As far as social collaboration platforms go, NewsGator hits the list of the most well known, likely due to the advanced capabilities it offers in a range of areas. Of course it doesn't hurt to be tightly integrated with SharePoint either. Here's a look at the newest version and what's still to come.

For SharePoint -- Any Version

That's the first thing you need to know about Social Sites 3.0 -- it will work with both the current SharePoint 2010 and the upcoming SharePoint 2013.

Also good to point out that Social Sites has adopted the metro style interface, for those organizations who like that user experience. Of course you may not be calling it the metro interface much longer if the rumors are true.

According to Brian Kellner, NewsGator's Executive VP for Development & Product Management, the Metro interface has a lot of concepts that are useful. And, since it's the interface for SharePoint 2013, it will help organizations transition more easily.

However, if you don't want to use the metro interface, you are able to do your own custom branding (and a number of organizations do this now).

Let's Talk Lookout

Lookout is Social Sites' newest interface. Its core use case is to keep track of things you may be missing in the stream -- things that matter. It is your own customized experience, allowing you to keep track of things that are important to you and your job.

Lookout is your personal dashboard view. You create tiles within any number of columns by dragging and dropping things where you want them to be. Within it you can quickly:

  • Create filters of your activity stream
  • Follow specific people, subjects, communities
  • Receive notifications
  • Integrate video, ideation, badging, questions & answers, and private messaging into your streams
  • Pin items to the top of your activity stream, whether it be a broadcast message or a normal item
  • Target specific people using the @target tag, and it comes with auto-complete for all users, not just the ones you specifically follow

NewsGator Social Sites 3.0 -- Lookout

With Lookout you can also integrate email, receiving and responding to messages in your activity stream via email.

The recommendation process has also been significantly enhanced (helping you find the right people and topics/communities to track closely) and the notification settings are more sophisticated.

In addition, for those who need to closely monitor the activities of their social collaboration environments (and I assume that's pretty much everyone), there is audit and compliance control, including blocked words and reporting.

Check out this video on Lookout:

Connecting Internal and External Communities

It's often the case that you work with both internal communities and external communities -- and have to use different screens to do it. With Social Sites 3.0, you can combine the views of both into a single Lookout dashboard. So you can now monitor and respond to external communities from your internal Lookout environment, ensuring that only the things you want to go out to the external community do.

Other Social Sites Module Updates

Lookout may be the newest update, but it's not the only thing new in Social Sites 3.0. Here's a glance at some other updates:

  • Spotlight -- includes a new expertise finder
  • Idea Stream -- you can now reset votes, enabling the reuse of campaigns you create
  • Mobile -- the Dynamics integration is improved and Lookout is designed to be tablet/iPad touch friendly.

What's In Store for NewsGator?

Despite what many might think is the beginning of the end for NewsGator (due to Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer), there are big plans in the near future that will solidify NewsGator as a premium social solution for SharePoint organizations.

You already know that NewsGator is working on an integration with Yammer, and that was to be expected. But in addition to that expect to see single sign on with Salesforce Chatter, a new Social learning module and more mobile capabilities using html5.

What about cloud you ask? With Microsoft's push to more cloud-based apps, what are NewsGator's plans? Well, they are working on a beta app following the new SharePoint App Model. And the upcoming social learning module takes a cloud first strategy.

But Kellner told me that NewsGator moves in conjunction with its customers and many of them are not talking cloud. So while we know that NewsGator has things in the works, a complete redesign of Social Sites as a SaaS offering may not be in the works just yet.

The focus for now is on ensuring customers are ready for SharePoint 2013 (note there is no license for upgrading to SharePoint's latest and greatest), and that they have the capabilities needed to work today. A good strategy don't you think?