Oct 082013
 

BuddyPressFor some time I’ve wanted to have a closer look at BuddyPress, but none of my plans had any community features planned at this stage and I have had too little time to install it just for testing. So until a week ago I just looked at it from the distance and had a fairly blurred picture of BuddyPress’s options. Luckily my son had his 2nd birthday and while planning to upload the party pictures for the rest of the family to see, I remembered that I wanted to find a better solution to our current album. While I knew that BuddyPress is not a photo album, I still thought that its other features are good to have a look at and to try to combine it with photo sharing possibilities in order to create a private social network for my family only. Photos would be like a bait to older family members to overcome their fear of social networking and by translating BuddyPress and providing personalized (and free) support, I would give them possibility to keep up with their younger relatives in today’s virtual world. Good idea, isn’t it? At least this is what I thought and I’m still sure it is, but I also thought – how hard can it be, its WordPress – plug and play! Well – it is harder than I thought.

BuddyPress and your plans

First I want to be clear – I have not found anything wrong with BuddyPress, it is exactly how its described. The problems for me started from my own impatience and by violating one of the main principles when implementing something new – read the … manual. I was just too hasty to install it and started to use BuddyPress, before testing its features and without assuring that my desired possibilities will work without bigger adjustments. It would not have been a problem, if it was just for testing, but I already had my first users registered and I had promised to show pictures from my son’s birthday there…

What I should have done, is either testing it first or reading more about how BuddyPress actually works So compare your plans to its features and plugins, unless you don’t want to end up like me – trying to explain to my family, that “it needs a bit customizing” and that “why don’t you just click something” will not work in this case. Anyway, I did put the pictures up to a separate page, so this should give me additional time to figure out how I will solve my main problem at the moment:

Lack of BuddyPress gallery plugins

I would like to keep this personal social network as cost-effective (read: free) as possible, so I try to use free plugins only. While doing so in my other WordPress sites has worked well for me, with BuddyPress I may have to change my mind, at least what concerns the gallery option. There are some free plugins available that are outdated (didn’t try those even, so maybe they work) and even less, that are updated and are supported. In fact I found only one plugin in WordPress.org, that looked like it could fit into my plans and which was also actively maintained – rtMedia.

WPMU DEV - The WordPress ExpertsAt first I even thought that it is exactly the thing I need, but it turned out it isn’t, even the paid version and addons available at rtCamp website, will not help me. What I needed was a simple thing – availability to set photo(s) privacy according to where the user uploads it. For example I wanted to create a private group and the photos uploaded there would be available to group members only, no matter are those members connected to my user privately (friend feature) or not. While this group privacy covers photos visibility as it should (only group members have access), the photos itself still appear under uploaders media tab, for everyone to see (according to privacy set per picture), so it just doesn’t work yet. But this plugin is not all bad – I asked in their forum about this problem and I got a quick answer that its a known issue and will be solved in coming updates. Lets just hope it will be a solution in core, not a paid addon. Anyway, my search for a plugin continues, but as I see it now, I either have to start paying, find another solution to show pictures or change my planned network configuration to meet the possibilities available.

How BuddyPress really works

Other problems I encountered were more about BuddyPress’s functionality, or to be honest – my lack of knowledge about how BuddyPress works. It took me some time to fully understand different streams and how to configure those to meet my plans and to make it easily usable and understandable to people, who are not so experienced in computers. Also some things I still don’t understand – like this commenting of comments, that you can’t do – I mean now I understand it, but still wonder, why I have to code, to fix it. Isn’t it obvious to take away the “answer” link from activity stream comments, if you cannot use it?

There are some functions and plugins that I want to test further, to add functionality, but first I will make this site work at minimum planned – fix those small issues that pop out, when customized according to my plans and I have to solve this album issue (or most likely I will move albums out of BuddyPress and just add functionality for stream pictures and other media, those should work okay, wpmudev has a good plugin for this).

Conclusion

This post goes more under category “showing my mistakes”, rather than sharing helpful hints as I’ve tried to do so far, but I felt its necessary to show my less fortunate steps. If it helps someone even a little bit, please let me know. About BuddyPress I will probably write more, as soon as I’ve made it work for me and can then describe more precisely the steps, that I took. Unfortunately I have more urgent things to do, so it might take some time, before I can come back to it, but I will NOT stop, BuddyPress is worth to be learned and used.

With best regards,

Rait

 

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