BuddyPress Groups are one of the more social components of the plugin, as they’re used primarily for bringing members together around a shared interest, goal, or collaborative project. In some ways groups are like their own mini-networks within a social network, each having its own homepage, activity stream, member directory and administrative panel.
Groups are a highly effective way of organizing members and as such have been extended to serve a multitude of different requirements. Search WordPress.org and you’ll find a couple dozen pages of plugins devoted to BuddyPress groups, with extensions that add new functionality, such as email subscriptions, documents, reviews, blogs, chat, and so much more. We’re going to look at how the basic group settings can be changed in order to provide more pathways for the creation of different kinds of groups.
A Brief Overview of BuddyPress Group Privacy Options
BuddyPress has three privacy options for setting up groups: Public, Private, or Hidden. When you create a group at /groups/create, you’ll find the privacy options located under settings.
Anyone can join a public group and all of the activity and content are public. Private groups require users to request membership, while hidden groups are invitation only. Private and hidden groups are similar in that the group content and activity will only be visible to members. Unlike public and private groups, a hidden group is not listed in the groups directory or search results.
Not all groups fit neatly into these three privacy options. That’s why BuddyPress core developer Mathieu Viet (@imath) has created a new experimental plugin to allow for a different combination of these settings.
Alternative Public Group Control
One problem with the way private groups are structured is that potential members cannot see any content or any of the other members in the group. This is a bit off putting and doesn’t help to attract new group members.
When examining the BuddyPress core, @imath found it difficult to override the way private groups are structured. Instead, he opted to extend public groups and the Alternative Public Group Control plugin was born.
This new experimental plugin gives admins more fine-grained control over public groups. It doesn’t override the group creation process but rather creates a new control tab within the group admin with three additional options.
The first allows you to require users to request membership in order to join, a feature previously limited to private groups. The second option is the ability to make certain group tabs visible to members only, ie. members, docs, attachments, etc.
The last option included in the plugin is the convenient way to create a simple custom homepage which will be displayed when non-members are viewing the group.
This optional homepage space is useful if you want to further explain the process of joining the group or elaborate a bit more on what participation entails. Previously, the only place to do this was in the group’s description, which is better left short and sweet for its listing in the groups directory.
The Alternative Public Group Control plugin offers greater flexibility to groups with unique requirements. If you need more control over your groups and want to try out this plugin, your can download it from GitHub. Be advised that it’s still experimental. If you have feedback, please send it to @imath by posting in the issues queue. Want to see the plugin in action without installing it? Check out the live demo video below: