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Disappointed With The Slow Progress Of The bbPress Plugin

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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 :)

Kevin
Announcement Link: bbPress 2.0 RC 4

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Comments (19)

Comment by vishal says:

Hi kevin,
I am actually new to blogging world and i was looking forums alternative and currently share the same state of mind as yours..though bbpress has all the potential to stand out among all will little more support :)
and yes do write a post if you find someway how to embedd Facebook discussions in website that would be so Great!

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

Mmmm, so Smashing Magazine are releasing quality themes to their readers because of their love of WordPress. Are you sure about that? Or do you not think it works out cheaper for them to pay a designer to design a theme than it is to purchase the same traffic directly?

Not checking the facts? So there hasn’t been lots of deadlines missed with bbPress?

Ok, we don’t agree to disagree. Can we agree on that :)

Sorry for keeping you from your work. Seriously, you need to relax about this. We have different views on certain things within the community. Debate is healthy and criticism is too. You need to check some of the older articles here and see how supportive I have been about bbPress 2.0.

Comment by John James Jacoby says:

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.

if I spend a full day writing a long detailed about WordPress, bbPress or any other subject, then I am going to place the article on my own site so that it gets more traffic. And through more traffic I can sell more advertising etc.

The only words I put anywhere are mine, you put yours there yourself.

I don’t understand what posting a PDF *here* would do any differently than posting to the blog. The analogy doesn’t make sense.

I never said anything about “exclusively” releasing anything anywhere. This is me, asking for you, to use your talents as a writer to occasionally help solve problems you observe. You refuse to do it because you don’t see a financial gain.

I’m going to get some things straight, and them I’m going to stop responding.

* It’s great that you’re able to sustain a living writing about WordPress.

* Premium themes are awesome.

* I think people do what they do in the WordPress community not to “increase their traffic” but because they love to do it, love to share it, and want to be pay their bills with their talents – not unlike you and I.

* Ironically, all this time and effort to enlist your help was a distraction from me writing the documentation you are upset is missing.

* None of the blogs you mentioned would post a negative opinion piece without checking the facts, and once they were proven incorrect they would follom up with corrections.

* We don’t have to agree to disagree. Your interpretation of everything I’ve said here is skewed. Even when we agree, you’re convinced we don’t.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

I’m endorsing fragmenting the conversation. Now who’s putting words into someone elses mouth haha :)

I don’t think it fragments anything. If I didn’t post those articles and instead released the tutorials for free as a PDF here, would I get kudos from the bbPress community.

I have spoken a lot recently about how premium themes are getting better and better from theme stores and marketplaces etc however the quality of themes released for free in the WordPress directory (excluding a few good themes) have not kept up in pace and many themes that are being released as pretty poor and have the same design as themes released 3-4 years ago. Think of it as an observation rather than a criticism :)

Many premium theme stores and high profile design blogs have been releasing high quality designs for free to the community – themes that you would normally expect to pay $30-$40 for at least. You can’t download these themes from the official directory, you can only download them from the site itself (e.g. WooThemes, Smashing Magazine etc). By your logic, the theme stores and design magazines who release high quality designs through their own websites are fragmenting the design community. In truth, they are contributing a great deal to the WordPress community by releasing such good themes, and all they are looking for is a little traffic for the time, resources and money they invested.

We will just have to agree to disagree again on this one :) If everyone released tutorials, plugins and themes exclusively through bbPress/WordPress, WordPress would not be what it is today. As most developers and bloggers are looking for something back for the time they put in – traffic, kudos whatever.

Comment by John James Jacoby says:

I didn’t say you âہ“had toâ€Â do anything.

To clarify, the bbPress related articles you write here don’t help as much as they would there, because the new bbPress user doesn’t come here.

You’re upset about a lack of documentation on bbpress.org, but also endorse fragmenting the conversation more by posting documentation not on bbpress.org.

It doesn’t add up.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

I don’r believe I put any words in your mouth. You asked ‘Why criticise?’. I explained why I did.

I agree with you – bbPress needs more developers, more designers and more technical writers.

To get back to a point you raised earlier (sorry, I replied via my iphone last night so didn’t address all points). I disagree that tutorials I write need to be placed in the bbPress forums. The fact is, this is my main website. I work around 40+ hours on it every week. I have rent to pay here in Bogota and I still have to pay my mortgage back home in the UK. So if I spend a full day writing a long detailed about WordPress, bbPress or any other subject, then I am going to place the article on my own site so that it gets more traffic. And through more traffic I can sell more advertising etc.

I really don’t see how this is any different to great plugin developers like Joost de Valk. I don’t believe anyone would argue that he has contributed a huge amount to the WordPress community by releasing dozens of fantastic plugins for free. Although the plugins are available via the WordPress directory, all of the documentation, announcements and updates etc are through his blog. His plugins add a widget to the WordPress dashboard too so that more traffic is directed to his site. Due to this traffic, he can charge $1,000 per sponsored review and charge hundreds of dollars per banner ad.

My point is, I see no difference to bloggers like myself spending days researching and writing a long detailed article that helps the community and posting it on our blogs than plugin developers who spend a day or so writing a great plugin and releasing it for free. Both the article and the plugin help the community.

(Not suggesting you disagree with any of this but trying to explain where I’m coming from) :)

Comment by John James Jacoby says:

Whoa. Don’t put words in my mouth. I’m not telling you not to exercise your right to free speech, I’m asking you to check your facts before posting.

http://bbpress.trac.wordpress.org/log

That is a log of bbPressâ€â„¢s progress. Over 800 code changes straight in a row over the course of year – two code changes a day on average building something from nothing.

My comments here are only to provide the inverse perspective to yours. I’d hate for someone to read your post and think that bbPress 2.0 was ever in danger of not shipping.

You asked for opinions on what would make bbPress better. The answer is simple: more developers, more designers, and more technical writers to help with documentation.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

I can appreciate your point of view,particularly as you appear to contribute so much to bbpress. I am grateful to those who dedicate their time to open source projects.

Though I have to disagree. I have a right to criticise and I have the right to voice any frustrations I have here. You may not be happy about this but the people who download and use premium and open source scripts are going to have an opinion on a scripts progress because the development of their own website depends on it. It’s not a dictatorship where only those who code have the right to be disappointed when deadlines are promised and missed.

I have also publicly voiced my disappointment with the development of vbulletin over the last few years and expressed frustration when good scripts and plugins etc were left to die. I’ve also wrote many times about how great the sitepoint marketplace was and how little value it’s replacement flippant offers those who are selling domains and low end websites.

Bottom line, I’m a blogger not a coder. I have been incredibly supportive of lots of coders and developers for many years though if I am frustrated about something, I will voice it. Particularly if I feel my readers share my frustrations.

Again, I appreciate your point of view. I’m sure those who are working hard on bbpress despise people who contribute nothing and then bitch about it.

However,from a selfish point of view, I am looking for a good forum solution for wordpress. I also know from searching dozens of forums for solutions such as xeoforum, ipb, phpbb etc that the community is crying out for bbpress to be a success. Therefore I shared my frustrations that the beta bbpress plugin was released a year after everyone thought it would be and I spoke again as the stable version is not released months after promised.

I see your view but I dont feel guilty about the points I raised. We will just have to agree to disagree on this one :)

Comment by John James Jacoby says:

More to the pointâ€Â¦ if by slow progress you mean 7 releases, 38,000 lines of code, and more traffic to bbPress.org than its ever had, all in the past year, the problem doesn’t seem like itâ€â„¢s a lack of progress.

Comment by John James Jacoby says:

The things you do on your site don’t help anyone on bbPress.org because they aren’t looking here for bbPress support.

I answer almost every forum topic that come through. You specifically called out Automattic as the problem here, disregarding that they are currently the only company committing any time directly towards the solution.

I guess I’m just really confused by your tone, and your approach towards communicating it. If bbPress isn’t doing what you want it to, and you’re not able to do anything to help the project along, why criticize? I can’t moderate forums, write code, write tutorials, respond to angry blog posts, have a job, and have time to walk my dog when the day is done.

If you offered to write docs for bbPress.org, that’s one less thing I have to do, which lets me do more of the others. You’re so worried about your unanswered topic that you missed my unanswered topics asking for help, from anyone that has a few extra minutes to donate.

The worst part is, I get it. This clones from a passionate place. A good place. A place where you want to be part of the success of something great, something you believe in. I understand it completely.

That passion ends when you start to be vocally upset about progress and momentum and deadlines without lending a hand to help to accomplish those goals.

You adding new forums here doesn’t help the bbPress forums there. It only helps you and your site. Instead of *hoping* tutorials here help, *know* they will help by writing tutorials in the place with the most exposure and traffic, the bbPress.org forums themselves.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

I appreciate that there are people putting in a lot of time to make the plugin better. I also realise that it is an open source script.

I can contribute to the community by writing tutorials here and publishing walkthroughs – like I did when I showed people how to migrate to bbpress 2.0 from the stand alone version and like I did when I wrote a very long article showing users how to integrate bbPress into an existing WordPress site.

If there is little documentation and no one responding to questions in the forum, then I cannot learn how the new template system works and then help show others.

I’m not really trying to blame anyone, I am simply publicising the frustrations that a lot of people in my position share.

As for contributing to the WordPress community, I hope that the tutorials here help people, though I also regularly do my best to address that I get emailed every week; which is one of the main reasons I am keen to add a forum here.

Comment by John James Jacoby says:

This kind of feedback is a punch in the gut to the people that are already giving 150%.

Automattic allows me the privilege of working on bbPress and BuddyPress as part of my free time, not unlike what you hear about Google allowing 20% of their employeesâ€â„¢ time to work on their own projects. That said, there is only so much time I can donate..

It’s because *I* want the WordPress community to have a great support forum plugin, and because Automattic totally rocks, that I’m even able to donate any time at all.

So i ask, before you blame âہ“themâ€Â for slow progress, think of how you can positively help by contributing and donating your time back.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

“They” are Automattic :)

Comment by Brent says:

they are still not devoting enough resources

Who is they? It’s open-source, community developed, “they” includes you.

There is nothing stopping you filling in the gaps which you’ve correctly identified. That’s the beauty of it. :)

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

I’m also waiting on some themes to be released. If I had a few bbpress designs I could modify theme and learn how to develop my own theme by using them as a reference.

Comment by Rev. Voodoo says:

Forums have been a PITA ever since I started using WP. I ran a phpBB one for a while, then SMF, but I really wanted to get away from standalones. I moved on to a variety of plugins like simple:press and some others. The plugins always looked odd, like some sort of bastard forum forced into WP. I admit the wait has been long for bbPress, but I think it’s worth it. I dig bbPress so far. I like how simple it is…. I’d love for it to stay lightweight, and get a variety of additional functionality through plugins. And I would love to see some themes for it. I don’t even need good ones, I just learn best by tearing through some existing code to see what others are doing.

Comment by Kevin Muldoon says:

Thanks for the comments guys.

@Ryan – I appreciate that documentation for an open source project will never match that of a commercial project. Though if there is no documentation and no one providing support, it’s very difficult for some users to use the plugin. As I mentioned in my post, I was trying to get the theme customised the way I want just like I had done with the standalone version of bbPress that I use to use on WP Mods but there were a few small things that didn’t seem to work like they should. Unfortunately, as no one replied to my support queries I was unable to move forward.

@Roger – haha well I had always wanted it to be released as a plugin as it was a pain in the ass having to update my standalone bbpress design every time I changed links on my navigation menu or footer.

Comment by Roger Coathup says:

I think the plugin was initially scheduled for September last year! If you’ve only been waiting since May, you’re one of the lucky ones ;)

We’d hoped to use it in a BuddyPress project for a client – so for us, that area wasn’t ‘trivial’ – unfortunately, the deadline is long since passed

Comment by Ryan Imel says:

Nah, I think momentum has really been picking up. I haven’t run into any problems yet since I started using it pretty publicly on WPCandy.

It would be great to see more plugins made for bbPress (though Jared’s the other day is a neat one) but I think that will pick up once the plugin is finalized. I think that’s where bbPress as a plugin will really shine.

I’d suggest treating it as though it’s out and final now. Documentation for an open source project will probably never be where we want it to. I think that’s just the nature of the beast, to an extent. The only way to fix it is to have more folks like us actively using it and being dangerous :)

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