Date: Sep 2, 2010
Article is provided courtesy of Addison-Wesley.
Scott Jamison, one of the authors of Essential SharePoint 2010: Overview, Governance, and Planning, discusses one of the most eagerly anticipated new features in SharePoint 2010: the ability to tag documents (both authoritatively and socially), helping users to categorize and search for the documents they need.
SharePoint 2010 Overview
SharePoint 2010 has quickly become the standard for managing content within an enterprise. Microsoft breaks SharePoint into six key feature areas as follows:
- Sites. Core capability to facilitate the creation and management of web pages that contain, display, and aggregate content.
- Communities. Ability to interact with (and solicit feedback from) other users through social tools.
- Content. Enterprise content management (documents, records, web content, rich media).
- Search. Ability to find information and people across SharePoint and other sources.
- Insights. Business intelligence tools.
- Composites. Ability to create applications rapidly (mashups, composite applications, and so on).
Interestingly, one common feature benefits most of these areas: tagging. For example, when managing files and other content in SharePoint, often it's best to tag information in order to keep the content well-organized. To get the greatest benefit from searches within SharePoint, it helps tremendously if content is well-tagged. Finally, social interactions just wouldn't be the same if users didn't have the ability to tag content informally or to update their own user-profile properties.
What Is Tagging?
Tagging is the assignment of descriptive words or categories to content, using terms that mean something to the person doing the tagging. When users add tags to content in SharePoint, they're essentially adding metadata to describe what the content contains, what it does, or what it's about. Tags extend the organizational taxonomy, which improves content "findability." Tags help to expand your solution's information architecture over time and, most importantly, they extend the responsibility for evolving the information architecture to everyone in the organization. This feature helps to associate content with new and emerging termseven before these terms are formally added to the organization's taxonomy.
SharePoint 2010 offers two primary types of tagging:
- Authoritative tagging. In this type of tagging, a content contributor or editor selects or adds a value in a column defined by the content designer. This is a form of authoritative metadatait's assigned by the content contributor in a structured field.
- Social tagging. In this type of tagging, a content consumer assigns a "social" tag to a document. A social tag is a value entered by any usertypically not the content editor. As the user starts typing a value, SharePoint provides a list of previously used social and managed terms (keywords), and the user can choose to select from this list. Since any user can add this social metadata, these tags or keywords are not considered authoritative, but they can be used to filter content in search results.
A special tag unique to SharePoint is the managed keyword. Managed keywords are authoritative tags because they're added by users who have content-editing privileges. The source of these values includes the managed terms for the site as well as the social data values used by other content contributors and "visitors." You can think of managed keywords as social tags assigned by a content editor. (Making the situation a little more interesting, content editors can choose to prohibit users from adding their own managed keywords to items, by requiring the user to select from existing values.)
Out-of-the-box document libraries in SharePoint 2010 include the following columns from SharePoint 2007:
- Created By
- Modified By
- Checked Out To
In addition, SharePoint 2010 document libraries include a new column:
- Managed Keywords
Like any other column, Managed Keywords helps users to find content in a library. However, the values of Managed Keywords columns are more flexible and less structured than those of other columns, which provides a very dynamic way to react quickly to evolving terms, opportunities, and emerging business needs.
Because more than one managed keyword can be assigned to the same document by default, managed keywords act like a "checkbox" attribute. However, some conventions apply to assigning managed keywords:
- Separate values with a semicolon (;) rather than a comma (,). Commas in a list of managed keywords will be replaced automatically with semicolons. For example, suppose you enter this as your keyword:
X, Y, and Z
SharePoint will replace your entry with these three separate values:
X Y and Z
Peanut butter & jelly
SharePoint will add the entry as a single keyword. By contrast, suppose you entered it this way:
Peanut butter; jelly
This entry would result in two keywords.
Managed metadata is a hierarchical group of enterprise-wide or centrally managed terms that you can first define and then use in columns in content types or lists and libraries. Managed Metadata is a new type of column in SharePoint 2010 that you can use to assign metadata to an item. SharePoint 2010 uses three terms to refer to managed metadata:
- Managed terms. Think of managed terms as
the controlled vocabulary that
you'll use to assign metadata
to content across your solution.
Not all metadata values need
to be stored and managed as
a managed term. Following are
some good candidates for managed
- Metadata with valid values that can or should be organized hierarchically
- Metadata that's likely to be used in multiple lists and libraries across your solution
- Metadata consisting of a restricted list of values from which users can select
- Managed keywords. Words or phrases added by any user to SharePoint 2010 itemseither formally in a managed term store, or informally as social tagsare managed keywords. Note that managed terms can be organized hierarchically, but managed keywords are all stored in a flat term set called the Keyword Set.
- Term store. The term store is the SharePoint database used to store both managed terms and managed keywords.
For example, your list of product names is a good candidate for a managed term. Sharing a restricted list of product names across the enterprise ensures that all users will assign the same spelling and name for each product. New products can be added in one place and be available immediately across your entire solution.
Managed metadata is "consumed" in a managed metadata service. You must have at least one managed metadata service in order to share content types and managed terms across more than one site collection.
Term Sets and the Term Store
Term sets are groups of related terms. In SharePoint 2010, the Term Store Management Tool is used to create and manage terms and term sets so that users can pick from a known list of values. With appropriate permissions (generally, Site Owners with Full Control privileges), users can use this tool to perform the following activities:
- Create a new term set or delete one that's no longer needed.
- Add, change, or remove terms.
- Create a hierarchy for terms, identifying which terms in the hierarchy can be used to assign tags to content and which are just used for grouping other terms. (You typically will want to use only the "lowest level" in the term hierarchy for tagging.)
- Define alternate terms (authorized synonyms). If users use different terms for the same thing, or you introduce a new term to replace an old one, taggers will be able to use their familiar terms to find a tag, but the authoritative term will actually be assigned to the document.
- Import terms from an existing list. Unless you only have a few terms to add to your term set, you'll probably want to use the import capability to add your terms. You act on each term independently in the Term Store Management Tool; while it's convenient to use this tool for updates to existing terms, you won't want to use it to add a large collection of terms.
- Change managed keywords into managed terms by moving them into a term set. This capability allows you to evolve your managed terms over time. In other words, you don't have to make yourself crazy trying to define all your managed terms up front. You should invest some time to plan your initial managed terms, but you can change your mind later. However, you'll need to assign someone to pay attention to how keywords are being used across the site.
One of the powerful new benefits of SharePoint 2010 is the ability to tag virtually anything. As in SharePoint 2007, editors can add authoritative tags via columns. With SharePoint 2010 , any user can add a social tag as well. Remember that effective collaboration isn't just about putting content in; it's also about getting content out. User-defined tags can help to narrow or clarify search results, so that users have a better chance at finding what they need.