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WPMu was just updated to a long awaited Version 2.7.1 which has, in turn, triggered events in the BuddyPress realm. The new WPMu version offers a number of important improvements making it a significant improvement. As a consequence, BuddyPress has finally been able to release Version 1.o.

Upgrading from WPMu 2.7 to 2.7.1 was a cinch. First make up your files and database , then simply click the upgrade notification and the new files load. Upon upgrading , the first thing you will notice that the horizontal on the top of the admin page has disappeared. The controversial feature is now an optional plugin.

This upgrade goes yet further in polishing and un-cluttering the administrative interface. Plugin management is much improved and can be handled through the backend rather than the prior ftp for mu plugins and the backend for the wp plugins.

I’m going to start from scratch on my WPMu/BuddyPress installation soon and look forward to renewing my BuddyPress and Elgg comparisons.

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I recently came across CommentPress. It’s a WordPress plugin that allows readers to comment on a post paragraph by paragraph. CommentPress looks like a very promising collaboration tool. CommentPress is on the cusp of a major upgrade from version 1.4.1 to 2.0. We will look at features in the current version, and preview Version 2.0.

Currently, CommentPress is a WP theme. Install it and activate it.

cp_1

The resultant main page includes a table of contents on the left side, a “page” that you can customize in the center, and some widgets on the right. The meat of this comes when you clink a link to one of the posts.

cp_2

Each paragraph has a “speech bubble” to the right of it. Click on that and you can view all the other comments on that paragraph. Comments can even be threaded. Whether or not there are comments already, there is a text field for entering comments.

As it stands, CommentPress works well. Yet the developers plan on giving it even greater flexibility with version 2.0 due out in a couple weeks. I had trouble with the beta on my server, so I can only write about what I have seen and read on their site.

Rather than just a theme, the new version will include 3 plugins and a theme that can work independently so you only use the components you need. You will be able to use it with most WordPress themes. The comment box can be dragged and dropped to any location on the page. There are also enhancements that improve CommentPress’s ability to work with changed text in the posts. I also understand that it will be more flexible in working with other widgets and plugins.

cp_3

CommentPress’s potential in education and in other areas is great. The ability to annotate and critique text paragraph by paragraph make it much easier to focus a response to a given segment of text. It would work well for peer editing of student writing. Teachers could post a segment of text for students to read allowing them to respond to the text and other comments. I have installed CommentPress to facilitate discussion of our school’s web publishing policy.

I look forward to working with a new version of CommentPress, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as it is today. As a bonus, the current version works with WPMU, and I hope the newer version will as well.

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WordPressMu 2.7 was released a few days ago. I have been using the beta version on my BuddyPress test installation and our school’s blogging platform. At school the updates from 2.6 to 2.7b to 2.7 went without a hitch by means of ftp. On the BuddyPress site, the svn switch from trunk to tag 2.7 was a breeze.

I have been using WPMU since December 2007 for our school’s blogs starting with version 1.3. In the space of 13 months, there have been ten versions of WPMU, each representing significant improvements.

Version 1.5.1 brought a badly needed overhaul to the administrative interface and each incarnation including 2.6.x and 2.7 have built upon these improvements. To contrast the differences take a look at the following screenshots. The first one is an administrative view of the blogs page in version 2.3:

Credit Jim Groom

Credit Jim Groom

In version 1.3 all administrative options are under the site admin tab. Most weren’t as cluttered as Jim’s installation, but it gives you an idea. In stark contrast, here is the blog view in version 2.7:

wpmuadminblog

The new version looks strikingly better, but it also adds much to the navigation. The left side navigation. Clicking on a menu item brings up any submenu options. The Top menu bar were moved above the blog header and integrates viper007bond’s WordPress Admin bar. The bar can also be configured to appear on nonadministrative site pages once a user is logged in.

I look forward to customizing WPMU 2.7 for our school blogs. It will also be time to revisit the plugins that will help secure and administer blogs in a K12 setting. I’ll be writing about options soon. Are there any others using or considering use of WPMU for the K12 environment?

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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.

Installation

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:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Customization of the front page is done using plugins (or hacking the core) which must be hand coded to render the desired results.

Default Features

Another area worth comparing is the default features with a standard installation of each package.

Component Elgg 1.x BuddyPress
Blogs X X
Groups X X
Private Messages X X
Bookmarks X *
Friends X X
Profile X X
Files X
Pages X *
Wire/Messageboard X X
Forums X X

* 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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Matt Leifer commented on my post about the advent of BuddyPress wondering if there was some sort of integration with a wiki and WordPress. His question aroused my curiousity as I use WordPress and MediaWiki. Indeed there is a very interesting WordPress plugin that works MediaWiki.

Append Wiki Page by Enej Bajgoric at the University of British Columbia is a WordPress extension that allows users to actually embed a MediaWiki page within an individual blog post. Install this plugin and a new option appears at the bottom of the edit post page.

wiki-inc

Simply type in the url of the desired wikipage and it appears in the post when you publish it. Here is a screencast illustrating its use. It includes edit links to the wiki, so that a reader could actually move from the blog post to the actual MediaWiki page and edit it if they have those priviledges. I first saw this on Jim Groom’s post/wiki on installing BuddyPress and wondered how he did it.  In a round about way, I found out how.

I like this plugin and it generally works well. I think that it has a great deal of potential in education and documentation. My only problem is that it, for some reason, will not work correctly when I use it with wikis on my server. If I link to any other wiki page, it works fine. I can only assume it is because of some setting on my server. I certainly would like to resolve this (any offers for help gracefully accepted) as the Append Wiki Page plugin is a great tool.

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