The world of webapps is filled with apps designed to help you manage projects, collaborate with your team, and keep your business running smoothly. Each app seems to have only part of the functionality you’d need to keep your team connected though, so before you know it you’ll end up using a dozen apps. The worst part is, the cost of all these services together can be prohibitive.
That’s where WordPress’ P2 collaboration solution comes in. It’s a free theme for WordPress that lets your team stay in touch with Twitter or Yammer style short messages and makes a great solution for discussions or just letting everyone know what you’re working on. It was designed by the Automattic team to help them stay in touch better while developing WordPress and their other tools.
While at the core it’s still the famous WordPress blogging engine, you’ll usually never see the WordPress dashboard. You can even get it running on a WordPress.com hosted blog in seconds without messing with databases or .htaccess files. Let’s take a look at what P2 has to offer and how your team can use it to stay in touch on the cheap.
The WordPress P2 theme can be installed on any WordPress-powered site, so you could setup a new WordPress install on your own server or hosting account for it. The easiest way, however, is to set it up on WordPress.com. This gives you a free webapp that’s as easy to maintain as any other hosted communications app. Just head over to WordPress.com and signup for a new blog to get started. Free accounts can choose an yourname.wordpress.com address, or you can upgrade to your own unique domain for $17 per year. Signup as normal, and then activate your account once you receive the verification email.
Once you’ve made a new WordPress install or WordPress.com blog, you’ll be ready to install the P2 theme. Browse to the Themes page from the Appearance menu on the left and you’ll be able to quickly transform your site.
Now search for “P2″ in the search box, then click Activate in the P2 theme info box. If you’re using a self-hosted WordPress site, you’ll need to install the theme first, then activate it.
Once its finished, you can open your new blog to see the P2 theme in action. You can now quickly post status updates, links, or even blog posts right from the front page of your communications-centric site. If you want to add a picture, video, poll, or more to your update, you can add them with one click as well, just like you can when editing a WordPress post.
Tweak Your P2
The stock P2 theme looks somewhat plain, though not much different than many online collaboration apps. The good thing, though, is that you can easily tweak P2 to look just like you want. Just open your P2 theme settings and you can add your own background pattern or color, turn off the sidebar, change the default post prompt, and more. You can also add a unique header image from the Appearance menu.
The most important setting, though, is privacy. Unlike many business apps, WordPress blogs, by default, are open to the public where they can be viewed by anyone, indexed by Google, and more. This would be great if you use P2 for a public forum or for a way for your customers to contact you. However, if you’re using P2 for private internal communications, you’ll likely want to switch your site to private mode.
Enabling this is easy. Simply select Privacy under the Settings menu on the left side of your WordPress dashboard, and select the option to make your content only visible to users you choose. On a self-hosted WordPress blog, you can then add an unlimited number of users to your site that can share, read, and collaborate privately. On a WordPress.com hosted account, you can add up to 35 users for free, or upgrade to allow unlimited private users for $29.97 a year.
Add New Users to Your P2 Site
Since you probably don’t collaborate on projects with your own self, you’ll want to add new users to your P2 site. First, though, you’ll need to allow others to post to your site. Go back to your theme settings, and select “Allow Any WordPress.com User to Post.” Don’t worry; you already set your blog to private, so this only actually allows approved WordPress.com users to post.
Now back at your privacy settings, enter the WordPress.com username of those you want to allow to collaborate with you on your P2 site. They can signup for their own WordPress.com username if they don’t already have one. Once this is done, they’ll simply login as normal and be able to post directly to the P2 homepage as above. Now you’re all ready to start getting your team communicating with P2.
Using P2 for Collaboration
P2 makes it easy to share what you’re doing with your team, ask a question, send an important link, or share a shot of the newest site design. All collaborators can see updates almost as soon as they’re posted without refreshing their page. New posts or comments will be highlighted in yellow which makes it easy to catch up on what you’ve missed. Messages don’t transmit as fast as IM or Campfire messages, but it works great for anytime you don’t need to be talking back and forth directly.
Want to find out more about anyone in your P2? Just hover over their Gravatar image to see their shared bio and links from their own WordPress profile. This is an especially nice feature for public collaboration forum sites. For example, you can use P2 to let customers ask questions about products, and then quickly see more about a user who posted an insightful comment without leaving P2.
If you’re a fan of keyboard shortcuts, you can work even faster in P2. Tap H on your keyboard to open the keyboard shortcuts, or just press c to compose a post, j to jump to to the next post, r to reply to a post, e to edit, o to show or hide comments, and more. With real time updates and keyboard shortcuts, it’s one of the quickest ways to stay in touch with your team.
WordPress is an amazingly versatile platform that lets you create advanced blogs and websites. The P2 theme shows how much you can change WordPress and take it beyond its original purpose. There’s many more ways you can put WordPress to use; you can use it as a personal journal, or even as an advanced notebook as mentioned recently on our sister site WorkAwesome. Let us know if you’ve used P2 for collaboration, or other unique ways you’ve put WordPress to use for your business and personal tasks!