I looked at a lot of discussion forums before launching WP Mods (Many of which I talked about in my article ‘Which Forum Script Should You Use With Your WordPress Powered Website?‘ last April). In the end I decided to go with bbPress, which was a stand alone script a the time (though it integrated with WordPress well).
bbPress has always been a very basic forum script though as WP Mods is focused 100% on WordPress, I thought it was important that I used the Automattics forgotten project. I was therefore very pleased to hear in May that bbPress was being released as a WordPress plugin. It seemed that they were finally taking the project seriously and allocating time and resources to making the success everyone wants the script to be i.e. a forum that integrates with your current WordPress website and design pain free.
The beta version was very buggy but a full bug-free version was promised by the end of June. Progress was promising at first with 3 beta versions released between May and June. Unfortunately the June deadline was missed and I assumed that the project was a dead duck as there haven’t been any updates over the last 2 months, however John James Jacoby today announced the fourth release candidate of bbPress 2.0.
There have been a number of important changes:
- BuddyPress 1.5 activity streams and @mention integration
- Improved Akismet integration
- Improved update process
- Improved importer
- Improved multisite integration
- Improved spam/deleted user handling
- Added blacklist_keys support
- Added actions to topic/reply forms
- Updated green admin color scheme for WordPress 3.2
It’s good to see that the bbPress plugin project is still getting some attention. Though I can’t help but feel that they are still not devoting enough resources to two areas that the plugin so desperately needs: Documentation and Support.
The documentation for using, integrating and theming bbPress 2.0 is still below par and support is non existent. This is the most frustrating aspect for me and for most other users. The majority of support questions in the bbPress forum remain unanswered. I appreciate that no one is paid to provide support in the bbPress forums though I can’t help but wonder why they are working on trivial things like updating the green admin bar and improving BuddyPress integration rather than develop in depth documentation on how to use and customise the plugin. Surely it would make sense to help beta users who are testing the plugin for them?
Websites such as WP Candy have shown that bbPress can be integrated beautifully into your existing WordPress powered website. I spent a day working on skinning bbPress for WP Mods myself but was unsure how to do a few things due to the lack of documentation. I posted some questions about the issue on the bbPress forums though they never got any replies so in the end, I decided to remove the forums from WP Mods for the time being. I found this frustrating as I don’t think the problems I ran into were too difficult to resolve; though without good documentation I was left stranded.
I am still holding out a small glimmer of hope that bbPress will release a stable version of 2.0 and we will see some documentation on how to use it. It would be great if some premium theme stores released some bbPress themes to the community too (paid and free).
In the mean time, I am looking at alternatives. I want a forum solution that integrates seamlessly with WordPress so bbPress should be my nunber 1 choice; however it remains poorly supported and is still very basic compared to a lot of other options out there. Most of the top forum scripts available (vBulletin, IP Board, XenForo, phpBB, Simple Machines etc) have bridges available that help integrate WordPress with it. All these bridges are buggy and rarely work without problems, as you would expect when you are trying to make two completely different platforms work together.
The forums will be relaunching on WP Mods soon. At the moment my options are:
- Wait for bbPress to be completed and hope that support and development improves.
- Use a more powerful standalone script. The forum may not integrate with the main site that well but the forums will be more useful for users.
I am also going to look into whether it’s possible to integrate the Facebook discussions application on an external website. I think that would work very well and I could always just use it as a stop gap until a better solution arrives.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on bbPress 2.0. Have any of you tried the plugin or using it on a live website? If so, I’d love to hear what you think can and should be done to make the plugin better.
Thanks for reading :)
Announcement Link: bbPress 2.0 RC 4