In my view, the most powerful feature of BuddyPress – the feature that powers the core goal of the CUNY Academic Commons, that of collaboration – is groups. By default, BuddyPress only lets you invite other members of the community to your group if you and the member are already friends within BuddyPress. In some communities, this feature probably prevents a lot of spam. But in other communities, like the one here at the Commons, the friendship requirement adds a sometimes inconvenient extra step to the process of getting a productive group up and running.
This new plugin, Invite Anyone, does just what its name claims: it alters the group invitation process to allow group creators and administrators to invite anyone from their BuddyPress installation, not just their friends.
Like so often happens, though, solving this one problem made another one pop up: Scrolling through a list of your friends to find potential invitees is one thing, but scrolling through a list of every member of the site is another thing entirely. Most communities, including the CUNY Academic Commons, will simply have too many members. To make things easier, I’ve taken the autosuggest feature from the Compose Message screen in BuddyPress and retooled it to work on the Send Invites screen as well. Start typing the name of the user you’d like to invite, and with each letter you type, BuddyPress will make better and better suggestions as to who you mean. Just hit enter or click to add the suggested user to the invited list.
After I’ve done a bit more testing with our custom theme here on the Commons, I’ll activate the plugin on this site, so that members of the Commons community can take advantage of the new feature.
A technical note: I tested the plugin in a variety of different environments (different browsers, different themes, different servers) and stumbled upon a few issues, in particular with the autosuggest AJAX in Chrome for Mac. If you find similar issues, or have any other feedback, please leave a comment.