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No Trolls Allowed – Just Great SharePoint Discussion Boards!

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Discussion boards and online forums are intended to be reflective, forcing people to read other perspectives and thoughtfully consider a response in back-and-forth interaction and engagement. Anyone who has seen a comment section with a troll, spambot, or griefer disrupting the conversation knows that’s not always the case. However, a company SharePoint discussion board is a safe haven for timely and topical collaboration, and a great opportunity to share ideas.

Discussion boards provide text-based forums for users to discuss topics in a tiered response fashion. Each topic has a subject line, a body of text, and a flag to indicate if the topic is asking a question. Since SharePoint discussions are completely online, users can leave, return, and add their input when they’ve prepared a response. It’s easier to cite research, link to existing documents and files, and integrate other material on the site. Users can engage on topics which interest them, unlike a SharePoint survey where it’s an all-or-nothing inquiry with limited feedback options. Some users are not vocal in staff meetings or face-to-face discussions; online boards offer them a forum to share their thoughts or ideas. If your team has anyone with social anxiety, offering a discussion board can be a thoughtful way to get their insights without putting them on the spot.

To post a discussion topic, click the + new discussion icon, or go to the Items tab and select New Item. Fill in the blanks on the form and click OK. Your subject can be a question, an idea, a reference to a task or previous meeting – just keep it concise, and use the body of the message to relay the main point.

To respond to a discussion topic, click the title of the discussion. In the screen that opens, either click the Reply button or start typing in the Add a reply field. Users can reply to the original post or to other user replies, creating a cascading discussion that indicates when the responses were posted, by whom, and whose comment their replies reference.

Any SharePoint feature needs some structure and best practices (as I mention in my other SharePoint blog posts)! First, stay on-topic. Make the discussion easy to follow and to reference later. If you want to change the topic or ask a new question, create a new post! Administrators, keep an eye out for trolls and be prepared to intervene; this should happen less frequently than with open internet forums, since it’s a company SharePoint, but it can still happen. Also, provide some direction for those people who are used to very clear directives (keep your posts or answers to a certain length, keep it professional, etc.); this should be part of your site style guide. Finally, SharePoint is a collaborative platform – encourage your end users to post questions and ideas, and consider some form of incentive to take part…as long as they don’t feed the trolls!

Last modified on Thursday, 19 October 2017 18:27


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