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There have been dozens of enhancements to the social computing and collaboration features in SharePoint Server 2013. The new features empower enterprise users to share information easily with others in the organization. You can now interact and collaborate with experts in specific subject areas using a new feature called ‘Community Sites’. You will find a completely optimized way to manage personal profiles, store data of your choice, and keep yourself updated with specific activities of interest using My Sites.
SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint Foundation 2010 allowed you to add a Discussion list to sites for enabling discussions within the members of the site. SharePoint Server 2013 and SharePoint Foundation 2013 provide you with the same feature in addition to two new site templates: Community Site and Community Portal.
Community Sites introduces the concept of forums in SharePoint. With this feature, you can collaborate with a wide range of users across your organization and become a part of discussions that focus on specific areas of interest. Discussions are a channel which you can share information or seek knowledge about specific subjects.
Community Sites allow for categorizing these open discussions. If you want to contribute to a specific discussion, you should be a member of that discussion. This is controlled by the site moderators by setting various rules. Some of their primary roles include reviewing all posts, marking useful posts as featured content, and the like. As a moderator, you can choose to assign special badges to members to indicate their levels of contribution to the Community Site.
You can use the following two methods for deploying Community Sites:
Deploying a stand-alone community:
You can first create a stand-alone community and then the Community Site either at a site collection level or at a site level. You can manage your discussions by creating community categories.
Activating community features:
You may choose to activate community features on a site. With these features, you can have core Community Site pages within your existing site. You may also facilitate moderation and membership without having the need to create a separate Community Site.
Further, if you have multiple Community Sites in your SharePoint farm, you can deploy the Community Portal. Users can browse the Community Portal and search for their favorite communities that they need to join. If you are a user, you should have at least read permissions to view these Community Sites.
In SharePoint Server 2010, My Sites provided users with the flexibility to store all personal information, manage personal profiles, communicate with others, share information, and tag content. The people search feature allowed users in an organization to interact with one another and share their expertise and knowledge.
My Sites in SharePoint Server 2013 provide a similar set of features with a completely redesigned workflow for the users. The new, optimized interface simplifies the tasks further and takes user experience to the next level. A major improvement to My Sites is the unified navigation experience that allows you to smoothly browse your own and others’ My Sites. Another key change is the introduction of Microblog and Newsfeeds features. Using these features, you can indulge in short conversations and keep yourself updated on various actions from different people in the organization.
My Site document libraries
If you have worked with My Sites in SharePoint Server 2010, you should be familiar with two types of document libraries: personal and shared. All content in the personal library can be accessed only by the My Site owner whereas the data stored in the shared library is shared with everyone. My Sites in SharePoint 2013 have improved the process of saving, synchronizing, and sharing content.
Saving and Synchronizing Content
SharePoint Server 2013 features a discovery service that makes the user’s My Site document library as the default location for saving files of Office 2013 client applications. This makes My Site document library the central place to store all content, which indeed simplifies content management and minimizes the amount of data stored in other systems. You can synchronize all data in your document library with any local drive for allowing offline access.
SharePoint Server 2013 facilitates content sharing for all document libraries. The mechanism of sharing employs the permissions infrastructure that was used in SQL Server 2010. But, the new model features an improved user experience that allows for easy collaboration with other users on content. You may define permissions for individual documents that you need to share with other users or groups.
Microblogging and feeds
You can perform microblogging using the Newsfeed page in SharePoint Server 2013. The feed enables you to perform the following set of actions:
- Become a part of conversation by adding your own replies and comments.
- Post appropriate links and pictures.
- Tag a user in conversations.
- Define keywords that will be searched by users.
- Like a particular comment or reply.
- Follow people, tags, and sites.
The new social computing features in SharePoint Server 2013 provide a good platform for facilitating collaboration on content, identifying shared interests, and creating networks of users. Administrators can also protect user’s privacy by implementing the desired set of policies to provide a better sharing and collaboration experience.