Re: Future of BP
All I can share from personal experience is this: It’s real easy to get lost in all the gloss. About two years ago when I was hunting down low-cost, self-hosted, white label social networking software, I narrowed it down to two choices, Elgg and Dolphin. What I loved about Dolphin was how intuitive and pretty the whole backend was — you could easy drag/drop/rearrange different menu items and easily swap out your pages/columns/widgets. You could even change the sizes of certain page elements with just a few mouse clicks. It was almost like a Square Spaces for social networks. But then came more research. And upon that research, I found that Dolphin has some of the ugliest code ever written. On top of breaking tons of add-ons during upgrades, there also wasn’t (and probably still isnâ€™t) an active support group available — more like a commune of helpless, p/o’ed customers who were all experiencing the same bugs. That’s not to say that it’s useless. I’m sure it works fine for a good handful of users who dumped a lot of money into development. But it became apparent that I needed to look into Elgg instead.
Now, Elgg does everything it says right out of the box 100% and we had instant love affair — http://www.michaelkuhlmann.com/category/elgg-vs-buddypress/. The whole installation took me about 10 minutes and there wasnâ€™t a single problemâ€¦ until I tried to re-design it. It was virtually impossible creating an entirely different layout. In fact, I have yet to see an Elgg-powered site that looks completely custom-made like the BuddyPress-powered VW TDI Truth & Dare site. Again, Iâ€™m sure Elgg fulfills the needs of many of its users â€“ and probably a lot more so than Dolphin â€“ but when it came to theming the software, it just fell a bit short. Although I could see how it could seem *ahead of the game* with its ease of use and dragâ€™nâ€™drop capabilities, it really isnâ€™t compared to BP.
So BP came right along just as I finished *theming* — I should actually just say â€œcolorizingâ€ â€“ my Elgg installation. Immediately, I dumped Elgg and switched to BP. I had seen what Andy did with ChickSpeak several months before the BP/Automattic venture was announced, so it looked quite promising. Then, the first release came out. First, I had trouble installing WPMU. Next, I had trouble installing BP. Following that, I couldnâ€™t figure out how to get forums up and running. I sounded just like Mythailife â€“ frustrated to the core. But I also remembered what an amazing difference a few months of development did to WordPress going from version 2.3 to 2.7, so I decided to stick around.
Up until now, I can easily say that BP has made strides in development. Out of the dozens of forums that Iâ€™ve visited, BP has *consistently* given the most support to its users in a timely fashion â€“ FOR FREE. I have to stress the complimentary tech support part, because a lot of people tend to demand an answer to every single question immediately after theyâ€™ve posted their question, which is ridiculous. And if that speaks to you, hereâ€™s what you are getting â€“ again â€“ FOR FREE:
– A social networking system built on top of one of the best open source publishing systems, which means youâ€™re also inheriting tons of great functionalities like WordTube/MapPress/eCommerce/Facebook Connect
– Loads of documentation including WordPress for Dummies and the upcoming book BuddyPress for Dummies (books are not free, of course, but they do count towards documentation)
– Support forums, development roadmaps and overall project transparency
– Ability to customize/theme BP exactly the way you want it to appear
– Dozens of available plugins
– Did I mention that this is built on WordPress?
If you donâ€™t have the luxury of time to wait for support-related questions or still feel like this project is lagging AND you have deep pockets, thereâ€™s always Crowdfusion and Anahita. Otherwise, donâ€™t get lost in the gloss, because BuddyPress is the next-best-thing to come out of the Automattic vault.