Finally, a SharePoint Community That Works! #SPYAM is Here on #YAM!

You have heard it by now, Microsoft acquired Yammer. I’m still not confident it’s a good thing for SharePoint as a platform, but because of a brilliant young chap called Joel Oleson, it’s definitely a good thing for the SharePoint community.

If you’ve been away from any form of SharePoint community related communication, here’s the quick story. Joel was quick to start exploring Yammer as a potential platform for the SharePoint community, utilizing his prior experience with Yammer and extensive knowledge of the community (he’s widely acknowledged as the grandfather of the entire SharePoint community). Thus, he set up SPYam, a Yammer-hosted community, and it’s been a rapid rise to a great new addition to the SharePoint community.

Note: Still haven’t been invited? Read on and I’ll tell you how to get your invitation.

The first time you visit, you’ll see that SPYam works very much like Facebook. The major difference is that SPYam is a highly focused and, so far, invite-only community, so anything you read will be related to SharePoint. In fact, where I previously always had a Facebook session open, I’ve now stopped doing that and instead have a Yammer session open at all times. There are also mobile clients available, and a… well… there’s email notifications there too, let’s just keep it at that. In other words, it’s familiar to anyone who has ever used Facebook and it’s easy to keep up to date on what happens.

Why is #SPYam So Much Better?

Today, much of the online SharePoint community interacts on Twitter. It’s a great place to be, but Twitter has its definite drawbacks.

First, Twitter has an extremely short attention span. Anything that happened more than a few minutes ago is generally ignored, unless you happen to end up in someone’s searches. In other words, it’s great for real-time conversations, but you have to be ‘lucky’ to find someone with whom to have that conversation right there and then.

#SPYam is much slower and much more persistent. It’s much closer to what Facebook and other asynchronous  communication platforms (like forums) do; you say something, go away for a couple of hours or days, and come back to pick up on the same conversation. Sometimes, conversations are more rapid too, but the effect is that conversations are much more persistent.

The second problem of Twitter is keeping track of conversations. It’s difficult to keep track of what people say and to which previous comment they respond. It’s much more like a room filled with people, and going back to what someone said earlier in the conversation is very difficult (although possible).

In #SPYam, everything revolves around conversations, and because all messages remain permanently (until you, or an administrator deletes them) you can easily go back to a previous conversation, or even to a single message in that conversation. You can respond to a previous message, and it’s easy for people to see to which comment you respond.

Tip: You can mouseover the ‘In Reply to’ text to see the previous message, if you didn’t know.

This conversation style gives much richer conversations that last longer, are easier to track, and, a major benefit over Twitter, allows everyone to participate in an equal manner.

This leads me to Twitter problem number three. Twitter is much more focused on people than on conversations. That’s why Twitter places emphasis on number of followers; the bigger your personal audience, the greater the chance your voice is heard. Of course, this can be a major problem to new community members; it’s difficult to compete for attention with someone with hundreds or thousands of followers.

In #SPYam, because the focus is on conversations, everyone has an equal say. You can post your first message ever, without having a single ‘follower’, and every sees as much of your messages as everyone else’s messages. In fact, I didn’t even realize there was a concept of followers in #SPYam until I had participated in many discussions. It’s simply not a popularity contest like Twitter can be, it is about your messages in the conversations.

What Challenges Are There?

As nice as the #SPYam platform is, there are some difficulties.

Any community will face major obstacles in starting up. They are difficult hurdles to overcome, and they’re not related to technology at all. I’m talking about the community itself and how that community evolves.

In #SPYam, because of the conversation focus, it’s been possible thanks to both Joel and the community participants, to agree, more or less, on a set of community acceptable uses, codified in a single and easy to read document.

The conversation hasn’t ended, though, as they would otherwise do on Twitter after a couple of hours or days. The conversation on #SPYam is still open, meaning the policies and rules are always open for debate. 

Even the fact that there is such a document is a huge step forward from the wild, wild west of Twitter, where anyone can (and do) say anything with no repercussions. Twitter flame wars ensue, and people get annoyed.

On #SPYam, because the universally accepted policies, Joel as an administrator has been able to swiftly strike down on breaches of that policy, and can do so knowing that the community has agreed to the rules he enforces.

Another challenge is that of what is acceptable topics, and yes, this is a SharePoint 2013 and NDA debate. I’ll get back to this debate in a separate post, but suffice to say, there’s a rich and constructive debate about both features, wishes, and the dreaded NDA.

Finally, there are minor user experience issues. Luckily, there are specific groups dedicated to providing that kind of feedback, and it seems like the Yammer team are watching and reacting, which is far more than you can ever say about Twitter, at least until you have a few million followers.

So, How Do I Join?

#SPYam is an invite only network. However, Joel has been very open with the invites, and actively work to recruit new contributors and members. As long as you’re there for the benefits of the community, adhere to the acceptable use document, and stay away from what I, and many others, see as a huge threat to the SharePoint community, commercialization and economic exploitation, then you’re more than welcome to join.

Joel has a post on how to join, and because any #SPYam member has the ability to invite others, I’m also going to make it easy for you.

Remember: Read the acceptable use document first and adhere to it! If not, you’re out!

To get an invitation from me, simply comment something below. I will not publish such invite requests, but I will need your email to send you an invite. After I have sent you the invite, I will delete your comment so I’m not keeping your email for anything beyond sending the invite.

Of course, if you comment with anything more substantial than ‘Please invite me’ or something to that effect, I will publish your comment 🙂

Also, feel free to share this post if you’d like others to know how to be invited. There should be options for doing so below.

What are you waiting for? Get your requests in and you can join the only online SharePoint community that really works!


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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

20 thoughts on “Finally, a SharePoint Community That Works! #SPYAM is Here on #YAM!”

  1. I like the comparison between Yammer & Twiiter for having conversations.. there is also the constraint of 140 chars in Twitter which gets in the way at times.

  2. So far, around 50 people have requested and received an invite, or at least should have received one.

    If you have requested but not received an invite, please let me know, and I’ll resend.


    1. Hi Bjorn,

      I’d love an invite. I actually requested one from the site… but either the response was blocked as spam or just vanished in the ether somehow… anyway, I’d love to join the conversations.

      And great job on the posts. I particularly like the latest on non-disclosures… having signed many of them in past being part of TAPs (I’m not part of SP2013 though) it’s frustratingly difficult to advise customers on strategy when you darn well know the answers. Wink and nod just isn’t enough sometimes.

      Personally, I think everyone is aware when products are in beta that features may be added or removed as MS sees fit. We may cringe sometimes, but we don’t hold Microsoft to any particular feature just because it’s beta. If we plan for that feature, it’s our risk to accept it may not make the final cut. I don’t think anyone would be upset (in most instances, people are elated) to see a broad list of anticipated features Microsoft is working on, with full knowledge it can be changed at will. That’s just simple product development.

      The flip side is competitive advantage. Microsoft is moving in painstakingly slow 3 year cycles (although that is changing) and by disclosing features (and gaps) they allow the competition to focus at a much more defined target. And sell against those gaps. The FUD machine marches on to Microsoft’s benefit by being “mysterious”. Can’t sell against what you don’t know. That’s probably the only reason I see to the product lockdowns… it doesn’t benefit the customer, and it certainly doesn’t benefit the competition.

  3. Hej Bjørn,

    great news, hopefully this will be a good opportunity for the SP community to stick together with all the interesting old and new stuff about SharePoint. As we can see in your weekend blog session, SP15 will push the community with lots of awesomeness, again, as back in the days of SP07/10 😉

    // jörn

  4. Hej Bjørn,

    Have been using Yammer at my last workplace as an add-on to SharePoint because of the missing social stuff out of the box on SP2010.

    The micro-blogging part of Yammer is excellent but the growing other ECM capabilities in Yammer is quickly messing things up becoming yet-another-document-collaboration-platform.

    Best regards,

  5. Without wanting to make you spit out your coffee, have you or others ever got involved in the SharePoint Users Group on LinkedIn? It’s the only forum that I’ve used up to now (I’m a basic local team admin, no developer, and certainly no decider regards upgrading, so it’s perhaps the right level for me) – and there have been some decent cries for help and subsequent resolutions there.

    Great news on the Yammer community, though – I’d love to see how that develops along with SP 2013.


  6. Great insight on SPYam and how Yammer can be used for community. I especially like the idea of a set of rules of engagement to keep out all the constant exploits for sales and marketing.

  7. Thanks for the great post.

    Like a lot of folks in the SharePoint space, I’m a technical architect focused on how we can use SharePoint as a line of business solution, not just a glorified document library. As this community knows, SP2010 has built a nice bridged over that gap since inception.

    Unfortunately though, we’ve never really had a rich ‘space’ for discussion and tracking the amazing information and insights offered – at least not in a manner that one could ‘go to’ in a time of need. Let’s face it, going back to Twitter to see what was said about what and whom and not lose time by the ‘instant’ change of topic, is nightmaress.

    So, I am new to this thing called Yammer, because I didn’t need another distraction like Twitter. But thanks Bjørn (and most definite thanks to Joel) for shedding light on #SPYam as our new frontier to exchange ideas, support each other, and grow our SharePoint community through shared experience (good or painful).

    That’s it for now, no need for me to continue yammering about (at least not this morning). Cheers!

  8. I’m just waiting for my request to be approved to join the group (after being nudged by Joel last night about it). While I can’t say that comparing Yammer to Twitter is fair, there are plenty of other ways you can communicate in a very similar fashion to Yammer about a specific topic like SharePoint. Facebook has groups, LinkedIn, Google, etc. and all offer similar functionality to Yammer. It’s interesting since we’ve talked about fragmentation in the community before and here we are spinning up another micro-community that will somehow solve this problem of communication. Time will tell I guess if we’re making things better. Or worse.

    1. Bil,

      Technology isn’t what builds a community, and what’s happening on SPYam isn’t because of Yammer, it is because of the people that are there.

      My reason for comparing the two is to highlight what Yammer gives that Twitter lacks, because they complement each other. However, despite the fact that more than a thousand people are now part of SPYam, SharePoint on Twitter is in no way gone. It is much better to use Twitter for casual chit-chat than for longer and deeper conversations. Something you need one, sometimes the other.

      Thanks for your comment.


      1. I agree. There’s a time and place for Twitter and it’s good for mico-conversations where you just need to flash something out there and get a quick response (I put something on Twitter and basically only monitor it for about 10 minutes to get responses, after that I consider the question closed and move on from there).

        The Yammer/Google/Facebook/LinkedIn community thing is different and better suited for on-going and continued conversations and things you want to circle around and discuss.

        I guess I’m still wondering why yet-another-community-tool on the technology front. Yes, technology doesn’t make a community but we’ve already had dozens of Facebook and LinkedIn groups for SharePoint so why is Yammer any different? Will it just swell up with it’s 1000+ current set of users, peak, then the next great tool will come out and another community will spin up there?

        I think Yammer as a tool might include all the pieces missing from the other attempts. Facebook had threads (sort of) so you could post a picture of a mockup or write something and have likes and comments around it, but with no threaded messages that might have been too simple. Facebook certainly has the real-time aspect of things with notifications but I think it was missing out on some of the other elements. LinkedIn doesn’t seem as real-time as a community expects these days and has the stigma of a “business” contact system to drag along.

        Maybe Yammer is getting it right with offering these features and pulling in aggregate feeds from things like Twitter. I still wonder if someone comes along and builds yet-another-community with some new (or old) tool that the community won’t flock to it. Or maybe we should ditch these other fragmentations, focus on the SPYam community, and build it up to be the one-stop-shopping place for activities.

  9. Hey Bjørn,

    Firstly, “Please invite me”.

    I came to this post in a quite convoluted fashion. I was cleaning out some old SharePoint links, and revisited Paul Clumsee’s CleverWorkarounds site – and have been going through his absolutely fantastic rant on “Confessions of a…” series (which is all your “fault” 😉 and all of its tangential links – your’s being one of them.

    So here I am, and now have a revitalised community spirit!!

    (My current client is the all-singing-all-dancing embodiment of wicked problems!)

    Cheers and thanks,

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