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In honor of the release of BuddyPress 1.0, I trashed my previous installation and created a new one from scratch. The new version of BuddyPress requires WordPressMu 2.7.1 and bbPress 1.0 alpha. The process, while simplified, is still out of the reach of many who are accustomed to the standard, upload, create database, and browser based installation.

It process begins with a standard installation of WPMu. Once that is done, you can install the BuddyPress plugins through the backend: Plugins–>Install New. then activate the plugin. That’s not it though as the web based installer cannot place the BuddyPress themes in the correct directory. To do that, one needs to manually move the themes from the plugin directory to theme directory using ftp or a file manager, then activate the themes.

Integrating bbPress remains the hardest part although it too has been simplified to a 13 step process. You can ignore the warnings about salt this and that failing. Just follow the steps. Unlike my previous experiences trying to integrate bbPress, this all worked the first time through. It involves pasting a line of code into the config and moving a file from BuddyPress into bbpress.

Overall, this is a big step in the right direction. Now that the WPMu framework has been updated, I hope to see more progress with the project. There are a lot a capabilities under the hood that are not yet wired up, much as we saw with the initial release of Elgg. A real concern remains in that bbPress is still alpha. BuddyPress needs a solid stable forum.

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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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As I ramp up our school’s WPMU blog platform, I look forward to rolling out the new 2.7 interface. I have updated and tested my favorite plugins. DSader’s More Privacy Options, and Peter’s Collaborative Email still work. To make things even better I found a pair of plugins that will make our configuration more secure and give greater control over user privileges.

First off, there was a security hole wherein students could view pending comments that have not been approved by an administrator. Dean Matteson discovered this flaw when he realized that student comments were appearing without his having reviewed them and wrote about in his blog. He came up with a plugin that blocks access to the comments page.

Looking for new plugins for our school site I found the WPMU Menus plugin that not only solves this problem, but it allows you to enable or disable not only comments, but almost every other function in the dashboard interface. Site Admin Options reveals new choices.

wpmu_menu

The screen shot encompasses only half the options available. Beyond security, this allows administrators to greatly simplify the back end user interface making it easier for younger students to navigate.

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This takes care of the comments security issue. I tested it further by appending edit-comments.php to the blog backend urls. I was still unable to access the comments page and it redirected me to the profile page.

The next plugin of particular interest is Role Manager. Role Manager is not a WPMU plugin. It must be enabled and configured on each individual blog. Role Manager allows you to change the permissions on any existing role or group of users. It also allows you to create new roles as well. Go to Users–>Roles.

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While logged in as admin, you can also configure the permissions of an individual user by accessing their profile.

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Of course, if you give a user the permissions to access a feature, you also need to enable access in the Menus.

I look forward to relaunching our school blogging platform this March with a fresh new back-end interface, greater security, and a simplified dashboard for our students. If anyone has any input regarding use of WPMU for the K12 setting, I’d love to hear from you!

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BuddyPress developers have postponed release dates for the second beta and the subsequent final release waiting for the launch of WordPressMu 2.7. The second beta was originally scheduled for January 26, while the final was slated for February 9.

WPMU developer Donncha O Caoimh released WPMU 2.7 beta January 22 revision 1627 on the SVN repository. While he reports that there are still plenty of open tickets, I have found 2.7 beta very stable and relatively issue free. I am using this version for my test BuddyPress installation and our school’s WPMU blog site.

WPMU represents a major overhaul of the administrator and user dashboard and backend. Overall, I find the interface increasingly intuitive and easier to use. WPMU certainly has come a long way since I began using it just over a year ago.

I hope for a February release of BuddyPress along with Elgg 1.5. It looks like a big month for free and open source social networking platforms.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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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