Interview with Paul Gibbs, Core BuddyPress Developer
Jan 03 2011 - 5 MINS READ

Paul GibbsMichael spoke with Paul Gibbs about the future of BuddyPress and working as a Core Developer. Paul enjoys speaking at WordCamps, crafting code, and helping people. He provides consultancy on projects and designs custom plugins. You can contact Paul for custom work at [email protected], in #buddypress-dev on freenode, or on twitter as @pgibbs.

Michael Eisenwasser: What has it been like transitioning from a contributor to a core developer?

Paul Gibbs: It’s been huge fun! I had contributed considerable time to the project, firstly by participating on the community site and then getting involved in development by writing plugins, attending the developer meetups on IRC and writing patches to fix bugs. Now that I am a core developer, I’ve carried on doing exactly the same, though I find the balance of my time that I spend on these activities has shifted. I am currently spending most of my time writing code, whereas before most of my time was spent helping out on the website.

It’s important to remember that there is more than one way to contribute to BuddyPress. Developers can write plugins, designers can publish themes, and anyone using BuddyPress can help other people by answering questions on the BuddyPress Community Support site. Evangelising the platform by telling your friends about the software, or speaking at WordCamps or WordPress meetups, is very important too.

ME: What is your focus/role within BuddyPress? What are the other core developers’ primary roles (Andy, JJJ, Marshall, Boone)?

PG: Andy and Marshall haven’t been involved so far with the 1.3 release cycle, but all of us keep in frequent contact via the IRC channel, the weekly dev chat and the dev blog (http://bpdevel.wordpress.com). We don’t have strictly defined roles or responsibilities, and dive in and out of different areas as required. Our focus at the moment is clearing the backlog of tickets on trac, our bug ticketing system, and making BuddyPress work seamlessly with WordPress 3.1, with the aim of a late January 2011 release.

ME: What are your goals for BuddyPress during the first half of 2011?

PG: There are a number of internal program structures I would like to see re-written, but externally, I would personally like to see BuddyPress add support for standards such as FOAF and SIOC. These are machine readable descriptions of people and groups, their activities and their relations to other people and objects. Practically, this should help search engines understand more about the data which they index. In turn, this has a lot of potential for transforming about how we authenticate and supply personal information to websites. I’d like BuddyPress to be near the front of this movement.

Lowering the barrier to entry, perhaps by suggesting pre-set configurations or theme options, would be great, too; there’s a lot of stuff in BuddyPress, and we could do better to inform people about what’s included.

ME: Where do you see BuddyPress in 2 years?

PG: Very tough question. It’s hard to answer beyond the immediate six months, but I’d like to see WordPress and BuddyPress become the platform of choice for small and large groups and community organisations such as schools, offices, scouts/guides groups and town councils. I think it also depends on people’s conceptions of what a website is, and how that changes over the next few year.

In the 90s, if you said you had a website, it tended to be a static page with poor typography and design. In the 00s, if you said you had a website, it tended to be database driven, enriched with Javascript, and much better typography and design. There was also a trend of being able to log-in to other websites with your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and share articles or comments back to your social network(s) without leaving the source site. Some people decided to skip their own websites, and have everything hosted on a Facebook page or group.

My prediction for the next few years is that if you have a group of people or a community or a business, people won’t say “we need a website”, but instead say “we need a social network.”

ME: What do you think are the biggest areas for improvement in BuddyPress?

PG: As I mentioned above, for a site owner who installs BuddyPress for the first time, there is lots of added functionality which can be time-consuming and hard to learn how to make best use of it. I think there is potential for specialised themes that target specific types of social network. For example, if you choose not to use the Groups or Forums components, a theme could expose the activity stream in a manner reminiscent of twitter or tumblr — basically focusing on one or two specific features of BuddyPress in a theme, and making them work really well.