How social is SharePoint 2013?

July 26, 2012

The much anticipated SharePoint 2013 was released in preview last week.   With the recent acquisition of Yammer, all eyes have been on Microsoft to see how they address the growing trend towards enterprise collaboration and social business.

Preview trials of SharePoint2013 were released last week, so we can now take a look at the new social functionality.

With SharePoint 2010, Microsoft introduced many more social capabilities than previous versions.  However, for anyone serious about social business, there were a number of serious gaps that limited its ability to support best of breed social business.   Although there is still room for improvement, SharePoint 2013 represents a significant commitment by Microsoft to the world of social computing.

Below is a summary of some of the functionality that has been introduced or improved in SharePoint 2013, with particular emphasis on the new Community Sites (the new site template that is socially enabled).

New social functionality in SharePoint2013 includes:

  • Improved micro blogging functionality
    # Hash tags and the @ symbol have been introduced.  This allows users to mention other people in their micro blog and also use keywords (just like Twitter and others).
  • Activity Feeds
    Activity feeds can be categorised into groupings e.g. likes, mentions etc and are managed in a library so are no longer limited to a lifetime of 14 days like they were in SharePoint 2010.  The aggregated view of activity feed is still accessed via My Site. However, site feeds can be added to Community Sites, which brings activity feeds to the Community Site.
  • Gamification
    Users now have the ability to earn badges – engaging users which promote user engagement.
  • Best Reply
    Allows users to tag the best reply – This enables users to quickly identify the most accurate response to a question.
  • Community Sites
    A new site template in SharePoint 2013 encourages people to discuss interests in common (see below for more detail).
  • Community Portal
    This is an aggregated view of all Community Sites. The Community Portal relies on enterprise search for security trimming, and displays only Community Sites for which a user has at least read permissions. This allows users to browse communities that are available and request to join them should they be interested.

Community sites

A new feature in SharePoint 2013 is the new site template called Community Site which includes the following elements:

  • What’s Happening – displays how many members, discussions, and replies the community has.
  • Top Contributors – highlights the members who contribute most to the community.
  • My Membership – Enables members to display information about their membership in the community, such as the number of posts and replies.
  • Manage – Allows site owners and community moderators to manage discussions, categories, members, reputation settings, and community settings.

The Community Site can be further customised. For example, document libraries and lists can be added if required.  Site feeds can be added to the community sites which provide newsfeed functionality to that community site. This brings SharePoint 2013 into line with other social tools.

Deployment Options

To create a Community Sites you have a couple of options:

  • Deploying stand-alone communities – With a stand-alone community, you can create the Community Site at either a site collection or a site level.
  • Activating community features to an existing team site – For organisations who invested in Team sites in earlier versions of SharePoint, they can activate community features on existing sites.

Microsoft has definitely made improvements to the social capability in its latest version, SharePoint 2013.  It has added some standard functionality to the micro blogs that bring it more in line with mainstream micro blogging.  It also enables site specific news feeds into the collaboration spaces.

With the final release, more features may be added, we await the next release to see if it can deliver what customers are asking for and, in most cases causing other CMS’s to be used at present.

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