BuddyPress is a WordPress plugin that can turn a self-hosted version of WordPress into a collaborative and social platform supporting any number of functions. It supports activity streams similar to Twitter to include @mentions and a nice threaded view of conversations. Members can friend other members for both public and private messaging. The group feature is similar to Facebook in that any member can create one. The difference is in the conversation within the group. With BuddyPress, you can create a forum for you group which keeps the conversations associated with topics in an easy-to-read threaded view. There’s also a notification system to let you know when new content is posted.
The truly amazing thing about BuddyPress is that it is a WordPress plugin. Basically, all you have to do to create a BuddyPress site is install and activate the BuddyPress plugin and then activate a BuddyPress-supported theme. Yes, it’s that easy. That’s also where the fun begins. It’s still a totally functional WordPress blog, but now with all this social goodness added. And, there are hundreds of BuddyPress plugins offering additional features like photo albums within member profiles, collaborative document creation and even a full-blown courseware platform.
So, how can you put BuddyPress to work? Here are a few ideas:
- A private family social network. It won’t have all the functionality of Facebook, but it won’t have all the strangers watching everything you do and say either. This would be a great way to share news, photos and maybe even post a bit of family history too.
- Societies could use BuddyPress for members-only areas, as a collaboration site for board members or as a committee or project workspace.
- It can be used to support special-interest groups who want to build a collaborative and social network without the distractions of a larger network like Facebook.
- When incorporated into a multi-site version of WordPress, it could be the backbone that supports a virtual conference. Speakers and exhibitors could be given their own blog sites which would serve as the booth – for vendors – or room – for speakers. Groups provide social centers where attendees could get together to get acquainted, compare notes or just socialize. Plugins can maintain the conference schedule, handle registration and access and offer additional functionality. Yes, some custom themes would be needed, but much of the rest of it could be done using existing plugins.
I’ve been experimenting with BuddyPress to determine its potential as a self-help center. While the genealogy community has been using Facebook groups to share their knowledge on various topics, it does leave a bit to be desired. It’s difficult to keep up with conversational threads and has limited functionality to provide links to documents, articles, tutorials and training resources. With BuddyPress, a self-help center makes it easy for members to find groups discussing the topics they want help with along with pages providing links to outside resources. If there isn’t already a group discussing a topic, any member can create one.
My vision of a self-help center is a mashup of pieces from Twitter, Facebook and Cyndi’s List – all focused on pointing members to the help they need in a range of topics. In addition to conversational areas, I want to provide links to the many great how-to articles, tutorials and webinars presented by the genealogy community. I have my own ideas, but I’ve reached the point where other eyes and voices are needed to help define what a community support site should be. If you would be willing to help in this experiment by wandering the site, offering ideas on how it can be improved and suggesting content to include, please contact me either by leaving a comment to this post, via Twitter @moultriecreek or as a comment to this article on the Moultrie Creek page at Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you.