It's Time to Stop Kicking the BuddyPress Puppy

It’s Time to Stop Kicking the BuddyPress Puppy

Tammie heard one misplaced comment too many and tries here to dispel some of the more common and mostly inaccurate myths about BuddyPress.

If I had a £ for every time someone complained at BuddyPress or moaned about this or that shortcoming, I’d probably be quite rich and typing this from a desert island. To me, it sometimes feels as if BuddyPress were a poor puppy, tossed out into the world and kicked as an easy target. In the words of Chris Crocker: “Leave BuddyPress alone!”.

In an attempt to redress this imbalance, I am going to roll out a few of the old chestnuts levied at BuddyPress and try to prevent the puppy kicking with some counter points. I will state from the outset that this is not meant as a deep analysis, but rather just my responses to the nay sayers. I might be a member of the BuddyPress-pompom-cheerleading-fan-club-squad and don’t hide it, but keep in mind that BuddyPress pays most of my bills so it kind of deserves my defence, to some degree. That said, I am certainly not blind to where it needs a little nudge to get better.

“It doesn’t scale”

She swallowed the cow to catch the goat,
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,””
There was an old lady 

Scalability it is not a simple, linear issue. There are many factors that need to be considered and BuddyPress itself is but one. I’ll gladly state for the record that I am not a statistics junkie and have not got any massive figures to throw out there.  But lets get a bit of sense to that statement; how your site scales cannot be the issue of a single plugin and when it comes down to it, BuddyPress is exactly that, a WordPress plugin.

A high membership number for instance may also not tell the full story with non active users and many communities don’t even publish their figures. However, BuddyPress does run some heavy sites such as Enterprise Nation (64 000 members) and My Telegraph (128 579 members) and there have been recent tickets focusing on scalability and performance.

At this point I think it’s worth to give BuddyPress a  “get out of jail card”. One of the biggest issues with BuddyPress and WordPress can come not from core itself but from the theme or plugins you are running on top of them. Don’t always look to blame the core first, stop to think about all the functionality you have piled high on top of that before aiming and shooting.  You may also have to look at your hosting solution which is crucial to your site’s performance.

“Privacy sucks”

I will give the nay sayers this but I will also put a cushion up around the puppies’ behinds as you line up your boot. With 1.6 there is a new feature called profile privacy and it is so important that it simply can’t (as far as I can see) be the only step; it’s step one of a move to get more privacy into BuddyPress.

I do have a confession to make of once upon a time giving a swift sneaky kick to BuddyPress over spam protection.  I know only too well of the frustration, despair and bashing my head on the desk that finding a working spam solution for BuddyPress can create. You could perhaps argue that core should have some solution rolled in but as I’ve said privacy and spam solutions are very much at the early stages with BuddyPress.

“The sites all look the same”

You’re not even trying are you?  Those are 2 year old arguments and you’re not bothering to look at the rainbow of BuddyPress sites out there right now. Never one to not bring on a little photo montage of amazing BuddyPress sites… you asked for it!

Sites featured in picture:

“Oh, but Faceboook…”

Social networks are focused on the one. Communities are focused on a shared purpose. Communities are not social networks but we can look to them when designing communities.

A social network is not a community. Where BuddyPress excels is with its ability to build communities, specifically niche communities. This is a completely different thing to Facebook. Can we once and for all stop flogging the dead horse that is comparing BuddyPress to Facebook? BuddyPress can and should learn from Facebook – if it didn’t it would be ignoring a good lesson in social networking. It shouldn’t try and mimic or be directly compared to it though.

“The themes, they hurt my brain”

Ok, you’ve got me, let me just line up the cute furry little behind of the puppy whilst you take a swing. Theme creation in BuddyPress at this point sucks. It may be small comfort to hear that it really was a whole lot worse. For now, take the strain by making a child theme of BuddyPress default or using the template pack.

The good news is theme independence is on the BuddyPress roadmap and it’s right around the corner in that roadmap. It’s really an exciting time to be working with BuddyPress themes.

“Nobody answers my support question so I’m going to ask again in CAPITALS with exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!”

You know when, as a kid, you were told to always ask politely for things? The same thing works for online support. Nobody gets paid to answer your questions in volunteer support forums. The people answering questions are all giving up their own time to help and, they despite popular belief, do not have endless piles of time just to cater to your every whim.

Do you make money from BuddyPress? Ok then, when was the last time you answered a forum support question on BuddyPress? If you answered “yes” to the first question and your second answer was “not recently”, you have just highlighted a big problem with not just BuddyPress but with open source in general. If you gain, give back – it’s a simple yet effective formula.

“It’s not… toilet trained”

It’s worth mentioning that whilst BuddyPress has been around for a while it could still be very much considered a not mature project, if only because of the vast scope that such a project encompasses. As it matures so do those areas many currently point to as weaknesses. Along with the BuddyPress maturing process, so will the plugins and themes on offer accompany it and bolster functionality outside of core even more than what they already do.

It takes a village to bring up a community solution

BuddyPress development is so slow.
- Mr. Moaner McMoany

BuddyPress is an open source project. It is created by volunteers and at the heart of it are a handful of core contributors. It relies heavily on the people who help that team with patches, support, documentation and testing. I don’t deny it has been a slow development cycle at times, but it is also true that on many occasions not that many hands were helping; “many hands make light work” isn’t a saying for no reason.

You don’t have to be a developer to help with the release cycles of BuddyPress, either. In short, stop moaning and get involved. It doesn’t take hours a week – just a small time donation can add up. Get involved in the BuddyPress developer blog and chat and be part of the solution not of the problem. Nobody likes a moaner.

Comments

  1. bowe says

    If I’d ever get another puppy I might call it BuddyPress after reading this. Seriously how awesome would that be? “BuddyPress, fetch!”

    I’m really looking forward to the new theming method introduced in 1.7. I honestly believe that it will bring in a huge amount of new designers and developers. My only major concern is still the BuddyPress.org community. Even after the redesign a while back I’d wish that the site that brings all users and lovers BuddyPress together was much better organised.

    When BuddyPress was still in the 1.0 stage there were only forums and basic profiles. This simplicity helped people find the conversations and in return the discussions were more open in the open. The forums had a nice mixture between Support Threads and in-depth discussions by the developers. I wish we could go back to that!

    This also touches upon your last statement; Get involved. I believe a lot more people will get involved with just a bit of guidance. Take them by the hand in the process. It’s exactly how I got involved in BuddyPress.. I knew NOTHING about WordPress/BuddyPress. I learned everything through the community forums, dev chats and the many friends I made thanks to BuddyPress.

    The BuddyPress.org site should not just be a support forum and list of features. It should inspire people to help contribute to the project by having REAL and streamlined interactions everyone who loves BuddyPress. I would absolutely love to have a Community Admin for the project that focusses in this aspect. Don’t submit patches or mock-ups, but simply work on building a community on BP.org. Write blogposts, assign moderators and keep the community inspired. Someone like you Tammie :-)

    • says

      The themeing is really exciting isn’t it! I agree it’s going to be a turning point.

      I think we may have to disagree on the getting involved. There are also already some amazing moderators along with the core team in the forum. Those moderators do a thankless task so we should in this ‘hat tip’ them and point out how much they do.

      Could more be done? Always, but there is always room for people to get involved – BuddyPress has always been a group effort and I think it works best because of that.

      I don’t just see this as a single person solution, I see it as a way many (just like you) can unite to a community solution and bring up that puppy :)

      • says

        It’s far from a single person solution. I’m just saying that it would be awesome to have one person in charge of running the BP.org community. The Community Manager that’s responsible for building the community. That does not mean he/she would do everything, it’s just someone who make sure everyone is having a good time.

  2. says

    I’ve never tested it, but my impression from talking to people who have is that BuddyPress does have serious scalability issues. You can scale anything if you throw enough server power at it, but that doesn’t mean the core software isn’t slowing it down significantly.

    • says

      I think a lot has been done recently to help scaling in relation to databases queries (I recall seeing some notes about that). I do admit though it’s not my area of expertise so perhaps it’s not as plain sailing as it could be yet.

  3. says

    Even Drupal Commons havent managed to allure a large community. But my concern here is that Buddypress isnt for Social Content sites. However Drupal Commons’s slogan is somewhat resembles that

  4. says

    I’ve been using BP for quite a while running three installs two for the use of a small group of people and one as a ‘test’ site. Today after reading BPMail I come here and read these comments. Now in some ways BP is the best I’ve come across to do what I want BUT at the moment I’m setting up another install to do something different. Normally I just use ‘site tracking’, ‘activity stream’ and ‘private messages’.

    Would activating groups be useful? My install describes groups as:
    “Groups allow your users to organize themselves into specific public, private or hidden sections with separate activity streams and member listings.”

    Great but is there somewhere with a more in-depth description ? Are there examples so you can see the default layout? What comes with groups? What group plugins to extend functionality are there? I go to buddypress.org and there is general information on the front page but zero detail so I click on documentation and then ‘groups’ to find I just get a list of pages to read that to be honest look like it’s all for developers.

    I’ve been using WP for as long as I can remember and I’ve used BP from when it first came out.. Yet I cannot in my terms find ‘basic’ information on the buddypress.org site quickly and easily.

    Bowe is right – it would be great if someone had a think about the overall presentation and how to make basic information easier to find in a general sense as well as on the forums. I know it’s virtually all volunteers AND I’m personally strapped for time myself in terms of doing anything other than look for solutions when I have a problem. BUT if buddypress.org was organised better you’d have less complaints and a lot more effective interaction.

    I’m really enjoying BPmail because every week I get a selection of useful information in my mail box that I don’t have to go looking for which is why I am here.

  5. says

    Thanks for the upbeat write-up Tammie. When starting a new project and thinking should I? shouldn’t I? (rely on Buddypress) it’s nice to see some examples of the good work being done with BP.

    My twopenneth approaching BP with some familiarity from previous projects but not knowing it in depth is… the documentation is woeful, practically non-existent. I know BP is run by volunteers giving up their time etc., so I have absolutely no criticism of any individual’s commitment or contribution. Zero. But, collectively it means that it is difficult for outsiders to come to BP and do very much other than go with the default everything.

    There are tips scattered across the web or buried in forums, often several years and as many versions old, which may or may not still be relevant.

    Contrast that with the wordpress codex.

    I find it illuminating that if you search on Amazon there is not one single book dedicated to buddypress.

    I would happily pay a licence for the plug-in if it were well documented.

    At the risk of sounding like a football manager, to give credit where credit’s due, the code itself is well documented, so hat tip for that.

    Sorry, I think that was about fourpenneth quantity, onepenneth quality.

  6. Torben Grue says

    Excellent writeup – we build http://dogsuniverse.dk (and the .com version if your not fluent in danish) based on Buddypress and even if we ran into problems developing the site we got them fixed and are quite happy with the result.

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