What’s New in SharePoint 2013 Social – Major Features, Characteristics, and Limitations

Recently I have been building demos and playing with SharePoint 2013 social features. As I have been playing with Social features and watching SPC12 social session videos, I have been keeping notes especially notable characteristics & limitations of new features. I thought it would be nice to share my notes with general community.

As many of you already know, Microsoft has invested heavily in SharePoint 2013 social features from both Personal level Social platform and Organization level Social platform. User Profiles, My Newsfeed, Following, and Sky Drive Pro are major investments in personal/my social experience while Communities are major investments in group & team focused organization level social platform.

152_1_SharePoint Social

Here are major investments in SharePoint 2013 social and what’s new out there. I am planning to update this article with Social Architecture, What’s under the hood, and new findings as I learn more about SharePoint Social.

User Profiles

  • User Profile Privacy settings are simplified to only me or everyone, no longer manager related visibility settings
  • Populate user profiles – profile picture, first name, last name, preferred name (required for welcome menu), manager (required for organization chart & following people/colleagues info) and other information as needed

My Sites

  • Improved Experience
    • Simplified My site user experience – Unlike SP2010, no longer separate tabs for news feed, my profile, and my site contents
    • Improved Provisioning process and perceived experience – During first time provisioning process, my site allows users to update profile settings while SharePoint setting up the My Site. Better user experience unlike SP2010 where you can’t access My Site until it fully gets provisioned.
  • About me
    • Shows activity feed, basic user information, in common users, organization chart
    • By default, In Common & Org Chart web part doesn’t show on your profile but it does show on another user’s profile view.
  • Newsfeed
    • Aggregated view of activities from the people, content you are following including sites, documents, and tags
      • Posting – You can post pictures & links including document URLs, Use hash tags & mentions
      • Conversations – replies, like, follow up
      • Five news feeds out of box – Following, Everyone, Mentions, Activities, Likes
      • Anything posted on my site news feed is public by default
      • Any activities or replies marked with follow up, gets added to your tasks list
      • You can target only people you are following by specifying @person in the news feed text box. You can’t target @community in posts directly in news feed web part but you can post news feed on the communities where site feed is enabled
      • You can start new conversation only on your profile, You can’t start conversation or new post on someone else’s wall/profile page like Facebook
    • Architecture
      • All the activities are controlled by privacy settings on user profiles
      • All the activities are stored in the distributed cache along with micro feed list in My Site content database, cached up to 7 days by default in distributed cache, can be changed up to maximum 14 days.
      • Activities stored in micro feed list, it no longer limited to 14 days in SP2010, stores both user generated & system generated activities
  • Following
    • Allows you to follow four different actors out of box – people, documents, sites, and tags, this system is sealed and you can’t customize, add, remove additional actors to follow
    • By default, all the manager, subordinates, and siblings in org-structure are added in following people list
    • You can stop following people, documents, sites, and tags
    • In Office 365
      • It doesn’t seem like If you follow site, any new documents or discussions are added into that site will show up on your following news feed
      • It seems like only activities from people you follow shows up in following news feed
  • Sky Drive Pro
    • User Personal My Site => My documents & Followed Documents
    • My documents are personal private document library, any documents are added in “Shared with Everyone” folder is public to everyone in organization, alternatively you can share personal documents easily and keep track of access – Sharing hint from my site document libraries, which displays all the users and permissions for specific content.
    • Followed documents shows all the documents you follow & suggest which documents to follow
    • When documents are shared, person can visit user’s my site to get access to their documents.
    • You can drag & drop files form your hard drive on my documents library, it requires Office 2013 for drag & drop feature to work, it seems like it doesn’t work for Windows 7 and IE 9
  • Mobility
    • Windows 8 Phone “SharePoint Newsfeed” App allows you to connect to News Feed, User Profile, Following, and Sky Drive Pro documents library

Community Sites

  • Three ways to create community sites
    • Either use community portal site collection or use community site template
    • Additionally, there is a feature can be activated on any existing team site. To activate “Community Site” Site level feature, you must activate “SharePoint Server Standard” Site Collection level feature.
  • Differences between Community and Community Portal Site Template
    • Community Portal Site Collection level Site Template is aggregator of the communities in your environment. It has pre-configured Search driven, Popular Communities web part. There are no Community features activated on the Community Portal site template by default. This is optional but you should have at least 1 Site Collection which can be served as home for Communities from where users can see popular communities and subscribe any communities they want to.
      • Community Portal is added to promoted sites automatically
      • In Office 365 Preview, All the functionality driven by search (e.g. popular community sites) works only for users who are explicitly added as visitors or members of the communities. Adding “All Users” group doesn’t show communities when user visits community portal.
    • Community Site Template is either at the Site or Site Collection level
      • Community Site template provides all the community features like discussion boards, moderations, reputations, and badges.
      • Each community site has about page to describe community purpose.
  • How Community Site differs than Standard Team Site Template?
    • Community Site SharePoint Security groups differs than SharePoint Team Site security groups –  Members Security group in Community Site have Contribute permission level like SP2010 team site whereas SP2013 team site members have Edit permission, Please note that Edit is new permission level in SP2013
    • New Security group called Moderators added in Community Site with Moderate permission level
    • Only Site Owners and Site Moderators can see Community Administration toolbox – It is special web part with quick links for community management
  • Pre-requisites for Community Features
    • For Office 365 and SharePoint online environment, all the plumbing work is pre-configured for the communities’ features to work.
    • For on-premises environments – Although not required, it is important to configure Search, Managed Metadata, and User Profile services for communities for full feature set.
  • Community Site Architecture – Four Internal SharePoint Lists
    • Categories – Defines discussion categories
    • Discussions List – Hosts all the discussions
    • Community Members – People who follow community
    • Badges – List of all the badges
  • Major Features of Discussion boards
    • MS Forums like discussion boards – Discussions/conversations, likes, ratings, featured post, moderations
    • Posting
      • People can post notes or questions
      • People can specify category
      • People can choose best reply on their own posts
      • People can Use both mentions and hashtag in posts
      • People can post both videos and documents including images, by default, any videos or images posted directly in discussion boards get stored in site assets directory. Plan to have dedicated document library to host all the discussion attachments. To redirect all the attachments to the document library, you must break the Site Assets library permission inheritance and ensure only site owners and site moderators have Site Assets permission. If user don’t have permission to document library, it won’t show up on attachment upload screen. One of the biggest concerns of posting attachments is if you ever delete the post, it would still retain the documents or videos attached to the post. There might be potential cleanup required. Having dedicated document library for posting would really help cleaning up.
    • Conversations
      • People can like or reply, report abuse to moderator (this is not enabled by default)
    • Moderation
      • Moderators can choose best reply or edit the post on behalf original poster, mark as featured post, moderate abuses by either editing or deleting posts etc.
      • Moderation of abuses or report abuses to moderator is not enabled by default. Administrators can enable from the community settings page.
    • Limitations
      • You can’t target posts to the community, you can target/mention on people in the posts, you can’t mention SharePoint security group in your posts
      • All the replies/conversations in discussion board are aligned at one level. Replies are not grouped along with same post or questions in threaded view
      • If Moderator ever updates replies or edit any post, there is no visual indication that moderator has added any remarks or changed reply.
  • Gamification Features – Badges, Reputations based on points
    • Reputations depends on posting, replying, and liking in discussions
    • Leaving the community hides someone from members list but retains their reputations point in case they rejoin and wanted to restore their score
    • Reputations are based on each community, not at the portal level by design, there is no aggregation of reputations score across communities – which makes sense since someone might be more expert on one community, not others
    • Limitations
      • Admins don’t have control on how reputations scored can be adjusted. In future versions/updates, MS will allow moderators to give members credit for other activities and increase reputations score
      • You can’t customize pictures for Achievement level, You can add Level 1-5 text
      • You can add custom badges through Community Tools but you can’t attach any images.
  • Site Feed
    • Instead of having discussions on the site home page, you can have site news feed. You must activate the feature and export the site feed.dwp web part and reimport on the home page.
    • Limitations
      • You can’s target @community in posts in news feed web part, you can target only people you are following
      • One major limitations of having news feed instead of discussion lists on community site is all posts, replies, and likes on the news feed doesn’t count towards achievement/reputations points and top contributors web part.
  • How to implement Community Features?
    • Create a Site Collection based on Community Portal Template
      • Aggregation of all the communities via Popular Communities Web Part
    • Create a Site Collection or Sub Sites based on Community Site Template
      • Create Categories, Badges, and Change Community Settings like Reputations Points as needed
      • Configure Security Groups – Member, Moderators, Visitors
      • Configure dedicated Document Library for Posts attachments, Break the security for Site Assets document library


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3 Responses to What’s New in SharePoint 2013 Social – Major Features, Characteristics, and Limitations

  1. Pingback: Making decisions on current Microsoft ESN Offerings – SharePoint 2013 Social vs. Yammer, What do we choose right now? « Nik Patel's SharePoint World

  2. Thanks for the detailed info on Social features in SharePoint 2013.There are different ways to interact with social data API in SharePoint 2013. The new Social namespace contains API for interacting with feeds, posts and people. code snippets can be found in below link

  3. Pingback: What’s New for IT Pro in SharePoint 2013 | Nik Patel's SharePoint World

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