Category Archives: My Sites

A Quick Tour of Social Computing Features in SharePoint Server 2013


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Editor’s note: Contributor Adam Gorge is a technical content writer who writes articles on SharePoint Server Recovery Software Follow him @adamgorge

2013-04-18-SharePoint2013SocialComputing-01.jpgThere 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.

Communities

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.

My 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.

Sharing Content

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.

SharePoint 2013 - Keywords, tags and #hash-tags


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Editor’s note: Contributor Jasper Oosterveld is a SharePoint Consultant at Wortell. Follow him @SharePTJasper

The reason I am writing this article is because of the introduction of #hash-tags in SharePoint 2013. I was curious about the relationship with the existing Tags and Notes feature. What was the impact? Do we only have to use #hash-tags or also Tags and Notes? Wait, we also have keywords! Are you confused? Believe me, you aren’t the only one! Just keep on reading.

Tags and Notes and SharePoint 2010

SharePoint 2010 came with a new feature to tag content, or leave a note, such as documents or sites:

There were three advantages to using tags:

  1. Mark your favorite content or sites
  2. Improve search results
  3. Connect with people

Mark your favorite content or sites
Tags and Notes were visible in your My Profile page:

All the related content to a tag was displayed. This could be used as Favorites; comparable to bookmarks in any Internet browser.

Improve search results
Tags were indexed by search and could be used as a refiner:

Connect with people
Every Tag had its own profile page:

This page enabled people to connect with each other by leaving notes and discussing the related content.

SharePoint 2013 is here!

This was a brief history lesson because now we have SharePoint 2013. What has changed? Let’s take a look.

The Tags and Notes button isn’t really visible anymore. In SharePoint 2010 the button was prominently available at the top right of the screen. This button is gone in 2013. To tag a document you really have to search for it! You have to select the document, click Files in the ribbon and on the right side you can find the button. You would expect the option to be available in the new call out menu but unfortunately it’s not:

After leaving a tag with a document you expect to view the tags, just as in SharePoint 2010, in your My Site. You probably know by now that the My Site has changed. There is no longer a My Profile page and all the tabs are gone. The home page of Newsfeed contains an overview of elements you are following:

Aha! Tags, that must be it. Let’s click on the number 3:

Hmm, that’s not it. Those are #hash-tags. OK, that is confusing. So where are my tags? I checked every item in the quick launch but no Tags and Notes to be seen! I asked on Twitter if anyone was familiar with this. A SharePoint Community member named Thomy Goelles told me to add the following URL in the Newsfeed:

/_layouts/15/thoughts.aspx

This worked! The page is back but wait, why is it so hidden? That is not a good sign at all. I decided to compare the situation with SharePoint Online 2013. The About Me page actually contains a link to Tags and Notes. Why the difference? At the moment of testing SharePoint Online 2013 was still in technical preview mode. I decided to contact Microsoft support and they told me Tags and Notes is not deprecated. I had the add the tag cloud web part. Strange but this did the trick. I believe when an administrator adds the web part this automatically adds it for every user in the farm.

Keywords

Every library in SharePoint 2010 had the option Enterprise Metadata and Keywords Settings. This enabled an extra column in a library to leave a tag. I liked this feature because it’s really easy to use for end users and it improves the search results. The keywords were basically the same as a tag. The keywords appeared in the Tags and Note profile page and had the same features as tags.

You are still able to use this option in SharePoint 2013. Although my keywords did not appear in the Tags and Notes page, the tags did appear in the Term Store Management under Keywords. I am not sure what the purpose is of keywords when they don’t appear in the Tags and Notes overview.

#Hash-tags

Now we have another method to tag content: #hash-tags. That makes three different options: tags, keywords and #hash-tags. What do hash-tags accomplish? For starters you can use #hash-tags in the Newsfeed:

I decided to add a #hash-tag with a document. The #hash-tag appears in the Tags and Notes page and has its own profile page:

Why would there be such a page for a #hash-tag? Because we already have one connected to the Newsfeed:

Comparable to the Tags and Notes profile page but aimed at conversations; the page contains a link called Tagged items. This never did anything for my environment. No results at all, even after using a #hash-tag with a couple of documents.

Conclusion

There are too many options at the moment. Microsoft has to make a decision. Leave out Tags and Notes and only work with #hash-tags or make sure #hash-tags are only used in the Newsfeed.

My advice is to use Tags and Notes for documents and #hash-tags only in the newsfeed.

SharePoint 2013 - Windows Phone Newsfeed App


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Editor’s note: Contributor Jasper Oosterveld is a SharePoint Consultant at Wortell. Follow him @SharePTJasper

I am a big fan of the new Social features in SharePoint 2013. Microsoft really improved Social in SharePoint. The My Site contains a newsfeed that finally supports microblogging features. You can use hash-tags, likes and mention other colleagues.

Social in SharePoint 2013 makes it possible to break organizational barriers. You can share information and knowledge with the whole organization and this is not limited to your own department.

I wrote an article about it for the DIWUG magazine. You can click here to read it.

At the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, a mobile SharePoint 2013 Newsfeed app was announced. This immediately grabbed my attention because now the physical location barrier is also broken! You can be in your car, an airplane or on the train and still be Social with your colleagues.

Let’s take a closer look at the app!

Newsfeed

2013-01-25-NewsfeedApp-01.png

The app starts with an overview of updates from the colleagues you are following. You can click on a colleagues name and the About page opens:

2013-01-25-NewsfeedApp-02.png

You can contact Paul by sending him an e-mail or with a newsfeed message through the mention option:

2013-01-25-NewsfeedApp-03.png

The message is shared with the whole organization but you can also select a team site:

2013-01-25-NewsfeedApp-04.png

This list contains all the sites you are following. Every team or project site contains a newsfeed. You can see this is a private newsfeed. Only colleagues with read permissions can view the messages.

By default the updates from the colleagues you are following are shown but you have the option to view:

  • Everyone
  • Mentions
  • Me

The first two options speak for themselves but let’s take a closer look at Me:

2013-01-25-NewsfeedApp-05.png

You can view the people, documents and tags you are following.

People

2013-01-25-NewsfeedApp-06.png

The People tab has three views: Recent, Following and Followers. Unfortunately, there’s no option available to search for new colleagues to follow. You can only do this by opening the About me page in the Everyone view.

Documents

2013-01-25-NewsfeedApp-07.png

All the documents you are following are displayed. Every document has an About page:

2013-01-25-NewsfeedApp-08.png

You can open the document in the browser by clicking on open in Word. I did not have the option to edit the document. A pretty cool feature is the next slide: SkyDrive. You can view all your SkyDrive Pro documents.

Tags

2013-01-25-NewsfeedApp-09a.png

The Tags tab shows recently used hash-tags and the ones you are following. Every hash-tag, just like people and documents, has its own About page:

2013-01-25-NewsfeedApp-10a.png

Unfortunately, the hash-tag detail page does not show any related conversations. This feature is available in the browser.

I hope you got a good impression of the possibilities and current limitations of the app. Click here to download the app. At the moment, it only works with Office 365 Preview.

Improvements

Although I really like the new SharePoint Newsfeed app, there is room for improvement:

Lync integration

I would like to see an integration with Lync in the About me page of a colleague. I want to be able to contact Paul by starting a Lync chat.

Confusing adding new hash-tags

When you want to add a new hash-tag in a message you cannot use the # symbol at the bottom of the screen! You have to use the # in your keyboard. This is a bit confusing.

Follow colleagues

I can only follow a colleague by clicking on the About me page. This should also be possible from the People tab.

Edit document in browser

I can view the documents I am following but I am not able to edit the content in the browser.

Driving User Adoption…Socially | SharePoint and Badges

 

Note: We recently unearthed articles that were published on EndUserSharePoint’s sister site EUSP2010 but were never migrated over to NothingButSharePoint. Over the next few weeks we’ll be publishing these. The following article was originally published in July 2010.

Editor’s note: Contributor Daniel McPherson is cofounder of zevenseas. Follow him @danmc

I recently presented a session titled “How to be more Social” at the SharePoint Australia and New Zealand conferences. The basic premise was to talk about some of the experience I picked up helping large organisations do better Knowledge Management through “Social Computing”. It’s things like http://demo.zevenseas.com.

As the events got closer, I decided to include something a little “out there”, something I’ve yet to see an organisation adopt, but which I think could make a difference to user adoption. To my surprise, it was probably the section of my session that got the most traction, so I wanted to follow it up here.

The Problem

The biggest challenge an organisation faces during the roll out a new solution is not the technology. The technology is always the easy bit. The difficult bit is the people. There’s just something about us psychologically that we are resistant to change. I see this in myself, catching moments every now and then where I get annoyed at SP2010 for no reason other than the fact that it has changed even when, in most cases, it’s a change for the better.

To put it another way, there is no product feature or technical innovation which will make overcoming our innate psychological predisposition against change easier to overcome. Further, exactly how you should go about overcoming this resistance is all art and no science. User adoption remains one of the biggest challenges we face. Just ask Microsoft what percentage of their SharePoint licenses are actually deployed.

Badges

This is why I like the concept of “Badges”, it plays on another innate psychological predisposition, our desire to collect things, and our need to be rewarded. Badges provide a way of rewarding people for using the solutions you build in a constructive and beneficial way, and people are motivated to use your solutions in this way in order to collect all the badges. Its a positive feedback loop, its bringing “game” based elements to your intranet.

Before you write this off, and with it my blog, let’s take a look at some examples.

The first example is a geeky one, the Xbox. Today, nearly every Xbox game comes with the concept of “Achievements” built in. Why do we have achievements in games? Because it motivates people to play a game more, and getting more game hours out of a title means more value for the gamer. It is a solution that publishers created in order to overcome a classic “user adoption” problem.

Stepping out of the geek world for a moment, how many people were in the Scouts? If you were, then how many badges did you collect and why did you collect them? Badges in the Scout movement reward people and keep them engaged, there is always a new knot!

What about the military? There are badges all over the place, they convey rank, they convey bravery, they motivate. And when you were at school, your teachers understood how valuable badges could be in promoting good behaviour and completing school work, anyone get a smiley face stamp? You see we have always loved badges, it’s part of the human condition.

Heading back to the geek world, it’s now rare that a new mainstream site will launch and become successful without the integration of some sort of “game” based elements. The best recent example of this is Foursquare. The designers of the solution wanted people to check-in their locations on their phones, allowing them to see if friends are nearby, and be offered deals for frequenting nearby vendors. To encourage people to “check-in”, they introduced both the concept of becoming a “Mayor” and lots of badges. The person with the most check-ins at a certain location became the mayor, complete with leaderboard, and by doing different types of check-ins, you collected badges. What happened? People started competing, and the number of check-ins went through the roof. They solved their user adoption problem because people were encouraged and motivated to use the solution in exactly the way it was intended.

To me, all of this says that badges can work for SharePoint too. More specifically, applying the concept of badges to our solutions can give us just one more tool in the kitbag of user adoption techniques and strategies. So I built a proof of concept.

How does it work?

The coolest new Social feature in SharePoint is, without doubt, the Activity Stream. This is basically SharePoint’s version of the Facebook newsfeed, providing you with a list of (nearly) all the interaction a user has with SharePoint. Tag a document, it goes in your activity feed. Update your profile, it goes in your activity feed. Rate a blog post, it goes in your activity feed.

This is exactly the sort of information we need to build a badge system. A person updating their profile is a good thing, and they should be rewarded for ensuring that that information is up to date. In this case, rewarding them comes in the form of an “Autobiographer” badge, a gold badge, which is displayed on their “MySite” profile.

The diagram below shows a users “My Site” before they have collected any badges:

If we now go and edit the users profile, we should see it added to their Activity Stream on the left and, at the same time, see a new badge appear on the right.

In this case it’s a silver badge, but you can also create Gold and Bronze. Hovering over the badge reveals more information about it.

To setup these rules, I created a very basic rules engine. Essentially it just counts the number of times a particular Activity appears in a persons stream, then when you go over that number, you get the badge.

We are currently working on a more sophisticated model which provide for more possibilities.

Summary

In summary, I firmly believe that badges have enormous potential. Driving adoption has always been, and remains, the biggest challenge facing those looking to realise maximum business value from their investment in software based solutions. Frankly, we need all the help we can get.

If you are interested in badges, and think it could make a difference to SharePoint in your organisation, drop me an email daniel@zevenseas.com. I love talking about this stuff!

Further Reading:

Check out Badges and Point on http://www.stackoverflow.com

Coding Horror (the developer behind Stack Overflow): http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2009/03/the-worlds-largest-mmorpg-youre-playing-it-right-now.html

SharePoint and those little tick boxes that do so much


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Editor’s note: Contributor Ben Henderson is Manager of Sevices at Colligo Networks. Follow him @ben3003

When you are working with SharePoint you soon learn that there are some little changes you can make which will make a big difference to the way you end up working with the application. An example of this is Content types. Content types are not enabled by default within a document library but as soon as you turn them on they open up a world of opportunity, allowing you to store documents that have different metadata requirements alongside each other in a document library. And that’s just the start of things you can do with content types.

The example I want to explain and go through was brought to my attention as soon as I registered to blog here on NothingButSharePoint (you will see that this is my first post). After being sent the link I was greeted with the My Site homepage; the default out of the box one that has no content and is seen on the majority of the SharePoint 2010 installs that I have visited.

2012-08-22-TickBox-01.png

Now there isn’t a whole heap of work that is needed to turn this into a useful page which users will go to when they click on the My Site link. You need access to central admin, so for that you may need to convince your SP admin to do the work, but it really is just one tick box that needs enabling and it’s probably the case that the background processes are already working.

Have your email administrator go into SharePoint central admin and enable the newsfeeds (Central Admin > User Profile Service > Setup My sites)

2012-08-22-TickBox-02.png

This will make the My Site page useful, and not just an additional page stopping you from getting to where you want to go. If any of the people you have added as your colleagues are active on SharePoint or on their My Site then the content will be aggregated to this site, just like a Facebook wall. If users like documents, comment on documents, change their job info or anything like this, then that information will be shown here too.

I believe it`s the first step you need to make SharePoint a social platform, and it`s just a tick box! I would like to hear your experiences of simple tick box’s making a big difference on your SharePoint environment.

Use SharePoint to Build an Org Chart - The Options


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Editor’s note: Contributor Chris Wright is the founder of the Scribble Agency. Follow him @scribbleagency

In these days of recession the humble org chart is making a bit of a comeback. Companies need data to be able to resize, reorganise, and generally ensure they are operating with an optimal workforce. The org chart of yesteryear might have shown names, reporting lines, and little else, but enterprises now have access to an incredible amount of data about their staff - all of which can be put to good use. Used in the right way, this data can help turn the org chart into a really useful tool.

Let us look at the options for building and displaying org charts in SharePoint.

MySites and the ‘organisation browser’ web part
Out of the box functionality

SharePoint 2010 comes with a feature called the ‘Organisation Browser’ to display org chart style information. By default the web part is located on every user’s ‘My Profile’ tab on their MySite, but it can be added to other pages if required.

The Silverlight driven web part uses the ‘manager’ field from user profiles to build up a hierarchy of people. Users can then navigate around this structure in an easy to use manner, viewing a wide range of information pulled from user MySites.

The interface is nicely done, and it does provide a good way of navigating between individuals profile information. If your company has already deployed MySites then you should really look at making use of this component - you have done most of the hard work.

Visio Services
Microsoft Visio

Many org charts are already stored in Visio, and using Visio services within SharePoint (Enterprise) this information can be published to a page on an Intranet system. Changes to the Visio file will be automatically published directly to the page, and end users do not need the Visio client software to view the resulting diagram.

Visio can also be connected to various data sources (such as SQL Server and SharePoint lists). By connecting a diagram to an appropriate source of employee data, and then publishing it using Visio services, a ‘living’ diagram can be created.

SharePoint Org Chart web part
TeamImprover - www.teamimprover.com

The SharePoint Org Chart web part is compatible with both SharePoint 2010 and 2007. Unlike any out of the box solution it does present information in a traditional easy to read hierarchical tree.

Data can be pulled from a number of sources, including the SharePoint user profile service, and includes photographs, MySite content, and even presence information. The component also includes a search tool, allowing users to be searched by name and job titles. The charts themselves are well laid out, clean and colourful. They can also be customised if required.

All in all this tool provides a nice, more traditional, alternative to the out of the box ‘Organisation Browser’. It looks the part and is easy to use and maintain.

User Directory web part
Bamboo - www.bamboosolutions.com

Bamboo are well known makers of a number of SharePoint web parts and addins. Whilst they don’t offer a direct ‘org chart’ webpart, they do have a number of ‘user’ based tools. The ‘User Directory’ web part is one example.

This provides an easy way to build a self service user directory, with a (albeit it very basic) tree view option for looking at the data as a traditional org chart. The key selling point here is users can maintain their own data, which minimises the workload on HR or admin resources. This goes further than any out of the box solution, such as updating MySite information, by allowing users to up their own Active Directory data in addition to their SharePoint profile.

SharePoint Gone Wild: When Governance Lacks Appropriateness


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2012-02-17-SPGoneWild-02.jpgIn my last post on when governance lacks quality, I discussed why content quality is important and why the lack thereof can bring many negative issues to an organization. Today’s topic, content appropriateness, also introduces challenges – in my discussions with our customers, I hear the same key problems over and over:

  1. User profile photos – the number one issue I hear about is when organizations leverage user profiles and enable users to upload photos themselves. Due to the fact that there is no approval process, you end up with people re-using their Facebook and Twitter profile pictures, some of which are not appropriate for work. Some employees simply do not understand the difference between a public social network and an internal work-based social network.

  2. User profile properties – along the same lines as photos, often user profile properties are misused. This usually boils down to organizations not being mature enough to integrate line-of-business systems to obtain the data and allow users to update it themselves. The most common issue here I see is “Job Title” being an open-text field and people getting very creative with it. Sorry, but I doubt “World Conqueror” is your job title. This leads to users not trusting information on profiles, and subsequently, slow adoption of social technology.

  3. My Site uploads – another social media challenge that often doesn’t get the focus it deserves is around enabling personal My Sites, which gives each user its own site collection. Often, the quotas have not been discussed with the governance committee and no guidelines have been written. Users think this is much like their personal share drives and store content within Microsoft® SharePoint®2010 that shouldn’t be there due to the costs of storing data in SharePoint (and therefore Microsoft® SQL Server® databases) compared to file shares. Personal music collections, photo galleries, etc. are often very common examples of inappropriate content for a My Site.

  4. Incorrect uploads – along the same lines as uploading inappropriate content into My Sites, the other common issue is uploading content that shouldn’t be in SharePoint. Typically, this happens where there is verbal agreement on when certain content should be stored in another system outside of SharePoint, but poorly communicated and not enforced. This typically is when a certain document type, such as financial data, should be uploaded into a records management system like EMC Documentum rather than stored in SharePoint. Often this adds confusion for users and also annoys other departments who own these third-party systems.

  5. Incorrect managed metadata terms – you will have noticed in SharePoint 2010 the two buttons in the top right of the ribbon on every page. The first main one you’ll notice is the Tags & Notes, once clicked it opens up a My Tags dialog window. This allows users to add their own tags – in a folksonomy approach – to the item. There is no approval process for users creating new tags, which leads to a lot of duplication of terms similar in nature as well as the addition of inappropriate terms.

  6. Social note board comments – the second tab in the Tags & Notes dialog window allows users to add a comment to a note board for that particular page or any list item. There is no approval process for these comments and no real way of notifying users that there are new comments. This leads to a common issue where people add comments to documents that may offend people’s efforts on their own content.

Our customers have come up with ways of leveraging SharePoint out of the box to try and mitigate this. Five of these include:

  1. File type blocking at web application level – this functionality, only available with SharePoint 2010 on-premise, allows you to block particular files from being uploaded into SharePoint altogether. It will mean if you have special cases where that file type is allowed, your information architecture will get a little complicated and have that site isolated in its own web application.

  2. Disabling folksonomy – there is functionality in SharePoint to prevent users from being able to create their own tags and only use tags that already exist in the term store, which acts as a taxonomy. This does require resources to come up with the taxonomy in the first place – it simply disallows users to create their own taxonomy.

  3. Disabling user profile property changes – SharePoint allows you to control whether or not users can directly change each individual user profile property. Out of the box there are quite a few open properties, so it is worth adding as part of your governance discussions what should be allowed to be changed.

  4. Disabling user profile photo uploads – the user profile photo is a user profile property, but of type image. You can prevent this from being modified. Customers we talk to have built custom applications that are managed by the back office team, for example the security department who print the smart cards with the photo of the employee on it will put the same photo into the user profile for that user.

  5. Tags & Notes – if companies are really uncomfortable with social note board and tags, the button can be removed from the ribbon in the user interface by modifying the master page. Often what I have found with customers is they want tags but not the note board, and this is not easily achievable as it is in the same dialog window.

The social aspect of SharePoint definitely raises the biggest concerns around inappropriate content, but it is important to remember that any content in list or libraries should also be monitored and constrained within the acceptable criteria previously established by the organization.

In my next post, I’ll share some head-scratching stories around the next business driver for governance, restrictions.

This article was originally posted on DocAve.com.

Pretty up SharePoint 2010 mysite with showModalDialog

 

Editor’s note: Contributor John Liu is a Solution Architect at SharePoint Gurus. Follow him @johnnliu

SharePoint 2010 My Site

SharePoint 2010 ships with this pretty mysite. Packed with numerous features.

The problem with My Site, even back in the days of SharePoint 2007, is that your users get lost. It doesn’t look anything like your nice branded site. It doesn’t share the same global navigation. In fact, users are so lost that they think they are in a place that they shouldn’t be in.

Result? They close the browser. Sometimes, if they are nasty, they tell their colleagues that the Intranet sucks - they can never find anything.

If only we can render our mysite in a SharePoint 2010 showModalDialog, then it would look like this:

My Site in a modal dialog

Some of the immediate benefits:

  • My Site remains totally un-branded, but now it is just demoted to a utility page. That is, you keep the functionality without having to invest in how to make My Site look nice.
  • Users are familiar with the SharePoint modal dialog, and can easily close My Site via the top right close buttons.
  • Users don’t feel like they’ve left the site, because they can clearly see the previous page right beneath them.

Using modal dialog for user information

Even if you aren’t using My Site, you can still use this for links on the page that would lead you to a user’s information page. Here’s an example:

You click the user name, you are sent to the User Information page - completely losing your previous page.


Figure: EEk! Where the heck am I?

We add this bit of jQuery

This hooks into any <a> anchors on the page, whose href contains the word "userdisp". And then overrides the onclick attribute to empty. It also attaches a new click event handler, sending the click to a show modal dialog. Lastly, it prevents default - so the default action from the click is swallowed.

Result - User Information in a pop up:


Figure: Now isn’t this far more useful?!

Changing My Site

We have these two links that send our users into Alice’s Wonderland.

They both use a SharePoint JavaScript function STSNavigate2

We can override the JavaScript this way:

I did a simple prototype by overriding a SharePoint javascript function:

Result - My Site in a pop up:

Notes - some odd CSS issues:

When a page is rendered in the modal dialog, SharePoint will automatically insert &IsDlg=1 to the argument.

My Site doesn’t appear to have been exhaustively tested with IsDlg - and there are odd CSS issues that do appear. Depending on the features that you plan to activate on your My Site, you may still need to invest in a small bit of CSS work to make sure nothing strange appears when My Site is shown in a Pop Up.

Still, I argue that the small CSS fixes are a lot less work than completely rebranding your My Site.

In general though, the majority of the functionality are available without further modification and this is a good way to quickly test if this could work for you and your organisation. Do let me know how this works for you!

Office 365 + Outlook + My Site Social Connector - Hotfix Released 12/13/11!

 

Editor’s note: Contributor Geoff Varosky is a Senior Solutions Developer for Jornata. Follow him @gvaro

One of the features I have grown to love in Outlook 2010 is the Social Connector – that window below your emails which you can enable to view aggregations of social network updates (My Site, Facebook, LinkedIn, to name a few) as well as past conversations, calendar items, attachments, and more.

Up until this month however, if you were a user of Microsoft Office 365, then you could not connect to your My Site hosted on SharePoint Online, you would get this lovely error after entering in all of the credential information:

Being a user of Office 365 – this was an issue for me, especially since I use the Social Connectors in Outlook daily.

I am pleased to announce, that as of December 13th, 2011, that it has finally been fixed! You can download and install the hotfix from here (Outlook x64 only): http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2597051/

Works perfectly now!

The future of SharePoint

 

There has been a small increase in chatter on the web recently about the next version of SharePoint. Little is really known about SharePoint 15 right now, though it is probably deep in development with most of it’s new features locked down. Leaked screenshots of the next version of Office caused the most recent flap, but there was very little for SharePoint professionals to pick over. Still it is always nice to speculate about what we might see. I’ll focus on the end user and interface elements. An easy place to start is looking at some of the limitations of SharePoint 2010.

First on my list is the forms side of SharePoint, which I wrote about very recently. It would be nice to see this area beefed up a little, something like a native SharePoint form designer would be very welcome. Nintex are getting very close to releasing their fforms product, and something like this built into native SharePoint would be excellent.

Sticking with Nintex (no this post isn’t sponsored, they just create good products) it is surely time to see their excellent workflow tool built into SharePoint (more from me on this great addin here). Any project that has a workflow element would benefit from Nintex Workflow, but it’s great for putting a simple programmable layer into SharePoint that is accessible by power users. Integrating the workflow and form tools directly into SharePoint would surely make ‘SharePoint the platform’ a lot stronger.

More generally I’d like to see the taxonomy component beefed up in the next version. Right now it works well when it works, but it seems its hooks aren’t as tightly integrated into the core of SharePoint as they could be (so my developer friends tell me as well). Managed metadata is a real step forward for those of us that began to dread lookup and choice columns, but another layer of sophistication would be most welcome.

A seemingly minor thing, but something I would welcome, would be the ability to resize web part and wiki zones on the fly. I’ve lost count of how many times users ask me if they can change the zones to suit their own needs. Yes templates vary, and page layouts can be changed, but this feels like a missing option to me.

Another ‘simple thing’, but something that drives me mad, is when updating views used by web parts. If I alter a view, and a web part uses it, please SharePoint 15 can you let the web part make use of the revised view straight away. I don’t want to have it edit the web part properties and re-select the view again.

Back in the realms of the ‘big stuff’ I’d like to see an update to MySites. Right now they aggregate content from around the portal, and deal with ‘My colleagues’ and generally ‘My’ stuff. This works well and is important, but in addition users are looking at other social networking sites and features and expecting them in SharePoint. I’m not advocating making ‘ShareBook’ (read why I actually think the opposite) but offering ‘hooks’ to external sites might be useful.

By hooks I mean allowing select data and functionality from say LinkedIn or Facebook to be pulled into SharePoint. A good example is similar to how a lot of phones work nowadays. Your existing contact list can be beefed up with data pulled from other sites. Outlook 2010 does a similar thing and calls them ‘social connectors’. A SharePoint version would go down well, suddenly your usual staff directory is a lot more functional. The idea could be expanded further though. Imagine a dedicated Twitter web part to display a search result or hash tag (this can be hacked right now I know) or the ability to display and interact with a closed LinkedIn group from your team site.

I’m talking about MySites complementing existing functionality with ‘social media hooks’ rather than trying to it’s own private system, that only half does what user’s want. Why not license and make use of the good stuff that is out there. I’m sure some of the big web guys, LinkedIn especially, would welcome the exposure.

Ok that’s it for now, though I’m sure I could continue. Leave a comment if you have a feature or an idea for an improvement you’d like to see.