The SharePoint Social vs. Yammer Battle – Do We Care?

I’m driven to write this post after reading one by  over the weekend called Gartner: Yammer or SharePoint? The choice is still unclear.

The choice indeed may still seem unclear, but I think that the statement addresses the wrong questions.

In my opinion (I’m the only one here – you talkin’ to me?), we should stop talking about the “social” thing as a thing. Christian Buckley (@buckleyplanet) beat me to the punch in his comment on the post:

Part of the problem here is that we are still dealing with a serious learning curve on what social is, exactly, and how it fits into an organization’s culture and business needs. Microsoft needs to both education and evangelize a vision+roadmap that has not yet been articulated. That’s a tough row to hoe.

Rather than saying we should use SharePoint or Yammer for “social”, we should instead be talking about the specific things that we want people in a given population to be doing (or at least capable of doing – getting them to do it is a different challenge).

Once we understand what that might look like – and the goals will vary greatly by organization – we can start to make intelligent decisions about the right technologies for that particular case. Saying we need “social” means basically nothing. Or anything. Or something in between.

The slide that James showed from the Gartner webinar which prompted *his* post (and no, I did not see the webinar) starts to get at that set of questions, but I would say that it is still from the reverse angle. It’s useful, but it isn’t the point.


This sort of tool-driven analysis almost always leads to disappointment in my experience. It’s an easy way out for those who don’t want to do the harder work of understanding what the organization actually needs – and maybe even wants – by saying that this tool or that tool is the better one without clearly understanding the underlying problems in the first place.

Technologies can only support the kind of things that people are lumping under the social sobriquet to a certain degree. The concept of being social covers many things, but note that none of them mention SharePoint or Yammer:

so·cial [soh-shuhl] adjective (from
1. pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations: a social club.
2. seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious.
3. of, pertaining to, connected with, or suited to polite or fashionable society: a social event.
4. living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation: People are social beings.
5. of or pertaining to human society, especially as a body divided into classes according to status: social rank

I’ve already stopped saying “social” as much as I can – which isn’t easy – opting instead to push people to tell me what they want to accomplish. It makes most of them uncomfortable (or they say “You know, *social*), but in the long run these artificial packaging exercises are the wrong way to go.

Decide what you want to do, then decide which tool is the best match to solve that set of problems.

Do You Use Yammer at Work? And Why Not SharePoint?

There was a question a while back on the Microsoft MVPs LinkedIn group (YAFSN! – see below) wondering “Do you use Yammer at work?”

I’m still trying to figure out how much I want to use Yammer. As when Google+ came out, I’m trying it. I pretty much abandoned G+, and Yammer may well go the same way for most things.

I got into Yammer via an invitation into SPYam from Bjørn Furuknap with my USPJA email address. Now I’m trapped into that identity for SPYam (the network for SharePoint discussions that Joel Oleson set up – ping me if you’d like an invitation) but have to use my work email address to access the SharePoint MVP network into which Microsoft has seemingly decided to move all communications. That tying of one’s identity to a single email domain (it seems you can’t combine domains into one über identity) is my biggest beef with the Yammer platform. I’m sure they will work that out, though. (Yammer probably could have done it in a few weeks. Now that it’s a Microsoft product, maybe in Yammer 2016, and you’ll only need to add a three server farm to enable it.)

I read a constant stream of complaints about other aspects of how Yammer works in – natch – Yammer. Sure, there are some true annoyances (no Shift-Enter in post entry, no parity between clients, Adobe Air!) but I could give you a litany of similar annoyances for every single YAFSN. User interfaces seem to always have annoyances. The important thing is how fast the people who develop the platform can react to consistent complaints and improve.

Everyone seems to think we need YAFSN (Yet Another Fantastic Social Network), but each new one that comes along simply fragments the landscape further. Who has the time to check dozens of these damn things? Social in the workplace must be a performance improvement, not a detriment. (I’d argue we should hold our personal social network use to the same standard. LOL catz!) if I have to check four or five social networks constantly in order to be well-informed, that drags down my efficiency.

I’ll keep using Yammer for the MVP stuff because I don’t have any choice, of course. Gotta get all those “secrets” somehow. It really makes me wonder, though, why we don’t use SharePoint to talk about SharePoint. It seems that in the vast majority of cases, SharePointilists prefer to use a different technology to communicate about SharePoint. That, to me, raises a far more important question: “Do you use SharePoint at work?”

Oh, I almost forgot to answer the original question. As a solo practitioner, there’s only me at work, so I don’t really need Yammer. I already have excellent tools in place to enable the voices in my head to converse.