As this week is winding down, I’m feeling like I’ve finally come in from the rain (or the snow, since I’m in Wisconsin). Work has been crazy nuts over the past two weeks and I’ve been pushing myself harder than usual to meet deadlines and get things done. Some of it goes rather smoothly, while other bits are somewhat of a struggle, but at the end of the day – it comes together nicely.
Speaking of something that has come together nicely – have you hear of BuddyPress? I discovered BuddyPress back in July of this year when a new client approached me wanting something a little different for their WordPress powered site. They wanted to build a community. Nothing strange there, right? There are communities popping up all over the web. Heck – you can put up a regular WordPress blog and open up comments on it, and you’ve got yourself a community!
These folks, however, had something specific in mind, and when they described what they wanted – before I could say whether I could/would take on the project, I had to do a bit of research, because much of what they wanted seemed to me like it would require custom programming.
What did they want? A web site where they could post articles of interest, attract a community of a certain demographic and invite those readers to join in the fun by registering for the blog, as well as creating their own. Without hesitation, I recommended the WordPress MU software – I’ve deployed that for several clients so they could build a community and network of blogs within their specific niche.
But – they wanted it to go a step further…and this is where I started to get a little dizzy! They wanted their readers to register as users. (Easy). Then, they wanted those users to have a very, very detailed Member profile that would include answers to a long list of questions (created by the community admins), in addition to listing their individual social network sites – – these profiles should be searchable and listed in an extensive members directory. MORE than that – they wanted:
- Each individual member to have the ability to “friend” other members within the community.
- They also wanted the ability for members to send private messages to other members within the community
- To be able to post messages on each individual member profile
- To be able to create new groups of interest – – display those groups in a searchable group directory and have a designated group admin that managed and maintained each individual group.
- For each individual community member to have an “Activity Wire” that displayed what they were up to within the community – – just like your Facebook Wall. If you make a blog post, leave a comment, upload a photo gallery, leave a message on another member profile – – it’s all fed into your Activity Wire. In addition, that Wire should have an RSS feed that people could subscribe to if they wanted.
- Give the members the ability to upload and crop their own avatar, create blogs, edit their profile and more.
Seriously – can you guess what my initial reaction was to their first RFP? Yep – you guessed it! I wanted to run.far.away.screaming.
But I didn’t. I took it on like a Gladiator – determined to prevail! THAT is when I found BuddyPress. It’s almost as if my client already KNEW about BuddyPress when they made their initial request because I simply could NOT believe that I found an application that would do just about 100% of everything they had asked for.
Am I dreaming??
Turns out, back in July – I was kinda dreaming, a little bit. BuddyPress was in very infant stages at that time. It wasn’t even beta. It wasn’t even alpha. It wasn’t ‘bleeding edge’ – actually, I’d say it was a hemorrhaging artery…but enough with the metaphors.
BuddyPress is comprehensive set of plugins for WordPress MU that gives the site administrator the ability to run a social network site that takes them beyond just running a community of blogs. It allows you to run an interactive community where members can interact with one another through a very smooth interface that gives you tons of options.
Did you miss the WordPress MU part? yea – at this time, it does not work for regular WordPress.org – so all you WordPress.org users stop drooling. Hopefully, one day it will be available for .org users…but right now, it’s not.
I proceeded to install WordPress MU and then I installed BuddyPress from the trunk, and also integrated a bbPress discussion forum on their site. BuddyPress, at this time, was chock full of errors and bugs – but we worked around them. I knew that the very talented Andy Peatling was heading up development on BuddyPress, and also knew that the development was very active – so I was hopeful, as were quite a few other excited users!
Through the months of September, October and November – I worked with my client on their design details, got them up and running with WordPress MU, bbPress and BuddyPress and we worked on getting the bugs ironed out by doing a lot of testing. On December 1 – we launched their site live, using the hemmorhaging version of BuddyPress – – I think we actually launched it using trunk-599, at that point.
I really loved watching the development of BuddyPress emerge into a really beautiful application. I religiously upgraded my clients site with each new version from the Trunk – which was actually quite often, as during the months of Oct-Dec, it seemed the BuddyPress developers were committing changes to the trunk on, almost, a daily basis.
Last night – at 1am, I upgraded my clients BuddyPress to the (finally!) Beta 1.0 Combo Pack. That upgrade removed about 98% of the nagging issues that my client was having with the BuddyPress deployment and I am now able to drift into my holidays with a satisfied feeling that only the completion of a really challenging project can give you.
Want a peek?
My clients are Stefanie Andrews and Tyna Werner and their site is called We Heart This. They are a community of chicks who love stuff:
You can see their Members Directory of the community they’ve been building:
Even I have a Member Profile on We Heart This:
And here you can see my Friends within the We Heart This community, so far:
Stefanie Andrews is one of the site owners, and here is her Activity Wire that I can view from my own profile page and keep up to date on what Stefanie is doing (I can also subscribe to her activity RSS feed if I reaaaaaaaaaaally wanted to stalk her!):
That is just a sampling of the things that BuddyPress can do – it’s really a slick application and not too difficult to get up and running…especially since you can now download a more stable Beta release and won’t have to go through the bugs and testing of the pre-pre-pre release like I did with this project, initially.
One other custom feature that we did have to program for them is a feature they have called “Wishlists” and “Favorites”. On their main site (front door) – under each post, there are links labeled “Wishlist” and “Favorites”. The idea is that logged in community members can add posts from the main We Heart This site into their own Wishlist and Favorites list. When a logged in user sees something they love (errr….heart!) – they can click the “Favorite” link in order to add it to their own list of favorites. This gets added into a link list that then gets displayed on their Member profile so other users can see items and posts that the user really likes and can use that information for holiday shopping ideas!
An example of a post with the Wishlist and Favorites links:
The Favorites and Wishlists are not a part of the Buddypress application at all. It’s something that we needed to develop for them and it, actually, hooks into the WordPress MU Link Manager. See, for every new user sign up – that user has a blog that gets created. We have created a function where WordPress MU will automatically create two Link Categories on each new blog – – one called “WishList” and the other called (you got it!) “Favorites”.
Now, when that user is logged in and clicks either the “WishList” or “Favorites” link – they are taken to the Add New Link page in their own user admin panel, and the Title field is automatically populated with the Post Title, the URL is automatically populated with the Post Permalink, and the appropriate Link category is already selected for them (either Wishlist or Favorites) – – so the only thing the user needs to do is click “Save”.
Wish lists and Favorites get automatically added to their blog sidebar, and I’ve also brought it in to display on the front page of their Member Profile. Here’s an example of the Wishlists and Favorites on my Member Profile:
Pretty slick, really 🙂
This project was not without its unique set of headaches and issues – but Stefanie and Tyna were really wonderful…and extremely patient with me as I worked to fix issues, troubleshoot and address problem areas. The project, for the most part, is done – however, with the use of BuddyPress and the amazing development going on with that project, I suspect the future will bring more enhancements and improvements on We Heart This that simply could not be done with out BuddyPress and their amazing group of developers.
I’m hoping this post gives you some insight into the BuddyPress project – so much so that you may head on over and checkout the application for yourself. If you happen to – drop back here and let me know how much you like (err..heart) it and show off what you’ve done.
Great BIG kudos, respect and congratulations to BuddyPress for a simply amazing application – thank you for all your hard work!