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The BuddyPress UI Design and conceptual approach to Social Networking

  • Avatar of Hugo
    Hugo
    Moderator

    @hnla

    This thread is intended to serve as a companion to the one running on API design and serve the purpose of exploring the UI nature of BuddyPress.

    It is hoped that within this thread feedback can be accumulated from those developers with UI interface experience, those building and deploying communities as to what is found to work and what is possibly open to better design.

    Noted will be aspects that are brought to the attention of developers by real world users that are potentially causing confusion.

    Debate as to the best approach to overcoming these issues in interface design can be discussed with the aim of hopefully providing clear feedback for the mid tier development team to work from.

    The thread is not intended to simply ‘moan’ but to try and arrive at positive solutions or potential solutions to issues raised.

    What the thread should not be is a further place to simply report bugs found, the Trac system is the correct place to report bugs.

Viewing 25 replies - 26 through 50 (of 81 total)
  • @andrea_r You say BuddyPress is not a forum. Before it integrated bbPress into the core, I would agree. Now, BP better put that script to excellent use, or else it’s just bloat. The fact that bbPress is ‘in between places’ these days has made many of us bbP enthusiasts turn to BP as it’s successor, since it is clearly actively developed and seems able to use bbP in ways never before possible!

    Until bbPress comes back to life, in whichever form that might be; and BuddyPress integration comes with it, BuddyPress might very well be used first and foremost as a forum by those of us who want WordPress+bbPress without any fuzz (because BuddyPress delivers).

    By all means, I think it should be possible (and rather effortless at that) to mold BuddyPress into a more forum-like environment. After all, forums is the ‘light’ social network most of us low-tech people know as a do-it-yourself collaboration platform. Remember all of those free-install forums on a sub-domain, usually with nasty ads forced on users? Millions used those; it’s the platform we’ve come to know better than any other, as a social administrator.

    Avatar of Peterverkooijen
    peterverkooijen
    Participant

    @peterverkooijen

    bbPress is a parasite that is killing Buddypress from within. Buddypress should have been a next-generation social network, instead it is becoming a messy backward forum/social network hybrid.

    @r-a-y (“but not his tone!”), sugarcoating is what got Buddypress to this point. Noone (at Automattic) is making any hard choices. BP tries to be all things to all people.

    Avatar of r-a-y
    r-a-y
    Moderator

    @r-a-y

    BuddyPress might very well be used first and foremost as a forum by those of us who want WordPress+bbPress without any fuzz (because BuddyPress delivers).

    But BP isn’t a forum. Just use bbPress if you want a forum; it’s less overhead as well. Plus you get access to all the existing plugins without needing to tweak them for BP.

    FYI, there are signs that bbPress is coming back to life.

    To some extent, I agree with Peter (but not his tone!). We should be taking advantage of the existing activity stream coupled with some activitymeta (title, tags). I think this could potentially be used as a very nice “forum alternative”; we also wouldn’t have to worry about forking discussions from the activity stream. Also, I think this new enhanced activity stream should only be used for groups. Just a thought.

    I’ll see if I can get a proof of concept going.

    Btw, @peterverkooijen – I’m not sugarcoating anything; I understand the rationale used for incorporating bbPress up to version 1.1. I definitely don’t believe it’s a “parasite” like you do.

    Avatar of Peterverkooijen
    peterverkooijen
    Participant

    @peterverkooijen

    @r-a-y, this sounds pretty parasitic to me:

    “… it should be possible (and rather effortless at that) to mold BuddyPress into a more forum-like environment …”

    @r-a-y if you want to work together on an activity stream only based forum – i would be more than happy to join in. An idea that has been pestering me for a while now.

    IMHO – I really see no need for bbPress within BP – I’m not arguing against why it is there now but the activity stream has more potential (i think it leads to more confusion anyways)

    Avatar of r-a-y
    r-a-y
    Moderator

    @r-a-y

    @peterverkooijen – But did I write that? Also that’s not a strong citation for your argument.

    Avatar of Peterverkooijen
    peterverkooijen
    Participant

    @peterverkooijen

    @r-a-y, I didn’t say you did. I compared bbPress to a parasite as in a foreign organism that weakens the host (“… mold BuddyPress into a more forum-like environment …”). First step to heal Buddypress is to remove the parasite.

    Edit: @r-a-y (“This inferred that I believed bbPress was a parasite”) No it doesn’t. WTF?! I’m not even picking a fight with you, just trying to clearly state my arguments about where BP should go.

    @Sadr (“I believe social networks can be the next generation of collaborative forums”) They shouldn’t be. Social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn) are a newer way to do some of the same things forums used to do. Forcing them back into the classic forum mold only ruins what makes them work. They are different conceptual approaches/paradigms. You can’t just mix them.

    Avatar of r-a-y
    r-a-y
    Moderator

    @r-a-y

    @peterverkooijen – If we’re talking semantics, you referred to me saying this:

    “I definitely don’t believe [bbPress] is a “parasite” like you do.” (which I did write)

    And then, you wrote this:

    @r-a-y, this sounds pretty parasitic to me:

    “… it should be possible (and rather effortless at that) to mold BuddyPress into a more forum-like environment …” (which I didn’t write)

     

    This inferred that I believed bbPress was a parasite because it makes it look like I wrote that, which in fact I didn’t. Only you believe bbPress is a parasite. If you’re not trying to pick a fight with me, then write clearly.

    @r-a-y @peterverkooijen
    Just to clarify: I’m not really for the actual inclusion of bbPress inside of BuddyPress. What I want is the ability to replicate forum-like functionality within the boundaries of what WordPress+BuddyPress can be extended to. I believe social networks can be the next generation of collaborative forums. That is the type of functionality I have envisioned for my still-hypothetical BuddyPress site anyways.

    Avatar of LPH2005
    LPH2005
    Participant

    @lph2005

    Hi everyone,

    Well, as promised, I asked the kids and got as far as asking the first 3 class periods. The problem I ran into was that kids from my classes started talking to each other prior to coming in .. and a select few were just making things up. So, I stopped asking.

    Here is the image of the classroom white board. One kid was at the board in each class as the teams read off their list of reasons for not using the site – or not liking the site – or things they wanted changed.

    http://www.google.com/buzz/102401255420058194378/hsRtrNUnoGP/Posted-via-email

    The funniest ones were -

    “What website?”
    “I don’t like to study”

    Or this exchange:
    Student 1: “Checked but didn’t see anything new”
    Student 2: “When did you go last?”
    Student 1: “August”

    Anyway – The room became really quiet when someone said, “Google is faster” – and others chattered – “that’s true.”

    Maybe buried in all of the feedback, from approximately 100 kids, there are a few gold nuggets. I already started working on the navigation.

    Avatar of Andrea Rennick
    Andrea Rennick
    Participant

    @andrea_r

    @sadr – the forums part from bbpress that is in buddypress is a very stripped down version of bbprerss.

    If you want a forum, then use forum software. I mentioned it because I in particular, am having to deal with a LOT of new users to BuddyPress who were told it was a forum (for whatever reason) and are expecting traditional forum-like behaviour.

    And right now, that is definitely an issue.

    @andrea_r I don’t want a forum, I want BuddyPress, just the way it is :) The extent of “forum-capability” BP delivers fully satisfies my needs. Maybe I’ve phrased myself badly in earlier posts. I don’t need BP to act like a forum; in fact, the reason I take such an interest in BuddyPress is because it acts differently, and better, if customized right. My only requirement is some sort of forum-like functionality that frequent forum users can relate to.

    I see immense potential in BuddyPress as an open collaboration platform. I do believe though that traditional social networks do not encourage collaboration, maybe continuity in particular, well enough, and so there’s a lot to learn or borrow from other systems more commonly used in that context.

    Avatar of stwc
    stwc
    Participant

    @stwc

    bbPress is a parasite that is killing Buddypress from within. Buddypress should have been a next-generation social network, instead it is becoming a messy backward forum/social network hybrid.

    That’s the single most ridiculous thing I’ve read on this forum yet.

    Yes, it’s a forum. It’s a pretty crappy feature-light forum, one with buzzword-compliant toys and gewgaws arrayed around it, for sure, but it’s a forum, and putting your fingers in your ears and going lalalalala trying to deny that it’s the single most important part of this Buddypress install right here doesn’t change the fact that it is. And that centrality of the forum experience will be the case for other sites as well. Not all of them, certainly, but enough that it is an extremely important piece of the puzzle.

    People get so attached to their meaningless buzzwords they forget that the whole idea is to serve the needs of actual users. They forget that people don’t like to waste too much of their time on ephemeral interaction, don’t bother with effort when there’s no permanency. If users don’t like the way your site works or are confused or are missing functionality, you’re doing it wrong.

    I don’t know. I’ve spent months working with BP, but I’m beginning to be very disenchanted and to have serious doubts about the future of it, because (in part inspired by the user-hostile new design of buddpress.org — if you drive away your developer community, this kind of project will inevitably fail) I have begun to suspect that the over-riding goal isn’t to serve end-users’ needs as much as it seems to be ticking checboxes. Don’t I feel stupid for wasting all that time? Yep. I’m not sure if I should just chuck all the work I’ve done turning BP into a user-friendly tool for my userbase and start over with a different platform or what. Certainly the enthusiasm’s bleeding out of me at a rapid rate, though.

    @andrea_r I in particular, am having to deal with a LOT of new users to BuddyPress who were told it was a forum

    And that’s a problem with BP how, exactly? The only problem with the forums functionality of BP is that it’s too damned weak, not that it exists in the first place. I am very very strongly of the precisely opposite opinion to yours (although I suspect Andy, for one, is more in your camp on these matters, which is inclining me to abandon BP entirely) — fully-featured forum-like functionality is an indispensable key to a many successful sites, based on the userbase and functionality required, and the expectations and needs of the site owner’s intended audience. That mode of user interaction is one that users want, for goodness sakes, and trying to deny it to them because we think we know better is a fool’s game.

    A Buddypress without robust forum capabilities is a poor man’s Facebook, and nobody in their right mind (except Facebook-haters like me) is going to abandon sites like that without a good reason. A good reason like a solid core of historical interactions preserved in a forum-like structure, filling the gap between the ‘formality’ of blog posts and the ephemerality of soon-disappearing activity stream interactions.

    Abandoning a tried, tested, and true form of internet community interaction because of some quixotic quest to be modern and social-networky is going to kill this platform dead faster than anything else might.

    Avatar of Peterverkooijen
    peterverkooijen
    Participant

    @peterverkooijen

    @Sadr (“I see immense potential in BuddyPress as an open collaboration platform. I do believe though that traditional social networks do not encourage collaboration, maybe continuity in particular, well enough, and so there’s a lot to learn or borrow from other systems more commonly used in that context.”)

    I agree Buddypress has great potential as a collaboration platform, but the natural focus point for that collaboration would be groups where members would come together and share content using blog posts+comments, WP’s native way of organizing content.

    Why would you need forums? What makes forums so great for collaboration?

    Groups could be Buddypress killer app. Buddypress could be a next generation social network because it would be more content-centric, thanks to its WordPress roots. Forums only distract from what could be a very logical conceptual approach.

    @stwc (“People get so attached to their meaningless buzzwords they forget that the whole idea is to serve the needs of actual users … Abandoning a tried, tested, and true form of internet community interaction because of some quixotic quest to be modern and social-networky …”)

    If you can’t tell the conceptual difference between a forum and a social network, this discussion is wasted on you.

    Avatar of stwc
    stwc
    Participant

    @stwc

    Buddypress could be a next generation social network because it would be more content-centric, thanks to its WordPress roots. Forums only distract from what could be a very logical conceptual approach.

    This doesn’t even make sense to me. ‘Groups’ are a ‘killer app’? ‘Next generation social network’ because it’s ‘content-centric’? What on earth?

    Yes, those are scare quotes. ;-) Honestly, though. I don’t know what kind of point you’re trying to make, other than that you HATE FORUMS GRAR.

    Avatar of stwc
    stwc
    Participant

    @stwc

    If you can’t tell the conceptual difference between a forum and social network, this discussion is probably wasted on you.

    Every time I interact with you, you immediately start insulting me. If you can’t make your points clearly without belittling your interlocutor right out of the gate, it’s hard to take those points seriously. Perhaps it’s best that I go back to ignoring you, then.

    Avatar of Peterverkooijen
    peterverkooijen
    Participant

    @peterverkooijen

    @stwc, can you answer the question, what makes forums so great for collaboration? What can you do with forums that you can’t do with blog posts + comments?

    “Every time I interact with you, you immediately start insulting me. I don’t know why I bother.”

    Only because you insulted me first. (“That’s the single most ridiculous thing I’ve read on this forum yet.” etc.)

    Avatar of stwc
    stwc
    Participant

    @stwc

    Well, no. I said that your comment about parasitism was ridiculous.

    When we discuss things, and have differing viewpoints about an issue, as adults, we are free to attack the arguments people make. That is an entirely different thing from attacking the person. If I say that your argument is ridiculous, and you turn around and say that I’m an idiot, that’s not fair play, you see.

    Edit: Anyway, I see the irony of arguing with this fellow who hates forums so much about how to use forums in a forum, and I think it’s a derail that I’d best stop contributing to, because the ongoing discussion is an extremely important one for the future of BP, I think (despite that fact that there’s no evidence that Andy is following along), so I’ll bow out.

    Avatar of Peterverkooijen
    peterverkooijen
    Participant

    @peterverkooijen

    @stwc, OK, your argument was irrelevant nonsense. Better?

    Avatar of stwc
    stwc
    Participant

    @stwc

    Sure. Now tell us why.

    Avatar of stwc
    stwc
    Participant

    @stwc

    OK, this was edited in to a previous comment (or I didn’t notice it), so I’ll have a go.

    @stwc, can you answer the question, what makes forums so great for collaboration? What can you do with forums that you can’t do with blog posts + comments?

    I don’t know why we started talking about collaboration, or at least you did. Collaboration is certainly something that people do, in some situations, but as a function of a community, it’s just one of many, and pretty low on the list, so I’m not going to bother addressing that particularly. It doesn’t seem at all germane to the discussion.

    I will try to address the what I think you’re really asking, though, about why forums (or, more precisely, forum-like structured interactions) are important. Going to take some time to write it though, so I’ll edit this presently.

    Avatar of Peterverkooijen
    peterverkooijen
    Participant

    @peterverkooijen

    @stwc, the collaboration point came from Sadr. Why would it be low on the list?

    Defining ‘Community’, ‘Forum’, ‘Social network’ was discussed a bit earlier in the thread. My attempt is included here. We probably need to delineate better what we’re talking about.

    Avatar of Derek Bolden
    Derek Bolden
    Participant

    @derekbolden

    i would have to painfully agree that there are some serious usability issues that have popped up in the latest versions of BP. I think @finni3 hit the nail on the head that the changes since 1.1.X do not seem to have made sense in terms of ease of use or accessibility. What i am afraid is happening is that the entire project is/had become too much a programmer’s project and things like optimization have taken precedent over usability. This has been my number one fear all along that UI concepts (like the Wire)would get tossed aside to accommodate back-end efficiency. I (for one) am for slowing down the release cycle at this point and let’s get some more user centric testing in place BEFORE major version releases.

    Avatar of stwc
    stwc
    Participant

    @stwc

    OK, monster essay ahoy. This is a big part of why I think ‘forums’ are an important component of the overall experience, no matter what we call them.

    Here’s the meat from a couple of comments I made before on this subject, here on this very forum:

    I think web community, more perhaps for people who are not so much of the disposable, in-the-moment, ritalin-riddled, post-it-and-forget it generation, needs to have feet solidly planted in not only the ongoing ephemeral stream of conversation, but also in a more long-term, permanent ’space’ of shared history, shared interactions that are performed in public and can be gone back to, interactions that more than any set of xprofile fields or avatars build a mutual understanding between users based on personality and past discussion. Build, in other words, community.

    and here’s another:

    Different users use sites in different ways, of course, and the Activity stream is certainly one user story that shouldn’t be ignored. But, as I’ve said so many times before over the past almost-a-year, forums, in one sense or another, have a sense of permanency for users, a ‘virtual place’ they can return to, and I believe should be the anchor of a site like this and many others, where the ongoing stream of activity and making-friends for superfans and power users is less important than information being discoverable and discussion interactions being aggregated rather than just fading away. I am growing more disenchanted with the apparent lack of attention being paid to what I believe for many is essential for a successful community site — a featureful forum setup that is the steady beating heart of the swirl of activity.

    Yes, I know the bbPress option is suboptimal as a solution, but it’s what we have to work with, and it can’t be ignored or passed off to bbpress.org, because we’re not running bbPress, we’re running an interface free, bbPress-plugin-incompatible fork of it, in essence if not reality, and I really do believe that more attention needs to be paid to the limitations of it as a component of BP and ways to make it work for community-building and user satisfaction.

    Anyway, back to Activity. On true social network sites (whatever that means, exactly), it makes some sense that things are ephemeral, that interactions disappear beneath the fold, because, hey, it’s all about interacting with people, socially.

    But the focus of this site (and most sites I might consider building with BP) is not just making friends and having a grand old social time. It’s sharing information, asking questions, discussing solutions, offering and asking for assistance, and it’s important that the interface those interactions be structured discoverable for people who are going to have the same questions in future as BP adoption grows, and the toolset for creating them be rich, both from the administration and user-facing perspectives.

    How many times do we see the same questions being asked, basic or otherwise? To answer my own question, a lot. That’s just human nature in part, certainly, but it’s also, I think, because the tools we have for using these forums are vestigial, and people just don’t have the information they need at their fingertips. User confusion and frustration will kill a community faster than goatse images. We’re all so used to using this app that I think we lose sight of just how daunting it is for new users. The site I’m building for an existing community on a different platform has taught me that, very quickly.

    Some sites, some userbases NEED structure for conversation. This site we’re on right now is an example, as I outlined above.

    Now the irony here is I was able to go back and find those comments (having to use Google because the BP site search didn’t work, I note) because they were made as parts of conversations in a permanent, permalinked — forum-style — framework.

    Consider a possible taxonomy of user activity and interactions on websites (a huge project, of course — I’m just trying for a sketch here).

    At the bottom the very bottom would be simple records of activity.

    Next higher would be Facebook-y pokes and friend-button mashings and things like that — non-verbal pings, basically, but deliberate.

    Next up would be status broadcasts — Tweets, or personal activity updates here. Verbal, but basically free-floating.

    Next would be comments on other people’s activity or posts or pictures or whatever. Comments ‘on’ something, in other words — focused activity, verbal, but let’s call it transitive, in the sense that there is an ‘object’ being commented on.

    Next would be discussions, like the one we’re having here. Threaded or unthreaded, paginated or not, they are multi-person, ongoing interactions about a subject or subjects. This is the kind of interaction we think of as occurring in forums structures, mostly, although that term is used to describe a wide range of structure.

    Now I want you to notice that there’s a leap in cognition, in interaction, in format, and in permanency in that last step. It’s a step up to actual discussion rather than commenting ‘on’ things, it’s a step up to engaging with multiple people, it’s a step up to threads (and possibly threaded conversation, but that’s a implementation detail) and pages, and most importantly, it’s a permanent interaction for the first time as we climb the ladder of the hierarchy.

    A ‘forum’ discussion is something people will return to, to add to, or just to re-read, to get information from, to learn more about the people involved or the subject being discussed. It is part of the fabric of community because it is permanent. It is the bedrock of virtual permanency, to coin a phrase.

    ‘Social’ networking, people seem to forget, is about people. And it’s through the history of interactions in structured discussions that we learn about other people in a web community and decide if we want to be ‘social’ with them or not. This structured, searchable, historical record of activity and interaction is utterly essential for building real community. That’s forums.

    Just to finish off the taxonomy, I’d say the top of the ladder would be blog posts, at least if they are ‘written’ things intended to be read by others and then possibly responded to. Notice that they are, in a way, the flipside, functionally, of the reply-to activity, being the mover rather than the response.

    Now this is getting ridiculously long, but I don’t believe in ignoring honest questions even from people who insult me, so let me just wrap it up (and there’s more to say, but I have things to do) with this:

    Where else other than a forum would I be able to write a longform comment about a complicated subject, as part of an ongoing discussion? We don’t have to call it a forum if we don’t want, but this STRUCTURE, this type of format, is the only one available to us, even at a conceptual level. It’s not something we can omit across the board. I suggested earlier, and I stand by my suggestion, that it’s ridiculous to suggest such a thing.

    The forum style of community member interaction is an integral part of the hierarchy of ways that users will interact online, a way that they expect to be able to interact, and a way that is entirely reasonable for them to expect. It is not only useful for some functions (such as user-to-user support here at buddypress.org, or sharing information (ie code and tips and stuff in the case of bp.org)) that many if not all sites will be providing, it is the organic way that ongoing web community builds a foundation, that users come to know one another, and as such is the essential key for true ‘social networking’ among people who do not already know one another.

    I reckon.

    Avatar of jivany
    jivany
    Participant

    @jivany

    @Peterverkooijen said:

    @stwc, can you answer the question, what makes forums so great for collaboration? What can you do with forums that you can’t do with blog posts + comments?

    I’ll wade in here (ugh, bad idea?) with one major difference between forums and blog posts. On a typical WP installation, blog posts are written by site owners and/or their chosen authors. This means only certain selected groups of people can start a new discussion point/thread.

    Forums typically allow everyone to start a new discussion and have their peers comment on that topic. Site owners that offer up forums are opening the door to a *community* where people feel they have some ownership of the site/content, etc.

    Looking at activity streams – they are wonderful but really, they are best suited for sites where people really want to know what their peers are up to over and above the “normal” discussion threads that can happen in blog comments or forum threads. The stuff like posting pictures of your newest pet or latest vacation – that “personal interest” and “personal interaction” stuff that makes people warm and fuzzy and feel like they belong to a group/community.

    @Peterverkooijen, you are totally correct in your statement that blogs and forums should be the same. Even more correct when you look forward to WP 3.0 with it’s flexible post-type definitions.

Viewing 25 replies - 26 through 50 (of 81 total)

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