This week several things came together in a very fruitful way. The Photographic Society of Rhode Island (PSRI) had expressed an interest in a members’ forum at the last board meeting, Packt Publishing contacted me to review a book bbPress Complete by Rhys Wynne, I have found out the WP eMember plugin that manages membership at PSRI site interfaces with bbPress, and I was confined to house rest for a week. So, what else was there to do than to review the book, install bbPress on PSRI, and interface it with our membership system?
While I was still teaching, one of the courses I taught every spring semester was Marketing on the Internet. I started teaching that course before most people knew what Internet connection meant back in 1995. My approach to the course was from a design perspective, where students learned how to design and deploy marketing-oriented Web sites. For many years students in this course learned how to build a site one page at a time using HTML, and later CSS (cascading style sheets.) It was a chore, but they acquired knowledge that separated them from their peers.
Around 2004, I started experimenting with WordPress, and realizing that content-managed Web sites were the future, I changed my teaching paradigm. Instead of teaching HTML and CSS, I started showing them how WordPress can manage their content and allow any kind of styling change when they wanted. This shift made them learn a different kind of knowledge, WordPress installation, and maintenance, and focus more on the site content. In the early years, finding decent books was not easy. But as WordPress became increasingly popular, new, and better books started emerging. In the last few years, I used books published by Packt Publishing. Both students and I found the books professionally written and informative.
When I received the request to review another book by Packt Publishing, bbPress Complete by Rhys Wynne, I wrote to them and indicated that I no longer taught, and a medical issue might delay the review of the book. The representative indicated that the completion of the review could be extended to the end of September and extended me an electronic copy of the book. Here I am, already finished, at the beginning of September ;-)
The book is a short one, around one hundred pages, but covers a good amount. It is written very well, easy to follow, and full of valuable information. Since bbPress is a plugin to WordPress, there is also valuable information about some aspects of WordPress.
Starting with the concept of bbPress, the author explains the installation process step by step with screen captures. For me, the easiest method of installing the plugin was directly from the WordPress “Add New Plugin” option. Within short order, bbPress was in place. The configuration of the plugin is explained in detail, with default options and what the author recommended, with good reasons, bar one. In the configuration section, the default user role and the auto role sections need a clearer explanation. I could not make good sense of the recommendation. But that is the only part that I have found confusing.
I was able to follow the instructions with ease and moved on to the plugins for bbPress. That sounds a bit odd, a plugin for a plugin sounds like a recursive process. But, in any case, there are some useful plugins recommended, their use and configuration are clearly explained. One of the issues I wish bbPress easily allowed was the selection of the page layout. I wanted to simply drop it in on a full-width page but there was no option for it. In the last section, the author explains how to change the default pages, how to use short-codes, and how to modify the look of bbPress installation. I have already found that I could simply add a shortcode on a blank page to make the entire forum appear there like magic. Very cool indeed.
I am quite an experienced WordPress user, installer, trainer, and you may think that I have found the book easy to follow because of that background. Granted, the parts that were straddling both WordPress and bbPress might have benefited from my experience. However, I have no experience with bbPress at all and I must say everything went swimmingly. Also, keep in mind that I have evaluated textbooks for over 40 years for my students’ use. Based on my years of teaching and using textbooks, this is a well-written, easy-to-follow book if you want to add forum functionality to your WordPress installation. You will have your forum up and running in no time over your WordPress installation, and configure it to your liking.
I must also note how everything fell into place. When I decided to install bbPress on the PSRI Web site I was a little concerned about how it may interface with a membership plugin I had installed. WP eMember is a very robust membership management plugin for WordPress by Tips and Tricks HQ. I dropped them a note and asked if there was a way to integrate eMember with bbPress. A quick reply presented the third piece of this puzzle, eMember plugin already interfaced with bbPress. If you need a plugin for membership management, a shopping cart, a WordPress security look at their offering. They produce good code, they are constantly improving their plugins, and they are responsive to user questions.
So, this has been an intertwined review of a couple of products, both deserve your attention.