If you haven’t heard about WP Symposium then you will soon. It’s a promising new project that will house a suite of social networking plugins, starting with a forum. Features coming soon include user profile, friends, user wall, forum, messaging, groups, media libraries (photos, youtube, etc), and a summary of user/friends activity.
The forum is the first feature available in beta, although not yet recommended for production sites. It’s remarkably simple to use, attractive and full of powerful features. Installation is cake: activate the plugin and add the [symposium-forum] shortcode to a page. Check out a demo on the WP Symposium site.
How is WP Symposium different from BuddyPress?
I had the opportunity to check in with Simon Goodchild, the developer of WP Symposium, to inquire about how his project will be different from BuddyPress. While he very much appreciates the BuddyPress team and its excellent contribution to WordPress, some of his aspirations and goals with WP Symposium include the following:
- Make the design as simple and clean as possible, avoiding lots of lists, unnecessary text and so on
- Easily pick and choose components of the social network
- Use with standard WordPress installation and any WordPress theme
- Only produce output for the components, allowing for embedding them on pages in any WP theme
- Not expect anyone to know anything about .css files and stylesheets
- Not to have to do anything at folder/file level, at all, ever :)
- Take full advantage of jQuery and AJAX
- Frequent and regular upgrades with new features
- Handle multiple languages
- Design to W3C AA compliance
Because the components will be embeddable on pages, incorporating social networking functionality into any WordPress theme will not require extensive theming the way BuddyPress does. Should you elect to use only one or two components, embedding them in your site is much more natural and won’t require a theme change. This is perhaps one of the strongest features of the WP Symposium plugin.
Tentative WP Symposium Project Roadmap:
- December 2010: Forum stable (99% achieved)
- January 2011: Member Profile, Friends, Messaging, Activity summary
- February 2011: Member Wall, enhancements (and fixes if need be) to previous
- March 2011: Groups
- April 2011: Media Library (photos)
- May 2011: Media Library (You Tube and others)
This is a rough timeline, but you get the basic idea. I’m excited to see how this project shapes up. Social networks come in all shapes and sizes and more options for WordPress users can only be a good thing. Make sure you’re subscribed and we’ll keep you updated on the progress of WP Symposium. Give the plugin a test drive and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.