When Social and Search Meet in the Enterprise

September 8, 2011

Organizations are embracing Microsoft SharePoint as a platform for collaboration and other social online messaging. “If You Must Have In-House Social Tools, Go with SharePoint” is representative of the flood of information about SharePoint’s utility for collaborative activities.

J. Peter Bruzzese said:

he good news, at least from the SharePoint perspective, is that you have a tremendous amount of control over the amount of information people can share. For example, by deploying the User Profile Service Application in a SharePoint server farm, you can deploy My Sites and My Profile options to your users. They can then enter their own profile information, upload images of themselves for a profile picture, create a personal page with a document library (both personal and shared), tag other people’s sites and information, and search for people within the organization based on their profiles. The SharePoint administrator can control the extent to which the sharing occurs. You can adjust the properties in the profile page, turning options on or off and adding new properties if needed. You can turn off the I Like It and Tags & Notes features, and you can even delete tags or notes your corporate policy disapproves of. You can access profile information and make changes if needed. And you don’t have to turn on My Sites or let people create their own blog and so on: It’s not an all-or-nothing situation with these tools (ditto with third-party tools).

The excellent write up does a good job of explaining SharePoint from a high level.

There are three points which one wants to keep in mind:

First, collaborative content puts additional emphasis on managing the content generated by the users of social components within SharePoint. In most cases, short message are not an issue. What is important, however, is capturing as much information about the information as possible. One cannot rely on users to provide context for some comments. Not surprisingly, additional work is needed to ensure that social messages have sufficient context to make the information in a short message meaningful to a person who may be reviewing a number of documents of greater length. To implement this type of feature, a SharePoint licensee will want to have access to systems, methods, and experts familiar with context enhancement, not just key word indexing.

Second, the social content is often free flowing. The engineering for a “plain vanilla” SharePoint is often sufficiently robust to handle typical office documents. However, if a high volume flow of social content is produced within SharePoint, “plain vanilla” implementations may exhibit some slow downs. Again, throwing hardware at a problem may work in certain situations but often additional modifications to SharePoint may be required to deliver the performance users expect. Searching for a social message with a key fact can be frustrating if the system imposes high latency.

Finally, social content is assumed to be a combination of real time back and forth as well as asynchronous. A person may see a posting or a document and then replay an hour or a day later. Adding metadata and servers will not address the challenge of processing social content in a timely manner. Firms with specific expertise in search and content processing can help. The approach to bottleneck issues in indexing, for example, rely on the experience of the engineer, not an FAQ from Microsoft or blog post from a SharePoint specialist.

If you want to optimize your SharePoint system for social content and make that content findable, take a look at the services available from Search Technologies. We have deep experience with the full range of SharePoint search solutions, including Fast Search.

Iain Fletcher, September 8, 2011

Sponsored by Search Technologies


One Response to “When Social and Search Meet in the Enterprise”

  1. Alain Wong on September 15th, 2011 10:57 am

    Great coverage Stephen! We’d love to chat with you and give you the scoop on the latest we’re working on in social search.

    Could you send me your contact info?


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