Thoughts on SharePoint/SocialCast Integration

SocialCast recently announced a Sharepoint Webpart, a part of their EASE release. I think some of the connectors, specially ones that bring SocialCast to Outlook and SharePoint will be very useful. I was also thinking about the reverse, which is bringing content from sources like Outlook and SharePoint into SocialCast (just like it allows bringing content from Twitter and Facebook).

Below are some thoughts about how such an integration could work.

SharePoint organizes everything in terms of sites, sub sites and lists. For example if I have a sharepoint site for my group (a set of engineers and PDs who work together organizationally), one way to organize my projects would be to create a site for each project under my group’s site. Inside a site, you can have any number of lists. List is the generic term sharepoint uses for any set of information. So Links, Announcements, Events and Documents etc are all lists within a sharepoint site. People usually associate webparts with Sharepoint but webparts are just a user interface concept, used to surface all or parts of underlying lists, and other information. The underlying data is all stored in terms of lists.

For SocialCast/Sharepoint integration, it would be good to have an interface where I can point to a top level sharepoint site, and see all the sites that are under it, and then select a site, and see all the lists that are under it. Then for each list, see all actions that are possible on the list, and be able to turn on/off notifications for each action. It would also be great to have the same notification features at the site level, meaning being able to turn on/off notifications for the whole site (i.e. all lists and sub-sites under it).

Subsequently, each time a notification is generated, it should have information about which site, list and item it is being generated for (including a link to the item), the kind of action being performed, and the user that performed the action. It would also be nice to have other useful fields of information associated with the change that sparked the notification such as Comments.

I can imagine that such automated notifications could easily clutter the “Company” or “Home” activity stream, so maybe there should be an option to see or not to see such notifications there. The same could be said for all stream items that are auto-generated (though some people may prefer those over person generated stream items 🙂

Consider this scenario…

Lets say I belong to a organizational group (Org Group) in my company called the “Company Data Group” and I am currently working on a project called “Fundamentals Integration”. I have a SharePoint site for my entire Org Group, and a sub-site under it for the current project I am working on. To help my Org Group collaborate, I also create a SocialCast Group (SC Group) called “Company Data Group” and include all members of my Org Group in it. Since the concept of projects is not directly supported in SocialCast, I would make another SC Group (maybe a private SC Group) and include all the people who are working with me on that project.

Now, I should be able to configure the stream settings for the SC Group that maps to my current project to include notifications that are being generated from that Sharepoint site for my current project (just like I am able to do so for twitter feeds being imported to the stream). Then the stream on my SC Group will be in sync with the activity going on in my project’s sharepoint site, and I will easily be able to keep on top of it.

Groups Vs. Workspaces/Projects

I think if we are talking about Sharepoint integration we must address the issue of Groups vs. Workspaces/Projects.

I associate SocialCast Groups with permanent organizational entities, like the “NYC Outreach Group” or the “Internal Communications Groups”. That makes sense but how does Socialcast support collaboration on a certain project or short term event, say a charity event being organized to support Chile or a market research project to identify the impact of a new product? How do we define the boundaries of that project, meaning I don’t want the content generated as a part of that project (messages/docs/links etc) to mix with other projects that I may have worked on or will work on.

Since I cannot make a “workspace” for my Project under my Group, the only option I will have is to make a Group for every Project I work on, and eventually that will lead to a lot of clutter (think thousands of Groups). It helps that Groups can be private and invitation only, so atleast my project groups will not clutter other people’s socialcast views. Also, I guess I could use a unique tag for every Project and make a stream that filters on that tag. But that seems fragile, as some people may not add those tags.

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Thoughts on SharePoint/SocialCast Integration

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