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The Growing Panoply of Specialty BuddyPress Developer and Administration Tools

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When it comes to the availability of useful, specialty plugins for site administrators and plugin developers, BuddyPress may be approaching an interesting inflection point. Recently, several new plugins have been released that help site administrators better understand and manage their network or offer developers insight into vexing issues and help make coding their WordPress and BuddyPress plugins a little easier.

These are not the normal, run-of-the-mill plugins that extend BuddyPress by adding additional functionality for a site’s members, or allow a site administrator to selectively alter the core functionality of BuddyPress. Instead, the plugins that I’m excited about are specifically targeted to providing site administrators and developers with unique services. I call these tools to differentiate them from the general-purpose plugins.

Although there are currently only a handful of such tools available, I hope that these releases indicate a trend. The WordPress ecosystem needs more specialty tools for site administrators and plugin developers.

So, in no particular order of importance, here is a listing of the more interesting plugins that provide useful tools for the site administrator’s or developer’s toolbox.

Developer Tools

WordPress Hook Sniffer: This is a tool I recently released that helps plugin developers determine the sequence in which action and filter functions are fired. It provides a window into the inner workings of the WordPress Plugin API and can help a developer figure out why a custom action or filter hook or function is not working as intended.

WordPress MU Demo Data Creator: Provides a utility for populating your WPMU development sandbox database with dummy data. Why waste time creating your own dummy data to test your plugins when it can be auto generated for you.

BuddyPress Skeleton Component: This is not a new developer tool. In fact, as an example BuddyPress plugin component, it is the grand progenitor of many BuddyPress plugins.

BuddyPress Template Pack: This is not a developer’s tool per say. But I think it deserves listing nonetheless. It is actually a theme designer’s tool that helps make a custom WordPress theme compatible for use as a BuddyPress theme.

Site Administrator Tools

BP System Report: This tool gathers useful network intelligence on a site’s member and group activity. It provides a site administrator with usage trends and statistics, offering important insights into the health of their community.

Import from Ning: I thought I should throw this one in as well as it is a tool that helps social network operators. It provides some utility in helping to migrate a Ning network to BuddyPress. As Ning does not offer too much help in migrating existing networks to competing platforms, this tool is not a panacea to your Ning-networking woes—but it is a great start!

Plugin Developers Need Your Support

Creating a high-quality plugin takes more time than most people realize. In fact, it can take as much time if not more than creating a top-quality theme. But plugin developers rarely receive the same financial rewards that premium theme designers do.

My limited, empirical data shows that with the number of downloads of my current three WordPress / BuddyPress plugins, that less than 0.1% (yes, that is less than one-tenth of one percent) bother to donate. If my plugins received poor reviews, that would be understandable. But, as my lowest-rated plugin received a 4.5-star review out of 5, the lack of donations obviously has nothing to do with perceived quality. Note: Although I am a listed contributor to the BuddyPress Skeleton Component, I do not include that as one of my three plugins.

Whereas the greater WordPress community appears to have no issue with spending money on what are called premium themes, there seems to be a disconnect when it comes to supporting the developers of the plugins that help make their communities successful. Yes, great themes definitely provide an important face to a community, but it’s important to remember that plugins– along with the core functionality of WordPress and BuddyPress–provide the foundation to our networks.

So please generously donate to plugin developers and help keep them coding their wonderful plugins be they general purpose or specialty in nature.

Article Comments

  1. Mike Pratt says:

    Jeff,

    Excellent observation – the state of BP tool evolution. Everything about BP is reaching that proverbial tipping point. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have Ning introduce a highly controversial new business model that will seemingly drive many into the arms of BP.

    As for the state of paid plugins/dev versus themes, I refuse to think it’s merely ironic that the harder-to-build plugin is simply “monatizable” over the shiny, pretty easier-to-crank-out theme. We just have to figure out what need state is being triggered and captured by theme devs and tap into it.

    • Jeff Sayre says:

      Interesting thoughts on the need to repackage the plugin dev’s value proposition. Theme designers do provided a much-need service, as of course do plugin devs. The advantage that theme designers have is that they are enabling others to have pretty-looking sites. Their work is front and center every time someone visits a website.

      Thus, theme designers benefit significantly from the human tendency to prefer form over function—or at least the value that people misplace on the finish of a product versus its underlying foundation. Since a plugin dev’s work is not readily visible to many, is not understood by most, it simple fades into the ether of that-stuff-under-the-hood.

  2. Chris Taylor says:

    Thanks for mentioning my Demo Data plugin, Jeff. Can I also point out my Plugin Register plugin (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/plugin-register/), that allows plugin developers to keep track of where their plugins are being activated.

    I have a few other ideas about plugins specifically for WP/BP developers, but – as with many open source developers – finding the time to crank out the code is proving tough.

  3. […] Jeff Sayre has an interesting post entitled ‘The Growing Panoply of Speciality BuddyPress Developer and Administration tools’ […]

  4. shawn says:

    I may not be the normal user in that I find myself donating for snippets of code much more often than purchasing themes or the such. If I do purchase a theme, it’s not to use it per say, but to strip the logic out of it and add it to my own system.

    Lately I have found myself either paying for, or making donations for code that allows me to work outside the wp box. Mostly in dealing with post_types and taxonomies. Realizing just how hard it is to relate everything together, it became apparent that what I was receiving was much more valuable that just a pretty packaged together ‘x’.

    I will say that most of my donations are pretty small >$20, but I try to make a point of sending something as a thank you to the dev’s that build something that is either going to save me a huge amount of time, or something that is beyond my current ability.

    If everyone would just take this approach, then I truly believe it would be much easier to find plugins, code snippets for particular projects, as it would be worth the time for the authors to create.

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