GovLoop’s Online Community with WordPress

Tell us about GovLoop – what audience does this site serve?

GovLoop primarily serves federal, state, and local government employees, but we’re open to anyone who wants to make government more effective.  I used to work at Department of Homeland Security and always wished there was an online community to meet others in government and learn best practices from other agencies.  We launched in June 2008 and now have over 150,000 members who use GovLoop to get new ideas and tips to do their job better.


How has your content strategy changed over the past few years?

Our content strategy has evolved over the years by being extremely focused on our users.  Our original premise was to create a “Facebook for Government” and we heavily focused on features like profiles, friending, groups, and discussion profiles.  Over time, we found people use GovLoop more as a knowledge network so we changed our content strategy to include more original content, research guides, and free online trainings – all done with a practical, how-to, and community-oriented voice.

Why did you choose WordPress?

Ning was a great first step for us to get a social network with basic functionality (blogs, profiles, discussions, groups).  Over time as our community grew, we had a number of features we wanted to add and core development needs that wasn’t in their roadmap, which led us to explore other CMS options and ending up with WordPress – with BuddyPress and bbPress – as our decision.

As I was looking into new platforms for GovLoop, my focus was on choosing an open source option that had a large developer community building both the core platform and plug-ins.  This would allow us to tap into a large reservoir of talent and give us freedom if we wanted to launch new features ourselves.  This quickly narrowed it down to a few options and we ended up choosing WordPress as there’s been a number of great media and social properties built on it.  Plus, we’ve used WordPress for our major conference website ( so we already had developed some internal expertise on the platform.


What were the challenges you ran into when migrating this site from Ning to WordPress?

When we started this project, I quickly realized the biggest complexity would be the data migration – moving over hundreds of thousands of blogs, discussions, comments, member profiles is an insane task.  I reached out to Peter Slutsky of Automattic for a top-notch WordPress developer group and he put us in touch with a great team to help us on this journey – 10up.  The 10up team did a fantastic job scoping out the migration, testing and retesting migration on our beta site, and in the end it turned out great.  In the end, we successfully moved millions of data points from Ning to WordPress/BuddyPress/bbPress without a hitch.

The whole 10up team was fantastic and particularly wanted to shout out Dan Blaker, our project manager, and Matt Gross, who did a lot of the heavy lifting.  Also, I want to give a shout-out to Jeff Ribeira on the GovLoop team who led the project internally.

Much of GovLoop is centered around social network and viral content. How did you address this component of the website using WordPress and plugins like BuddyPress?

The core of GovLoop is our community.  We addressed the social nature of GovLoop in a couple key ways.  We used BuddyPress for social networking and profiles, as well as bbPress for groups and forums.  We also heavily integrated with our marketing automation software Eloqua so we are able to provide custom messaging and new content based on their profiles.  In terms of additional technical specs, we are hosted with Innoscale, which has greatly improved the speed of the site and does BuddyPress hosting well.  We’ve also integrated Cloudflare for SSL and as our CDN.


How has your audience responded to the redesign?

They’ve reacted great to the redesign.  Not only is traffic up, we’ve received feedback like “Love the new website! It is so great to see how much has gone into the site over the past few years! The site is fantastic! “.  A key part of this redesign was prioritizing our key resources that we spend a ton of time producing (research guides on topics like Cybersecurity) – we’ve seen a large increase in traffic to this area based on our new UI.  I’m particularly proud of how we’ve created a visually appealing way to sort through resources by topic and by product – check it out at

What’s next for GovLoop and what can our audience look forward to in terms of new technology that you’re adding to the site?

Our big push for 2015 is into online learning.  In 2014, over 30,000 people took our free online training and folks are asking for more.  In response, we expanded our training offerings and just launched this week  “GovLoop Academy”,a free online learning academy with 25+ interactive courses and mentoring components.  GovLoop Academy is integrated into and is one instance of a lightweight WordPress-based LMS that we developed. We’ve had a number of government agencies and associations express interest in using this learning platform, so we have white-labeled the LMS platform in a government-secure cloud.  If anyone is interested in this project, I’d love to hear from them at steve at  We are working again with 10up on this project and are looking to share back with the WordPress community.


Mac Miller : WordPress Publisher Spotlight

Joel  – 6Degrees Social LLC, Project Leader, answered a few questions about Mac Miller’s site and WordPress.

Tell us about the site:
Mac Miller is yet another successful artist hailing from Pittsburgh’s Rostrum Records.  Rostrum chose 6Degrees to build a community site that would be a great destination for fans interested in staying up on news, tour, photos, videos and much more.

What were the reasons you chose WordPress to build the site?
Mac’s fan base is huge but also active.  We needed an established content management system that would be able to handle the traffic while also having the functionality a music artist requires.  After we discovered BuddyPress there was no question that the WordPress / BuddyPress combination was the right direction to go.  We’re also pleased with WordPress’s admin system as we find it very user-friendly for any content managers that me assisting the site.  Bottom line, WordPress is stable, user-friendly and has an incredible developer community supporting it.  All these resources made WordPress the answer.

What are your team’s favorite WordPress features?

Custom post types are very impressive and flexible, and the huge library of plugins for almost any feature you could want.

Are you a publisher working with WordPress? We want to hear from you

Want WordPress for your site?

Mike Pratt on BuddyPress – Social Networking in a Box

At a recent Dallas Fort Worth WordPress meetup, Mike Pratt gave a presentation on how he’s using WordPress and BuddyPress to build his very own social network:

… there are a ton of excellent needs and reasons to use BuddyPress to take your site and turn it into the community it is begging to become. That’s the killer point: there needs to be a community underlying all of this. Maybe your focused on gardeners in Texas or stamp collectors in Des Moines or people around the world dealing with Cystic Fibrosis – if you have a community in mind then BuddyPress is an amazing tool because you can shape the community according to you/its needs. Take that Facebook (or Ning)!

The slides and the full video from the presentation and more of his thoughts are available at

Relaunch of VIP Site and new VIP Support Options

As many of you know, the VIP program that we run provides two services. The first is exclusive bullet-proof hosting on our grid for high-profile and high-traffic sites. And the second is a program open to all where we provide developer-to-developer support on scaling and development projects for self-hosted WordPress sites.

Here’s a short video explaining the program:

We previously had separate sites for these two services, and recently decided to simplify the sites, and combine them into one, .

For WordPress VIP Support, we also introduced new levels of support based on the feedback we’ve received this past year, including a top tier with a much requested on-site visit option.

What’s Next:
We have some exciting plans for the VIP program in 2010. First up, we will introduce a dedicated VIP Hosting portal for VIPs in the coming weeks, with documentation of all the special functions, lots of theme and system info, and best practice coding guidelines for A bit further out we plan to streamline the support and ticketing system to provide a more complete 360 view of activity across multiple sites.

For VIP Support, expect new features and improvements to the private forum which will make finding answers more efficient and provide our team clearer information that will make the interactions better. And starting this year, we now include support for BuddyPress as part of VIP Support, and we are already seeing that become a bigger part of many of the larger WordPress powered sites.

[ For more information, please visit ]

Brazil’s Culture Ministry Selects BuddyPress

Thanks Cátia Kitahara for lettings us know about a new BuddyPress site which is being used to enable and foster debate about various aspects of today’s digital life in Brazil. Built by the Brazilian Culture Ministry, the beta site is now live at

The site describes itself as “an open public space destined to democratically create and build a public policy of digital culture, integrating citizens, government institutions, state companies, civil society and the market.” Making use of all the “Facebook-in-a-box” features of BuddyPress, this site is off to a great start and could be a model for other organizations and companies looking to build this kind of community engagement and interaction.

[Visit ]

Tasty Kitchen Launches on BuddyPress

Tasty Kitchen, a site by The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, has launched a community site on the BuddyPress platform:

Built by the team at Voce Communication, Nick Gernert in a blog post today describes BuddyPress this way:

Not to over-simplify things, but think “Facebook in a Box.”
Groups, Wire posts (think Facebook Wall), activity streams, friend lists and forums are all a part of the platform. These all build from the user system native to WordPress and simply add functions to allow users to interact with each other. Use as many or as few of the capabilities as you like.

The site also integrates with the Windows Live, allowing Live users to authenticate instantly — something I believe is a first for a non-Microsoft site.

[ Visit Tasty Kitchen ]

GigaOM Pro Powered by BuddyPress

Recently GigaOM – a network of sites focused on technology news, analysis and opinions – launched a new premier research membership site powered by BuddyPress running on WordPress MU.

This new site, called GigaOM Pro, was created “to address the gap that exists in real-time expert industry analysis on emerging technology markets.”:

The site was built by Mark Jaquith, who has written up a few thoughts and tech details on this very exciting project.

[ Visit GigaOM Pro ]

The “Joy of Working with WordPress”

Michael Ashby of Coherent Methods LLC, published a very thoughtful post about his experience so far working with WordPress and BuddyPress:

I switched from MoveableType to WordPress back in September of last year and it’s been one of the best decisions that I’ve made regarding this blog. WordPress is just so much easier and, dare I say, FUN to use. There’s a richer developer community, more templates and generally more help out there than there is for MT. But my joy with working with WP over MT is more than just skin deep.

Michael goes on to talk about the Six Apart Motion component that works with MovableType:

When I first watched the video for Motion, I kept going “Huh? How am I supposed to use this?” If you take a look at the Motion Demo, you’ll see what I mean … After looking at the demo, the only feeling I’m left with is “Why?” Why would someone want this on their site?

In comparison, the BuddyPress platform sparks this reaction:

Then you take a look at the BuddyPress Demo and there’s a remarkable difference. It’s clearly designed to mirror the FaceBook style of community, but it’s cleaner and clearer as to what you can do and how everything works. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that it’s a better design that FaceBook! I’m currently developing a new community web site and I actually had to stop and think about BuddyPress for quite some time. So at the end of the demo, I’m left thinking “How would I use this?” Not, “Why would I use this?”

Looking forward to seeing what Michael and his team put together with WordPress and BuddyPress.

[ visit ]

BuddyPress Video

BuddyPress, a set of plugins which will transform an installation of WordPress MU into a social network platform,  is nearing a 1.0 final release  – scheduled for Thursday February 12th.

We’ve received lots of interest about this project, and to help provide more info we’ve produced a short video with a great overview of BuddyPress and a hint as to what’s possible with this great new platform:

[ Visit ]