BBpress. Mindset, features and where now? discuss…
Hi BBpress team,
I wanted to raise a concern I’ve had for sometime, but every time I think it’s the right thing to do, there’s a new release and I thought that maybe it’d be fixed. With 1.0 in alpha stage, I figure now’s a good time.
I think we’ve got a lot of this wrong.
Not the code, not the plugins, not the community, but more the mindset behind the important features. We’ve not built forum software, we’ve built blogging software.
We make posts, and people comment on them. The focus of BBpress is on individual posts with things like tags, as opposed to the forum/section/category to which it was posted. I also appreciate the desire to streamline the code base, which is wonderful, but users and the internet-public at large expect forums to have certain features – to rely on user updated plugins for these features is not an ideal solution.
I don’t say any of this to criticise, because you folks have done amazing work given the small team and smaller community working on BBpress, and I’m massively impressed; but I think given the scale of the project you’re working on you’d want real feedback.
Let me give an example if I may, which might illustrate the issue I and other users face.
In the 1.0alpha, we finally get Categories as standard, a feature that is absolutely essential for a forum (not a blog), otherwise the ‘forums’ are just a list of wordpress categories.
The problem with Categories, is that we don’t have ‘forums’ belonging to them, instead we have ‘forums’ that are called categories. A simple 1/0 in a db. But it’s not enough. Why?
Well it means that the loop in front-page.php to iterate through forums has to check to see if it’s a category. There is no independent check for categories and forums. This of course makes no difference in the world of all forums being in a singular table (the category can just be an individual TR and we can use a PHP continue to end the loop), but as soon as we move to multiple tables (which is essential for accessibility focussed websites), or nested divs this becomes quite useless.
What we need its:
Each belonging to the parent above it. But we don’t have that in BBpress for categories. It’s massively short-sighted.
Now, this may seem like a simple thing, but I raise it as more of a mindset. We’re coming across a bug/issue/problem/feature request and we’re solving that specific request rather than seeing how it fits in. Take, if I may, the brilliant UNREAD POSTS plug-in by _CK_. When it was built it added a class to the specific span of the name of the topic post in the list of topics. Upon request it then did the same to the name of the forums. At no time was the thought process – wait a minute, if I put this at the top level item of the iteration that means that all child nodes can use it. _CK_ fixed this oversight yesterday and his plugin is now brilliant and easily rivalling the methodology used in the bigger forum solutions.
But it’s the mindset behind it I think we need to change. Fixing a singular problem, or even adding a new requested feature, without planning how it will impact others or if it’s at a high enough level is starting to make BBpress look amateurish.
I’m not saying we have to emulate the big boys and their massively bloated software, but what we have to accept, as a community, is that the likes of PHPbb and IPB etc. all do certain functions as standard, and these are what our users will expect.
I can’t see a roadmap or feature list for a finished 1.0 anywhere, I can’t even see a feature list for 1.5 anywhere (and yes I’ve been to the TRAC site for both). I just get the feeling as we move towards 1.0 release, that we’re not really releasing forum software, we’re releasing blogging software:
WordPress: categories > posts > comments
BBpress: forums > topics > replies
These are effectively one and the same. I’m quiety confident that someone could write a WP theme that effectively does what BBpress does. The BBpress front page list topics then forums (with the number of topics /posts in it). A WP page could list blog Posts titles and then categories (with the number of posts / comments in it). They are, to an end user, the one and the same.
I mean, was XML-RPC absolutely essential for BBpress? It seems to me that Categories, or the Unread Posts feature would be far more essential in that other forums have them. Why haven’t we used the same folder structure as WordPress so that we can easily convince wordpress users to also use BB? Heck why isn’t even our website set out in the same way (this may bring over some WP plugin creators)?
These things are not complains, and I do not raise them to flame or criticise in anyway, I merely hope to kick start a little discussion that can see us move BBpress forward. To often in the past few months I’ve suggested BBpress to friends or fellow developers and they’ve told me that it just doesn’t meet their needs – I think that’s something we need to fix, together
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