Chapter 8: Sites, Blogs, and Wikis

Addison Wesley Professional

1 2 3 Page 2
Page 2 of 3

Clicking Site Actions ' Edit Page enables you to make changes to the shared version of the site, which means everyone will see your changes.

Collaboration within a team site is facilitated with the following out-of-the-box Web parts:

  • Document Library. A document library is a collection of documents that are organized together based on their subject matter. A document library has specific lists of metadata (or attributes) that it manages for each document in the collection. Default metadata (managed by SharePoint) includes items such as Title, Author, and Last Updated. Users can add metadata attributes (for example, Document Type, Industry, Language, and so on). Document libraries also have two main features related to multiuser collaboration:

    • Check-in\Check-out. SharePoint enforces rules around document ownership. A document can be edited by any member with proper permissions, but only one person at a time. This is accomplished by "locking" the document while it is being edited. A contributor checks out a document (thus locking it from further edits) and checks in that document when changes are complete.

    • Version Control. SharePoint also manages all activity around document revisions. If versioning is enabled for the document library, SharePoint stores a copy of each version and maintains a version history for that document. Users will always have access to any version of the document, throughout and after the document collaboration exercise.

  • Team Discussion. Discussion threads are an effective means of capturing dialog between users. A discussion can be any number of levels deep, with all users participating in responses. The value of a discussion thread versus email communication is that it is logically stored within the context of the team site and can be more easily navigated. In effect, it becomes part of the overall knowledge capture associated with the objective. WSS 3.0 extends the capabilities of the discussion Web part by allowing users to email content directly into the discussion thread. This allows for easier transport of email-based information directly into the team site. A conversation that starts in email can be moved into the discussion Web part if it should be shared with the team.

  • Tasks. Task lists are an effective way of sharing responsibilities across the team. Members have easier access to outstanding items and manage the state and level of completion of assigned tasks. For highly repeatable project scenarios, a fully prepopulated task list can be part of the default template. For example, a fixed set of tasks might drive a proposal writing project.

  • Custom Lists. Custom lists are a great place to store "everything else." Lists can include virtually any data. Remember from Chapter 3, "Introduction to the 2007 Office System as a Collaboration and Solutions Platform," that we used a custom list to track contributions that people made.

A team site is an effective way to organize content and people around a specific objective. The value is measured not just during the site's life-cycle but for some time after as other virtual teams can leverage the information captured in the environment to better accomplish their goals.

Working with Wikis

The wiki, which comes from the Hawaiian term for "quick," has been around for more than 10 years. In its simplest form, a wiki is an online destination where users can freely create or edit Web page content using only a Web browser. The goal of a wiki is to provide a space where members of a virtual community can edit any page, with full freedom to introduce, alter, or remove any content that was created by previous authors. Unlike blogs, which are designed more for knowledge exchange and communication, wikis are designed more for collaboration and creation. In the corporate world, wikis are used to create help desk pages, capture product information, and document research team findings. Consultants use them to drop quick notes about problems encountered in the field.

Much attention has been given recently to the next generation of online tools, dubbed "Web 2.0." The premise is that barriers surrounding content creation will be lowered, allowing all users to be producers as well as consumers of online information. This phenomenon is true not just in the Internet world but within corporate firewalls and from company to company. Think of it as intranet 2.0—tools that make content creation easier for all employees. Technologies such as blogs and wikis will go a long way in changing how companies think about, store, and recycle corporate knowledge by making all users active contributors to the corporate knowledge base. The hardest obstacle is cultural—most organizations have a hard time with the concept that any employee could update a company Web page at any time.

Getting Started with Wikis

If you've worked with SharePoint 2003, the use of site templates should be very familiar. Site templates are a framework for the layout of a particular type of page (for example, a team meeting or social event) that presets placeholders for specific content. WSS 3.0 extends the use of site templates by introducing a new collection of template types. One of these is wiki. Figure 8.5 shows the New SharePoint Site page used to create a page in SharePoint. Notice that the template list has an item for Wiki Site. By selecting this template, you can quickly and easily create your first wiki. Take a look at Figure 8.6, which shows an example of using a wiki to create a community-based how-to and help desk reference. Everything on the site is editable, encouraging users to not only consume information, but contribute as well. The structure of wiki is such that this default page is the homepage. Properly authorized users, your virtual community, can make edits on this page or create new pages.

Figure 8.5

Figure 8.5

Creating a new wiki by using a site template definition.

Figure 8.6

Figure 8.6

A wiki page enables any user who has access to make edits, encouraging community updates of shared information.

Wikis have existed, on the Internet or through third-party tools, for a number of years. For the most part, however, the use of wikis has been highly specialized and has grown quietly through word of mouth. WSS 3.0 is looking to change this by promoting and offering this functionality to all intranet users. This is a very powerful (and potentially scary) proposition! How do you explain the value of a wiki to a nontechnical, nonInternet- savvy coworker? Don't think of a wiki as simply content collaboration. The end result is not a document. In fact, a wiki is not a document or a chapter but rather more like a never-ending book. It's like a book written by a group of authors (versus one author), each one building on what the others have written. It is intended to foster creative exchanges of opinions and ideas in an environment that is free enough to offer all users a voice. It's not an idea that applies to every content creation exercise, but it is a powerful tool in the right circumstances.

For first-time wiki users, online guidance is available via the How to Use This Wiki Site hyperlink. Figure 8.7 shows that the default Wiki template comes with sufficient documentation to get new users comfortable and contributing quickly.

Figure 8.7

Figure 8.7

Online help for first-time wiki users.

How Does a SharePoint Wiki Work?

On every wiki page, you will notice action buttons on the upper-right side. One of them is labeled Edit. By clicking this link, you are directed to the page associated with content editing. Figure 8.8 shows an example of an edit page. It is important to point out a couple of key things. The first is that all editing happens in the browser. There is no use of external tools, such as Microsoft Word. All edits happen online and in real time (once saved). The second point is that no technology or Web design skills are required. The edit interface allows for full rich-text creation (such as bolding, color, bullet points, or images), all with the use of standard buttons. No HTML skills are required. A user simply opens an existing page in Edit mode and adds or edits content.

Figure 8.8

Figure 8.8

Making edits in a wiki environment.

In an environment where content is always evolving, how do you manage the changes? While you may not necessarily feel the need to police all contributions, you probably want some means of maintaining a version history and tracking changes. WSS 3.0 wikis offer that. Figure 8.9 shows what a standard page looks like after you click the History button. In the center, you'll notice that all edits to the text have been tracked (from original to current). On the left, you can see the history of changes, tracked each time a change was made, with auditing for who made those changes. The community has full power to review, track, and even roll back changes as needed. This is a powerful concept. As you're building and changing, WSS 3.0 is tracking that movement.

Figure 8.9

Figure 8.9

Version history in a wiki environment highlights content that was added, deleted, and changed, providing a way to see what changes were made when and by whom.

Here's one last point: As mentioned earlier, a wiki is not your typical Web page. It is a collection of limitless pages. As a member of a wiki community, you might decide to introduce a new idea or discussion point. The best way to do this is to find an existing page that makes sense to link to your new topic, adding it with double brackets ([[new term]]). This creates a link to a new page that doesn't exist yet. Click the new term and you are taken to a new, clean page that can host content about your newly created topic (see Figure 8.10). Start adding content, and you're well on your way!

Figure 8.10

Figure 8.10

A new wiki page.

While WSS 3.0 does not introduce the concept of a wiki, it does make wikis, given their wide availability, much more available. They are now built into your existing framework—automatically part of your existing portal environment, enterprise search, and so on. Wikis will transform the way information workers collaborate as they are no longer bound by the limits of a document. Wikis encourage unstructured thinking and broader collaboration. This also folds nicely into the broader concepts associated with the intranet 2.0 philosophy. Wikis are enablers; they allow all users to participate and not only follow along but forge new paths.

Working with Blogs

Blogs (from Web logs) are a very popular tool on the Internet for individuals to share knowledge and opinions in a public forum. While many blogs on the Internet seem somewhat personal and random, in the business world, they have become a prime source of information on specific topics, and bloggers have become public-facing gurus. WSS 3.0 introduces the blog site template as a means of initiating knowledge capture at the individual level within corporate firewalls.

With wikis, we talked about communities and contribution sharing in an open forum. Blogs have one source—the author. The subject matter associated with a specific blog is usually limited to a collection of few topics. The blogger is the expert. He or she shares experiences and opinions in the first person. The value of a blog is measured in the quality of the content and the capturing of information that can accelerate repeatable tasks. Blogs can be used both internally and externally. Sometimes blogs are an email replacement—you can post a blog entry instead of sending a note to your team. That way, it's easy to find later. It can also replace a regular newsletter that goes out to customers or partners. It's also a great way for an expert to capture random thoughts about a current assignment. In other words, blogs are a way of communicating to the rest of the organization what people are working on.

Getting Started

As with wikis in the previous section, WSS 3.0 provides a template for blogs. Figure 8.11 shows the New SharePoint Site page used to create a page in SharePoint. Notice that in the template list there is an item, Blog. By selecting this template, you can quickly and easily create your first blog. Take a look at Figure 8.12. This is the default view of a blog site. The author can add content right away.

Figure 8.11

Figure 8.11

Creating a new blog site by using a blog template. You can create blogs from the site directory, from a top-level (or any level) site, or from a user's MySite.

Figure 8.12

Figure 8.12

A blog enables a user to informally convey information and allows users to subscribe using RSS feeds.

How Do Blogs Work in SharePoint?

For first-time blog users, online guidance is available via the How to Use This Blog Site hyperlink. Figure 8.13 shows that the default Blog template comes with sufficient documentation to get new users comfortable and contributing quickly. Writing a blog is easy. You simply add text in a rich-text box and are allowed to tag the entry with a specific category so that all your similar blogs can be grouped. The left side of Figure 8.13 shows the category listing.

Figure 8.13

Figure 8.13

Adding a blog post.

Figure 8.14 shows an example of the more advanced features of blog creation—specifically, managing categories for blog postings. Bloggers can manage the permissions and content associated with their blogs. For those using Word 2007, bloggers can actually write and post blogs directly from Word.

Figure 8.14

Figure 8.14

The SharePoint Blog template enables you to manage categories for your postings. The categories are simply a list within the Blog template.

Related:
1 2 3 Page 2
Page 2 of 3
SD-WAN buyers guide: Key questions to ask vendors (and yourself)