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BuddyPress Overkill

Ask and ye shall receive. Why you shouldn’t use BuddyPress is a lot harder to answer, since it’s actually really useful for a lot of weird things!

BuddyPress LogoFor a lot of people, BuddyPress is overkill. Personally I love it, it’s great to make your own ‘Facebook’ or ‘Ning’ type site. But there’s a time and a place for everything.  BuddyPress’s intention is to let you build your own social network.  This means that it’s a Big Dog type application, that it has a lot of bells a whistles.  And while you certainly can install it and only activate a few, if you’re only doing it to use one of those things, it may be overkill.

I’m going to take this one by the numbers.  Or rather, by the features listed on BuddyPress’s site!

I need to stress, since some people miss the point of these posts, that if you’re only going to use one feature of a product this big, you should reconsider if it’s the best use of your time.  If you only want to use one for now, and plan to grow, that’s different altogether.  In each of my examples, I’m presuming that the user plans to only use that one specific feature, and I will address alternatives.

Activity Streams

StreamsThis is actually my favorite thing about BuddyPress.  If you post in a blog, or a group, or a forum, all of that gets pulled into ‘Sitewide Activity.’  That’s right, every last bit of your site is on one big page!  Now, if you’re only using WordPress as a blog (no groups, no forums, JUST a CMS/blog), you’d think “I want this because I want a page that lists all my comments from all my posts!”  To an extent, you’re right.  There isn’t a better way to do this!  Or is there?

There’s already a widget in the default WP install and theme for ‘Recent Comments’ which shows all comments, right?  And there are plugins that can show Recent network wide comments too.  So if you’re really lazy, why not use Widgets on Pages and call it a day?

Extended Profiles

If all you need is fancy profiles, BuddyPress is way overkill.  In fact, for super cool profiles, most people use a plugin to extend the defaults!  What’s the alternative? There are a lot of profile related plugins in the WordPress repository, and it just matters what you want.  Personally, I’d caution against using those default Yahoo/AIM ones in our current profiles, as they may be going away. By the way, many of those profile plugins can add in extra fields to use on registration as well, like Cimy User Extra Fields.

Local Avatar

This isn’t a promoted feature of BuddyPress, but I’ve seen a lot of people do this.  Yes, BuddyPress can let you use local avatars for your users, this is true, however so can plugins like Add Local Avatars.  Frankly, I’m a proponent of Gravatar, since it works, and much like YouTube, I’m no longer responsible for you uploading nudie pics.  Keeps legal brouhahah off my back.

Friend Connections and Private Messaging

ConnectionsWhile there are plugins like Private Messaging for WordPress out there, I have to hat-tip BuddyPress for a fully integrated front end PM system.  This is one of the moments where, hands down, I would seriously consider using BP just for one feature.  Ditto Friend Connections.  I’ve just never seen its equal, and since the odds are most people would be using it for both friends and PM, it’s a great reason for BuddyPress.

WordPress Blogging

I don’t even know where to start.  Someone insisted the only way to use WordPress for blogging was to install BuddyPress.  It was a moment where I wanted a button to press to make a giant mallet jump out of his monitor and bash his head in for not reading.  (By the way, you also don’t need MultiSite to use BuddyPress anymore.  It works just fine with single site.)

Groups

This is tricky.  Part of me wants to say ‘Just make a page and let people comment’ because, to some degree, that’s all a group really is.  It’s a fan page (ala FaceBook) which shows posts in reverse order.  Like a P2 blog.  Which means that it’s not insurmountable to make a single page for your site that behaves that way (or a subsite running P2 if you went the MultiSite way).  But is that the best way?

Forums

AgoraIf you just want a forum, just install bbPress.  Nuff said.  Now, knowing that bbPress 2.0 is now a 2.0 plugin, and that BuddyPress is still on 1.2 (I think), and that the import from bbPress 1.x to 2.0 is a bit iffy, I would really be cautious about using bbPress if I know I want to upgrade to BuddyPress in the future.  Connecting the bells and whistles are interesting.

What about you?  What reasons have you seen people use to justify BuddyPress when it was clearly overkill?

7 replies on “BuddyPress Overkill”

Profiles are the most common reason I’ve heard. I’ve also heard of people wanting it for groups, but never fully understood why.

What I don’t understand (bearing in mind I have little knowledge of BuddyPress) is why we need BuddyPress to handle things like profiles, local avatars and PMs when surely those are not BuddyPress specific!? Couldn’t those just be regular run of the mill WordPress plugins? I don’t see why BuddyPress needs those to be unique to BuddyPress itself.

They could, but basically no one’s done it better than BuddyPress. bbPress profiles are nice, but they’re not as manageable. There are a lot of great plugins for profiles, but I’ve not yet seen one for PMs.

Really what BuddyPress nails is the integration of all these things.

Yeah, but why does the BuddyPress plugin suite require BuddyPress for those features at all?

I can’t see why the BuddyPress PM plugin couldn’t just be a standalone thing that worked without the rest of BuddyPress.

I’m just not seeing why BuddyPress needs to use itself to power PMs, profiles etc.

It doesn’t require them. Ask why does Jetpack require LaTeX? It doesn’t. Wrong choice of word. It contains them as a plugin suite of ‘regularly used plugins’ combination.

I’m not saying that these things shouldn’t be able to be standalone, just that, so far, BuddyPress does it BEST. And they have integration with other features so it becomes desireable.

The problem I’ve found with BuddyPress is that everything is just “so-so”. There is nothing robust about their features, so in order to get the activity feature (which I admit is important for a social community) you have to settle for everything else being boring at best.

“Boring!?” Nah, you’re just doing it wrong! They only have a few main devs working on it, so it’ll take a little while to get uber-advanced. That’s where the “open source” comes in – you can build on it, or hire a dev to do it for you if you need a feature (or use a plugin if available). A great theme and a few feature-rich plugins, interesting niche, lots of members, and it’ll be anything but boring! 🙂

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