On WordPress and Learning New Things

Went to Austin’s WordPress Meetup tonight (last night, by the time this is posted) and it was a nice time. I almost decided to not go because the traffic coming out of Spicewood into Bee Cave was horrible. Then Mo-pac… fuhgetaboutit. Thankfully, I kept going and an hour and a half after I left work I got to Cospace just after 7pm.

The first part was a talk from Alex Hill from BaileyHill Media about using WordPress for political campaigns, which is something I’ve toyed with in the past. It was interesting to see how other’s approached political WordPress design. Then a discussion of the new features in WordPress 3.1. Most of them I knew about, but I hadn’t downloaded the dev release to test it out, so it was nice seeing some of the features in practice.

The internal linking and the quickpress theme tag are things I most look forward to. I need to look closer into the quickpress hooks once it comes out, but I can see some really cool things… especially for community sites.  Like a nice modal box that is accessible from anywhere? From a dev standpoint, the advanced queries and custom post styles look pretty sweet for making a very robust CMS. The different post types that 3.0 included were a great step in that direction already…. this will only make it that much better.  Maybe we’re one step closer to putting Drupal and Joomla out of their misery?

On the WordPress topic, I set up my own WP test/dev site at CrazyMonkies.org. My goal is to use it to hack and re-hack and learn as much as I can about WordPress. So far I’ve tried installing BuddyPress and wasn’t all that impressed.  It’s got some great out-of-the-box features, but almost TOO many features. Also, trying to do some quick themeing was not an easy task. I was hoping for some simple community functionality, but there’s just WAY too much “stuff” on each page… and I’m a huge fan of minimalism in design.

Having said that, there are two plugins that are killer – the Welcome Pack and Achievements plugins. Those two things mean BuddyPress could help create a very cool social site. And while I only tested it out a short time, and only with Twitter, BuddyStream is another great plugin for integration with other social sites.  If I ever set aside some free time, I think I may hack into a BuddyPress theme and try to create a super elegant social site.

Right now, I’m playing around with the P2 theme on CrazyMonkies. I had seen the theme in use on the WP development site, but never thought to install it myself. The real-time aspects and the keyboard shortcuts are great. I’m not sure why anyone would use this on a public site, instead of Twitter, but for a private forum it would be quite useful.  Also, adding comments threaded under the status updates is a feature that Twitter really needs. One little feature that it doesn’t have is a way to “delete” the status/comment from the front page… it only allows editing, though I’m sure there’s a way to hack that on. Another feature that would make it more Twitter-like is a friend/follow plugin… like BuddyPress.

In fact, P2 just may be a catalyst for developing a more full-featured social site, like BuddyPress but simpler. Really, all it would take are a few custom plugins. That’s probably something I’ll be playing with more….