BuddyPress is a new suite of plugins for WordPress MU (the multi-user version of WordPress) that adds new features that transform your blog/website into a Social Network. These features allow event organizers to support their own community (or build one) with a professional social networking layer, making your conference/s live before, during and after the physical event takes place.
Note: this is not intended to be a technical article but an introduction of how BudyPress can be useful to conference managers that want to create an online community around their events.
Last Friday, at the Italian edition of WordCamp 2009 that took place in Milan, I met Andy Peatling, one of the main developers behing the BudyPress project. Andy explained during the main features and advantages of using BuddyPress and after that we discussed how it could be applied to extend the reach of an event by creating a space of interaction way before and after the conference. In general having your own social network costs a lot of money, software platforms are rigid and difficult to modify or way too complicated to manage for the event organizer. BuddyPress presents a different approach to this situation as it was born with the same philosophy behind WordPress, which is one of the most popular (and powerful) blogging platforms available today.
While having your community hosted insiede a third party’s social network is useful (and often recommended) for reaching to new people, a big issue is that you don’t have control on what the third party (like Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, Ning, etc) might do with the information of your users, the interface, old & new features, etc. For example Facebook has changed its services several times without asking and if tomorrow they decide to close (not likely but possible), all the information of your users, the connections, etc will be lost… independently of the fact that this might affect your business or the members of your community.
The main advantages of using BudyPress vs proprietary platforms or creating your community on third party social networks are:
- It allows you to be independent and own your community’s information. This is summarized in BYOTOS (“be your own terms of service”)
- BuddyPress is Open Source and being part of WordPress it means tens of thousands of developers are creating new add-ons and testing it around the World
- The high number of developers and users involved means that it is stable. Bugs are quickly identified and solved
- It is specially appealing for companies that BudyPress (and WordPress) is FREE! (you might need to pay a techie and graphic designer to implement it with the looks you want)
- It is easy and fast to deploy. You do not neet a big team of IT staff to manage it
- BudyPress/Wordpress is fully customizable through CSS and templates so that it can seamlessly integrate with your present brand image
Having the BudyPress social network layer in WordPress MU allows you to add social features to create your online community. It will allow the organizer and the members interact and (more important!) interaction between community members. The following features are already available on BudyPress and more will be rolling out soon from the developer’s community:
- extended user profiles/personal pages
- private messaging
- status updates
Follow the slides used by Andy Peatling during his BuddyPress presentation during WordCamp, explaining the main reasons to adopt it.