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Re: Is bp dying a slow death?

Jeff Sayre


I’ve been watching this thread since @anointed ‘s first post and have been hesitant to jump in as most community members view moderators as part of the core team. So first let me state, as has been periodically stated in the past by other members and moderators, that I am not part of the core BuddyPress team.

The core BuddyPress team currently consists of three people: @apeatling, @johnjamesjacoby, and @MrMaz. Within that core team, only @apeatling is employed by Automattic. The other two volunteer their time and energy to the project.

My association with the BuddyPress project is as a volunteer–as a moderator on the site and as a independent BP plugin author. As a non-core volunteer and moderator, I do not have any special knowledge or an inside track to the discussions of the core team. Everyone has the same access as I do via the biweekly dev chats on IRC.

So what I post is just my personal assessment. This is not a proclamation about the project. These are solely my thoughts and observations based on informal discussions with others.

Any nascent project experiences bursts of intense activity, followed by lulls as excitement wanes for awhile and people catch their breath, preparing for the anticipated next big burst of activity. This is common at least for successful projects. BuddyPress is no exception. I have observed three or four of these bursts over the past 16 months or so. That is as long as I have been involved with the project and therefore my entire BuddyPress timeline. I would imagine that the project experienced one or two noticeable bursts farther back than 15 months.

Is the recent lull a sign of a slowly dying project? Does Andy’s apparent lack of activity in the project’s bleeding-edge version (aka Trunk) point to deeper issues concerning the future health of the project?

I can of course only speculate, using my previous experience with other Open Source projects as data points. But I will not venture a guess as some might surmise my thoughts to be the truth. Instead I will address this thread’s hypothesis with a few thoughts.

First, I will address my recent lack of activity on the site. It can be attributed to five factors:

1. I took some time off to attend a family reunion

2. When the new redesign was launched, it dramatically changed the way support topics where organized and managed. From a moderator’s standpoint, I believe it became more difficult to effectively moderator the conversations.

3. I have other projects that need my time. As I do not get paid to moderator and I have earned only $325 dollars from my BuddyPress activity (in the form of plugin donations), other projects have priority.

4. I needed a break from the community. Before the site’s redesign and relaunch, I was the moderator with the most activity and highest post count. That past history was lost (at least is not reported anymore) with the new design as the old external bbPress forum install gave way to the new internal, group-based bbPress forum install.

5. I’ve been working on the BuddyPress Privacy Component.

Now, on to more pertinent thoughts:

* I believe that the official project site of any Open Source project needs to have a strong showing (presence) by the core team members. It demonstrates the team’s commitment to the project and community. As it currently stands, there is little active involvement on by the core team members as evidenced by their forum post count.

* The community currently has a single person as project gatekeeper. Andy has ultimate control over the site, Trac, and the overall project codebase. It is difficult for an Open Source project to thrive in the long term when that is the case. Of course, this is Andy’s creation and he was hired by Automattic to continue the build out of BuddyPress. I’m not sure whether Automattic now owns the copyright to BuddyPress or in fact who owns the copyright. But, keep in mind, that BuddyPress is another Automattic project and Automattic is a for-profit corporation that has graciously provided Andy’s services to keep the project going. BuddyPress is not an Open Source project that is created by, run by, and owned by the community. It is not an Open Source project managed by a not-for-profit entity. What does this mean? Ultimately, it is up to Automattic, and not the community, to decide what happens to BuddyPress and the BuddyPress brand.

* BuddyPress needs to have more active, core developers with commit access.

* Andy needs to communicate with the community on a regular basis, responding to inquires in a more timely manner. Of course Andy deserves rest and time off from the project, especially since over the past two years (or more) he has put in yeoman’s duty. But proactive communication from him would go a long way as to keeping the community informed. It may help bring back the excitement that once seemed to permeate the overall community.

* Finally, we all owe Andy a great deal of gratitude for creating a wonderful alternative to the current social networking platform morass. He is responsible for the vast majority of the codebase and has been very open to feedback and new ideas. If he chooses to move on to another project or company (and I am not saying that is the case as I have absolutely zero inside knowledge), we should simply wish him good luck and thank him for his hard work on BuddyPress.

I will end with a link to an article I wrote on my website six months ago pertaining to project management and leadership. Whereas it is not an article about Open Source projects, there are a few key points that apply to projects of any type.

Are You a Successful Project Manager Or a Reluctant Leader?

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