Why I'm excited about BuddyPress
I'd heard about Automattic's plan for a WordPress-derived social network app called BuddyPress a little while back, then promptly forgot about it until a few days ago. Sarah Perez's ReadWriteWeb article on social engines from Automattic and Six Apart gave me reason to revisit the project. It's still raw, but it shows promise. For one thing, I like the notion that, in theory, I could move content from existing WordPress blogs over into BuddyPress when the time came. But the big reason? It's plugin-based. If you use it to power your social site, you can pick and choose the functions you want, and hypothetically add more as they're developed. It's also based on a relatively widespread platform–as much as WordPress annoys me at times, nine times out of ten when I've wanted to make it do something it doesn't do out of the box I've found either a decent plugin or a workaround.
An aside: Why are there developers who are so anti-plugin, and have to write everything themselves? I run into this from time to time in the Rails community and have seen it elsewhere. Frankly, I'm no longer that conceited to think that I can write stuff as good as or better than the next guy, especially when the next guy (or girl) lives and breathes this stuff while I always have at least six hats I'm juggling. If I can write an app in a quarter of the time using plugins, I'm going to use plugins!
Anyway, Sarah makes a generally valid point about lack of data portability in BuddyPress (and Movable Type 4.2, which I doubt I'll much consider at all). However, I'm not too concerned about that for my needs. What I want is something like IBM's much-ballyhooed Beehive internal social network for project management and communication. As the CRL, like many organizations, becomes more disparate in location, focus of work, and time, I see tools like this becoming vital to keeping everybody up-to-date and on-track.
What about Elgg? A few comments in Sarah's article mention it. Last time I looked at Elgg there were installation issues and a general sense of not-quite-doneness. Anybody using version 1.0? Has it made progress? Next week is looking busy but maybe I'll have an hour or so to try it out. There are some projects afoot at work right now that could put an internal social network to good use.. Questions or comments? Let me know what you think.