After Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer it wasn't going to be long before the SharePoint community started to take a closer interest in what it was all about and the impact it was likely to have on the world of SharePoint and the Microsoft stack more generally. Last week Joel Oleson, SharePoint superstar and community organiser set up SPYam, an (initially) invitation only Yammer community to help do just that. Since then the community has grown quickly and at time of writing has 455 members. Things are still changing rapidly and with the generous help of Neil McCarthy at Yammer the account has now been upgraded to Premium level which opens up the ability to create fuller profiles, add SharePoint integration and much more.
I was interested to see how things would develop along with several other initial members who voiced concern about whether the use of Yammer for the SharePoint community would catch on. Would people be enthusiastic participants to begin with and then fade away? What advantage did Yammer provide over Twitter or Facebook? Was this just one more social tool we were going to pile on top of all the others?
It does feel like there is a lot of tyre kicking going on but this after all was one of the reasons for setting up the community. There is lots of discussion around how groups should be organised or whether topics and the use of search are a better way to organise content or should it be a combination of both? Again, this is to be expected as people find their way into using this tool which feels somewhat familiar to those of us used to other social media platforms but has it's own terminology and options for achieving specific tasks.
Where I have seen success in the past using Yammer is in project teams that are geographically spread out. Yammer was fantastic for keeping the team in contact in a lightweight way that wasn't disruptive to our working patterns in the way that a teleconference that requires everyone to be present at the same time can be. Problems could be resolved and issues could be discussed either rapidly or over a period of time and the discussions could be widened out to include other colleagues as required. The main reason for this success was the focus on a project, there was a definite need for communication around a set of project related activities. The big question for me is whether SPYam can find it's focus or purpose quickly enough to keep the members coming back for more.
Initially SPYam definitely did feel like it was a group in search of a problem to solve and the comments about whether it really had a use felt like they may be justified. However, there are increasing numbers of discussion threads emerging that are engaging multiple people and generating useful content and ideas, there are some really interesting conversations happening around SP community user groups for example. Other interesting threads have included discussion about how to measure the success of using Yammer, whether corporate focussed start-ups will have more opportunities and whether HTML is a document. As the number of participants grows, sign up is now open to anyone (just drop me an email if you would like an invite), the amount of participation should continue to build and hopefully we will end up with a really useful space for the SharePoint community to come together. It is still very early days for SPYam but I think the initial signs are encouraging that this community will have some longevity and with the release of SharePoint vNext on the horizon there should be plenty to talk about.