The Growing Panoply of Specialty BuddyPress Developer and Administration Tools
By Jeff Sayre
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.
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.