Establishing Connections

Social technologies in the enterprise are becoming a key enabler for establishing common connections between employees with similar interests. This can result in increased levels of innovation through knowledge exchange and information transfer.

Recently I have seen a rise in the use of social capabilities in enterprise intranets. A large part of the functionality offered by SharePoint 2010 to support this new evolution of the intranet revolves around the idea of social collaboration in the enterprise through blogs, wikis, content syndication, discussions and social tagging.

A Folksonomic Approach to Tagging
While the first approach to tagging in SharePoint 2010 originates from controlled vocabularies, the second approach comes to us via uncontrolled terms that are managed as part of a flat list and surfaced in a document’s properties through the Managed Keywords column.

The intention is to enable users to apply terminology to content as metadata in a folksonomic way that makes sense to them. Rather than a forced selection from a more controlled taxonomic list of values, users are provided the ability to enter their own descriptors.

Like Managed Metadata, auto-suggest is offered to provide insight into managed terminology already defined in the taxonomy. Tags applied to content can then be surfaced as navigation through the addition of the Tag Cloud web part.

Categorizing and Annotating
Users also have the ability to create personal Tags and Notes as well as apply Ratings to content in an effort to categorize, annotate and help with the retrieval of content at a later date in time.

Tags — Different from the Managed Keywords discussed above, Tags are used to personally organize and bookmark items a user intends to revisit at a later date. They can be used to tag anything with a URL including both external and internal web pages, list items and documents.
Notes — These are short annotations that can again be added to anything externally or internally with a URL and used for the purpose of discussion among colleagues in a thread like manner to act as somewhat of a running dialog surrounding a specific item of content.
Ratings — Provide users with the ability to apply an evaluation on a scale from one to five to web content, list items and documents. Unlike Tags and Notes, Ratings are applied to internal content only and can be used to sort and filter through content contained in lists and libraries. This functionality can also be leveraged in a variety of search solutions to assist users with finding popular content as defined by users in the organization.

Not a True Folksonomy Approach
True folksonomy is intended to be an informal and non-hierarchical end-user driven approach to classification. The auto-suggest feature in the Managed Keywords column offers recommendations of enterprise wide terminology from controlled lists.

What this means is the same controlled values may potentially be tagged to the same content across multiple metadata fields.

A better approach that ensures more pure social classification would require customization offering term suggestions from user generated tags only.

The Value of Taxonomy
Now that we’ve looked at two approaches to tagging content in SharePoint 2010 up next we’ll be looking at how we can leverage taxonomy to improve findability via navigation and browsing.