My Chatbox: A New Micro-Blogging Service Built On BuddyPress

Anton Koekemoer is a professional blogger, developer, web technology consultant and a marketing strategist with an emphasis on Web 2.0 technologies. We recently noticed My Chatbox, a newly-created micro-blogging community that Anton built on the WordPress and BuddyPress platforms, and asked for the opportunity to interview him about the service.

Please tell us a little bit about My Chatbox and what inspired you to create your own micro-blogging service.

After launching a couple of other BuddyPress social networks, I realised that it is such a big framework with so many options on the front end that members sometimes gets overwhelmed with all the features that the framework offers.

I already had the idea of creating a scaled down micro blogging network and was looking at other options until I read a blog post on WPMU.org on How to build a Mini Twitter Site with BuddyPress and decided to give BuddyPress another go – and it works. Thanks Sarah!

What kind of user is attracted to an independent micro-blogging service?

The whole idea of My Chatbox is quite simple – anyone can create their own Chatbox (micro blog) for themselves or for their business regarding any topic or niche. Using the flexibility of BuddyPress, Chatboxes (micro blogs) can have multiple administrators and moderators to control the top level content on the micro blogs so you can have multiple micro blog contributors. Have a look at this Chatbox for an example – http://mychatbox.me/chatboxes/tech-ed-africa-2010-durban/

No one except for the admins and moderators can post top level content on the Chatbox, but it all depends on how the Chatbox was setup (public or private) and then members can reply to content on the Chatbox and become “members” of the micro blog.

Why did you select 200 characters for the limit on user posts and how were you able to implement that?

I decided to use 180 characters, but later increased it to 200 characters to give more room to express oneself and maybe include a YouTube video or a Flickr image on your update.
Any micro blog posting, status update or activity reply on My Chatbox, is limited to 200 characters to keep the modern rule of micro blogging – “keep it short and sweet”. The remaining characters are displayed on the text area where members add content. Micro blog descriptions are also limited to 200 characters.

How does My Chatbox handle the geo-location for user updates?

If a member registers the normal way without using Facebook or Twitter, they have to complete a couple of profile fields. These includes an “About me” field together with a location field “City, Country” that is used to pin point their location on a Google map displayed on their profiles. Similar to BuddyPress.org without Gpress.

Members can also edit their profile to include other social media channels they belong to and this is then displayed with icons on their member header with links to those channels.

Please explain the idea of creating your own niche “Chatboxes” focused on topics for more in-depth micro-blogging conversations.

Same Idea as above where you can have multiple contributors to a Chatbox . To give you an example – If you own a record store, you can create your Chatbox (XYZ Records) and let all your employees contribute to the Chatbox focused on your products or services. Other members can reply, but only you and your employees can add top level content to the Chatbox.

What plugins are necessary for powering your MyChatbox.me and did you have to create any custom functionality not currently available?

The site uses a couple of popular BuddyPress plugins including the BuddyPress Oembed plugin so that members can share content from other popular social networks such as videos and images.
Other plugins included is a modified activity stream hashtags plugin as well as a modified Group tags plugin that is used for tagging the micro blogs – still needs a little bit of work. The micro blog tags are also limited to 55 characters.

I am also using the BuddyPress followers plugin and disabled friend connections so that you can only follow members.

What functionality do you plan to add to MyChatbox in the future?

Lots of custom modifications have been done to the theme and custom plugins were developed for all the functionality.

There is quite a couple of future plans for My Chatbox and one is to create a mobile compatible theme as everything is steering towards mobile.

My Chatbox is far from 100% complete (will it ever be the way technology is growing?) so if anyone wants to help contribute to My Chatbox, contact me or register on My Chatbox and create your own Micro Blog.

Thanks to all the BuddyPress plugin contributors.

Contact Anton Koekemoer on Twitter @antonrsa or at http://www.antonkoekemoer.com.