SharePoint 2013 New Features
Illustration by John Hersey

Creating a community site


SharePoint 2013 New Features

with Gini Courter

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Video: Creating a community site

With SharePoint 2013, Microsoft has made huge advances in supporting social computing and social networking around organizations. Communities are a new construct in SharePoint 2013, in the past we've supported groups, administrators, members, visitors, but communities are somewhat different than all of those things. There are two new site templates that are used with communities; one is called the community site, the other is the community portal.
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Watch the Online Video Course SharePoint 2013 New Features
2h 20m Beginner Feb 28, 2013

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Dive in and explore what's new in SharePoint 2013. Author Gini Courter covers the new features and the enhancements to sharing, libraries, templates, and search. Plus, discover how the social networking features have been updated to include microblogging and newsfeed options. The course also includes a look at using SkyDrive Pro, managing rich media, and using new business intelligence features.

Topics include:
  • Understanding the SharePoint 2013 product line
  • Editing your social media profile
  • Viewing the newsfeed
  • Keeping track of tasks
  • Using SkyDrive to share private documents
  • Moving files with drag and drop
  • Syncing libraries
  • Introducing SharePoint apps
  • Reviewing the template updates
Business IT
Office SharePoint
Gini Courter

Creating a community site

With SharePoint 2013, Microsoft has made huge advances in supporting social computing and social networking around organizations. Communities are a new construct in SharePoint 2013, in the past we've supported groups, administrators, members, visitors, but communities are somewhat different than all of those things. There are two new site templates that are used with communities; one is called the community site, the other is the community portal.

But before we begin looking at what those things do, let's talk about what this thing called community actually is. Electronic communities are organized social spaces or organized discussion spaces and they have attributes that other electronic groups don't necessarily have. One is that community members can post and reply, but that's true with email too. What makes a community different is that visitors can actually view those discussions and request membership.

So if we were thinking about an email distribution list for example, all of the community members can post and reply, but it's not transparent to the rest of the world. So, one of the attributes of a community is some level of transparency to visitors in the organization. Then communities have moderators. Moderators safeguard the community by setting rules. Now normally, they don't simply choose a set of their own rules. There are rules that are used in other communities, in the organization, or around the world, or other communities that they've worked with or the initial members of a community get together and say, "what are our rules, what do we agree to and what do we not agree to?" And then with those rules in place, moderators have the ability to remove unruly content.

So if for example in our community, we're agreed that racist and sexist comments are inappropriate and that's one of the rules, it's established, it's transparent and moderators can remove then content that doesn't agree with those rules. Moderators also have the ability to feature some content to sit back and to have almost a salon relationship where they look at the post and they say there is an interesting discussion, we would all benefit if this was featured in a way that others could find it.

Finally, moderators have the ability to reward reputation badges to participants. So for example if we have a community discussion about how we'll solve a particular problem, members who jump in and are anxious to help and actually are helpful could receive badges for being very helpful. An example of reputation badges for participants is the Microsoft Valued Professional program, where users of Microsoft products, like you and I, who have some expertise in a particular area are willing to answer the questions of others.

And the more question you answer, the more points you get building a reputation as someone who is helpful. One of the points of a community is that communities are a place where you actually gain a reputation based on how you participate or how you don't. There are different ways we can use community features then. First we can create a community site and one of the best uses of a community site is that it facilitates a scoped discussion. For example, if I want everybody in my enterprise to participate in a particular type of conversation, then what I'll do is I will create a community site at the enterprise level.

However, I might want to have a discussion in one department or in one subdivision of the company, and if I have planned my site collections so that they also resemble the types of community sizes we might want to create, I could create site collection community sites. So if for example we had two site collections, inside home and inside sport, we could create a community site for each. We might also create an enterprise community site as well. And then at the site level I can create a conversation.

We can create community sites that are smaller for discussions within a team. And finally there is a way to connect Exchange in SharePoint so that a community site can receive posts from an email distribution list, unlike the conversations that we would have between members on the list, there is no way to reply back to the emails that goes out to the distribution list. But a distribution list can be one type of a member in a community site. Now another possibility is we'll make a Community Portal and it has another utility.

A Community Portal is a way that you and I can find communities. So let's imagine a large organization, perhaps a multinational organization that has 20 or 30 communities and more communities are being added all the time. How would I find a community that I wanted to join, or how would I know there was a group of people in my organization interested in being not first but second responders to disaster relief and who wanted to help organize those efforts? A Community Portal is a web part page that exposes all of the communities that are there through search and also the most popular communities based on information about how many members there are, how lively the discussion is and so on.

A Community Portal site is a one-of-a- kind, I can have only one community portal within my entire server farm--all of the servers in my enterprise. Then there are community features that can be activated on team sites. This is a site setting that you can change and when I turn on the community features on a site, I get community site pages and I get some of the benefits of a community site; the ability to moderate, the ability to have people join, and the ability to reward participants with reputation badges.

So that's how communities are imagined for this version of SharePoint. As always I believe that our use of communities will extend beyond what the folks at Microsoft necessarily imagine, because communities have lots of incredible benefits. For example, you know communities actually have some permanency to them as long as there are members, as long as the site exists they have a history and they have an intimacy that email itself simply doesn't have.

They have the ability to have a context so that when new members join, they are coming into a framework of rules and a framework of interactions. Finally, communities--unlike regular email lists, unlike almost any other electronic communication that we have-- communities actually encourage member growth and participation. So a great new feature, a great new imagining of how SharePoint can help support healthy organizational life.

Let's see what it takes to create a new community site in SharePoint. You'll create a community site in the same way that we create every other site we have. I am creating a community site in the top level site in our site collection. And the imagining here is that we're going to create a really broad community for sharing creative conversation. So I'd like everyone to be able, either to be a member or a visitor who is part of our organization. We've titled this "The Commons" and this is a community site for No Obstacles, Inc.

And then the Template I am choosing is the Community Site Template. Right now I am going to use the same permissions as the parent site and the top link bar from the parent site and let's click Create to create our community site. So notice, this looks a little different than a traditional team site, it's actually much more like a news feed for example, or an about me page, than it is like a team site and that's because that's the infrastructure that it's built on.

At the top it says, "Welcome to the community. We want to hear from you." All of this of course is customizable. There is a place for a new discussion. There are tools to Manage discussions, to Create categories, to Create badges, to Assign badges to members, to set Reputation settings and to set Community settings, the rules we talked about earlier. Right now there is one member and it's me and I'm the Top contributor, it's a great day to be me. But if I wanted for example to create categories, I'd click that link and it's an open list.

So General is a fine place to start, but if I have an imagining that I know some of the categories that we'd like to use, I can go ahead and build them and it will make them easy for people to choose because they'll be on drop-down lists. In the same way I can Create badges. The badge names that exist are Expert and Professional, but I can choose others, I can choose Helpful, Most Helpful as badge names, I can choose Skilled, I can choose any choices that I want.

If I were creating these badges for an organization, I would have a conversation with some people in leadership, including people in the human resources department, about what are the types of recognition we would like to provide and how can we support communities. This is a great conversation to engage other people in. Whatever you do you want to be respectful here. I've been part of communities where there were badges that you get when people didn't like you. I'm not sure those are appropriate in a business setting.

When I have badges, I can assign badges to members. We also have Reputation settings that allow items to be rated in a list so users can go in and say thumbs up, thumbs down, I like, I don't like, or Star Ratings for a list. We can have Member achievements, here is our rubric, a member creates new post; they get points. They reply to a post, they get points. If it gets marked as best reply, they get a lot of points. So this is the kind of point system that's used in many, many online help systems where someone posts a question and other people reply.

Achievement level points, as people achieve points, they get different levels and we can display that. So this is how reputation works here in our community site. You set up rules and it all works and then we have Community settings. This is the date on which the community was established and here we can enable reporting of offensive content. It's good to have a rule stated at the top of the site that says these are the rules that we agree to work by, but if someone's reading a post and they say that violates the rules, then they can click and say they'd like to report it.

So, different than a team site, different than a regular news feed, different even than some of the other community sites you may have worked with, you have all the tools here to help encourage community in your organization using SharePoint 2013.

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