I’ve been developing for the CUNY Academic Commons, a social network and collaboration site for the faculty, staff and graduate students of the City University of New York, for about six months now – a period not coincidentally coterminous with my history as a WordPress developer! During that time we’ve envisioned the Commons as a site built around individual scholars and students. BuddyPress has been a natural fit for this kind of project.
Our concept is for BuddyPress profiles and groups to act as hubs for the collaboration that happens on the Commons. Individuals flesh out their profiles with their research and teaching interests. Based on this information, groups form around common interests and projects. With only a small amount of development time – see, for instance, this hack that allows users to identify their interests in a more fine-grained way – BuddyPress excels at this kind of community building.
It’s at the next stage where the real development work begins. Groups that form in BuddyPress need spaces to work. And since the CUNY Academic Commons caters to such a wide audience – tenured professors to first-year graduate students, chemists to laywers to philosophers to creative writers – our goal has been to provide different kinds of collaborative spaces for different academic purposes.
Blogs are a no-brainer. It goes without saying that the integration between BuddyPress and WordPress is as tight as can be.
Forums are another space where groups work together, and their integration into BuddyPress is getting more seamless all the time. Before the recent release of BuddyPress 1.1, it took quite a bit of development time to make bbPress play nicely with BuddyPress – consistent theming, shared logins, access to the other platform’s core functions. The forum integration in BP 1.1 solves these problems, but raises new development challenges, especially regarding the functionality that bbPress handles in plugins: email notification of forum posts, file attachments, etc.
MediaWiki is the third spoke in the BuddyPress collaboration hub. Our team has made single sign-on between WordPress and MediaWiki happen. We’ve got a method for making the BP admin bar appear throughout MediaWiki. We’ve also developed a tool that brings wiki edits into the BuddyPress activity streams.
I’m excited to be part of the BuddyPress community, as I think it’s got a great future as this kind of collaboration hub: a set of tools for people to connect, and open connections with software where specialized types of collaboration and content creation can happen.