By David Grubic
SharePoint 2013 makes great strides at bringing new and powerful social features to the table that previous versions lacked. Users familiar with today’s popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ will see a wealth of modern features integrated into SharePoint 2013. These improvements, highlighted by a redesigned My Sites system and the introduction of a new Community Sitesforum experience, give an innovative and intuitive interface that will feel familiar to today’s social savvy users, while creating a seamless introduction to those who may be venturing into new waters.
In SharePoint 2010, My Sites acted as a location for individual users to store personal and shared documents as well as promote their profile and skills within their organization. While 2013 retains these features, it also builds upon them by streamlining the interface and expanding the functionality. The key simplification of the interface comes in the flavor of a redesigned navigation experience within your own My Site or while browsing other users. The updated navigation plays well into the newly introduced My Site features: Micro-blogging and News Feeds.
Micro-blogging and News Feeds
The addition of micro-blogging into the My Sites gives SharePoint the feeling of a more modernized social networking platform as it introduces the following capabilities into the mix:
· Hash tagging (using #)
· “Like” concept for threads and posts
· Mentions (using @)
· Following capabilities (Sites/Users/Documents)
· Updates from people you follow (sites/documents as well)
· Recommendations for people/sites to follow
· Posting of images and links
Content generated by users via the micro-blogging features, along with system generated content such as birthdays, promotions, notifications of social activity, and profile updates to name a few, wind up in what is becoming known simply as “The Feed”.
Within a user’s My Site, multiple feeds are available to select that offer a different view of content.
The default view, Newsfeed, shows 20 recent activities from entities or conversations from site feeds that a user follows.
Everyonefollows the same format but restricts the activities to only posts from entities the user follows.
Activitiescaptures all content, including system generated content, tied to the user and shows the same information a user’s “About Me” page would display.
Mentions represents a feed of all activity where the user has been tagged using the new @mention feature, and the Likesfeed simply keeps up with any content the user becomes a fan of on their journey around SharePoint 2013.
These features will feel second nature to anyone who frequents today’s popular social networks, but they also offer an intuitive approach for someone who might be new to the social computing culture. The micro-blogging aspect along with the centralized display of activities will allow users throughout an organization to stay updated on the activities of people and teams from across the board. The simple design promotes quick conversations about items or tasks and allows interested parties to engage in instant collaboration.
SharePoint 2013’s revamped social features don’t stop at My Sites.
Community Sites and Community Portals
Community Sites and Portals bring a new forum experience to SharePoint that takes e-mail discussion lists to the next level. Community Sites come packaged as a new site template and help organize and streamline discussions in an interested community. Users familiar with online forums will feel right at home, for Community Sites offer popular forum features such as moderation, participation rewards through reputation systems, and visible feedback on the value of posts.
Administrators can configure communities with a wide array of accessibility options, ranging from fully public communities, to those with explicitly defined membership. When deploying a Community Site, the community moderator or owner can setup a ranking system that rewards highly rated posters with points that distinguish them within the community. Earning points allows users to “Level Up”, marking them as valued contributors to community discussion and landing them with prestigious community titles.
Much like your run-of-the-mill online forum, community moderators create Categories that serve as the subject areas of community discussions. Similar to the My Sitesfeatures, Community Sites offer different views of topics and discussions based on recent activity within the community, highly ranked threads due to user promotion, and topics where the user has posted.
Fortunately, to ease users into communities and to make it simple to locate them within an organization, SharePoint 2013 introduces the Community PortalSite Template. The Community Portal acts as a hub for community sites within the vast expanse of Communities. The Community Portal contains integrated Web Parts configured to search for content in sites that use the Community Site template. Results appear based on a weighted ranking of activity that takes the volume of members and posts/replies into consideration, acting as glimpse into the activity levels of your organization’s communities.
The Community Portal allows users who want to participate but do not know where to start with an easy entry point into the realm of SharePoint 2013 Communities.
Between the polished My Sites and new Community Sites, SharePoint 2013 steps up its Social Skills and lays the foundation for most productive collaboration capabilities the software has seen yet.