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Re: Friends and Groups for BuddyPress 1.3



20,000-foot thought here, but possibly germane.

I’ve been thinking as I’ve gotten from ankles- to knees- to nipples-deep in Buddypress is that there may be a little fuzziness conceptually (or perhaps it’s just my own lack of understanding and need to hammer things down, mentally) around some stuff at the highest level as BP has evolved.

What I mean is something like this: forums and groups seem commingled in a way that is pretty darned counterintuitive, I think, for most users accustomed to traditional forums structure or to social networky ways of doing things. This is not entirely to the bad — I’m not suggesting that — but I think it confuses people who are not ‘techy’. This initial confuzzlement means a lot of people give up without trying to figure out the Buddypress Way, which is a Bad Thing. For my part, as someone who’s highly technical and been working on and off in designing user experience stuff for decades, even me, if a site doesn’t present its ‘expected’ interaction mode after a few seconds, I’ll probably give up and go elsewhere. Little things like a lack of an easily found search box will have me closing a site tab, my patience level is so low — I think that ordinary users tend to be a little lost in the groups/forums melange of Buddypress, sensible as it may seem to those of us who are building the sites, and just give up and go back their Facespaces and Mybooks.

Part of the issue I’m describing badly probably comes from the bolt-on and eventually plugged-in nature of BBpress as part of Buddypress, but I also think it might have been a bit of a result of not starting from top down, boring old use-casey thinking. I could be wrong there, of course, it could just be me, and no offense to Andy or anyone else meant by saying it. It just seems a little… wrong to me, a bit, thinking as a user.

So, finally, about this latest idea and thread: there seems to me, as part of the shift in 1.3, to be a changing conceptual focus. That is, we are directing the focus of users from other individuals, other users on the site (as ‘objects’), to the activity of those individuals, as the engine of interaction, if you will. ‘Following’ activity and so on. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, and I actually feel it’s a very good idea, because engaging users and keeping them actively using a site and interacting with others is what it’s all about, and Facebook, like it or love it, understands that perfectly.

But there are downstream consequences of activity (actions) being the focus of site use as opposed to, for lack of a better word, objects (people, groups).

I’d just like to hold up a hand and say that considering what those consequences might be is a wise thing, I think, if only to avoid a kind of frankenstein’s monster situation, with different conceptual drivers for user engagement ruling over different parts of the app, and further stirring up cognitive dissonance in already-possibly-bewildered users.

OK, that’s enough words now. ;-)

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