Some members of the still-young CUNY Academic Commons, eager to start groups in support of various projects, have been getting hung up on the process of putting a group together: first, each person has to sign up for the Commons; second, each person has to become friends with the group admin; third, each person has to request membership or wait to be invited (in the case of private groups). I just released a plugin called Invite Anyone that cuts out the second step: with the plugin activated, group admins can invite anyone from the installation, not just friends.
Read more about it, and download the plugin, at the CUNY Academic Commons Dev blog.
EDIT: Please leave further comments or questions regarding this plugin at its permanent home: Invite Anyone
That is great. Do you think that maybe for professional groups such as the CUNY commons that the whole 2-way friending process is a little cumbersome? It seems like the 1-way follow-type model (like Twitter) might be a little easier to handle. Would just altering the friend behavior site-wide be simplier?
That’s a pretty fascinating suggestion, Randall. It seems to me that the asymmetric model of twitter followers is one that encourages fandom rather than mutual connection. On a professional site like the Commons, we’re probably less interested in encouraging “fans” than in establishing mutually affirmed, symmetric, friend connections. An asymmetric model could cause all sorts of social problems, with people being upset that someone didn’t follow him or her back.
Having said all of that, I’ve been talking to a few members of our community lately who feel uncomfortable with facebook-like friending entirely. These discussions have made me realize how little we’ve actually theorized these issues, and how important it is that we do so soon. Certainly, this is all new ground especially in liminal professional spaces like the Commons.
I’ve thought about the “friends” issue as well.
I actually like the terminology Twitter uses, after all on Facebook I know some of the people, but if I really thought about it, I wouldn’t consider them my “friend” per se.
On Twitter, if you’re “following” someone, you’re not a fan as well, you’re just interested in what the person is up to, which is why I love how they use the term “follower”. It doesn’t create any connotations or anything, it is what it is. Another reason why terminology is important when developing a product or service!
I hope BuddyPress adopts a similar approach to Twitter’s in the future.
I’m not sure what to think about this. From a technical point of view, the following relation might cause problems with future iterations of BP. I’m thinking especially of Jeff Sayre’s Privacy component. Obviously the dynamics of privacy and sharing change when you can have unidirectional “following” relationships.
It seems overly simplistic to claim that the possibility of asymmetric relationships “encourages fandom”, as Matt puts it. Twitter is a case in point. Just because Twitter is set up such that the only relationships that are technically relevant in the system are asymmetric, it doesn’t follow that the Twitter platform encourages fandom rather than what you might call a more genuine connection. Bidirectional friendships emerge from and supervene on unidirectional relationships without there being a formal structure to describe them. I see this kind of emergence as a strength of the system, as relationships that arise without a formal structure underlying them are on balance more likely to be worthwhile (I would think, anyway).
From a practical point of view, though, Matt’s right that there are social issues that arise in spaces like Twitter that don’t in spaces like Facebook or BuddyPress. Hurt feelings might be one of them, though I’m skeptical that such consequences are really all that dire, all so-and-so-didn’t-follow-me-back-on-Twitter bitching aside. I’m more interested in what might happen (both good and bad) as members of a professional community start to experience the arc exemplified by the Twitter user lifecycle: feeling uncomfortable about the idea of following people you don’t know, feeling stalked when other start following you, feeling like you have to follow people back, feeling proud when you get certain kinds of followers, and so on.
I didn’t really think of the consequences from the latter part of your comment there.
I guess it depends what type of network you’re building.
If it’s more social (and directed at a younger audience), then the issues you listed might arise. If it’s professional, I doubt the whole “Why isn’t so-and-so following me back” thing will popup 😉
You’re also right about Jeff’s privacy component. Switching to a Twitter-like model will affect the BP core and existing plugins.
Anyway, it’s highly unlikely that BP will be moving towards the Twitter model!
I just have a problem with the word “Friend”; I guess “Friend” is shorter and better than “Mutual Acquaintance” 😉
It’s probably coincidental, but the topic of reworking the behind-the-scenes functioning of BuddyPress’s friend component has just come up in the developer discussion: http://trac.buddypress.org/ticket/1493. On this proposal, the friends component would be eliminated and its functionality replicated by a special group. While this particular move wouldn’t really change the mutual nature of friending in BP (since the groups would presumably be private, meaning that you’d have to get permission from the group admin – the potential “friend” – to join), it would, as JJJ mentions near the end of his post, allow for a lower tier of connection in BP akin to Twitter followers.
I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned “highly unlikely” then! 😉
It’s an interesting change of direction, which in many ways makes sense.
One of our BP users mentioned what the point is in becoming someone’s friend. Other than saying you can post on your friend’s wire and invite them to join a group (which your plugin above solves), I couldn’t really explain why.
Granted in the current system, it’s possible to make a simple plugin to check if the logged-in user and displayed user are friends, the private aspect of JJJ’s proposal is the key to this new proposition.
At the end of his post, JJJ does mention Twitter’s “list” functionality, which again similar to our discussion of “friend” vs” follower has its own social connotations. But that’s another topic for another day!
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many thanks for writing this plugin !
Is there also a way for the Group-Admin to invite people from outside ?
Please see this ticket:
Thanks again !
Thanks for the kind words. That functionality is next on my list to develop, but I probably won’t get to it for another few weeks. I’ll post a message here and at buddypress.org/forums when I do. Once I’ve got a relatively comprehensive solution for invitation, I may start submitting patches for the core, based on whether the core developers think it’s a smart idea.
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