I was very excited when heard that “Communities” was going to be one of the pillars for SharePoint 2010. I think the Social Computing and Communities aspect is where SharePoint has the potential to really revolutionize business collaboration and computing. Administrators and Developers don’t have to wait until upgrading to SharePoint 2010 though to start taking advantage of some of these concepts. By making the adjustment now you and your end users will be better positioned to leverage these concepts sooner.
Key Features and Recommendations
Collect Feedback – Find ways to gather community feedback on content. Take advantage of features like Content Rating and Comments, develop Surveys, and make it easy to access user contact information.
Notifications – Show the members how to take advantage of the Alert features so that they can receive timely notifications for relevant information. In my experience, most know the Alert Me feature is there, but few know how to configure it to only get the notices they want to see.
Tagging – In the past few years tagging has been a popular way to describe and categorize content. While it is not built into SharePoint 2007 (MOSS /WSS 3.0) there are a number of custom or add-on features available.
Show Related Content – Find ways to show related or relevant content. If you are currently running MOSS, now would be a good time to dig in and learn how the filtering web parts work, as well as the search web parts. If there is related data on the page, be sure to filter views. Configure some search results web parts that can automatically show results based on what is being viewed.
Use Content Types – Using content types will help you better aggregate and work with the data. This also simplifies the process of identifying the data in search.
Content instead of Documents – Think in terms of content, not just documents. Most traditional information workers still think in terms of documents, but long time users of the SharePoint platform are starting to come around.
Member Involvement – These solutions get people involved which can lead to a self-sustaining effort.
Easier to find golden nuggets – Following these concepts will let the good content rise to the top.
SMEs and Knowledge Management – This gives you an opportunity to better utilize your SMEs in a group setting instead of one on one communications. This can also be used to identify and develop new SMEs greatly increasing your Knowledge Management capabilities.
2007 Add-Ons and Solutions
SharePoint Tool Basket V2 – A number of features that can be enabled for collecting user Rating and Comments feedback on all types of content.
Community Kit for SharePoint (CKS) – Templates and features that extend the standard SharePoint feature set.
SharePoint Search-As-You-Type with jQuery – Instant search results by adding in jQuery. Always an end user favorite!
Things to Consider
While I think that it a good idea to leverage these features now it is important to consider the upgradability. In some cases the features may be built into the next version of SharePoint (Content Rating, Tagging). If you add those features in now, you will likely loose that data during the migration process. When approaching a version upgrade for a Knowledge Management or community application it is almost always best to build a new solution and migrate the existing content anyway though. This gives you the chance to take advantage of the new features.
Any questions, comments, or other solutions that you would like to recommend for extending the current 2007 platform?