Social tagging overview (SharePoint Server 2010)
Published: May 12, 2010
A tag is a word or phrase that identifies an individual piece of information according to a set of attributes or criteria. Tags make it easy to find and share information about a specific subject or task.
Social tagging helps users categorize information in ways that are meaningful to them. Social tagging can improve the quality of search results by filtering against specific tags, and it can also connect individuals who want to share information with other users who have like interests.
This article describes the social tagging features in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. This article does not describe how to configure social tagging features. It also does not discuss how to implement social tagging features as part of an overall social media strategy for an enterprise. For more information, see Privacy and security implications of social tagging (SharePoint Server 2010).
In this article:
About using social tagging features
Social tagging features help users to share information and to retrieve relevant, high-quality content more efficiently. Such sharing encourages collaboration and brings users into contact with subject matter experts who can provide information and assistance. Enterprises can also use the social tagging features of SharePoint Server 2010 to ensure compliance with industry or government regulations or to prepare for an audit or e-Discovery. For more information, see Planning for eDiscovery (SharePoint Server 2010).
Social tagging features
SharePoint Server 2010 contains the following social tagging features:
Social tags, which enable users to save items of interest, organize all information for a project, and connect to others who share their interests.
The Note Board, which enables users to add comments about Web pages, documents, and library items to be tracked in a central location.
Ratings, which are social tags that allow users to assess the value of content against a scale, for example, one through five stars.
Bookmarklets, which enable users to add tags and notes to pages that are outside a SharePoint environment. For example, if users add tags to a page on an Internet Web site, those tags and notes can appear on the Tags and Notes tab of their My Site.
Social tags, the Note Board, and ratings are controlled by the Use Social Features permission of the User Profile service.
Social tags are user-generated words or phrases that describe pieces of information. They are not part of a formal taxonomy, such as the enterprise keywords in the term store associated with a Managed Metadata service application in SharePoint Server, or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) codes used in medicine to represent specific diagnoses. Users create social tags based on their subjective experience with a specific piece of information.
Social tags consist of a user identity, an item URL, and the tag itself. Social tags are stored in the social tagging database that is part of the User Profile service. By default, all authenticated users can add social tags to documents and other SharePoint items. Anyone with the Manage Social Data permission can delete a tag.
Tag clouds provide an aggregate view of the tags that a group of users have applied to a single piece of information. SharePoint Server 2010 includes a tag cloud Web Part that appears by default on a My Site. Administrators and users can filter the tag cloud to display tags that are used by the owner of the My Site, specific groups, or everyone who can view the My Site. The display can also be filtered based on date and language. Frequently used tags are displayed in large, bold text, whereas tags that are less often used appear in smaller text. Each tag can display an associated number that indicates how many times the tag was applied.
The Note Board is a Web Part that enables users to make impromptu comments on any SharePoint Server 2010 site. Users can also make Note Board comments on the My Profile pages of others or on their own page. Anonymous users cannot add notes.
The Note Board helps users express thoughts in their immediate context rather than having to move to e-mail, instant messaging, or phone. For example, users can make comments about a Web page while they are viewing the page. Other users can then see the comment and a link to the Web page, which they can visit if they are interested in the subject. This immediacy helps My Sites and My Profile pages become centralized places to manage public conversations.
A rating in SharePoint Server 2010 is an assessment or classification of content on a scale according to how well the content meets specific criteria. Ratings show an average score that can range from 1 to 100, and a popup window that displays additional information about the score. Users can rate items in a SharePoint list, document library, and individual Web pages. Users do not require write permission on an item in order to rate it.
Each rating consists of a user identity, an item URL, and the rating itself. A rating also contains the date and time when the rating was applied. Ratings are stored in a table in the same database that stores social tags.
By default, ratings support is enabled across a farm. However, to use ratings in a specific site collection, ratings must first be enabled for that site collection. Ratings can be enabled on any site template if support for ratings is enabled on the farm. By default, the Ratings feature is on for the Publishing Portal site template.
Although tags themselves are always public, you can choose to prevent others from seeing that you have tagged a specific item. Notes are always public.
When a user tags an external Web site, the http://my/_layouts page within the user profile of the user opens. All tags and notes entered on that page will then appear on both the Tags and Notes tab of the user's My Site and the user's profile page, where the user's team and colleagues can see them.
A bookmarklet consists of a user identity, a word or phrase, and a URL for the content being tagged. Users can make bookmarklets on the Tags and Notes tab of their own Profile page private; they can also delete a bookmarklet.
Use and benefits of social tagging
Social tagging has benefits for both business and IT organizations in an enterprise.
The social tagging features of SharePoint Server 2010 help businesses to improve collaboration and to improve the discoverability of business information.
Improve collaboration to encourage innovation
User profiles enable users to identify themselves and find experts. Note Board comments can identify a group of users who are interested in a specific topic. Suggestions for a user's My Colleagues list can be derived from these social connections.
Improve the discoverability of business information
Social tagging features can help increase the visibility of high-quality content and identify the latest version of content. For example, a My Site feed can notify a user when a Web page is tagged with a tag that the user has included in his or her user profile. These features can also integrate with business intelligence applications to connect users with enterprise data that they need to do their jobs without having to leave their SharePoint environments.
The social tagging features of SharePoint Server 2010 give IT organizations the following capabilities:
Set policies that control group activities while allowing users to manage some settings themselves, which can reduce the need for IT to be involved in the day-to-day management of some social tagging activities.
Grant a limited set of read-only permissions to anonymous users, to restrict their access to selected site collections.
Plan ahead of time to use the scalable architecture of SharePoint Server 2010 to enable gradual rollouts and add capacity when the number of users increases.
Manage social tagging features at the level of Central Administration, a site collection, or a site. IT administrators can assign a user to be the administrator for a site collection or a site and give the designated administrator the Manage Social Data permission for that scope. This distribution of administrative responsibilities helps IT use resources more efficiently.
Use social computing functionality to relieve IT staff of some support activities. For example, a hosted Enterprise wiki can encourage users to share tips and tricks, or an RSS feed can send support updates.
Integrate new tools with existing applications to maintain a consistent user experience, which can encourage adoption and minimize training costs.
Impacts of social tagging
Although social tagging offers many benefits, there are accompanying risks. The security of content and the privacy of users are primary concerns in any implementation of social tagging. Performance and capacity issues are also critical to the long-term success of the implementation.
Security and privacy
Unless appropriate safeguards are in place, it is possible to violate a user's privacy or to expose content that should be kept secure. SharePoint Server 2010 enables administrators to set policies that help to protect privacy while allowing users some discretion in their use of social features. For more information, see About property policies in the "Plan user profiles" article. SharePoint Server 2010 also enables administrators to safeguard sensitive content. For example, an administrator can add a site URL to a list of excluded sites to prevent the site and any sub-sites from being tagged.
Users must understand the security and privacy implications of social tagging features. For example, they must understand that when someone tags a site or document, the title and URL of that site or document is broadcast to anyone who lists that user as a colleague on their My Site and to anyone who has that tag as an interest in their user profile. For more information, see Privacy and security implications of social tagging (SharePoint Server 2010).
Performance and capacity
Performance and capacity issues can discourage users from participating in social tagging activities. Although individual tags, ratings, bookmarklets, and comments require very little storage space, in the aggregate they will affect the size of the profile database, the term store, and the social tag database. Given the rapid increase in adoption of social tagging, any implementation must be able to scale out to accommodate large numbers of new users.