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BuddyPress Beginning to Mature At the Right Time

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I’ve written about social-networking fatigue in the past, and still believe that–in the long term–distributed Social Web platforms will win out over the traditional, Web2.0-styled, closed-data-silo social networks. However, until that time arrives, a crack in the armor of the mega social networking sites may be expanding. This presents the BuddyPress project with a prime opportunity.

There is new research out that indicates that teenagers are starting to look for alternatives to Facebook for their social-networking needs. Some of the stated reasons (besides fatigue) are that they’re fed up with advertising inundation and insufficient privacy controls. When it comes to Facebook’s privacy controls, many teens find them hard to use, difficult to understand, and believe that Facebook will likely change them again.

The result? As users become overwhelmed and burnt out by the one–size–fits–all social networking monoliths, they are beginning to seek out more intimate, interest-specific communities. This provides an opening to developers who wish to create narrowly-focused, niche networks. BuddyPress is a great tool that can allow you to do just that.

With BuddyPress fast approaching its version 1.3 release (around the new year), now is the perfect time for those who have been thinking about creating a targeted community to learn how BuddyPress can help achieve that goal. A well–executed BuddyPress site could offer potential members a more meaningful, productive experience than simply joining another Facebook group.

As an open source project, BuddyPress thrives as a result of its community. If you are a designer, developer, or site owner, please consider joining the community and helping to evolve BuddyPress into a strong alternative to the traditional social-networking platforms. New ideas, energy, and contributions are always welcome.

Important Message

If you’re currently running a niche social network, or thinking about creating one, you should be aware of a possible threat on the horizon. It is up to the Web’s netizens to fight for equal access and data equality.

Update

December 15, 2010: Also, see my article Leverage BuddyPress to Build Your Niche Community posted on buddydress.com.

September 2, 2010: If you don’t think that BuddyPress or niche social networking is growing in popularity, see this article.

Article Comments

  1. Eddy says:

    I thought BuddyPress was dead? I follow Andy Peitling on Twitter and the guy never says anything about it. I check the BP site from time to time and nothing seams to be going on.

    • Jeff Sayre says:

      Whereas it is true that Andy has moved on to other duties at Automattic, that does not mean that the BuddyPress project is dead. The support forums are still very active, the plugin developer community is still going strong, and updates to the platform are occurring on a regular interval.

      It is not uncommon for key individuals at healthy open source projects to move on after some time. Being a core developer on an OS project can be (often is) a thankless, time consuming activity. People easily get burned out and require a break—especially in an all volunteer project like BuddyPress.

      Suffice it to say, BuddyPress still continues. John James Jacoby has taken over as the lead BuddyPress developer and there are a few talented plugin developers awaiting in the wings to become core developers when the time is right.

  2. John Lynn says:

    Amen to this. I’m seeing more and more people interested in the niche communities. BuddyPress is well positioned for this type of movement.

  3. Peter Kirn says:

    I hope I’m able to contribute something useful back, Jeff. The work y’all have done has been extraordinary. It’s really for me the right time to begin spending some quality time with the work, because it is as the point where it’s mature enough to use and to contribute to.

    I’m absolutely a net neutrality advocate, but I think it’s possible to overstate the direct relevance of the Verizon-Google proposal to someone running a social network. The reality is, a lot of the work we do is pushing text around and isn’t impacted at all. Things to begin to be relevant if you’re moving larger media files around, and you want to do it on mobile platforms. That isn’t to say people shouldn’t be taking a policy stand, but there’s no reason to be active in a way that’s motivated by fear. And while I’m certainly not suggesting we write our policy based on the prescriptions of Verizon or Google, what this does raise is some of the new dimensions to the debate – mobile carriers are struggling to keep capacity up with demand, and there are likely to be new services (like real-time healthcare data) that aren’t necessarily “the Internet” in the sense that we’ve known it traditionally. This complexity should motivate us all to become better educated about these issues, though, so to that end, I certainly (personally) feel I have plenty of additional learning to do.

    • Jeff Sayre says:

      Peter-

      Thanks for your thoughts and for any future contributions back to BuddyPress.

      I tend to disagree with your premise that most niche social networks are primarily text-based. Whereas there is a lot of text posted in activity streams, forums, and blog posts, one of the hallmarks of the Web2.0-social-networking meme is sharing of not only text, but also photos and videos. When it comes to BuddyPress, site owners have been crying for a media plugin, saying that it is an important piece of their network. Most social networks, niche or not, will see non-text data becoming the largest percentage of their overall throughput.

      As for a more detailed response to your thoughts on the impact of the Google-Verizon proposal to end wireless net neutrality on niche social networks, I’ve written a new article.

  4. […] Sayre considers ‘BuddyPress Beginning to Mature At the Right Time’. He makes some good points mainly around the ‘users have had enough of one size fits all […]

  5. Well said Jeff, but whereas FB has Privacy issues, at the moment it appears that virtually every BP site has a gaping Privacy hole.

    • Jeff Sayre says:

      Thanks, Paul! As you know, privacy is coming very soon to BuddyPress. It has been a long road, but we’re almost there.

  6. Hey Jeff,

    Thanks for linking to our article! We wrote the “50 BuddyPress Designs that will blow your mind” post, and I built the first 2 on the list.

    I completely agree with you. BuddyPress is just turning the corner to becoming really popular. Since BP 1.2 it’s felt like a mature platform to me. I find myself using it for all kinds of sites that I would have normally just used WordPress. Exciting times.

    In my opinion BP could use updates in the following areas to be a fully mature product:

    1. Search – boolean searches, built in category management for groups, etc.

    2. Privacy – Not a huge issue for me. But I see tons of people begging for it.

    3. Media – Photo gallery management in groups would be huge

    4. Customizability – It’s a huge pain to separate forums from groups, and an even bigger pain to rename core BP components (rename “groups” to “jobs” for example). And I find myself doing both of those things on many sites.

    But I know, plugins are solving these issues day by day…

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