It looks like more and more people are picking up on the Social side of things now that they are hearing more about SharePoint 2010 and the Social features. A few years ago now, I talked with many people telling them that Social Computing and Applications would be a part of their Enterprise landscape. With SharePoint 2010 on the horizon people are now starting to seriously talk about it in SharePoint and I think it will be a reality sooner than later now.
People that heard me a lot would say things like, “oh stop going on about the social stuff” and “Are you talking about social stuff again?”
The truth was they didn’t see the value in the social applications and they thought it was just hype. Over time, many of the same people have seen the value of the social aspect of an application and now even understand that it is a game changer in the right use.
Many of you probably know and follow Joel Oleson and have probably seen his blog post on Why isn’t my SharePoint Environment Social???. It is a good feature overview but I disagree with the approach to preparing for a SharePoint Environment that is Social. It is good to see he is covering the Social side now because that means people that follow him will take it serious, as well as Microsoft promoting it with their focused website http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/social/Pages/default.aspx.
So what you might ask what do I disagree with Joel on?
Don’t get me wrong he has a lot of great points and covers the features and addons very nicely. His blog post takes the view that social can be solved with features and I understand he is trying to help people make their sites more social, but I really think that approach will get you into trouble. No amount of features can *solve* the Social problem by themselves, it takes people too.
So what do you do to use Joel’s advice and not get into trouble?
I would suggest determining your business case before creating a technology solution first. I would also be very careful about installing some of the social code extensions. The reason you need to be careful is that social applications need to be optimized for large amounts of data and can have a negative performance impact on your system at large loads, so you don’t always want something that is not supported or tested, in addition some hosting providers might not support them. (that is my personal thoughts) The governance, taxonomy, and site layout for a social site is usually drastically different and more of a flat model which requires a much different data model.
If all you are worried about is getting a flashy intranet site that has Silverlight, Ajax and jQuery you probably don’t have a social problem you have a problem with how you want your site to be viewed. No amount of *social* features will fix that.
1. First, STOP, don’t worry about technology for a second and sit down and determine if you have a real business problem that needs to be solved with *social* applications.
2. If you really have a problem you can define, determine which category it fits into. There are usually two (2) categories for social which are: Building Collaboration and Improved Communication. You can read chapter 1 of Social Computing with Microsoft SharePoint 2007: Implementing Applications for SharePoint to Enable Collaboration and Interaction in the Enterprise if you want an overview.
3. Determine who your audience is and how you will maintain and sustain your social application without over taxing your employees.
4. Finally pick out the social features that you want to add to your site. This list can be long such as the following and I am sure you can name a few more.
- Social Networking
- Podcasting / Online Video
- Online Presence and IM
- Activity Streams
- Social Search
- many more…
5. Now that you know what you need, pick out the right tools to solve your problem, if all you need is a blog for an Internal Communication from you CEO then you know the tools to use. Otherwise add components as needed, but just keep in mind performance as it grows to a large scale.
Go about each problem with this same process and you will build the correct solution to the problem that you have. The real value in social applications is the content that you surface either through roll ups based on a user or data mining. Either way you need to start with a problem that you can solve.
I look forward to what Joel thinks in November and hopefully it will continue to help the Social cause. =)