Exploring Microsoft SharePoint 2013: Social Computing

  • 3/15/2013

Social computing user interface improvements

SharePoint Server 2010 greatly updated the user’s My Site experience. Improvements included a snapshot display of a user’s presence information as well as details of what they were blogging about. Users could identify colleagues and publicize their interests and expertise. The My Site made it possible for users to organize their information, display where they were in the organization, and give other users who visited a person’s profile page an opportunity to decide if the person was the right choice to contact when looking for a specific set of skills or information. SharePoint 2010 also provided the notion of tags and a note board to which users could go to post notes. Many organizations thought of the My Site experience in SharePoint Server 2010 as an outstanding phone directory that provided more information than could be found in a Microsoft Exchange global address list. With My Site, users could find people quickly. SharePoint Server 2010, therefore, provided a start of the social framework, which has now been extended in SharePoint Server 2013.

As with SharePoint Server 2010, in SharePoint 2013, the server administrator must create a User Profile service application and a location where My Sites are to be hosted. It is best to create a separate Web Application to host My Sites, where the root site collection is created using the My Site Host site template, and the user’s My Sites are created as site collections under a managed path, such as, personal. Creating the User Profile server application is the same as in SharePoint Server 2010. Once provisioned, the User Profiles service application creates three databases: Profile, Social, and Sync.

When users have the permission to create a My Site, the out-of-the-box behavior is to allow SharePoint Server to create that site when the user click Sites in the browser. Some organizations will pre-create a user’s My Site. One scenario for which the pre-creation of users’ My Sites might be considered is when an organization launches its first company-wide SharePoint website. Many users, all eager to try the new functionality, might click one of the links in a very short period of time, which would result in the creation of their My Site. This results in the spawning of many My Site provisioning timer jobs. This affects the ability of the SharePoint servers to respond to other user requests and therefore could detrimentally affect users’ view of the team implementing SharePoint. Pre-creating users’ My Sites mitigates such a scenario. Another reason of pre-creating users’ My Sites is related to operational service level agreements: the IT department might not want for all My Sites to reside in one content database. The disadvantage of pre-creating My Sites is that many users in an organization might not use them or do not need them.

If a person has not created a My Site, the first time she clicks on of the social command that requires a My Site, such as the Follow on the Share menu, a Wait A Minute pop-up message box is displayed, as shown in Figure 4-1. SharePoint will then create the My Site.

Figure 4-1

Figure 4-1 Users who don’t have a My Site will see the Wait A Minute pop-up message box when trying to use social functionality that requires a My Site.

SharePoint Server 2013 is organized into three distinct hubs:

  • Newsfeed This is the primary landing page for social activities in SharePoint 2013; thus, it is also referred to as the social hub. Newsfeed is hosted on the My Site Host site collection and provides quick access to the lists of people, documents, sites, and tags that a user is following. It is in the Newsfeed hub that users can create posts or start “conversations” by using the new microblog feature.
  • SkyDrive The SkyDrive hub is the Documents library (My Documents) on the user’s My Site. As the link to this document library is on the global navigation, users can access their personal library from anywhere.
  • Sites The Sites hub displays promoted sites, sites you are following, and suggested sites.

Users can find links to the three hubs on the global navigation bar, as shown in Figure 4-2. Therefore, users no longer need to specifically visit their My Site to access social features; the social features associated with My Sites are fully integrated into the SharePoint experience.

Figure 4-2

Figure 4-2 You can use the Newsfeed, SkyDrive, and Sites links on the global navigation bar to access social features associated with your My Site.

Below the global navigation bar, on the Sharing menu, the following links are available:

  • Share Use this link to quickly share a site. In SharePoint 2010 to share a site you would navigate to the Site Permissions page. You can still use this method to configure the permission settings of the site.

  • Follow Use this link to follow a site. You can find the sites you follow by using the Sites hub. The Follow command on the Sharing menu is only available if the Following Content site feature is activated. The Follow command can also be used to follow people, content, documents, sites, and tags. On the Newsfeed hub, you can find an aggregation of the content that you follow. Also, if you follow, for example, a document and someone else is modifying and saving that document, you will receive a notification that the user has changed the document.

  • Sync Use this link to create a synchronized copy of a document library in a subfolder in the SharePoint folder of your home directory (%userprofile%\SharePoint). The SharePoint folder is displayed under Favorites in Windows Explorer, as shown in Figure 4-3.

    Figure 4-3

    Figure 4-3 You can use SkyDrive Pro to take synchronized files between your computer and libraries on SharePoint sites.

The subfolder has the naming convention <site name> - <library name>. After you sync a library, you can access all of the files within it from Windows Explorer and Microsoft Office, even if you don’t have an Internet connection. The technology used to synchronize the SharePoint library with the computer folder is SkyDrive Pro, which replaces SharePoint Workspace. SkyDrive Pro is part of Office 2013 (Standard or Professional edition) or an Office 365 subscription that includes Office applications.

A SkyDrive Pro icon is provided in the Windows system tray, with which you have easy access to the SkyDrive Pro menu, as shown in Figure 4-4.

Figure 4-4

Figure 4-4 The SkyDrive Pro menu in the Windows system tray, which you can use to start the Sync Library Wizard.

The Newsfeed hub

Figure 4-5 shows the Newsfeed hub. It consists of four Web Part zones which you can see when the page is in edit mode. The Web Part zones are named Top Zone, Middle Left Zone, Middle Right Zone, and Bottom Zone. The Newsfeed Web Part and two hidden Web Parts—MySite Personal Site Upgrade On Navigation and MySite First Run Experience—are placed in the Middle Left Zone, and the Followed Counts and Trending Hashtags Web Parts are placed in the Middle Right Zone.

The MySite Personal Site Upgrade On Navigation Web Part creates or upgrades a user’s personal site when the user navigates to My Site, such as, when he clicks Sites in the global navigation bar or when he clicks the down-arrow to the right of his name and then clicks About Me.

Figure 4-5

Figure 4-5 The Newsfeed hub, also known as the social hub of SharePoint Server 2013.

As the My Site is created, the MySite First Run Experience Web Part displays the We’re Almost Ready page and the Let’s Get Social dialog box, also known as the My Site privacy notification dialog box, as shown in Figure 4-6.

Figure 4-6

Figure 4-6 A user’s first experience to his personal My Site.

The Followed Counts Web Part displays the counts of followed users, content, and tags for the current user. The Trending Hashtags Web Parts, also known as AnalyticsHashTagWebPart, is a client-side Web Part that helps the user find new social content. Together with the Newsfeed Web Part, the user can take advantage of these two Web Parts to narrow down all the information that is scattered throughout the enterprise and ensure that they can tag and follow tags.

The Newsfeed Web Part

The Newsfeed Web Part, also known as MicroFeedWebPart, consists of two parts: the microblogging text box (labeled Share With Everyone), and a unified overview of content that you can filter by the content that you’re following, content available to everyone in your organization, content where you are mentioned, content that you like, and social activities that you have completed (such as following or microblogging and replies). The last two filters might not be immediately visible within the Newsfeed Web Part. To display the Additional Options menu, click the ellipsis to the right of Mentions, as shown in Figure 4-7.

Figure 4-7

Figure 4-7 Select the Additional Options menu to display Tasks assigned to you (Activities) or content that you like (Likes).

If you’re familiar with popular social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, you will know how to use the new microblogging features in SharePoint Server 2013, which you can use to participate in threaded conversations in the Newsfeed Web Part.

With microblogging, you can do the following:

  • Start a conversation that is shared with everyone in your organization.

  • Share entire conversations by copying a link to the conversation.

  • Share a post to a newsfeed on a site that you are following, as shown in Figure 4-8.

    When you share a post with sites that you’re following, the Newsfeed hub displays the post with site name to the right of your name. The site name is a link to the site so that you can quickly navigate to it. When you go to the site, the conversation you posted on the Newsfeed hub also appears on the newsfeed for the site.

    Figure 4-8

    Figure 4-8 With the microblogging Share menu, you can post conversations to everyone in your organization or to a select group of people.

  • “Like” posts in your newsfeed. People following you see posts you found interesting in their newsfeeds. You can view your “likes” later and find these posts again.

  • Include pictures, videos, links to documents, and web URLs in your posts. You can modify web URLs to display as text.

  • Refer to other people in your posts by entering the “@” character followed by sufficient characters to suggest the person in the autocomplete box, as shown in Figure 4-9. Initially the autocomplete box displays people who you are following, but as you type more characters and less people are found as a result, the search is expanded to Everyone. People are notified when they are mentioned in a post.

    Figure 4-9

    Figure 4-9 As you type a person’s name, the autocomplete provides suggestions.

  • Include tags in newsfeed posts, which are dynamically pulled from or added to the Managed Metadata Service (MMS). Similar to @mentions, an autocomplete box displays MMS tags. You can quickly view all conversations that reference that tag by clicking the tag to display the About #tag page. Also while on this page, you can add a description, edit the tag, and add related tags. When you place the cursor over a post a hover card is displayed that contains more information about the conversation, as shown in Figure 4-10.

    Figure 4-10

    Figure 4-10 You can use the About #tag page to view all conversations that reference a tag.

Site feeds

Newsfeeds are available by default on a number of sites other than My Sites, such as team sites, project sites and community sites; however, they are not available on publishing sites. The Newsfeed functionality is enabled by activating the Site Feed site feature, which creates the Microfeed app (list) and makes it possible for you to add the Site Feed Web Part to pages. It is the Site Feed Web Part that displays the microblogging text box and the aggregation newsfeeds posted to the site. By default, when the Site Feed site feature is activated on a site, the Site Feed Web Part is added to the site’s home page, identified by the title Newsfeed.

Site feeds will appear on the Sites hub only when both the Site Feeds and Following Content site features are activated.

The Sites hub

Figure 4-11 shows that when a user clicks Sites on the global navigation bar, the Sites view (sites.aspx) of the Social app (list) on the user’s My Site displays.

Figure 4-11

Figure 4-11 Use the Sites hub to find sites.

If Self-Service Site Creation is enabled on the Web Application that is hosting the My Sites, and the Start A Site Link is configured not to be hidden from users, the page contains a link to create a new site collection. The page also contains the following three Web Parts:

  • The PromotedSitesWebPart displays a set of thumbnails with links to sites that are registered as promoted sites in the User Profile service application. When there are no promoted sites, the Web Part does not display anything, and users will only see the other two Web Parts. You can use Audiences if you want a link to a site that you want to display for a specific set of users.

  • The Sites I’m Following Web Part, which is an XsltListViewWebPart that displays the contents of the Social app (list) that have been created by using the Followed Item content type.

  • The Suggested Sites To Follow Web Part, known as ProjectSearchBrowseWebPart, suggests links to sites which are calculated by using search results based on what your colleagues are following.

The SkyDrive hub

When you click SkyDrive in the global navigation bar, the All view of the My Sites document library titled My Documents displays, as shown in Figure 4-12. This document library is where users can store, share, and sync their personal files.

Figure 4-12

Figure 4-12 The SkyDrive hub is where you can store private and shared personal files.

By default any files uploaded to the SkyDrive hub are private, which is denoted by a padlock icon in the Sharing column. A folder named, Shared With Everyone, is provided in the Documents library, which can be seen by everyone. If you want to change the share permissions, click the people icon in the Sharing column to display the Shared With dialog box, as shown in Figure 4-13.

Figure 4-13

Figure 4-13 Use the Shared With dialog box to invite people, send everyone an email, or to change the permissions of people with whom you already share your files.

The other link on the SkyDrive hub Quick Launch is Followed Documents. When you click Followed Documents, the Followed Contents view (FollowedContent.aspx) page of the Social list on the user’s My Site displays, as shown in Figure 4-14.

Figure 4-14

Figure 4-14 In the Followed Documents view of the Social list, you can find documents that you are following and suggested documents to follow.

The Followed Documents page contains two Web Parts that the Sites view of the Social list contains: an XsltListViewWebPart of the Social app (list) that displays Followed Document content type items, and ProjectSearchBrowseWebPart.

My Sites

You can visit your My Site by clicking Newsfeed or by clicking the down-arrow to the right of your name in the global navigation and then clicking About Me to display the About Me page (person.aspx), as shown in Figure 4-15. If you click SkyDrive or Sites, you can click the photo or name in the Quick Launch to display the About Me page.

Figure 4-15

Figure 4-15 Use the About Me page to edit your profile and see your most recent conversations and social activities.

The About Me page, contains the following Web Parts:

  • AskMeAboutWebPart This shows a list of keywords that others can ask questions on.
  • PublishedFeedWebPart This Web Part displays a user’s most recent conversations and activities.
  • MySitePersonalSiteUpgradeOnNavigationWebPart This Web Part was also included on the Newsfeed.aspx page described earlier in this chapter.
  • ProfileInfoWebPart This shows basic profile information for the user.
  • MySharedContext This Web Part shows what is in common between the visitor to the About Me page and the user.
  • ProfileManages This shows the organization and reporting hierarchy of the user.

After you are on your My Site, you can use the links on the Quick Launch to create or navigate to your blog subsite and track your tasks by using the My Tasks page.

The My Tasks page

The My Tasks page includes your personal tasks as well as tasks assigned to you in SharePoint, Exchange, and Project Server. All Tasks displayed in My Tasks can be connected to Microsoft Outlook, as you can with a SharePoint Tasks app. However, this does have performance implications; thus, the use of the Outlook connector with My Tasks should be closely monitored. To set up the task management feature as well as the Search and User Profile service applications, there must be a Work Management service application. To aggregate tasks from Exchange and Project servers, additional tasks must be completed as described on the Microsoft TechNet site at technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj554516(office.15).aspx.

The My Tasks functionality is in fact a number of pages stored in the root of your My Site. You can view each page by clicking the links in the My Tasks section. The link names and their respective page names are as follows:

  • Important And Upcoming Highlights.aspx, as shown in Figure 4-16.

  • Active AllTasks.aspx.

  • Completed CompleteTasks.aspx.

  • Recently Added RecentlyAssigned.aspx. You can choose this link from the Additional Options menu.

    Figure 4-16

    Figure 4-16 On the My Tasks page, you can view your personal tasks.


When you click Apps on the Quick Launch, the Site Contents page is diplayed, which makes it possible for the user to create other apps and subsites. Users can also use the Site Contents page to navigate to the following three apps:

  • Microsoft Feed, which is used to display some of the content on the Newsfeed hub.
  • Social, which contains the two views used on the Sites hub and SkyDrive hub.
  • Documents, which is the SkyDrive hub.

There are also a number of hidden lists.

My Site storage

The About Me page is stored in the My Site Host site collection content database. The Profile pictures and any pictures posted in a user’s microblog are stored in the User Photos library on the My Site Host site; therefore, if a quota is placed on the My Site Host site collection that is insufficient for the number of users in your organization, users will not be able create My Sites, add profile pictures, or include pictures on their newsfeed. When a user modifies their profile properties, they are stored in the Profile database.

The quota applied by default to each personal site collection is 100 MB. If a user uploads many files into his Documents folder (SkyDrive hub), microblog, or posts to their blog subsite excessively and reaches that quota, they will not be able to post or complete any tasks that result in a write to the content database. In Office 365, each user receives a quota of 7 GB for personal sites.