Elgg and BuddyPress compared part 1
There are two major open source social networking platforms that are garnering much attention of late: BuddyPress and Elgg. Elgg 1.0 was released in August 2008. BuddyPress is currently in beta. Regular visitors to this blog have probably read many of my posts on Elgg. Recently, I posted some first impressions of BuddyPress as a user having created an account on BuddyPress’s test site.
I just finished a BuddyPress installation on my server, so I am now able to make more comparisons between the two platforms. The intent of this is not so much to decide which platform is superior, but to discuss the features, interfaces, and administration of each; thus, helping individuals decide which may be best suited for their purposes. Having looked both over, I believe that each may be best suited for different purposes.
Both Elgg and BuddyPress require the administrator to set up a mySQL database. The packages must be uploaded to a web server, and browser based installers are used to attach the database to the software and create the appropriate config files to make the programs work. They also require Mod Rewrite to be enabled on the server. Beyond that, there are several differences.
BuddyPress installation is fairly complex. First WordPressMu must be installed which is simply a matter of creating a database, uploading the software, and running the installer. (One caveat: WPMU is much easier to install in the root public_html directory.) The only thing out of the ordinary is the option to use subdomains (blog.mysite.com) 0r subdirectories (mysite.com/blog). The former is generally recommended and requires activating wildcard dns on your server. Next you need to ftp and install the BuddyPress plugins and themes to the appropriate directories.
Finally, one needs to install and integrate bbPress if one wants the forums to function. bbPress must be uploaded and it should share a database with WPMU. It took a lot of back and forth with the admin interfaces and tweaking the bbPress and WPMU config files to make the cookies work.
Elgg installation is very straight forward. The Elgg developers responded to early complaints about difficulties with installation and made it even less particular about server configuration. Create a database, upload the software, run the installer. It doesn’t matter whether it is installed in the root or a subdirectory.
Now this might sound like a slam dunk for Elgg, but the results of installation are not equal. Let’s start by looking at the front page. The resultant buddyPress looks like this:
BuddyPress presents the admin with a prompt to add widgets to the threee columns on the front page. Click on the add widget link and you arrive at a familiar WordPress Widget interface.
The front page is easily customized by adding widgets to the three columns and arraying them as desired. Elgg, on the other hand, has a front page that is initially simple and much more difficult to customize.
Customization of the front page is done using plugins (or hacking the core) which must be hand coded to render the desired results.
Another area worth comparing is the default features with a standard installation of each package.
* Features present in Blogs
The chart is really a rather superficial treatment, but serves to demonstrate that the two packages have similar feature sets. In spite of the similar set of tools, these tools are substantially different in many cases. Comparing these individual features will the subject of future blog posts.
Both Elgg and BuddyPress both require hand coding to create a good social networking plaform. BuddyPress currently requires a certain amount of coding in the installation process; whereas, Elgg requires coding to create something other than the spartan default main page. They have similar features, but the implementation is substantially different. Further comparision of components will yield more insight into the differences between the two platforms. In addition, the user and administrative interfaces represent other points of departure. Look for more posts comparing these two platforms in the near future. Feel free to visit my installation and create an account.
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