SPTechCon SF: ‘Customizing the Social Aspects of SharePoint’ with Michael Doyle

I began an "all social" afternoon of sessions at SPTechCon today with Michael Doyle's presentation on customization of the social aspects of SharePoint 2010.  Michael said upfront that the primary focus of the session would be My Sites, since they are "basically the social hub of 2010."  Of My Sites, Michael also noted upfront that they're "Difficult to implement from a SharePoint perspective." 

If you choose to roll out My Sites in your organization, the primary goal should be to get people to actually use them.  Tips to help do so that Michael shared include: make it easy to get to –with one-click access as the ideal– via navigation changes;  integrate My Site training into SharePoint training, as well as new hire training; add custom properties that make sense for your organization; and make People Search easy to get to.

Regarding My Site navigation options, Michael suggested that you have three: stick with the out-of-the-box navigation (not recommended), make a one-click on home page (recommended), or make the My Site the user's home page (also recommended). 

With a demo of Michael's customized My Site, he explained that My Links from 2007 don't exist in SharePoint 2010, but that the controls can easily be added to restore them.  Michael then showed various customized areas his My Site, warning that "If you're going to customize all of this, it's going to take a little while."  The primary benefit of customization efforts, however, is that in making the My Site easier to use, you're removing hindrances, thus increasing the likelihood that people will use it.  Regarding that use, Michael admitted that it can be difficult to get people to fill in My Site data, and mentioned that in addition to leveraging the User Profile data, you can use third-party tools to pull user data into SharePoint, which will help with the data population.

Speaking of the navigation levels of the My Site, Michael pointed out that they're comprised of two layers, a top level, and a sub level.  Michael recommends that "If you're not going to use a feature, get rid of it and get the real estate back."  Modifications of the top level navigation can be accomplished via the site settings at the My Site's host, and the sub navigation layer is modified via the Quick Launch.  Michael suggests that you need to have a good business reason why to change the navigation.

Regarding personalization site creation, Michael said they're "Pretty easy to set up."  You do so via the My Site Settings in Central Admin, and Michael provided several examples of good uses for personalization sites, such as: HR, a manager's page, a new hire page, or a contractor page.

Michael strongly advised that you "Make the decision to allow visibility options (or not) early on."

As for adding additional properties to the My Site, Michael says to "Stick to what is relevant … don't overdo it with items, [and] if you add them, spend the effort to get people to populate them."

Michael explained that in 2010, profile pictures are stored in a central area (User Photos in the My Site host), and that three sizes stored there:  144×144, 96×96, and 32×32.

Some considerations around the Newsfeed that Michael brought up: Lots of items are tracked by default; users can change what is tracked; and some might view the level of exposure as intrusive.

Considerations regarding the Org Chart included: the interactive version requires Silverlight, which can be an issue in some environments; it shows up in three places; and in some companies, titles reflect pay grade and may be sensitive information as a result.

Tags and Notes considerations included: the fact that these are new concepts in 2010 so people may not understand them; adding a Note can also send an email; and they can quickly add up.  Michael also pointed out that "Search crawls all those items, so if you have to rebuild the search index it might take a while."

Regarding personal content sites, Michael said that since each person is a site collection administrator of their own site, there's the potential to do harm within the site, or even delete it.  With this in mind, Michael suggests that easiest thing to do is to get rid of Site Actions to keep people from screwing stuff up with their My Site.

Michael said that each site can have its own theme and potentially its own master page, and that themes are "easy to apply."  Michael's recommendation is that PowerPoint has the best and easiest to use theme editor, and he provided a brief demo of theme creation using PowerPoint.

Michael explained that the three Social Web Services in SharePoint 2010 are: people.asmx, userprofileservide.asmx, socialdataservice.asmx.

Read our complete coverage of SPTechCon San Francisco 2011:

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