress as a hosted service? Do you think it will help Automattic and the community around WordPress & BuddyPress?

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Some of you will be surprised that why exactly is the post not about the linux web server setup for WordPress blogs. The reason is that one of my very good friend Shridhar Pare, owner of Xisto Network gave me a visit. As you can imagine we had long discussions about web, web hosting and forums where the knowledge lives. This is one of the reason that why I’m writing about Forums and not writing about hosting.

In my earlier post, I’ve discussed that how bbPress should be a plugin for WordPress. While going through my Google Reader, I came across a post by Dougal Campbell where he asks the question that if users like the idea of using WordPress itself as forum! Even Justin Tadlock has dwelled upon this idea before and has created a mockup about his idea [via Patrick Daly]-

I’d thought about this before and I completely believe that it would be fantastic to use WordPress as the forum. It is easily possible to create a theme for WordPress that looks like a forum, P2 Theme is a great example where the full editor is made available directly in the theme, which is one of the major features of forums. Lets see that how WordPress can provide the major features and where it lacks -

Forum Features that WordPress can provide

  1. Forums post can be made through WordPress posts.
  2. Categories can be the Forum sections.
  3. Comments can be the forum replies.
  4. Member profiles is part of WordPress by default.
  5. Fantastic editor that lets users easily share photos and embed videos [remember: WordPress 2.9.2 has oEmbed support]

Of course, there are other features that you can have with the help of plugins that are available for WordPress and here are some of them that will always be useful in case you decide to use WordPress as forum -

  1. Akismet can help protect you from Spam posts.
  2. W3 Total Cache can ensure that there will be less burden on server.
  3. Gravatar can be used in place of Avatars.
  4. All in one seo pack can take care of the SEO of the forums.
  5. Then there are plethora of plugins related to social media that can help you in building forums.

Forum features where WordPress lacks

  1. There aren’t possibilities of creating private forums.
  2. Membership level management is not as powerful as one would like
  3. Private messaging systems

Well these are some of those features that aren’t in WordPress and the trouble of all this will only be experienced by those forum administrators who have larger forums otherwise major features are already covered by WordPress. There are plugins like SimplePress and BuddyPress that can give you more advanced forum features, in fact SimplePress is a plugin that converts WordPress into a good forum system. I haven’t played around with it so I wouldn’t be in a position to comment on the performance of it however, with the long list of features, I was certainly impressed.

What do you think about using WordPress as forums? Will you prefer your favorite CMS for running forums or will you prefer to use commercial solutions like Invision Power Board, vbulletin etc or will you be interested in using an open source solution for the forums?

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After the release of BuddyPress 1.2, everyone rejoiced as bloggers who are using WordPress only will be able to enjoy the additional community features provided by BuddyPress. Earlier BuddyPress was compatible with WordPress MU only, that kept BuddyPress to not grow as fast as one would have expected. Since WordPress & WordPress MU are merging in version 3.0 – we can expect to see that it will grow by leaps and bounds! Don’t take the impression that BuddyPress has not grown at all, it has grown well enough that it powers some popular websites.

Steps to install BuddyPress on WordPress

Adding BuddyPress is as simple as installing any other plugin on WordPress. It just requires few extra steps to ensure that its compatible with your theme. We’ll cover all the steps to ensure that you won’t be stuck at any moment.

1. Permalinks – BuddyPress requires permalinks to be on. So before you plan to enable BuddyPress, just ensure that your webhost lets you enable pretty permalinks. Most decent hosting services will let easily do so.

2. Installing BuddyPress – WordPress lets you easily install any plugin in its repository. You just need to follow these instructions in order to install BuddyPress through WordPress dashboard.

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a) Go to Add New under Plugins.
b) Search for the term “buddypress”.
c) Click install in front of BuddyPress 1.2.1
d) Click on Activate and thats it!

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3. Making existing theme compatible with BuddyPress – Andy Peatling, creator of BuddyPress has taken care of this issue by making a new plugin that makes the WordPress theme compatible with BuddyPress. Simply follow the above instructions to install BuddyPress Template Pack. Just change the term from “BuddyPress” to “BuddyPress template pack“. Its a wizard that you have to follow till the end and it will automatically make your theme compatible with BuddyPress.

Other resources for BuddyPress

1. Pimp your BuddyPress – I’m sure it’ll be a nice domain name ;) Interestingly BuddyPress has quite a handful number of plugins. BuddyPress official repository has some wonderful plugins listed. Don’t forget to extend your BuddyPress installation with these plugins.
2. Premium themes & pluginsWPMU Dev has some decent premium themes and plugins.
3. Amazing BuddyPress themes and getting started guide.

We’ll be constantly pushing out information about BuddyPress and will share various links and resources. So don’t forget to signup for our newsletter at the top of this article.

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What is BuddyPress?

BuddyPress is a suite of WordPress plugins and themes, each adding a distinct new feature. BuddyPress contains all the features you’d expect from WordPress but aims to let members socially interact.

read full article →

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Allen Stern has posted a video of Matt Mullenweg’s discussion about the future of WordPress where he spoke about BuddyPress, upgrades, security, backpress etc. This is a wonderful 12 min. (nearly) video and one should definitely see it.

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