Re: The BuddyPress UI Design and conceptual approach to Social Networking
As seen in other threads (and this one) I don’t think you can easily define a Social Network. People have different needs and desires when it comes to connecting with other people. Fundamentally, connecting is the only thing we’re all trying to do in one way or another.
Buddypress really is the kitchen sink. It offers everything you could want for a social network but without some careful planning for your specific community/target audience, BP could be a huge confusing mess.
This is what we’ve seen happening here on BP.org. Fundamentally, people want to come to this site to get information and help on BP. The forums are ideal for a support type of site with each thread being a question with answers, etc. That sort of interaction is difficult in an activity stream sort of model, especially if users aren’t fully immersed in the site. They come, ask their question, wait for an answer and leave until the next time they need help.
Groups are also handy in this sort of site as it allows people with similar interests to create a topic specific forum that doesn’t fit within the “main” forums. Instead of having one massive topic specific thread with many internal sub threads, they create their own group.
Activity streams are a huge mess on this sort of site and can add huge confusion. This isn’t really a socialization site where people are setting up their weekend plans or commenting on their buddy’s latest unfortunate event. That is where an activity stream comes in handy. I see it as being more for “personal connection” sites.
On BP.org, I don’t look at the main activity stream. I find it far to confusing and of little use. The Support index page is about the only place I go because I can see the latest questions and hot topics. It also shows me what public groups are currently getting a lot of traffic.
IMHO, the biggest missing piece in BP right now seems to be the connection between the activity stream and everything else. The activity stream needs to be more than just a content aggregator. Allowing people to comment on the activity stream implies that their response will be connected to the activity item. This is not currently the case and it is a huge usage nightmare.
Anyhoo, enough rambling. BP offers the tools but at the moment I can’t see many sites needing all of the features enabled.