Immediately following Michael Noel’s session on SharePoint virtualization in Beijing was Paul Swider, speaking on the topic of Developing Social Applications with SharePoint. Ironically, as I type these words at the Microsoft office in Manila at the second STP event, I can hear Paul delivering his session again, to what sounds like an appreciative audience in the next room.
Given what had appeared to the untrained Western eye to be a heavily student-centric audience, Paul had added some new slides and resources to his deck on the fly, beginning by showing off Microsoft DreamSpark (free access to the entire Office Suite, including SharePoint, for students) before polling the audience and learning that all of the youngest STP attendees were over in the business track. Paul deftly switched gears to show Microsoft Bizspark (a free offering of the entire Office suite of products, including an Internet-facing SharePoint license for small business owners developing on the Microsoft stack) to the assembled crowd, several of whom were building businesses using Microsoft software technologies.
Beginning to address the topic of social media and SharePoint, Paul said that “We do live in a different world today in terms of business software,” saying that in the past the focus was on business process type systems, but “now we’re seeing a lot more [applications and platforms that are] bringing more people-centric software into the organization.”
SharePoint is, of course, an example of exactly that sort of “people-centric” platform, and is, as Paul explained, a “Mesh of WCM, ECM, and social technologies.” Paul went on to say that, “From my perspective, that [combination is] what makes SharePoint such a unique platform” since it “brings all of these things together as one.”
Paul then demonstrated a series of SharePoint 2010 features and, in his role as the “token developer” on the STP tour, “how we can work with them programmatically using Visual Studio.” Starting with showing social feedback features (tags, notes, and ratings) in the My Site, Paul said that such features “might seem trivial” but they’re actually quite “powerful, in that [they] give users the ability to decide what content is most relevant and useful within the organization.”
Referencing Michael’s session, Paul said that “As a developer, I’m using a virtual environment as well [and] I’m running VMWare, Visual Studio 2010, and SharePoint Server 2010.” He then demonstrated the Document Center, showing that you can “Like” or tag the Document Center as a whole, and explained that those social activities are saved to your personal My Site. Showing how to supply metadata for individual documents within the document center, as well as how to rate and/or add Notes, Paul then showed where the tags are coming from: Central Admin -> Service Applications, and how to access them via Visual Studio. Next, Paul demonstrated that in 2010, “Service applications can be split and shared across multiple farms, which is one way we can deal with latency issues because they can be distributed geographically.”
Moving into Visual Studio, Paul showed how to access the terms from the Global Terms Store programmatically. Paul then said that there is a new Web Service available called the SocialDataService Web Service which is installed when you install SharePoint Server. Paul then explained that the Client Object Model is another new feature that’s a set of AJAX calls which gets objects back from the SP Server “so you can get and send data back and forth from SharePoint.” It’s the Taxonomy Web Service that “allows us to read and write terms from the Global Terms Store. “Using the object model, we can access the rating of an item in a list, or the page itself.” As he explained this, Paul demonstrated the code in Visual Studio that makes it possible.
Showing the Tags and Notes feature of the SharePoint 2010 My Site, Paul demonstrated how to scroll through Activities, including a sidebar on how to tag an external page (and have it show up in the My Site Activities). Paul demonstrated the code in Visual Studio to set the namespace for user profiles, and how to then programmatically access the UP store and update profile data as necessary. By doing so, you “can get at all of that profile data behind the scenes” programmatically.
Paul explained that, beyond just modifying existing UP info, “We also have the ability to create those properties,” and that it’s possible to programmatically add new properties for everybody in an organization. Paul then demonstrated, as he had with the previous examples, the Visual Studio code that will accomplish this.
As a final take home, Paul said that “There are a lot of social features in SharePoint now, along with a very rich object model, and Web Services available to us as developers... and using Visual Studio, there’s a lot we can do with the functionality.”
Note: All Sharing the Point slide decks, including Paul’s, will soon be made available for download here on the site.