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Overview of communities in SharePoint Server 2013

SharePoint 2013
 

Applies to: SharePoint Server 2013

Topic Last Modified: 2014-05-30

Summary: Learn about concepts, benefits, and uses of Community Sites and Community Portals in SharePoint 2013.

In SharePoint 2013, a Community Site is a new site template that provides a forum experience in the SharePoint environment. Use communities to categorize and cultivate discussions among a broad group of people across organizations in a company. Communities promote open communication and information exchange by enabling people to share their expertise and seek help from others who have knowledge in specific areas of interest. You can deploy a Community Portal to promote communities to users within your enterprise.

This article uses many terms related to communities and social computing. If you are unfamiliar with a term, see Social computing terminology and concepts in SharePoint Server 2013.

NoteNote:
Community Sites are available in SharePoint Server 2013, but not in SharePoint Foundation 2013. However, discussion lists and Web Parts are still available in SharePoint Server and SharePoint Foundation if you want a light-weight discussion experience on your SharePoint sites.

In this article:

Communities use categories to organize discussions. Visitors can view the discussions and become members of the community if they want to contribute to those discussions. Moderators manage the community by setting rules, reviewing and addressing inappropriate posts, marking interesting content as featured discussions, and so on. Moderators can also assign gifted badges to specific members to visually indicate that the member is recognized as a specific kind of contributor in the community, such as an expert or a moderator. Each community contains information about member and content reputation, which members earn when they actively post in discussions, and when their content is liked, replied to, or marked as a best answer.

Although the purpose of discussions is similar between communities and email discussion lists, there are some benefits to communities including:

  • All users who have access to the community (whether through membership or visitor permissions) can view the information in discussions. By using email distribution lists, only members of that list benefit from discussions.

  • Communities are more permanent and contain the history of any posts and replies in discussions before a user has even joined the community. In contrast, when a user joins a distribution list, they receive email only from the point that they joined the list.

  • Communities help collect and organize intellectual property that is otherwise undiscoverable or difficult to find unless you are part of the distribution list. By using distribution lists, there is no method to categorize email messages and a search of the email messages only returns results within the member’s own folders.

  • Communities encourage and reward members for participation by building reputation points for posting, replying, and receiving likes and best answers.

  • Communities have built-in moderation functionality that helps keep the community active and appropriate to enterprise needs.

There are several ways to use Community Sites and features in SharePoint Server 2013:

  • By creating a stand-alone community at the site collection level or at the site level. For example, you might create a community in an organizational portal if you want to facilitate discussions among members of the organization and use the community categories to keep things organized.

  • By populating a community with email messages from a distribution list. This approach is one way only; email messages populate discussions in the community, but new posts and replies originating from the community do not appear in email.

  • By activating community features on existing sites. You can activate community features on any site, which provides the core Community Site pages, moderation, membership, and reputation functionality without creating a community itself. For example, you might activate features on an existing team site where you want to include community functionality but do not want to create and manage a separate site.

The Community Portal template is an enterprise site template. It is a Web Part page that provides search-driven results to display any sites that use the Community Site template in the SharePoint farm. The Community Portal template provides a search Web Part to search for communities or other content, and a Popular Communities Web Part to display communities. The sort order in Popular Communities is determined by the number of posts, number of replies, and number of members. Posts are weighted higher than replies and members. Replies and members are weighted the same. This means that a community with a smaller number of very active users is considered more popular than a larger, less active community.

You can edit the Community Portal page to add other Web Parts and customize the page. When deployed in the same environment as My Sites, users can access the Community Portal from the Sites link on their My Sites. You can have only one Community Portal per SharePoint farm.

The Community Site template is a collaboration site template that provides the features and functionality shown in the following table.

Table: Elements included in the Community Site template

Site template element type Included in the Community Site template

Pages

Home

Categories

Members

About

Administration settings

Lists

Discussions

Categories

Badges

Community Members

Web Parts

What’s happening: Available for visitors and members to display how many members, discussions, and replies the community has.

Top contributors: Available for visitors and members to display the members who contribute most to the community.

My Membership: Available for members to display information about their membership in the community, such as the number of posts and replies.

Manage: Available for site owners and community moderators to manage discussions, categories, members, reputation settings, and community settings.

Community Sites inherit the features and functionality that is provided to other SharePoint sites, such as governance, records management, workflows, and so on. Once deployed, you can customize the default content in the template to adapt the user experience to the special interests of the community. For example, you can change the appearance by choosing a new site background picture, changing themes, customizing the page content, adding an image and description to a category, and more.

Communities rely on the following required and optional databases, services, and service applications in SharePoint Server 2013:

  • Content database   Required to store the content from the site’s lists and pages.

  • User Profile service, service application, and social and profile databases   Optional but recommended to enable the use of profiles for members of the community, integration with My Sites and feeds, and mention functionality in discussions. When implemented in the same environment as My Sites, users can access the Community Portal from the Sites page on their My Sites. Additionally, when a member joins a community, starts a discussion, has a post liked or marked as a best reply, or increases their reputation level, a notification is posted to the feeds and displays for users who are following that user on their My Sites.

  • Managed Metadata service, service application, and database   Optional but recommended to enable hash tags and integration with feeds in the SharePoint environment.

  • Search service, service application, and databases   Optional but recommended to enable users to search communities and discussions, and to populate the Community Portal.

Community Sites rely on the SharePoint permissions infrastructure to help secure the community contents and enable participation by granting appropriate permissions to users. Depending on how you deploy the community, you can configure the site to be open to visitors and allow membership without approval, or you can configure more specific permissions that limit who can read discussions, join the community, and even discover the community at all.

The SharePoint groups shown in the following table provide permission to users for Community Site visibility, participation, and moderation.

Table: Default SharePoint groups and permissions for Community Sites

SharePoint group Permission level Description

Members

Contribute

Members can view, add, update, and delete lists and documents.

Exceptions: Members can only read the Categories and Members list items, and the site pages

Moderators

Moderate

Moderators can view, add, update, delete, and moderate list items and documents.

Owners

Full Control

Owners have full control of the site.

Visitors

Read

Visitors can view pages and list items, and download documents.

The default groups and permission levels should be sufficient for most communities, but as with other SharePoint sites, you can create additional groups and configure unique permission levels to suit the needs of your community.

When you create your site collection and select the Community Site template, you must specify a primary owner, and optionally a secondary owner. These users belong to the Owners group for the Community Site and have permission to add users to groups. As part of your governance plan, work with the owners to understand the groups and permission levels for the site.

For more information about how to plan for user permissions on Community Sites, see Plan for communities in SharePoint Server 2013.

Community membership is maintained in a list within the Community Site, which means that the membership and reputation of a member are specific to only that site. Depending on how you want users to join the community, you can either allow anyone to join without approval, or you can require users to request access to the community and provide an email address for a user or group who can approve the request. If you require access requests to join the community, you must have outgoing email enabled for the SharePoint farm so that the requests can be sent. For more information, see Plan for communities in SharePoint Server 2013 and Plan outgoing email for a SharePoint farm in SharePoint 2013.

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