And how does BuddyPress fit in to that future?

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? 🙂

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8 Responses to And how does BuddyPress fit in to that future?

  1. I enjoy reading that you are very fond of BuddyPress, however BP being integrated into WP/WPMU merge would not be the future of the WP/WPMU merge.

    The whole idea of having the ability to have plugins is so that people can have a choice.

    All of the functionality of BuddyPress can be done with Plugins. This gives people like myself have the ability to choose how they want it shown and displayed or even have the functionality in the first place.

    – Phil

  2. Reverend says:

    I agree Phil, and I see no need for BuddyPress to be a core feature at all. I just thing it will be key to the direction of WP in terms of thinking through some of the other syndication stuff I am obsessed with. Sorry to make it seem I was advocating for BP as a core feature, that wasn’t really my take. But I am arguing for some robust syndication features like FeedWordPress and the like to be built in, it just makes sense to me. But then again I am blinded by my own use cases.

  3. Andrea_R says:

    It’s likely aggregation won’t be rolled in as core, since it’s more a feature not everyone woudl use / need. Thus plugin territory.

    The simplest explanation is a merge gives everyone less code to work with. WP.com is the business, and the way changes have been rolled in recently is like this:
    – wp.org gets updated
    – wp.com gets updated with the changes
    – wpmu gets updated

    Now, way way back, the process had those last two steps reversed a bit. After the merge, the work goes like this:
    – wp.org gets updated
    – wp.com gets updated with the changes

    See the difference? 🙂

    Donncha has said from the get-go, multiple times, that existing sites will be able to upgrade. (Duh, wp.com still has to run) Really, the only huge change is the name. Which Matt has said he’s never liked. 😀

  4. Hello, Mr. Groom,

    Just wanted to ask: given that the functionality you describe has been around in Drupal for, say, the last 18 months (being conservative here – it’s probably been around for longer) why aren’t you looking at Drupal for this?

    Toss in some Solr Search goodness, and it’d be tasty!

    Cheers,

    Bill

  5. Reverend says:

    Hey Bill,

    Good to here your Drupal voice here, was beginning to think that the whole application had been discontinued 🙂 More seriously, we did try to think through a social element of UMW Blogs using Drupal, but quite honestly we get a whole lotta functionality for over 3000 users with a simple plugin. And while BuddyPress is far from perfect, it gives us a number of options simply by dropping in a plugin. The larger question independent of WP or Drupal, is whether a social network in a community using either application will work—their seems to be so many other options out there, that I have actually not been pushing the social networking part at all. And the groups in BuddyPress—though quite underdeveloped compared to Drupal’s Organic Groups, provides some interesting ways to think about classes, but that is all still conceptual. I am taking BuddyPress low, and seeing if it has as much potential as I first imagined. I guess we’ll see, but the use of it is pretty much born of the fact we are using WPMu for this already.

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