It was May 2008 when I first heard of the BuddyPress project. I was talking with a client about ways to expand user account profiles within their WordPress powered site. Fourteen months have passed since that first mention and we’ve finally launched our first project using BuddyPress. Sadly, it was not for this client.

For those unfamiliar or loosely familiar with BuddyPress, it’s a set of WordPress plugins developed by Andy Peatling (now with Automattic) used for adding social network capabilities to any WordPress site.

Not to over-simplify things, but think “Facebook in a Box.”

Groups, Wire posts (think Facebook Wall), activity streams, friend lists and forums are all a part of the platform. These all build from the user system native to WordPress and simply add functions to allow users to interact with each other. Use as many or as few of the capabilities as you like.

We were approached to help with a community project for The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. For some time now, Ree has wanted to create a nice little community within her site that allowed people to share their favorite recipes and make some friends along the way.

It happened that Ree’s site was built upon WordPress so BuddyPress seemed like a natural fit.

Luckily the 1.0 release of BuddyPress came out right as we were initiating this project.

The Tasty Kitchen

BuddyPress offered everything we needed in a community site. The beauty is that much like WordPress we could customize BuddyPress just to our liking. In the case of the Tasty Kitchen we set up:

  • Share Recipes — The point of the community is that anyone can share their favorite recipes. It’s WordPress, so for storing recipes the most logical thing was to save recipes as posts within the system. We extended what is stored with recipes to include things like ingredients, preparation instructions and servings, but in the end we’re just storing them as posts. Want the ability to have users review recipes? That was accomplished using the standard comments. Rate a recipe? Just add the post rating plugin. Nice.
  • Make Friends — As important as the recipe is the person who submitted the recipe. Extended profiles within BuddyPress allowed us to collect information about people such as their cooking experience (mine would be Fast Food Fetcher) and their favorite foods and allow people to find others based on similar interests.
  • Communicate — What good is a community without communication. Using the Wire function of BuddyPress people can share notes directly from a person’s profile page. Additionally, we’ll be tying in the direct message function very soon to allow one more method of communication.
  • Watch Community Activity — Users can see when their friends rate recipes, review recipes, submit recipes and make friends. It allows for a much more natural level of discovery across the site. Users don’t have to be specifically searching for something, but rather find things of common interest.

BuddyPress is new. It’s green, in fact. To look for large custom rollouts of BuddyPress you can find GigaOm Pro and the VW Tank Wars community sites, but we’re still at the very beginning of seeing how this platform will be used. It’s great really. It plugs directly into existing WordPress projects and gives you full control of your data.

We’re really excited to be one of the first to roll out a custom implementation like this.

Results in the first two weeks of this project have been outstanding. Go check out the site and join the nearly 10,000 members and check out some of the 2,500 recipes available for viewing. Say hello to Ree while you’re there.

Nick Gernert leads the Platform Services team that’s part of Voce Connect and oversees all web development efforts as well as making sure all those efforts are strategically sound. He contributes to the cnp_studios blog and is on Twitter as @NickGernert.