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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 isn’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 — The whole installation took me about 10 minutes and there wasn’t a single problem… 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, I’m sure Elgg fulfills the needs of many of its users – and probably a lot more so than Dolphin – 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 drag’n’drop capabilities, it really isn’t compared to BP.

So BP came right along just as I finished *theming* — I should actually just say “colorizing” – 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 couldn’t figure out how to get forums up and running. I sounded just like Mythailife – 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 I’ve visited, BP has *consistently* given the most support to its users in a timely fashion – 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 they’ve posted their question, which is ridiculous. And if that speaks to you, here’s what you are getting – again – FOR FREE:

– A social networking system built on top of one of the best open source publishing systems, which means you’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 don’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, there’s always Crowdfusion and Anahita. Otherwise, don’t get lost in the gloss, because BuddyPress is the next-best-thing to come out of the Automattic vault.

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