3 Leveraging Social and Collaborative Services

Today no modern portal deployment is complete without some notion of social interaction—whether it is blogs or discussions or integration with social media (such as Facebook or Twitter). Your CEO may blog about product direction, your product teams may initiate discussions in online forums. All of these activities, once exotic, are now fundamental. Support must be available for virtual team sites, where representatives from different lines of business, or even different enterprises—such as your partners and suppliers—can communicate, collaborate, and socialize on a specific business task.

A powerful and easy-to-master array of services and features are available in WebCenter Spaces for introducing social networking application-wide and enhancing communication and collaboration within communities and teams.

This chapter provides a survey of these features and offers pointers to the information that will assist you in implementing them.

This chapter includes the following sections:


This chapter is intended for application administrators interested in leveraging social networking features to build highly collaborative communities using WebCenter Spaces.

3.1 What Is Social Networking?

Any number of social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, may have already given you a strong understanding of web-based social networking. Users forge connections to each other. That connection provides a free pass to information about each other's activities and the resulting content. That is, links to sites of interest, photo slide shows, and statements reflecting the connection's current state of mind. A connection between two people increases exponentially as each user's connections introduce themselves through recommendations and by commenting and liking streamed posts and links.

WebCenter Spaces does not reimagine social networking, but rather focuses it on the more purposeful environment of your enterprise. Users with common interests and goals can forge connections that expose them to content of interest and enable them to follow and benefit from each other's activities.

John and Mary

For example, Mary is the Manager of Financial Applications at myCorp. She meets John, the myCorp Director of Accounting, at a company-sponsored seminar. They forge a connection. In his Activity Stream, John sees that Mary has published a white paper on Financial Application Futures. John reads it and realizes that one of the innovations Mary hypothesizes would introduce valuable efficiencies into his own operation. John gives the paper a thumbs up (through Liking) and comments on the streamed item. In his comment, John tells Mary that he sees an immediate and beneficial application of her ideas and suggests a meeting. Out of that meeting, the Internal Accounting Refit community is born.

3.2 What Are Communities and Teams?

Communities and teams are groups of people gathered together to accomplish a common goal or share a common interest. In WebCenter Spaces, the idea of communities and teams is realized in a Space.

Spaces support the formation and collaboration of project teams and communities of interest by providing a dedicated and readily accessible area for relevant services, pages, and content. Spaces support the assembly of team and community members through direct addition, invitation, and self-registration. They support internal hierarchies through the assignment of permissions and roles, which offer differing levels of access to Space features and resources. They support structural hierarchies through the creation of Subspaces, the management of which can be delegated to subteams or different lines of business (LOBs).

Spaces bring people together in a virtual environment for ongoing interaction and information sharing. In essence, Spaces enable the formation and support of social networks.

Project Internal Accounting Refit

For example, the Space that John created, Internal Accounting Refit, supports the goal of customizing, deploying, and training for the department's accounting software. John assembles a team from many LOBs to accomplish this goal. He starts by creating Space roles and assigning them various levels of permissions. He adds team members to the Space and assigns them roles according to the level of access he intends each to have. He creates a shallow Space hierarchy by adding a Subspace for each LOB. Then he delegates the moderation of each Subspace to each LOB lead. He enables and configures useful services to ensure all members have access to the collaborative tools that will promote project success.

Learn More:

For information about creating and managing Spaces and Subspaces, see Part XI, "Planning and Building a Space".

3.3 Leveraging Social and Collaborative Features and Services

A significant number of Space services and features support the formation and success of project- and interest-based communities.

This section offers an overview of these services and features and provides a view of them through the lens of accomplishing John's goals. It includes the following subsections:

3.3.1 What Are Social Networking and Collaborative Services?

Table 3-1 provides a high-level overview of the social and collaborative services and features offered through WebCenter Spaces. Each description includes a link to more information.

Table 3-1 Social and Collaborative Services and Features in WebCenter Spaces

Service or Feature Description

Activity Graph service

Provides suggestions for people that a user may be interested in connecting with, based on existing connections and shared interaction with objects in the application. It also directs users to Spaces or items that may be of interest, based on similar interactions with those Spaces or items the user is currently viewing. For more information, see Chapter 58, "Working with the Activity Graph Service."

Announcements service

Provides a quick, convenient way to create and distribute messages to all users within the current Space, instantly or at a specified date and time. For more information, see Chapter 59, "Working with the Announcements Service."


An offering of the Documents service, blogs provide a means of producing an online, open diary for recording thoughts and opinions that, in a business setting, evangelize technologies, share expertise, and ruminate about future directions. For more information, see Chapter 48, "Working with Blogs."


Provides a means of adding your thoughts, opinions, and questions directly to a given application object. For more information, see Chapter 34, "Liking, Commenting On, and Sharing Objects."

Discussions service

Provides text-based discussions with other members of a Space. Use Discussions service task flows to create forums, post questions, and search for answers. Discussion forums additionally provide the means to preserve and revisit discussions. For more information, see Chapter 60, "Working with the Discussions Service."

Events service

Provides calendars for scheduling meetings, appointments, and any other type of occasion on view for all members of a given Space. Also provides users with a means of viewing their personal Microsoft Exchange calendar within the Home Space and overlaying Space calendars on top of the personal calendar to view a full schedule in a single calendar. For more information, see Chapter 61, "Working with the Events Service."

Instant Messaging and Presence service

Provides a means of viewing the presence status of other authenticated users and offers on-the-spot access to instant messaging and mail. Additionally, when users travel, they can connect to a 3rd-party network presence service, such as Yahoo! Messenger. For more information, see Chapter 62, "Working with the Instant Messaging and Presence Service (IMP)."


Provides an accumulative rating system that enables you to see at a glance which objects are viewed most favorably by you and other users. A counter keeps track of the number of users who like the object. In a group of objects, you can determine the most favored by its number of likes. For more information, see Chapter 34, "Liking, Commenting On, and Sharing Objects."

Links service

Provides a means of explicitly associating two objects with each other through easy-access reference points, called links. The Links service assists with setting up these links from one application object to another. For example, you can associate a project plan document with a list of project issues. When users access the list, they can also immediately access the project plan by clicking a link that appears on the list. The Links service also provides a quick way to create new objects when establishing a link. For more information, see Chapter 63, "Working with the Links Service."

Lists service

Provides tools for creating, publishing, and managing lists. Users can create lists from Excel spreadsheets, from prebuilt templates, or from scratch. As lists are developed, they become available in the Resource Catalog. Users can add lists from the catalog to any page in the Space in which they were created. For more information, see Chapter 64, "Working with the Lists Service."

People Connections service

The real workhorse of social networking in WebCenter Spaces, the People Connections service provides a means of forging connections between users and partaking of the fruits of this service's other features as a result. View connections' activities in the Activity Stream. Access their Profiles. Send them messages with attachments, such as files and links through the Publisher task flow or Message Board. Post remarks on their efforts through Feedback. For more information, see:

Polls service

Provides tools for creating, administering, and taking online polls. Use polls to survey your audience, check their recall of important information, gather feedback on the efficacy of presentations—that is, solicit responses on anything that promotes the excellence of the team. For more information, see Chapter 67, "Working with the Polls Service."


Provides on-the-spot distribution of items, files, and URLs of particular interest to a selected audience. For more information, see Chapter 34, "Liking, Commenting On, and Sharing Objects."

Tags service

Provides a means of associating a personally meaningful search term to an application object, making that object easy to find through search results. Classifying an item with a tag enables you to gather disparate items into a cohesive body of knowledge and share that knowledge with others. For more information, see Chapter 57, "Working with the Tags Service."


Epitomizes the concepts of community and collaboration by allowing all authorized community members to contribute their information to the greater body of knowledge through the wiki. For more information, see Chapter 47, "Working with Wiki Documents."

3.3.2 Leveraging People Connections

The People Connections service delivers core social networking functionality through such features as Connections, Activity Stream, Profile, Message Board, and Feedback.

Connections furnishes the means of forging connections between WebCenter Spaces users. When one user connects to another, it opens each to a flow of information about the other's activities and provides instant access to other social networking capabilities through People Connections.

Activity Stream provides a continuous stream of information about your own and other users' activities. The files your connections upload are available in the stream as are status messages, links, and notifications about specific types of activities. Such activities can include:

  • John is now connected to Mary

  • Mary revised the document financialApplicationFutures.docx

  • John created the Space Internal Accounting Refit

  • And so on

Each streamed item that alludes to an object provides a link to that object, and, in some cases, a preview of the object itself.

Profile offers a window onto information about a given connection, most of which comes from your company's LDAP identity store. A user's connections can view authorized sections of his Profile for such useful information as his contact numbers, his department, his job title, his management chain, and the like.

Message Board and Feedback supply features for entering and viewing messages between connections or posting feedback.

You can configure an instance of the Activity Stream task flow to stream only those activities occurring in the scope of a named Space.

Project Internal Accounting Refit

And that's what John has done. He recognizes the value of streaming the activities of his community. After all, seeing the streamed item about Mary's white paper is what got him started on this project. He appreciates that all members of the Internal Accounting Refit Space will automatically see the Space-related activities of other members in the scoped Activity Stream. To alert team members to this feature, he places an Announcement task flow on the Space home page and posts the following announcement:

Keep your eye on the stream! You can view all Space-related activities streaming from every Space member. Watch for activities, documents, and links of interest.

3.3.3 Leveraging Announcements, Discussions, and Events

The Announcements service offers a means of broadcasting an announcement instantly or at a time you choose to all members of a given Space.

While announcements offer effective one-way communication, the Discussions service supplies an excellent instrument for creating and managing discussion forums and topics. Members can add to the community's knowledge base by asking or answering questions that are relevant to the current effort and preserving that information for others to reference or challenge. Discussions provides a virtual meeting place where community members can deliberate, discuss, and collaborate, each according to the restrictions of his or her own schedule.

But when common scheduling times can be orchestrated, meetings and events can be arranged easily through the Events service. The Events service provides a community calendar, which can be used to schedule and post project and community meetings and events. The Events calendar is scoped to its current Space, preventing clutter and noise from other teams.

Project Internal Accounting Refit

John schedules a meeting with all LOB leads using the Events calendar. His agenda is to open the question of the best technology to use going forward. He captures meeting minutes on the LOB Meeting Minutes wiki that he created for this purpose in his team's Space. The LOBs are able to narrow the list down to three brands. John opens the discussion to the entire team through the Technology discussion forum. On this, John solicits the teams' opinions on each potential selection. Alok provides insight into one of the options, pointing out a weakness the LOB leads hadn't considered. Fifteen team members express agreement with Alok's reservations by liking his topic reply. This seems to be a very strong endorsement for omitting this option and selecting from the other two.

3.3.4 Leveraging Liking, Commenting, and Sharing

Liking, commenting, and sharing are integrated with many WebCenter Spaces services right out of the box. They furnish the opportunity to team members to share, comment on, and express approval for a document, a topic reply, a streamed item, a wiki, and a blog.

You can view Liking as a type of quick poll that captures and returns on-the-spot information about the relative popularity of an application object.

You can find more verbose opinions about application objects in Comments. Wherever there is liking, there is commenting, where users can enter suggestions, opinions, questions, and other relevant communication directly on the objects to which they apply.

Sharing provides a means of sending links to content of interest to a selected audience.

Project Internal Accounting Refit

John does this frequently. As information that is relevant to his project streams in from his other Space memberships, he shares slide presentations, charts, technology updates, and the like with his project team. Today, he sent a paper to Alok that supports Alok's reservations about the candidate technology.

Alok is pleased that John shared this document. He expresses his liking for the document, clicks the link to read the document, and then clicks John's name on the document to open an instant dialog with him.

Learn More:

For more information, see Chapter 34, "Liking, Commenting On, and Sharing Objects."

3.3.5 Leveraging Instant Messaging and Presence

The Instant Messaging and Presence (IMP) service provides a means of observing the presence status of other authenticated users (for online, busy, away, and offline) and delivers interaction options, such as instant messaging and mail.

Figure 3-1 The Presence Icon for Online Users

Presence icon, online

When Instant Messaging and Presence is available, every application object that publishes a user name with a presence icon becomes a conduit to different forms of instant communication. Any WebCenter service that exposes a user name can integrate with the IMP service. Such services include Discussions, Documents, Mail, and Lists.

Project Internal Accounting Refit

Once Alok has read the document, he notices that John's presence status is Online. He clicks John's name on the technology article, and a context menu opens with options for contacting John. Alok selects instant messaging and starts a conversation. Here is a portion of this exchange:

ALOK: will do! :) ... btw, is there a code name for this project?
JOHN: no, why?
ALOK: internal acct'ng refit is a mouthful.
JOHN: true
ALOK: how about AIR
JOHN: accounting internal refit? i like air, but
ALOK: right ... was discussing with team
ALOK: popular selections were zip, freeway, and bux (air was mine)
JOHN: if team is interested, let's run a poll
JOHN: i'm ok with any of these
ALOK: i'm on it!

3.3.6 Leveraging Polls and Activity Graph

The Polls service provides tools for creating, administering, and taking online polls. Use polls to survey your audience, check their recall of important information, gather feedback on the efficacy of presentations—that is, solicit responses on anything that promotes the excellence of the team.

While polls solicit the opinions of others, the Activity Graph service gathers intelligence behind the scene to generate opinions tailored to individual users.

The Activity Graph service provides a means of enlarging a user's sphere of interest in WebCenter Spaces by offering recommendations for new connections, suitable items, and relevant Spaces. It does this by tracking each user's application activity in an activity graph. The Activity Graph engine provides a central repository for actions that are collected by enterprise applications. Activities are analyzed and returned as specific recommendations for individual users. The Activity Graph service is also extentensible by allowing customers to track their custom events and recommend their own business objects.

Project Bux

In John's research on his technology options, he accesses a number of articles that discuss the pros and cons of each selection. As a result, he finds recommendations for similar articles in his personal view of an Activity Graph task flow. He tags one of these bux so he can easily find it in a Search, and adds a link to it from the page he creates to make his case to Finance and Operations.

Learn More:

For more information about Polls and Activity Graph, see:

3.3.7 Leveraging Tagging and Linking

Tagging provides a means of associating a personally meaningful search term to an application object, making that object easy to find through search results. Your tags provide a higher level of relevance from search results for yourself and others by augmenting results with additional items that you or others have tagged. Classifying an item with a tag enables you to gather disparate items into a cohesive body of knowledge and share that knowledge with others through the Tag Center or a shared saved search.

Linking offers a mechanism for creating a form of ad hoc navigation by enabling you to associate a relevant and useful object with the current context. For example, you can link from a page to a document, a list to a discussion, a list row to an event. You can link to an existing object or create the target object on the spot.

Project Bux

John and Mary have collaborated on a list of project milestones. The first planned milestone is the project kickoff meeting. From the milestones list, Mary creates a link to an Event using the Link to New option. A dialog opens where she is able to schedule a date and time for the meeting and provide location details. The entire team can refresh their memories anytime they need to by clicking the link on the milestones list or referring to the community calendar.

Mary creates the blog buxBashBlog, to track the progress of the upcoming kickoff and generate buzz. Eighty percent of the team expresses approval or comments on different blog posts. The air is filled with excited anticipation.

Learn More:

For more information about tagging and linking, see:

3.3.8 Leveraging Wikis and Blogs

In WebCenter Spaces, the creation of blogs and wikis has been vastly simplified. All you must do is select a blog or wiki option from the Create Page dialog. No additional configuration is required.

Blogs provide an excellent medium for evangelizing selected technologies, logistical changes, and any other organizational shifts you are eager to promote.

Wikis epitomize the concepts of community and collaboration by enabling all authorized community members to contribute their information to a greater body of knowledge. Wiki pages are web pages that offer in-place editing using HTML or a simple mark-up language. Users with sufficient permissions on a wiki page can add, revise, or delete content.

Wikipedia is a prime example of a wiki (http://www.wikipedia.com). Users from all over the world collaborate to create and edit Wikipedia pages, resulting in a rich, dynamic knowledge base for everyone's benefit.

Project Bux

Alok and his team have mapped out the logical flow of information for the upcoming customization. They collaborate on a wiki that captures each decision point and describes the conditions that influence the options available at each point. Tina, the training LOB lead, adds a column to the wiki and makes suggestions or asks questions about each point.

Alok, IMs Doris with a link to the wiki, asking her to address Tina's questions. Doris edits the wiki, as requested. Then she IMs Tina, suggesting a follow-up meeting to ensure all is clear. Tina schedules the meeting on the community Calendar. She navigates to the Training Project Issues list in her LOB's Subspace and checks off the issues, clarify project details and identify subject matter expert, entering Doris' name in the list's Contacts column. She adds a link to the scheduled meeting on the second row.

Learn More:

For more information about wikis and blogs, see:

3.3.9 Leveraging Lists

Lists are useful for so many Space activities, such as tracking issues, capturing project milestones, publishing project assignments, and much more. The lists you create in WebCenter Spaces can be widely varied in their complexity. For example, you can start with a list of team members, and then include columns for contact information, project role, and links to relevant documents, such as any plans or proposals associated with a listed team member.

Project Bux

Finance and Operations approves John's project and provides a budget. John posts an announcement and IMs Mary to congratulate her on their mutual success. John creates a master list of project milestones, and links each row of high-level milestones to the pages containing each LOB's milestones. The project Activity Stream flows with information about new pages, new documents, new connections, and the like. Discussion topics proliferate. Polls are launched. Everyone is communicating, collaborating, and generating informed, consistent content.

Learn More:

For more information about Lists, see Chapter 64, "Working with the Lists Service."