Lab test: Telligent Community Server 2008 spurs collaboration
Blogs, forums, and media galleries integrate with enterprise applications through Web services
Discussions come with some important extras that enterprises should value. For instance, you can delegate moderation of specific forums to someone else. Forum creators can build polls. And to keep things interesting, users may embed videos in forum posts. Additionally, there's strong auditing that lets managers review all moderation actions.
For managing rich media, there's the media gallery. While I consider this feature more important for external communities (you can include material from third-party services such as Flickr and YouTube), it shouldn't be overlooked by enterprises. I envision video media galleries would work well for corporate training or management messages; alternately, marketing departments could create galleries of product photos or other assets that need to be shared. Just like other parts of this application, users can rate and tag media, express their opinion, and sort media according to relevance.
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.