After writing my last post, I realized that a key ingredient to the future of the WP/WPmu merger will actually be BuddyPress. I really like what BuddyPress brings to UMW Blogs: a blogs directory, a member directory, groups, and profile pages—all key to affording visitors more ways to explore what’s going on. But that is just the tip of the iceberg, and as I’ve said somewhere on this blog before, we’re not pushing BuddyPress at all with UMW Blogs, we just got it up and running, and we’re sitting back to see what happens with it for now.
In fact, we haven’t had much time to even explore BuddyPress in any depth, but there is no question that very few people, if anyone, is seeing the power and potential of BuddyPress for education clearer than Boone Gorges is right now. He’s deeply within BuddyPress and its possibilities for a social/community driven site (namely the CUNY Academic Commons), and has been developing like a madman over the last six months or so, and sharing it like its his job. His work with suggested sitewide tags brings so much needed “folksonomic structure” to sitewide tags, and his work on an email notification plugin for private forums shared by BuddyPress Groups in a bbPress forum is something I’m watching closely, because I see the immediate power of a deep integration of groups and forums as a way to understand BuddyPress groups as more than ad hoc spaces.
Fact is, I think the most under utilized part of BuddyPress for us right now are the groups and profile features, and they could potentially be the most powerful. There is already a BuddyPress plugin that automatically creates a blog for a group. And if you think of a class as a group in this regard, what you have is an immediate way for a professor to start a group on UMW Blogs, have his or her students join that group, and then a blog instantly is created. What would be key here now, is to think of the group blog as the course aggregation hub. So that when students add themselves to the group, they are asked what feed they want to share with the group (or what tag feed from there current blog) they would like to include. In my mind, the profile pages in BuddyPress offer a great way to have the community have a presence on the WP syndication site, and maintain profiles etc., but all these profiles do is syndicate the various online identities of the students, which they can sharing appropriately with a particular class or group when joining. I like this model, groups lead create quick course aggregation blogs, and also through this setup the entire course can be emailed as a built in function of groups.
As for the profile pages in BuddyPress, they can be a place to aggregate a student’s various existing identities, and by extension share them with groups/classes rather easily. In this way, students sign-up for a UMW Blogs username and create a profile and share their feeds there, and their work is done on their own space and syndicated into course blogs via groups. In other words, they do their work in their own space (it just needs RSS) and BuddyPress becomes a key ingredient to both exposing an individuals profile, but also becomes a core part of the syndication bus. A place to drop off your relevant feeds at the beginning of the semester and hook one’s self into course groups, and by extension blogs. And at the same time the group blog stands in as a space to communicate, providing direct messaging, email, forums discussions, and the like. Who the hell needs Google Wave? 🙂