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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