The term Social Computing can be defined as the use of technology allowing people to connect with each other, usually online. Examples include blogs with responses, wikis, and social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. In addition, there are new rating-type applications, Web applications and social technologies being developed allowing users to connect and benefit from the strength and knowledge of a community.

Today, your business users are more socially aware, and social applications can be easily adopted. One of the reasons for the quick adoption of SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 was that people needed to connect as a group to collaborate efficiently.

When the 2003 version of the product was released, users had fast PCs, quick Internet connections and the software tools needed to be productive as individuals. The next logical step was learning to use software and creating new applications that facilitated being productive as groups and organizations instead of individuals.

Microsoft has been experimenting with social technology since before the term social computing had been adopted to bring the social concepts to the public Internet. Several releases of Internet Explorer contained electronic Post-It style notes that could be left on websites. As other users who shared the same note server browsed the sites, your notes would be visible and they could respond with comments of their own.

A decade ago, when team sites were first introduced, the technology allowed users to connect online via a website and collaborate on documents, enter into discussions forums, and communicate with team members. Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 is a collaborative portal solution that connected people, teams and information.

Enhanced online communication features, including blogs and wiki technology, were introduced in SharePoint 2007. The marriage of wiki and blog technology with an enterprise content management system was ahead of its time. Since the initial release of SharePoint Server 2007, the use of social computing technology has grown significantly, in part due to the popularity of sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Concepts like micro-blogging and tagging have proven to be effective ways to stay connected and find information.

The new release of SharePoint Server 2010 is designed from the ground up to support a user-centric model, and it brings forth new ways to collaborate using both social and enterprise computing tenets. Traditionally enterprise software defines a user as an identity that can be assigned access and privileges to data and applications. This is not the case with SharePoint 2010. The product aligns software and services in such a way that the user is at the center of the experience allowing a mash of social and enterprise computing.

Social networking tools are now a “first-class citizen” in SharePoint; an example is the enhanced content tab in My Sites. Having the ability to add many types of enterprise content to your My Site allows navigation of content based on a person, and social properties rather than a folder or site hierarchy. Other examples include social tagging, ratings, networks, activity feeds and the new organization browser.

But the main feature is the improvement to My Site. The My Site is now a personal portal for users to consume information from colleagues and those with the same interests. Attend sessions about SharePoint 2010 and social technologies at SPTechCon for additional information.

Paul Swider is an Enterprise SharePoint Architect for OnClick Solutions. With over 15 years of software consulting experience, Paul has trained thousands of students, developers and architects. His specialties include enterprise SharePoint deployment and development, .NET development, SQL Server, Business Intelligence, BizTalk Server 2006, and Windows Workflow Foundation.