Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quick and Dirty Evaluation of Lightning Tools Social Squared

Out of the Box discussion boards for SharePoint 2010 are not the shining example of a perfect collaborative user experience. My organization is looking at third party tools or possibly developing something internally to replace them. So...

I did a quick and dirty evaluation of Lightning Tools Social Squared for SharePoint 2010 ( today and thought I would share my findings in case anyone is interested. I sent this feedback to Lightning Tools and will post any responses if I get any.

Note that this evaluation was specific to my organization's needs. Other organizations may have different needs.

There are a few features that we don't need or wouldn't use:
  • Forum badges and reputation: while I can see the need for this in some situations, we are a fairly small organization where everybody knows each other and badges and reputation would not be appropriate or productive.
  • Display active forum users: we have other communication mechanisms. This would be redundant and possibly counterproductive.
  • Follow a user: We have a full MySites implementation. This seems redundant
  • User post count: not relevant to us
There is at least one feature that we would like that is missing:
  • There appears to be no way to sort forums in any other way than ascending. We would want descending (latest post on top) on all forums.
I am concerned about the integration with SharePoint:
  • What’s the backup and restore story? It appears that everything is installed in a separate database. I am assuming then that normal SharePoint backups wouldn’t backup the Social Squared forums?
  • Search seems to be completely separate. I would want search to be integrated with our existing SharePoint search functionality.
  • I would want tagging to integrate with SharePoint social tagging. It appears to be completely separate.

[Edit 7/29/2011]
As a follow up to my original post, Lightning Tools did provide a resonse to my comments:

1, User Reputation and Badges

This is something that can be turned off within Site Settings -> Forum Settings. If you turn it off the badges will not appear.

2, The active forum users web part is completely optional. As it's a separate web part you can decide whether to use it or not.

3, We do have a Recent Activity View, here is the one for our Connect forums. It shows all topics across the forums that have had activity over the last 7 days:

4, Backup and restore - as Social Squared is using a separate SQL database you would need to create a backup and restore plan for this. You can quite easily setup some scheduled tasks to do this each evening.

5, SharePoint Search - if you have the Business Data Catalog or Business Connectivity Services components available in SharePoint Server you can integrate Social Squared with SharePoint Search. In the Social Squared download there's a folder called SharePointSearchIntegration which has documentation and files to accomplish this.

6, Tagging is a separate component right now and does not use the 2010 Term Store. This is something we are currently working on and plan on including it in our next release which is scheduled for September.