One of the features I’ve always been keen on to use in SharePoint is the discussion lists. I think having the concept of a newsgroup at your disposal, in particular for small communities and using an html interface is a really useful thing to have. Especially if you can set one up quickly so it can also be used on a temporary basis and for groups of dispersed people that just happen to have a common need, such as the MOSSIG members ;-).
Unfortunately, in version 1 and 2 discussion lists in SharePoint were very limited.
With Office 2007 however, the situation is much better, not only are the discussion lists more feature rich in the SharePoint environment itself, but the addition of exposing them using RSS-feeds and the ability to manage them from Outlook 2007 really works for me. What Outlook adds automatically is read/un-read settings on an individual level, where the previous version of SharePoint only gave you an arbitrary ‘NEW’ indication that was not personalized. And Outlook adds all its rich management features to flag and categorize items, set reminders etc.
What it also allows you to do is add new posts or reply to existing ones from within Outlook, and obviously you have a complete off-line copy of all the items making it much easier to search the information posted in the lists whenever you need to.
How to go about using these features?
It’s all pretty straight forward, in your SharePoint site, create a discussion list. Now open the list, and in the actions menu pick Connect to Outlook, a wizard will pop-up from Outlook guiding you through the process. The list will now show up in a special folder called SharePoint lists and you can start using it as any other folder in Outlook.
As promised during the MOSSIG meeting last Tuesday I have setup a discussion list on my hosted SharePoint server so ‘MOSSIG members’ can participate in this mini on-line community while exploring the new SharePoint discussion lists and Outlook 2007 at the same time. I encourage you to try this out and use the lists as a means of communicating with the other group members on matters MOSSIG related.
You will have to let me know you want to participate, as it cannot be an anonymous list, I actually have to add you as a user to the SharePoint site. So either drop me an email using the email address you want to use for the login, or leave a comment here on this post and I will quickly add you to the site. Be aware that it is actually a beta environment, so don’t be surprised if the site is not available sometimes, or there are issues with posting. I have seen several, especially when you post using the html-interface in the site itself (not using Outlook 2007).