Re: users complaining
“Anyway, BuddyPress just seems a little confused when it comes to it’s ideas around Friends, Followers and Members. It feels like an odd mix of Twitter (wide open) and Facebook (walled off).”
I’ve had an active BP Site of about 400 real-world members for 6+ months or so now and I can report back that very few people are actually using the BP functions. It’s not clear exactly what they are supposed to do and how it would benefit them. Twitter is intuitive, Facebook is semi-intuitive. BP, not so much.
Considering that wordpress is first and foremost a blogging platform, core BP should do three things well:1) Enhance members’ blogs (vs. an mu-only environment) and 2) Encourage interaction between members, and 3) Make members and their activities easy to find. BP is struggling with these basic objectives.
Regarding blogs, it is intuitive that members should be able to post from the front-end (One Quick Post is nearly ready). It is critical that sub-blog posts would show up in search results, but they don’t. And, it’s intuitive that you should be able to easily find relevant blogs (link tumblr), but you can’t. BP should make members’ blogs more visible, but it really doesn’t…at least not in an intuitive way. As a result, my members that joined primarily to blog (which is most of them), have little or no use for BP.
SOLUTIONS: Make sub-blog posts show up in search results. Apply xprofile fields to blogs and make them sortable. Create a front-end dashboard – I don’t think users should have to go to a dashboard with BP. Create a core-function to showcase sub-blog posts (then let the plugin devs apply slideshows, etc.)
Regarding interaction between members, BP tries a lot of things, misses the mark on some critical elements. Group-only forums are simply not intuitive. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the fact that it’s been such a hot topic since 1.2 came out proves this point. The activity stream has merit, but is confusing for a lot of users. I have people posting “updates” who think they are posting blog posts or starting forum threads (perhaps is should be read-only?). Friending is fine, but doesn’t provide many obvious benefits beyond sorting your stream. Same with following. Groups are great, but without a solid core of features, groups don’t do much. (even here, they aren’t used much beyond forced-joining for forums). There should be an “events” element in the core.
Most importantly, it’s very difficult to keep track of things…try and find an old discussion thread on this site!…I’ve added a trac ticket to make anything (blogs, comments, members, discussions, etc.) “Followable”, allowing you to keep track of stuff. There should be a simple “Stuff I’m Following” button where you can keep organized.
SOLUTIONS: Enable a read-only option for the activity stream. Add hooks to “Follow” anything and make a “Stuff I’m Following” button. Allow forums without groups. Build Events into the core. Build more basic group functions (like group blogs, group email subscriptions, and invitations) into the core.
Lastly, I’m getting complaints and feedback about the ability for members to be found. Searchable, sortable, xprofile fields are a critial core component that is just plain absent. I run a real estate community. People intuitively-expect to be able to find a real estate expert in their geography…good luck. It’s virtually-impossible. Moreover, this is how, in more other communities, you can find people to network with. How can this basic element be missing?
SOLUTIONS: get xprofile fields working for members, groups, blogs, etc. Consider creating sub-fields as well.
If you can’t find or be found, your blog doesn’t get any extra exposure (actually it gets penalized for posts not being found in search results), friends and following provide no great benefit, and forums are too confusing to use, then it’s hard to justify joining the community.
I can’t say for sure that an MU blogging community is better with BP. I can’t say that a bbpress community is better with BP. And without these basic intuitive basic functions working right, it’s hard to make a case that BP is a great “community” platform.
I’m using it and hoping for the best, but my 400 members so far aren’t too impressed.