Social computing in SharePoint

Tech Trek – 2011.01.22 Sunday

I’ve recently had a conversation with a colleague on the appropriate platform to publish tribal knowledge that he would like to share. With this in mind, a couple of question arises on the social computing capabilities of SharePoint so that we can make better use of the technologies:

  • What is the difference between blogs, wiki, and discussion forums in SharePoint?
  • When is the appropriate usage of each technology?

Here is a comparative chart the various criteria for choosing one format from another.

Architecture Categories
Wiki Blogs Discussion Forum
Standalone Site Can be implemented as a self-contained site but may also be included within a collaborative site Yes No, included as list in a site
Structure Open structure i.e. may differ from page-to-page More structured exchange of ideas Structure is based on the target audience of the forum
Many-to-many One-to-many Many-to-many
Authors Can have multiple contributors that are managed by many users Can have multiple authors but typically are moderated by a single author/team Can have multiple contributors but typically are moderated by an owner/group
Audience * Typically published for a large audience Targeted audience i.e. Developers, Finance, Sales, etc. Limited to the specific site audience
Ownership  Per page basis Per article (item) basis Per topic item basis
Editing Shared editing that may result into resolving conflicts manually Typically authored by an individual and approved by a moderator or blog owner Typically Q&A or challenge and response format
Community feedback Comments aren’t available, by default but can be added to solicit feedback Comments are available by default, but not necessarily intended to solicit feedback Expectation is to receive comments or feedback
Typical Uses * General knowledge base repository, projects, or policies and procedures (permanent) Journal used to communicate news, events, tips and tricks, share expertise to other team members (mixed) Typically used to address a specific issue, or bug (ad-hoc)


Content Categories
Wiki Blogs Discussion Forum
Content Type * Authoritative content i.e. should be approved for publication Opinion-based content Speculative topic i.e. may not produce a definitive answer to an issue
Content Length May include lengthy content or topics Short and ideally a specific topic per posting Varies based on the issue difficulty
Content Frequency Less frequent changes and/or longer cycle for reviewing content More frequent, or recommends a regular posting cycle As needed depending on issues encountered
Organized By (Format) Pages by topic or categories Articles in reverse chronological order Title or date; may want to create separate forums for each functional area
Search Filters Uses tagging mechanism and popular tags Filtered by category and on a monthly basis Search items by Title and Date but can include additional columns as needed
Content Columns Offers some flexibility when using Enterprise Wiki page templates Title, Body, Category, and Publication Date Subject and Body but can include additional fields as needed
Revisions Pages keep revisions for historical purposes to allow users compare changes New content supersedes previous postings; revision overwrite content and author is responsible for describing changes Updates are communicated through replies in the thread
Recommendation Reuse shared pages or elements; Convert textual content with audio or visual components Intended for a specific team, or audience rather than creating separate blogs for each individual that users need to subscribe Targeted issues that can be addressed in isolation i.e. create separate entries based on category and mark them as resolved or not

In summary, these are the key criteria when implementing one of the above-mentioned options:

  • Who is your target audience?
    Will your readers include the whole organization/enterprise, or a specific interest group?
  • What type of content do you intend to publish? (authoritative, opinion-based, or speculative content)
  • What uses is the content geared for? (permanent, ad-hoc, or mixed)
  • Who will be the primary moderator/s of the content?

As indicated, there is no one-size fits all rule when implementing social computing features within an organization. You can use a hybrid approach to achieve optimal collaboration and participation from users.

In an enterprise environment, the general rule to keep in mind is not having anonymous users to minimize posting inappropriate content, or accidental sharing of confidential information.


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