A social Content Management system
What is a social software system? In this post, I discuss this very question and look at a fictional company to determine whether they have a social Content Management system, or not.
Seven Social Software Elements
In a 2007 post, Gene Smith defines seven social software elements.
Identity – a way of uniquely identifying people in the system
Presence – a way of knowing who is online, available or otherwise nearby
Relationships – a way of describing how two users in the system are related (e.g. in Flickr, people can be contacts, friends of family)
Conversations – a way of talking to other people through the system
Groups – a way of forming communities of interest
Reputation – a way of knowing the status of other people in the system (who’s a good citizen? who can be trusted?)
Sharing – a way of sharing things that are meaningful to participants (like photos or videos)
Each social software system had three or more of these elements (but not necessarily all of the elements).
Using Gene’s list, I decided to do a case study where I analyse a fictional document management system and see how it measures up.
The Company: Wet Cleaver Drywear
Background: Wet Cleaver Dry Goods designs and manufactures ready-to-wear clothing for farmers. This includes rainwear, winter clothing, informal dress clothing, hats, gloves, etc.
It has factories in three different countries. It uses an Oracle-based Content Management system to store and manage, clothing designs, as well as operating procedures, sales information, customer feedback, and press releases, etc. Designs and patterns are sensitive and need to be tracked. Operating Procedures need to follow a Review process before being available for use. Press Releases need to be routed to the appropriate managers for sign-off before being released, and customer feedback has to be routed to the appropriate department heads. Security is applied to the documents ensuring that they can only be edited by members of each particular department. Each user has an Active Directory account, and a matching account in the CMS. Exchange is used for e-mails.
To provide users with a more “accessible” interface, SharePoint has been used to create a Portal. Each department has its own site which is populated with special web parts that provide access to the documents in the Oracle-based Content Management system, as well as its native functions.
Each web site has been designed by the IT department, based on discussion with the end-users to meet the “requirements” the department the site is intended for. SharePoint groups have been created for each department and populated with the users’ active directory accounts. Each site is secured so that only members of each department can access the related site, and, to ensure that a consistent look-and-feel is maintained, as well as to reduce support issues, the users do not have the right to create new sites themselves, or to customise the sites (“My Sites”). If users from different departments need to work on a document together, a SharePoint site is created along with a SharePoint document library. The required documents are placed in the document library by the CMS administrators, and specific users are granted access to the site. Further to this, a SharePoint Search Center has been created, and with the use of a special protocol handler, is able to index the contents of the oracle-based CMS. Users, however, are only able to find documents that they have rights to.
A separate SharePoint site has been set up to store FAQs, lists of who is in each department, etc.
Analysis: Does this system have three, or more (or any) of the elements that Gene listed? Lets have a look…
Identity – In this system, each user needs to be logged into the network to access the Portal. Pass-through authentication is used. Thus, each user can be uniquely identified.
Presence – Although the user can see that they are logged on (their username is displayed on the screen), there is no way to know who else is logged into the system at the same time.
Relationships – The Portal has been designed to provide a slightly easier way of performing the tasks that would normally take place in the CMS. That is the processing of documents. As mentioned above, there is a separate site that lists who is in each department.
Conversations – When users need to communicate with each other they use Exchange. This is, however, separate from the CMS/Portal.
Groups – The Portal is strictly controlled. IT can create special sites that meet specific requirements, and then users are granted access on an as-needed basis. The CMS administrators export files out of the CMS into the site’s document library where the users can work on them. While this can be considered as a type of community forming, the fact that it is strictly controlled, and not an ad-hoc process negates this.
Reputation – Apart from the fact that a list is maintained (on a separate site) of who works in each department, and their positions, there is no way to determine the “reputation” of a particular user (e.g. the person who has created the most operating procedures, or has provided the most valuable feedback during a review process).
Sharing – The only sharing that occurs is the routing of documents. This is not done in an ad hoc fashion but is defined by business rules, and pre-defined workflows. As such, there is no sharing.
Social Software Honeycomb
Something else that Gene had done in his post was to create a social software honeycomb.
Each element is represented by a hexagon. Each hexagon is shaded depending on whether the particular system supported the social element.
Looking at the Document Management system of Wet Cleaver Dry Goods, the honeycomb would look like this:
Clearly this system does not contain three, or more, of Gene’s social elements.
Why isn’t my SharePoint Environment Social??? – SharePoint … (sharepointjoel.com)