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SharePoint Embraces Web 2.0

Posted by Richard on October 19, 2007

This news probably means nothing to you if you don't work in a corporate environment where people are struggling with (and sometimes arguing over) a multiplicity of tools for collecting and sharing information. But if you do, and especially if Microsoft's SharePoint figures into your workday, this news from yesterday might be of interest:

Today Microsoft is announcing two strategic partnerships, with enterprise software company Atlassian and RSS solutions vendor NewsGator. The partnerships link togther Microsoft's SharePoint product with Atlassian's wiki collaboration product Confluence and a new offering from Newsgator called 'NewsGator Social Sites', a collection of site templates, profiles, Web parts and middleware for SharePoint. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is a key product for Microsoft – it has collaboration, business intelligence, content management, search and "social computing" capabilities (Microsoft's term for 'web 2.0', according to this page on Microsoft's website).

The aim of the partnerships is to add more "social computing platform" capabilities to SharePoint, which up till now has mainly been promoted as an "enterprise productivity platform". In other words, Microsoft is adding more web 2.0 functionality (e.g. collaboration, personal publishing) to SharePoint, using best of breed web products from Atlassian and Newsgator.

I haven't used Confluence, but I'm familiar with several other wikis. The wiki concept is neat, and they're great for notes, informal documentation, or random nuggets of information linked loosely to each other. But unless someone with free time and organizational skills is managing them, they tend to become just big piles of stuff. SharePoint, OTOH, imposes structure and is good for managing more formal documents, especially MS Office files, but it's not exactly ideal as a low-overhead way of creating, sharing, and updating rapidly changing information.

Atlassian's SharePoint Connector plug-in for Confluence sounds pretty cool — linking and content-sharing between the two (so much integration that you can edit a Word doc in Confluence), a personal wiki and blog for every SharePoint user, and a single search mechanism for the whole mess. The latter, if it's a good search tool, is a big deal. One big headache with multiple information stores is finding things.

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