Matt Groves Answers the Question, ‘What Does Web 2.0 and Social Networking Mean to the User?’ at the SharePoint 2010 Evolution Conference

Matt Groves strikes a pose at the Bamboo booth in the final minutes of the SharePoint 2010 Evolution ConferenceTuesday afternoon at the SharePoint 2010 Evolution Conference, Matt Groves dedicated his first session of the Conference to answering the question, “What does Web 2.0 and Social Networking mean to the user?” As longtime Bamboo Nation readers will have likely gathered by now, social media topics at SharePoint conferences tend to be pretty much irresistible to me, so I was drawn to Matt’s session like a fly to amber. If you haven’t already heard the news, it wouldn’t be going too far to say that social media represents the cornerstone of SharePoint 2010, with social features such as tagging, ratings, comments, and status updates now embedded throughout SharePoint, as well as beefed-up versions of “the classics” such as blogs and wikis now pulling their weight as well.

Appropriately enough, Matt opened his session by telling the attendees where he can be found at some of his personal social media haunts (Twitter, LinkedIn, blog, etc.), and mentioning that he expected “lots of Twittering and blogging [during the session]” given the subject matter. Addressing the question of what does social media mean to the user, and the potential downside of the same as a result of the fact that “some of it has been unfortunately tainted,” Matt shared an anecdote involving a meeting he recently had with a CEO. The CEO explained to Matt that he wanted an online “podium” from which he could write messages to his entire organization and the staff could then respond in that same environment. Naturally, Matt said, “so you want a blog” … and the CEO replied, “no, no, I don’t want a blog, I don’t want any of that faddy stuff.”  Since I figure I’m in Shakespeare’s town as I type these words, I’ll quote the bard himself and say, “there’s the rub.” Matt wisely advises that you be aware of the potential negative preconceptions on the part of the user (or potential user) when you’re recommending that a decision-maker embrace social media.

Pointing out some of the many benefits that social media (and, not coincidentally, SharePoint 2010) offers for the enterprise, Matt suggested that social media can help solve the wicked problem of how does one go about locating the (possibly just one) right person in a large organization with the particular subject matter expertise which you require to answer a question? To that end, Matt noted that there’s “excellent search in SharePoint, and now [with 2010] we’ve got FAST in there as well.” Needless to say, with the expertise-finding capabilities of SharePoint 2010, combined with that search functionality, decision-making can now be made much easier with the tools in place to quickly find the particular individual(s) who possess the expertise you seek.

As well, when resources with specific knowledge leave a company, all too often their specialized knowledge leaves with them. With blogs and wikis in the enterprise, however, that specialized knowledge can easily be retained since social media provides you with the tools to “leverage all of the knowledge within a modern organization.”

Addressing a concern that is often raised regarding the deployment of social media in the enterprise, people posting personal information inappropriately and/or excessively, Matt suggests that the solution is to strike a balance. Your governance plan should define the policies involving the posting of personal information, but Matt’s strong recommendation is that you “do allow personal content, encourage personal content [because social media is] about people.”

Matt pointed out, and I would agree wholeheartedly, that with 2010, SharePoint “is a viable social platform now.” Some of the features Matt called out as being his picks for the “standout social features in 2010” included: blogs, which now “look like blogs and behave like blogs”; the new MySite (now known as your Profile), which is now “people-focused, not content-focused … which is the right-way ’round for a MySite,” as Matt observed; the introduction of Notes and the Activity Stream, which are “directly analogous to the Facebook wall”; and the addition of folksonomy, which allows for the tracking of popular tags and the promotion of them to the official taxonomy as appropriate.

Matt’s live demo of the 2010 social features included most of the above features, as well as many others, including:

  • The five-star rating system, pointing out that, “you rate content to show [others] that it’s good,” since the algorithm averages the ratings across all users;
  • Tagging, which is in place for all manner of content throughout 2010, and includes auto-complete suggestions based on folksonomy (most especially, your own previously used tags) and the official taxonomy of your organization;
  • The tag cloud, which is “now an out-of-the-box Web Part, [so you can] drag it onto the page, point it at your list or library, and away you go.” The tag cloud, of course, allows you to drill down into the tag and see information such as who’s following a given tag, and providing you with the ability to follow it yourself;
  • The Org Chart, available within the Profile area, and which provides the ability to, “navigate around an org with a swanky little live control,” and which also allows you to drill down into individual members of an org simply by clicking on their name or photo; and
  • The Content tab within the Profile, which is where all of the content you’ve authored will be rolled up.

General recommendations from Matt for the deployment of social media within an organization included suggestions that you: avoid militant control over the content and features because “having militant control will inhibit social interaction”; to that end, you should “avoid control, but do have governance”; encourage users to be themselves, while maintaining the standards of your workplace; “start small, get the platform out there” to get people talking about and engaged with it, which will, in turn, fuel adoption; and finally, Matt advised that, “even though some of these things may be difficult to measure, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t measure them.”

For further reading, the slide deck of Matt’s entire presentation is available for viewing in its entirety on his blog.

If you’re wondering about the photo of Matt in the Bamboo booth that accompanies this post, well, therein lays a tale which involves my final bit of good fortune at the Conference.  You see, I was in a rush to get to Matt’s session yesterday and, as a result, I forgot to bring my camera.  Fate smiled upon me this evening, however, as, just as I had finished packing up our booth at the end of the day, and was heading for the elevator, I ran into Matt.  We had a great chat, comparing social media notes and singing the praises of the Combined Knowledge team, having pulled the Conference together and doing a bang-up job in light of the massive disruption due to the eruption of the volcano in Iceland, after which Matt generously agreed to sit for a quick photo session in the Bamboo booth so that this post wouldn’t have to go out unaccompanied by a photo.  Cheers, Matt!

Read our complete coverage of the SharePoint 2010 Evolution Conference:

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