Communities on the
Internet have been popular for many years and are facilitated with an
interactive forum. Visitors can become a member and start new discussions with
other members. Moderators maintain the forum’s content. Because communities
make it easy to get and share common problems and answers quickly, many
SharePoint customers requested the ability to create such communities in
Previous versions of
SharePoint contained the discussion board. Let's be honest: This was a poor
man's version of a real community. The options were extremely limited, and I
didn’t see many companies make a lot of use of it. Third parties created custom
forum solutions, such as the Social Squared web part from Lightning Tools. Codeplex.com has similar solutions.
SharePoint 2013 comes
with a new site template called the Community Site. Can this finally be a
decent and fully functional forum within SharePoint? This article describes the
configuration of a Community Site and provides tips and tricks for building a
Wait a second!
Before I dive into the
configuration of the Community Site, make sure you consider the following three
Site or site collection?
You can create a
Community Site as a site collection or a site. I advice to always use a site
collection. In a follow up article I will explain why you should follow this
One or more communities?
Another question you
have to ask is who will participate in the community and what the purpose of
your community should be. For example, the company I work for has multiple
Each team has multiple
subjects to discuss. For instance, the SharePoint team might talk about the
Do you want all of the
subjects from the three (or even more) teams in one community? Most likely, the
answer is no. No problem, because you have the option to create a separate
community for each business unit with specific topics tailored to each team’s
interests within each community.
Is your community
going to be open or closed? For an open community, you can enable auto-approval
so every user can become a community member. In the case of a closed community,
you can set a request for approval, which must be submitted by anyone who wants
to be a member. In this case, the owner of the community has to confirm the
You are now in charge
of creating a new community! Don’t be afraid, because Microsoft made this
really easy. Let’s get going!
The new Community Site
comes with a helpful tools section:
Figure 1: The available community tools
The first part of our
configuration is defining categories.
You’ll want to use a
description and a picture for every category. This makes the categories more
informative and interactive, as illustrated in Figure 2:
Figure 2: An overview of all the categories within the
To create a category
click on Create categories (shown in
Figure 1) and new item:
Figure 3: Create a new category
In the resulting
dialog, shown in Figure 3, you can enter the corresponding information about
the category and click on Save:
Figure 4: The new category is ready to be used
Figure 4 shows the new
category ready for use. To change the properties of a category, click on Site Actions, Site Settings and Managed
Expert? InfoPath Fanatic? Event Organizer? These are examples of badges users
can be assigned. This fantastic feature makes a community more interactive and
really involves the members. I advise using at least a badge for moderators so
members always know who to turn to in case of problems or questions. To create
a badge, click on Badges and new
item. Figure 5 shows the dialog to create a new badge:
Figure 5: Create a new badge
To assign a badge to a
community member, you click on Assign
badges to members in Community tools section, and you’ll see a list of
community members to choose from, as Figure 6 shows:
Figure 6: Overview of the community members
Select the member by
clicking before the picture of the member, as in Figure 7:
Figure 7: Select a member to assign a badge
In the ribbon, click
on Moderation and Give Badge. Assign the badge and click on Save, as in Figure 8:
Figure 8: Assign the corresponding badge to the community
The Reputation settings
enable users to rate content and allow the configuration of the achievement
point system. Ratings come in the form of Likes or Stars. I recommend enabling
the rating feature. Click on Reputation
settings. You see this in Figure 9:
Figure 9: Configure the rating settings
It’s also useful to
configure the achievement point system, level points and representation, as
shown in Figure 10. These settings make the community more interactive and fun
to use for your community members.
Figure 10: Configure the achievement settings
settings, you have three options:
start date of the community
approval of join requests (for a closed community)
of offensive content
I advise you to enable
the third option so moderator features are supported.
Before you launch your
new community don’t forget to provide additional information about the goal and
rules of the community. Click in the quick launch on About, to get to the screen in Figure 11:
Figure 11: Introduce your community to your new members
Click on Site Actions and Edit Page, as in Figure 11, to change the introduction text. And
don’t forget to save your changes.
Figure 12: Don't forget to save your changes
Spread the Word
It’s now time to open
the community and welcome new members! You can use the Share button, at the top navigation, to share the community with
your colleagues. Figure 13 shows the resulting screen.
Figure 13: Share the community with your colleagues
You can also ask your
SharePoint Administrator to use a promoted link in the Sites tab, as you see in
Figure 14: Promote the community in the Sites tab
Join and Leave the Community
Before a colleague can
join the community, he or she has to click on the button you see in Figure 15:
Figure 15: Click on the button to join the community
They can then
immediately start creating and replying to discussions. Members can leave the
community by clicking in the quick launch on Members and Leave this
community, which is at the bottom of the screen in Figure 16.
Figure 16: Leave the community with one click
If a member decides to
return to the community, he or she maintains the same achievement points upon re-entry.
Every community member
can create a new discussion by using the dialog you see in Figure 17:
Figure 17: Ask your fellow members a question
Do you notice the Question option? Selecting this option
enables members to mark a particular response as Best reply. The chosen reply
is now displayed under the first post, above the rest of the less helpful
responses, as illustrated in Figure 18:
Figure 18: See the best reply to the question
The owner of the
community and the author of the discussion can always remove a reply marked as
Your colleagues have
heard about the new community and new members are arriving! How does the
interaction work within a discussion? Apart from using text, members can use
the ribbon to add a picture in the reply. Is a picture not enough? Why not add
a YouTube video, as you can see in the Figure 19:
Figure 19: Add a YouTube video within a reply
These are the features
members expect from a vibrant and interactive community.
Moderators are an
important part of any community. They are assigned to keep the peace and apply
the rules. To enable moderation, you must activate the option Enable reporting of offensive content,
which Figure 20 shows. Click in the Community Tools menu on Community settings.
Figure 20: Enable the moderator feature
When you enable this
feature, you create a new SharePoint group called Moderators. You have to add
the members you want to assign as moderators to this SharePoint group. Click on
Site Actions, Site Settings and Site
permissions, as Figure 21 shows:
Figure 21: Add moderators to the corresponding
Click on the Moderators group and add the employee
who is going to take on the moderator role. I also recommend assigning a
moderator badge to every selected moderator. Otherwise it won’t be clear to the
other community members who the moderator is. A moderator can see the option Review reported posts in the Community
tools overview. He or she can choose from a few options:
Review Reports: The whole reply is visible and can be edited,
deleted or dismissed. All of the other reports about this reply are also
Edit post: The moderator can edit the post. However, note that after the edit,
nobody can see that a moderator has edited the reply. There is no notification
to alert members that the reply has been edited by a moderator.
Delete post: The moderator can delete the entire reply.
Dismiss: The moderator can dismiss the report. Again, there is no notification
to inform members about this update.
The community member
whose comment or reply is edited never receives any notification of the
moderator’s changes. Changed a reply? There is absolutely no indication a
moderator has done so. If you want members to know that a moderator had taken
an action, you have to instruct your moderators to mark their remarks, for
example, in red. Similarly, the moderators don’t receive an email or other
notification about reported posts. Moderators must actively look to see if any
posts have been reported.
Members can browse
through the community by using the quick launch, which Figure 22 shows:
Figure 22: The quick launch is accessible at the left
side of the site
Let's take a look at
the different pages.
The homepage of the
community displays recent discussions with statistics such as the author,
number of replies and likes. Members can filter discussions based on what's
hot, their own discussions, unanswered questions, discussions with best replies
and featured. The owner and the moderators of the community can mark a
discussion as featured. These are really useful filters, especially when communities
become bigger and more popular!
You’ve learned how to
create new categories. The categories section shows all of them. Members have a
couple of filter options such as alphabetical order, what's hot and recent.
What's hot is based on the number of discussions and replies within a category.
The right section in Figure 23 shows some statistics and the top contributors:
Figure 23: An overview of the categories and top
Each member’s overview
provides other community members with filter options such as top contributors,
new members and alphabetical order. The right side of the screen shown in
Figure 223 displays the statistics of the logged-in member:
Figure 24: See your community statistics
He or she can always
decide to leave the community and can easily rejoin at any moment and retain
The last part is the about
page of the community. This often contains a short description of the
The Community Site is
a huge step forward from the discussion board in older versions of SharePoint.
It contains all of the features users expect. These include the ability to
reply with pictures and videos, categories and a moderator system. The
achievements system also makes community participation a lot more fun for
While Community Site
is exciting, a few issues with the final product remain:
No outline of replies: All the replies, apart from best reply, are
displayed under each other with no hierarchy. This makes it confusing to easily
see a reply to a reply.
No quoting: Users have no option to quote a reply.
No e-mails: There is no email configuration menu, such as in the My Site.
Moderators should receive an email when a member reports a reply. Similarly, a member
should receive an email about actions taken by the moderator.
No moderator remarks: Once a moderator has edited a reply, there
isn’t a clear notification this happened.
No close option: There is no option to close a discussion. It
can only be deleted.
The Community Site
template is also available in SharePoint Online 2013 and contains the same set