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Introducing BuddyPress Reply By Email Beta!

As we’re ramping up to the release of version 1.4 of the CUNY Academic Commons, the team here is working feverishly on some exciting, new features.

One of those features we’ve been working on is a Reply By Email (RBE) plugin for BuddyPress.

If you’ve ever used a similar reply-by-email feature in Basecamp or in Facebook, then you’ll find yourself right at home with RBE and BuddyPress.

Today we’re pleased to announce that BuddyPress Reply By Email is available immediately for public beta testing. Read on to find out how you can try out RBE on your own BP site.

How it works

Usually, BuddyPress will send out an email notification to you when you’re @mentioned, when someone replies to one of your activity comments or when you receive a new private message.

What RBE does is hijack the email notification generated by WordPress to add a custom “Reply-To” email address as well as a reply marker in the body of the email.

Screenshot of RBE manipulating a BuddyPress email notification

RBE in action!

The “Reply-To” email address is an IMAP email address that supports address tags. An address tag basically allows a single email address to support various email addresses under one inbox. (eg. john.doe@gmail.com can also support john.doe+test@gmail.com, john.doe+whatever@gmail.com.) In the screenshot, we used a GMail address since it both supports IMAP and address tags.

Once a reply is sent to this email address, the address tag allows RBE to distinguish what type of BuddyPress item the email is corresponding to such as an activity comment or a private message.

RBE, then, logs into the email address to check if any new replies were received. If replies are successfully parsed by RBE, they will be automatically posted to your BuddyPress site.

That’s not all!

For those BuddyPress sites that rely on the Groups component, we’ve also made it possible for group members to post new forum topics via email and when combined with another popular plugin, BuddyPress Group Email Subscription, subscribed group members can also reply to group forum posts as well.

That sounds dandy! Where can I download it?

You’re in luck! RBE is now available for testing.

Download BuddyPress Reply By Email Beta 1 here.

Beta means we’ve tested it locally and deemed it to be almost ready, but could use some real-world external testing and feedback from BuddyPress site owners before public release.

We recommend testing on BuddyPress 1.5.6 or higher.

A couple of useful links can be found below:

If you encounter a bug and you’ve read through the troubleshooting guide, please report it here.

This goes without saying, but, like any beta software, please test this locally and not on your live production site!

Members here on the CUNY Academic Commons can expect to see the feature in action in a few weeks, when we release version 1.4 of the Commons.

We’re really excited to bring one of the most-requested BuddyPress features to fruition under the awesomeness that is open-source. We also can’t wait to hear how you’re going to use the plugin and how it fares out in the wild! So let us know! :)

Posted in Plugins and Extensions.

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19 Responses

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  1. Mercime says

    Congratulations Ray Boone! And many thanks.

    Finally! Something that will help me wean members of an organization from Yahoo! Groups and use BP instead, he-he-he :-) Will be checking this out in test installation. Crossing my fingers …

  2. doug says

    I’m receiving this error: Error: Unable to connect to inbox – Can’t connect to gmail-imap.l.google.com,993: Connection timed out

  3. Profile photo of Ray Ray says

    @mercime – Thanks! Let me know if you encounter any bugs!

    @doug – RBE needs to be able to connect to imap.google.com via port 993. I’m guessing you’re on a shared host that has blocked outgoing connections. See this Stackoverflow answer for more info – http://stackoverflow.com/questions/10582984/workaround-for-php-imap-functions-trying-to-work-with-incoming-email-on-localho#answer-10583523

    You might want to verify this with your host or perhaps try and get this restriction lifted? If your host can’t do this and you really want to use RBE, you might have to consider looking for a different host. Let me know what happens.

  4. Matt Price says

    How hard would it be for me to adapt this to use with vanilla wordpress? i think it would be useful to just about any wordpress install, nut just buddypress’d versions.

    Thanks for your help!
    matt

  5. Profile photo of Ray Ray says

    @Matt Price – Sorry for the late reply!

    First, since this plugin was written with BuddyPress in mind, you would need to remove all BuddyPress-dependent code.

    Secondly, you need a mechanism to send out emails for the WP component you want. I’m guessing you would want to use this for blog comments only. There’s probably an existing WP plugin out there that already handles comment email subscriptions, so that should take care of this point.

    Third, before each email is sent out, you need to manipulate the email to inject your custom variables. Analyze how this is done in the BP_Reply_By_Email class and the BP_Reply_By_Email_IMAP class located in both bp-rbe-core.php and includes/bp-rbe-classes.php respectively.

    Hopefully the code is clear enough that you’ll understand how it works and how you can reverse-engineer it to work for WordPress only.

  6. Andreas says

    Works like a charm for us :) Many thanks!

  7. John Waters says

    Hello, I’m trying to stand up a Commons in a Box site for my Irish Studies Program at NYU. I have one persistent glitch which I know has some history in the development community – I’m unable to initialize BP Reply by E-mail, the connection to g-mail on port 993 timing out. My server has a dedicated IP and SSL, IMAP is enabled in G-mail – so it would seem the host, bluehost.com, might not allow that port to be used, for security reasons, for the mail forwarding feature. Have others had this problem? I’m very excited by the tools you have built and hope to build out the site over the break if I can. Many thanks for any guidance. john waters

  8. John Waters says

    Bluehost do allow port 993 for IMAP – thanks

  9. John Waters says

    Okay, last post on this, another Bluehost rep wrote this: unfortunately we don’t allow remote connections through scripts to 3rd part mail servers. I apologize. You will need to use an address that is local to the server. Meaning, even if the email is pointed elsewhere.. the email address needs to be created in cpanel in order for it work with wordpress on our servers.
    So, can you advise about going through with the site set-up without the RBE feature? I can set up a mail account on my server – I’m not sure if I would be able to adjust settings for the RBE feature, though.

  10. Profile photo of Ray Ray says

    Hi John,

    Thanks for testing the plugin; FYI, there’s a new update of the plugin available here:
    https://github.com/r-a-y/bp-reply-by-email/archive/1.0-RC1.zip

    Unfortunately, it sounds like Bluehost cannot be used with the Reply By Email plugin. As stated in the documentation, Reply By Email relies on an IMAP email address that supports address tags.

    If you are looking at hosting your email locally, you have to make sure that your email server can support these capabilities.

    We don’t have a guide on setting up an email server that supports both IMAP and address tags, but you could try looking at Dovecot (IMAP server) and Postfix (address tags tutorial).

    The alternative is to find another host that allows you to connect to 3rd-party mail servers.

    Hope that helps and let us know what happens.

  11. AW says

    Won’t have a chance to test this out for a while, but it could be a huge help. Our faculty rely almost exclusively on email for departmental communications, and with an intranet in the works, well, we can’t be positive any but the regulars would contribute to intranet-based conversations without an email option.

  12. Alex says

    Congratulations Ray Boone! Many thanks!

  13. Edward Uken says

    Is it possible to add the ability to add attachments to replies? And if not, how difficult would it be to add this functionality?

  14. Brian Duffy says

    Hi, I’m using buddypress + bbpress but am not using groups. does the plugin work for sitewide forums + buddypress? Or just forums for groups?

  15. Eric Langley says

    Is this plugin being maintained? Is it compatible with BP 1.8.1?

  16. M S Daivd says

    Once the error occurs how does one change from a google IMAP WP just report unable to connect “” but one cannot reach the original screen to set a different mail option

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Welcome to the CUNY Academic Commons, Version 1.4 | Academic Commons News linked to this post on August 10, 2012

    […] Reply By Email Participate in discussions on the Commons without leaving your inbox. When you receive a notification of a forum post, a private message, or a public @-mention, reply to the notification email, and your reply will be posted to the Commons web site. For more information about this feature, click here. […]

  2. Commons 1.4 – CUNY Academic Commons Development Blog linked to this post on August 10, 2012

    […] public activity mentions) by responding to email notifications. This plugin, BP Reply By Email, was developed specifically for use here on the Commons, by our own Raymond […]

  3. Commons 1.4 — Reply By Email! | Academic Commons News linked to this post on August 15, 2012

    […] you can simply click Reply in your email client; Reply By Email takes care of the […]



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