SharePoint has evolved dramatically since its inception over 12 years ago starting off as a Document Store complimentary to Exchange. Workloads have been added over the time and since the beginnings “social collaboration” has been key. The term is bounced around by marketing teams like its going out of fashion, File Shares are social collaboration in the sense that it enables more than one person to collaborate on documents. Obviously SharePoint provides a significantly better story to social collaboration than a file share, but its worth noting that point.
Discussion boards were introduced into SharePoint 2003. The inclusion of Blogs, Wikis and My Sites into SharePoint 2007 started to really step up the social collaboration story. I’ve written plenty about the short comings of these capabilities in the past: wiki limitations and blog limitations.
In SharePoint 2010 social tags and note boards were added along with micro-blogging. From my experience the social tags, note boards and micro-blogging capability wasn’t widely adopted without an add-on like NewsGator because it simply didn’t do what we expected in comparison to consumer equivalents.
SharePoint 2013 has taken it up a notch with a closer to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ experience to micro-blogging. The tags and follow paradigms are in there. There are mobile apps coming for Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, iPhone and Android. It has brought a Community Site template with badges and points that I have discussed in previous posts.
The capabilities are a lot stronger and more usable now. I am confident that it will be adopted within organization out of the box without any customizations or add-ons necessary to get going.
I also highly encourage that if you are considering to start using the social aspects of SharePoint that you start on SharePoint 2013 when you introduce it. Starting on SharePoint 2007 or 2010 simply won’t get you the same results at all.
But…yes there is a but…as I start to see organizations turn SharePoint 2013 social on, including internally at AvePoint Inc. where I work…I am shocked at some really simple things that just need “fixing”. I wanted to share these learning’s with you so you know in advance.
- Newsfeeds – Newsfeeds show the most recent 10 posts, and there is a “show more posts” hyperlink at bottom that’ll show me 20…but the hyperlink disappears after a few clicks and I can’t see a history of activity. Searching does allow me to discover but not like I’m used to navigating in consumer timelines.
- Everyone feed – the Everyone feed only shows micro-blog posts, not activity like “Jeremy just posted on his blog” or “Jeremy replied to a discussion”. This is a great shame as it appears you only see those activities if you follow the person. For people who don’t buy into micro-blogging but are active on SharePoint, they’ll be invisible.
- Can’t share micro-blog post – unlike most other networks, I can’t “Share”/Retweet etc. a micro-blog post. I can only
- About me “Something went wrong” – if the person has not visit their “About Me” page to set it up…if others visit their “About Me” page you get a nice error on their activity feed “SharePoint returned the following error: The request was aborted: The request was canceled. Contact your system administrator for help in resolving this problem.”
- About me follows – unlike pretty much EVERY social network on the Internet, if I view some ones “About Me” page I can’t see how many followers they have without going to “People” on quick launch on left and then clicking on another hyperlink. you also can’t see what documents, tags and sites they’re following either.
- About me discussion – when I find a person of interest and view their “About Me” page, I can chose to follow them, but there is no way for me to start a conversation with them from their page without them having some “ask me about” set up.
- About me email address – on the right hand side where it shows user profile property information, the email address doesn’t have a hyperlink. There is also no hover over for contact card with Lync integration on this page.
- Ask me about – the ask me about is a great way to help with expertise finding, the text box is a multiline text box that doesn’t support tags (it appears to only support Managed Metadata)…this is a shame as if someone clicks on it it starts an activity status message with the topic. It would be great if it could encourage tags.
- Conversation emails – when you receive an email as you’ve been mentioned in an activity…you can click on “See full conversation”…if you click on it…you can see the conversation but no button to reply!
- Newsfeed activity replies or likes – although it is useful to see what people are following or what they are doing…you can’t “like” or start a conversation off those activities. If a person follows another person, you can see a hyperlink to also follow them if you are not already. But there is no concept of that for sites, documents or tags.
- Community discussion replies – if I discover a community and discover some great discussions and click follow on the site. If people post replies on discussions…these will not show in my newsfeed UNLESS I’m following the person. So I don’t get any notifications via my newsfeed.
- Community discussion mentions – if you use “@” in community discussion posts and mention more than 3 people, it’ll only actually recognize 3. So only those 3 will see their mentions in their newsfeed.
- Community tag usage – only 6 hashtags can be used in a discussion post which seems extremely limiting! What that means is when it gets put into your activity feed, only the first 6 tags mentioned in your discussion post or reply will show. Trying to encourage the use of tags in discussions so that people following tags are notified is hit hard by this limitation. And yes it’s very easy to use more than 6 in a discussion post.
- My Site Blog site – when you create a blog in your My Site site collection, the title of the site is “Blog”. If I follow multiple people’s blogs, in my “Sites” page I can see a bunch of sites called “Blog”.
- Blog comments nesting – blog comments are not nested, so conversations can’t happen easily in a blog post like other engines like WordPress.
- Blog likes – although people can like a blog post, there is no concept of hovering over to see how has liked it like you can in Facebook, Yammer and pretty much all other social platforms
- Blog comments liking – I also can’t “Like” a blog comment.
- Blog comments activities – posting a comment on a blog will not show in the newsfeed!
- Blog comment tags and mentions – in a blog comment I also can’t use “#” to mention tags that people may be following OR use “@” to mention people either.
- Blog comment e-mail alert links – when you get an email alert on a blog comment, when you click on it it doesn’t go to the blog post and scroll down to it…it sends you to a list item of just that comment and no way to link up to parent blog post..
- Blog search results – if you do a search for a known sentence in a blog post…in the search results you get back results for the allposts.aspx view page, the my-sub.aspx page, the byauthor.aspx page all next to each other. There is no intelligence that this are aggregated views and showed by hidden. It also doesn’t show things like how many likes the post got or show a user icon (like it does for conversations) for the blog post author.
- Windows Phone 8 Mobile App – the app currently only works with SharePoint 2013 Online.
- Publishing & Wiki Pages – so you just got used to using the “@” symbol in Micro-blog status updates and discussion posts…well forget about using them in wiki pages unfortunately or hash tags. And also don’t expect an activity feed update for adding or changing pages.
Roadmap for SharePoint social
So as Christophe Fiessinger from Microsoft pointed out in comments of my last post…at SPC12 keynote the roadmap for SharePoint and Yammer social was spelt out. See SharePoint Conference 2012 Opening Keynote : (starts 0:36 and ends 1:02:20 with the Nationwide video) and this blog post Putting Social to Work .
Unfortunately the dates are not spelt out and in my other post I have already raised my concerns around todays very “basic integration”.
I have given this feedback to the SharePoint Product team and raised my concerns around the expectations that people will have and the current state of SharePoint. I really look forward to seeing the improvements come through in these new 3 month service updates to SharePoint Online…but to be honest am looking forward to them coming to on-premises environments such as our own internal Intranet a lot more!