Telligent server spurs collaboration

Blogs, forums, and media galleries integrate with enterprise applications through Web services

Naturally, communities are all about the social experience, and this solution has a number of ways to build those relationships. The 2008 version has revamped user profiles where you may include information such as your biography. This area doesn't capture detailed expertise (such as experience with certain applications or running specific types of projects) as you find in Clearspace 2.0. However, Community Server's profile page is the focal point of interacting with others; for instance, a "wall" lets others post notes to you.

Additionally, it's simple to create micro-communities. These groups become your own social circle where members have exclusive access to certain media galleries and blogs. Further, you can micro-blog -- brief text updates that are available only to your restricted groups.

Community Server includes basic search and a more advanced enterprise search engine based on Apache Lucene (a separate install). I found enterprise search provided faster, more accurate results, and it indexed attachments to blog and forum posts.

Another way to make information more accessible is through tags, which are a standard feature for blogs, forums, and media. At minimum, both search applications find pages based on tags. Moreover, Community Server comes with a tag cloud, a pre-packaged widget that displays in the left or right sidebar of your Web pages.

This introduces the topic of extensibility, since Community Server is built around the Representational State Transfer (REST) API. As such, you can write your own widgets or import them from other sources, including Google Gadgets, SpingWidgets, and Widgetbox. As a test, I had no trouble inserting various Google Gadgets into my blogs, including news, maps, and an RSS viewer.

Also built on REST is SharePoint integration, which was still in beta during my evaluation. It looks very promising, despite a few problems with installation and Active Directory authentication (which Telligent is working to resolve). To use this feature, I configured the Telligent-supplied Web Parts on my Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 farm. Afterward, I viewed my Community Server forum threads and replied -- without leaving SharePoint. I had the same good experience working with blogs. Going the other direction, "event receivers" let users see their SharePoint lists and document libraries in Community Server.

Finally, I tried out Harvest Community Server reports. These social analytics, presented as interactive charts, would be very helpful for external communities. You can, say, find unanswered comments, which might indicate a problem with one of your products or bad service in your support department. Yet some of the same 50 core reports can provide measurable intelligence for in-house social networks -- perhaps departmental blogs that have high activity or content that doesn't rouse any interest.

Community Server 2008's social features that are popular on external sites proved an excellent fit for intranets, too. Although the standard installation doesn't have project management, and personal profiles aren't as robust as those in Clearspace 2.0, Community Server 2008 Intranet Edition's SharePoint integration (even in beta) was superior. This fact, plus better overall customization via the REST API, pushes Community Server to the top of our enterprise social software list for now.

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