When my wife became pregnant, as a first time dad I was over the moon. At that point, your life sort of changes. You start to read baby books and leaflets, meet health advisers and hospital staff. You’re plunged into a world of baby care, lactation, compromise and change. It can be quite daunting at first. I would say it’s quite common to feel a little out of your depth. You certainly start wanting answers to questions that doctors and midwives can’t answer like – can I really be a dad? I can’t even look after myself! Or, how will my life change when the baby is born?

After weeks of contemplation (possibly confusion to some degree), I read a book – a baby diary. What a revelation! The raw truths of mother and fatherhood were reassuring. Many of my questions were answered in that book, the rest were answered by speaking to other mums and dads, reassuring me that these questions I had were normal. It was a weight lifted from my shoulders.

So, what has me becoming a dad got to do with BuddyPress? Well, about 3 months into the pregnancy, after reading this baby diary I had an idea. I was so reassured by the raw truths of parenting that I thought, why not build a web site that lets mums and dads create their own pregnancy diary or baby diaries and chat with each other? Not only will it allow parents to remember and read back on the unforgettable special moments, it will also serve as a really useful tool to reassure others on the quirks of parenting like I was reassured by the book i read.

As I started on my quest to build such a site I already knew I was going to use WordPress MU. I’ve used it a lot in the past (and practically daily for my job) nothing else comes close. Shortly after setting up the foundations of my site I came across BuddyPress. Initially I was looking for a messaging / chat plugin for WPMU when I stumbled on this wonderful social networking plugin suite. I took one look at the site which was running an early incarnation of BuddyPress and I was hooked – and quite frankly taken aback by what it could offer.

In fact, BuddyPress opened up a whole host of opportunity for my conquest for an online community for parents. It is feature rich, built on an already excellent WP platform and supported, built and maintained by people like me and you. Who wants software supported by the hardcore of coders who speak to you in pseudo bable?

The customization of BuddyPress didn’t stop at the first glance. As soon as I installed it I managed to customize the language to suit my needs, branding my site as a diary site and not a blogging site. I created and plugged in a parent based theme and concentrated heavily on usability.

The administration of BuddyPress also allowed me to completely customize the member profile pages. Not long after the first few releases in alpha and beta, I had forums integrated into groups for my network. Honestly, I could be here all day singing its praises. It opened my eyes and allowed me to take my idea that extra step, a fully fledged social networking platform that’s actually easy to use.

In fact the BP guys have included most of the important features any good social network should have and it’s only a beta! Social networking is the future, it’s even taking over email for some people here in the UK. BuddyPress 1.0 looks to solidify those excellent features with yet more in the pipeline.

I’m very happy with the results, I’m giving something back to the parent community now. Even though it is early days, I’ve already had very positive feedback. I’ve even had the local paper contact us and we have an article going in next week!

Parent Diary.co.uk – with special thanks to BP and WPMU.

This post was written by Ben (oldskoo1), a member of the BuddyPress developer community. If you’re interested in contributing to the BuddyPress blog, please log in and head to the “Write Post” link in the menu bar.