Discussing the vision, plans and improvements for this new Office 365 Network.

Darrell Webster

@Michael Holste kindly agreed to more openly discuss the vision, plans and improvements coming for this new Office 365 Network. I'm sure @Anna Chu and the rest of her team will pitch in. There has been many reactions, reviews and critiques written and discussed since the launch of the Preview of this network. Remember that it is a Preview and it's our opportunity as a community to shape this network into what we want and keep the conversation going. 

So, Mike, Anna and team. What can you share of the vision and future plans for this network, that will help members transition from Yammer to here and grow it? 

  • Will there be a mobile app and when is it likely to be released?
  • What are current and future features of the platform that will help create community? Following, collaborative groups, co-authoring spaces, a feed for all conversations and people I follow...
  • ...What would you ask the Office 365 Network team about it's future and vision?

I realise there is an Ideas forum here and keep posting your ideas. But do ask your questions on this thread too about the future of this network. It helps to keep the conversation together.

60 Replies

I understand that vision is "community + scale." But vision is more than that, for those of us trying to gauge whether this site offers us both means and motive to try to rebuild or freshly build communities we've relied on.


If you're truly going to trim sails out here, make significant vs. incremental changes in direction, please say so. Nobody enjoys me being negative, particularly me; and yet I don't hope for the hell of it; I need reasons.


It may feel awkward for your team to be transparent in acknowledging areas of functionality that aren't great, that won't change soon... that's required for trust. Otherwise I'll feel stuck reading between the lines, and you won't like my conclusions any better than I will! :smileyhappy:

The current Office 365 Network on Yammer fostered a new openess between Microsoft and it's customers using the Office 365 platform. It gave us access to Product Group personalities so we could ask questions and discuss the vision of products and features. 

Sometimes the openess meant being transparent about when things failed or didn't turn out as expected. The community appreciated that openess and continued to contribute useful feedback. 

That is the new Microsoft spirit. I hope that this platform can continue to offer the same openess and accessibility to the people and inner workings of Microsoft, where it's not commercially sensitive. 


Thanks for kicking this off. I'll share what I can at the moment and please remember that we have many things in the works. Also, thank you for highlighting that this is in Preview, so many things are subject to change. We wanted our community with us on this journey, and the nearly all of the feedback we've received has (in some way or another) been incorporated into our issues logs, immediate fixes, ongoing fixes, and long-term planning. Many of these features also help bring in even more internal PMMs and Engineering, which will make the network a more valuable place for everyone.


Please keep in mind: This thread is to discuss our plans and improvements for this community on this network. We'll try to share as much as we can. Let's stay positive if possible.


- Will there be a mobile app? As @Jeff Medford noted on the announcement thread on the old site, we are developing a responsive mobile web experience. We are looking at the need for an app, but don't have anything solid to share right now. 


-What are current and future features of the platform that will help create community? Following, collaborative groups, co-authoring spaces, a feed for all conversations and people I follow.. Too much to mention everything, but I will make note of some big ones. 


1. As you can see, I am already using a neat feature here that improves readibility, emphasis and ultimately accuracy of information exchange. Rich text editor! We can embed videos, use bold + italics, <insert code> and even add spoilers. While tangentially related to community, I did want to call this out.


 2. Scale. As many of you know, this community helps us scale and helps us reach the many, many folks who are in the Office 365 Community but not the Office 365 Network. 


 3. Discussion styles. We have numerous ways to have conversations here. Including blogs, boards, idea exchanges (vote on it!), contests. We can pick the right medium for the right time. 


 4. Permissioning. I may have just created that verb. We can set a large number of permissions for the styles in no. 3 so that the right folks can see the right information. We can pin, read-only, set as private, stage things, open things and lock posts. While this has obvious community management benefits, it also helps us find, surface, and promote solutions and discussions, which helps us all. 


5. Search. Try it. The search is powerful and will help new members and unathenticated members discover what they are looking for. If content is king, this is the red carpet. We also have analytics relating to search results (and when no results are shown). This helps us fill gaps in content, documentation, and product needs.


6. Community structure. This helps EVERYONE navigate the network. By having a structure of nested groups, our community now has clearer paths to information and subcommunities. Please note: we are currently working on this structure to surface more information (like the nav menu links) and reduce scrolling, clicks, etc. Please be patient here. 


(Coming Soon).

UserVoice Integration. An integrated way to share your ideas and feedback, all within this community experience. This also means there will be a whole lot more MS engineers patrolling these waters.


UI Improvements. Improving the functionality, look and feel. We’re hearing this feedback loud and clear. We don’t want to hold the release of Preview until the details were hammered out. You’ll see changes every day. Some big, some small.


Events. Have a User Group meeting or other industry-related event you’d like to promote? We’re building an events area and process to help you highlight your events.


Ignite. Big things here. Stay tuned!


Thanks for reading and I am excited for the things to come! There are TONS of other features to make note of, and I'll do my best to respond to as many people as possible, but now we need to get back to work building and improving this network. 


-Mike (Community Team) 

Disappointed at the focus on mobile web. Biggest impediment to making this place a community rather than just a reference (in what I would describe pretty overwhelming feedback)

I'm curious, for transparency sake, how much of that revolves around microsoft doesn't own the lithium platform and the platform doesn't support mobile apps or 3rd party tools (like tapatalk), so microsoft can't really custom develop it?

Some Google searches indicate lithium focus on mobile web only, so seems like microsoft just HAS to follow suit

It's gonna be alot easier to just accept it if it is a truly technical limitation, and not a choice to just ignore it
Are you going to announce new features when they are released so we can provide feedback? I recommend to do it so you can evaluate what we think about them...for me usability is key, so I expect many improvements on that area
I agree, transparency on what's possible or not would be much appreciated

Will give your post more thorough consideration, Mike, I promise. Meanwhile, if search is king... will it find people?


Am I doing it wrong? How do I find people with search?

@Michael Holste wrote:

[..] we are developing a responsive mobile web experience.  [..]

Hey Mike,

quoting you from your message above: By "responsive" I assume that you are talking about different layouts for the destop/tablet/mobile experience as determined by different layouts for each screen/platform.

The current status seems to be that the platform is locked in what I'm guessing is the tablet layout.

Will this change?

@Juan Carlos González Martín wrote:
Are you going to announce new features when they are released so we can provide feedback? I recommend to do it so you can evaluate what we think about them...

To some degree. There are numerous small changes that will go out daily. Some larger bundles will go out as planned updates. Today, you can see we have resized the network and are fixing the hover over card. 



@Juan Carlos González Martín wrote:
...for me usability is key, so I expect many improvements on that area


@Deleted wrote:

Will give your post more thorough consideration, Mike, I promise. Meanwhile, if search is king... will it find people?


Am I doing it wrong? How do I find people with search?

Hey Melanie, I believe I said 'content is king'... but I can help! 


Use the search bar to type in someone's name. Hit enter. Toggle the result to show User. 





Ah. I have become overly reliant on auto-generated results, rather than going to full. Spoiled, I guess.

Melanie - Suggested search will appear, it just doesn't show users as you would think. For instance, if I search "Anna" it will show conversations she has made, but will not bring up the account unless you press "Enter" and toggle to "Users". The suggested results are driven by conversations, posts, and topics. 

@Michael Holste (note: typed @Holste to find you)... what are your plans to enable blogging here? As I think about ways to bring over my content in search-friendly format, I wanted to consider the blog option... But all the clicking I could do here didn't bring up any option to create one.


(Editing because my displayed post didn't seem to show that the @mention was successful... But now this edit option seems to indicate that it was... I am just finishing this cup of coffee, but it's not helping me figure this out.)

Thank you Mike for starting to lay out the future of the network so we can give feedback. One successful way the Yammer network encouraged interaction was use of the app and notifications. It was easy to receive, visit the conversation and respond. Most importantly, you had the mechanism to join an almost live conversation.
Email notifications with full content, that can be replied to meant someone on the move who didn't have the app could participate easily.

What is planned for this new network in regards to notifications that drive conversation? Will the email notifications be reply-able?
Is your team ready to share more about whether or not there will be an app?

I posted this in the Yammer area, not knowing this existed:


As a role model for a highly usable, high volume, I suggest Digital Photography Review ( See as an example.  Usability features I like:

  • Condensed listings (very little wasted space vertically)
  • Threaded listing vs Flat display of posts (easiliy toggled)
  • Last post date/time in thread list, Up votes displayed in thread view, 
  • Dark and Light themes
  • Strong profiles, tagging, Private Messaging
  • Clear replying and easy quoting
  • alerts on threads
  • blocking users
  • strong moderation of clearly defined communities

I know there is no point in talking about the Yammer community going away, so I hope providing examples of good forums and identifying the usability features, you will get some good ideas.  Not sure why I am posting this in the Yammer forum, but there is no "meta" discussion area.


I think the O365 Network (Yammer) has/had a lot of power users. I think a key is going to make a community that works for both the newbies and power users. I think DPreview does that well.


Good luck with this, I hope for some fast evolution!!



At the moment, we are limiting the blogging feature here to our product teams and engineering.


Note on @mentioning ... in 'Quick Reply" you need to type the name. The link will still work and send a notification, but it doesn't search for a user like it does in the 'full' reply. 

What's with the blogging restriction? The reason I'm interested is that I don't see any way to create content in a way that parallels Yammer "Notes" functionality. I'd hoped something in blogs might offer a way to centralize/stream some of the content I'd want to bring over. Similarly, I haven't found anything that parallel's Yammer's view of a user's files / notes, rather than simply an overview of all the conversations.


Is blogging functionality still in config stage? I mean, if we created junk blogs, you could delete them, right?


Or are you thinking you won't open blogs to anyone other than Microsoft, long-term?


I'm still at a loss as to how to format content to bring it over other than vanilla posts, and the clock is ticking, hence my active exploration on this. 

Hey Melanie, the blogging restriction is to prevent thousands and thousands of blogs from individual users. The blogs here will be authored by marketing and engineering.


To accomplish something similar to Notes on Yammer, you can simply make a post. You have a rich text editor here now and attach files as well. If you wanted to centralize info, you could link the posts together (you can edit a post once it's live), making an aggregation similar to our Weekly Roundups. You could also post them in reply to each other. Another work around is to add a unique message tag. Search will pick up the most relevant documents around terms and a unique tag would group your content together.


We don't have any plans at the moment to give everyone blogging rights. 




Mike, help me understand the approach here. I don't see it as black-or-white. Are you hamstrung by code such that you can't offer individual users the right to blog?


In the earliest days of the community, when you badly need people to engage and quality content for people to consume, why would you not enable blogs by the people most passionate about your platform? 


I have to assume that if you didn't like the blog or even an individual post, you would have rights to kill it. What's the risk here? That there's some minimal community management in the earliest days of a community struggling for establishment?


I'm not asking you for universal blog rights in some future 10-million-person platform.


I'm asking you for a blog. In a preview platform with less than, what, 1,500 posts right now?





Perhaps, even you take the approach of opening it up just to the MVPs (not all of us common folk), I assume they are somewhat "trusted" not to author crap content?

@Brent Ellis don't assume that MVPs always generate good material. Many of us are extremely proficient at generating absolutely high-smelling brown stuff that normally emits from the posterior of bovines.

Unlike, say, a Marketing blog, Tony?


Any blog should stand or fall on the merits of the content. (I suspect we might agree on that.)


My point remaining: at this stage in the community's development, you ( @Michael Holste ) need to engage people and drive content.


It seems low-risk and potentially good return to choose a more experimental approach to blogs, rather than "for me, but not for thee."



"A marketing blog" - a concept to discuss in less than one thousands words.


Most marketing blogs are pretty devoid of real facts. I hope that we can reserve for that material and concentrate on solving real problems here.


That's not to say that marketing blogs don't have a real function. They do. But debating the relative merits of technology and its deployment are not in that category.

No intent to derail everything with mention of Marketing.

Rather, recognizing: I can't create a group, or (I suspect) act as a group moderator, or (likely) own a blog.

Following Brent's line of thought, if MVPs can't do these things, will anyone outside Microsoft be enabled?

@Michael Holste I understand concerns at scale but this community is not yet at scale. This community must earn scale. And what gets you there may not be what keeps you there... You aren't eternally committed.

Yes, I understand that I can post, and perhaps try to string my posts together in a bread crumb trail using labels or tags. That's simply not an engaging prospect; it sounds labor-intensive and unlikely to be effective.
While there are some features in this network that are similar to those in Yammer, Yammer is better equipped for collaboration and coauthoring than Lithium. The fact that we had these features in Yammer was a side benefit for Network member activity. But the main goal as I understand it is to provide discussion between members &amp; Microsoft about announcements, ideas, feedback, use cases, questions about Office 365.
Does anyone have feedback on what collaborative or coauthoring features they think will help this new network platform?
What use cases will these fit?

I think the main goal should be interaction between members period.  Right now I feel like it is "come here cause microsoft people will be here".


Most of my "answers" and interactions in the old network came from non-Microsoft members.  9 times out of 10, I went to Yammer seeking other expertise and experiences.  Very rarely did I actually seek anyone out just because they were with Microsoft. 


I plan to fully use this network the same way I did Yammer (the good, the bad, and the ugly).  I'll be intrigued to see how all of the now publically accessible discussions about (1) things that dont work (2) things that broke because of an update (3) questioning microsoft decisions on doing stuff (4) lots of people freaking out because a service goes down for a few hours, etc are handled.  There will be alot of positive stuff too, but prospective customers are gonna be seeing ALL of the dirty laundry.



Biggest hindrence to me is options for how to interact with the network, so users can't make it their own.  You get one, and only one way.  That makes it difficult to stay engaged.  What is missing IMO (and some of this is in work):

  • Eliminate confusing alternatives (Stream Forum, Azure Forum, UserVoice, etc)
  • Better Mobile UI (yes I know, it loads, but that is hardly the same thing as "usable")
  • An actual Mobile app (the reasons are numerous)
  • If not an App, open up to 3rd party tools (like Tapatalk)
  • Push Notifications on Mobile
  • Push Notifications on Desktop (like Yammer notifer app)
  • Fixed email notifications
  • Ability to respond to a post via email reply
  • Fix having to sign in every 5 minutes
  • Maybe customize what you see on your home page (more like the Yammer feed)
  • Logical thread order and length
  • The ability to know which post/reply someone replied to



The tool itself (Lithium) from the dictionary means limiting excitement (but also limiting depression) - I think the challenge is making this not a ho hum message board solution.

Again, I don't really understand the use case as something separate from just posting. Where/what would you share differently on a blog that you can't post here? Creating blogs doesn't scale for us, and it adds a ton of noise and community management (what if we have 50 members all blogging once/twice per week? 


I could see the potential in MVPs having a blog, and I think guest blogging is more realistic. 

Personally speaking, I see no value of MVPs or other non-Microsoft people blogging here. It is much better to have the ability to communicate candidly on another blog without any possible Microsoft oversight. That means that any blogs here originate from Microsoft, which is just fine, as long as those blogs contain technical information that is useful and accurate.



@Tony Redmond you maintain your own blog. So of course, why would you want one here?


But I don't maintain one; and I can think of other MVPs and rock-star should-be-MVPs who don't have blogs. So, consider me looking into this on behalf of me and folks like me. (Hello, self-interest! Whatcha drinking?)


Meanwhile, why am I looking into it? Because two reasons:

  • Feeling extremely underwhelmed at prospect of intense labor to re-work and port over O365N content into posts connected only by replies or tags... High effort, low return potential.
  • Looking for a sense of ownership to help me engage with this new platform. In Yammer, I can kick off a group, or be made a co-admin. Here: nope.

I freely admit that I haven't seen what a blog looks like in this forum and I have no clue whether what I'm asking for will actually meet my needs. Wheeeee!


But hey, I am seriously concerned about whether UI and group taxonomy here will lend support to community of Yammer CMs and interested stakeholders; and I want and need community. So, I will explore all options.

@Michael Holste I apologize for now repeating myself three times in this thread: I see the prospect of reworking and posting a ton of material in this platform, connected only by inline replies or tags, as high effort with low potential return.


I theorize that a blog might offer the consolidated resource view that would make this slog more worthwhile.


I will never know if you refuse to give me one to try out. 


I apologize for now repeating myself twice in this thread: your community needs to earn scale. Ten million users isn't destiny, it's vision.


And what will get you there is NOT necessarily what you will do once you get there.


Does creating three user blogs add a ton of noise and community management for you? That's the question. 



Side note because I can't help it (and aren't you glad you gave me rich formatting?):

You wrote, "What if we have 50 members all blogging once/twice per week?"

Um, break out the champagne? 

Because that might offer a challenge for centralized control, but also potentially awesome success if you, you know, had learned lessons along the long slow ramp-up, and maybe even deputized some trusted partners to help you manage that ecosystem.


But meanwhile, I see "but, SCALE!" as a straw man argument precisely because you are in for a long slow ramp-up. You do not get to "pass go" and simply collect ten million members.


Meanwhile, you could act like Yammer and iterate as you go. Yeah?

@Michael Holste wrote:


I could see the potential in MVPs having a blog, and I think guest blogging is more realistic. 

I don't mean to skip this reference to MVPs having a blog. Do you mean Yammer MVPs (to help distinguish it from the MVP blog and Office blogs)? It's certainly a format I'd be interested in discussing and I would appreciate some additional ideation and detail on this.


By the way, thank you. I know this is a hella busy time for you, and I want you to know I respect and trust you.


(You wanted me engaged; but maybe this wasn't quite what you had in mind, my friend.)

@Deleted the fact that I have another blog (or several) shouldn't stop me wanting to post an occasional article here... And as long as the editors allowed an independent voice, it might be quite attractive. I think they will because they permit posting of links to external blogs.


Yes, there is work required to collect, refine, and emphasize the learning that gathers in fora like this network, but that's all goodness because that process allows people to master the material. At least, that's the theory! So if there are opportunities for MVPs or "rock-star should-be MVPs" to take on the task of assembling FAQs or other articles that consolidate the contributions found for different topics, then I think that would be a good thing to have.

Tony, knowing the incredible differences between our backgrounds and product POV, it *makes my day* whenever I find points of agreement with you.

I may be misinterpreting particulars, but it sounds like we have multiple points of potential agreement. Independent voices here could be valuable; and finding a way to engage and promote MVP-quality collation/summation/curation would be stellar.

I'm not sure where your post lands on the particulars of *blogs* here as a desirable experiment, or as a potential channel for this activity.

That's A-OK by me, I don't wish to narrow the discussion to only my asks.

I understand I've put a number of questions in front of Mike in a pointed manner. While I want those answers, continuing to hear from you and observing you consider your own contributions here... there's just no downside, from here to the horizon.

@Deleted you would be surprised how close we might be in terms of product POV. Remember, my objection to Yammer was not as a technology (because the base technology has been around for 30 years), but rather in how Microsoft management decided to use it everywhere almost like a quick fix for everything to replace things (like email DLs) that had been in place for years and were still perfectly serviceable. I think I have made that point many times in blogs, to bring us back to that subject.


I think blogs written by SMEs, whether MVPs or not (because not all MVPs are able to write), are a good addition to this community, especially when they summarize long chains of posts that people simply cannot find or have the time to go through.



Ah, thank you as well. Doing my best to be as open and engaging as possible, but will need time to implement changes and work on the network as well, so please be patient if my replies seem brief or slow.

Hey Melanie, didn't mean to make you repeat yourself, I was just looking for more insight as to 'why not make it a standard post that can link to your other posts" (I would do it as a Glossary post)... we are investigating the possibility of MVP or Community driven boards. At the least, I believe we will offer some sort of guest blogging in the future. 


We understand that this community will need to fight it's way back up to the top. We are deeply committed to this and already have an amazing internal buy - in, and many of our members have praised this place (though we know we still need to improve many things before public launch). We will absolutely iterate and add functionality and features to this network as we go. From a CM perspective, we wanted to start with a limited group structure and scaled back conversation styles in order to not overwhelm new members. In the coming weeks you will see more groups, different styles of groups (blogs, customer evidence, event timelines, etc). 

Mike, I need a little help understanding something.  One of the reasons stated for the migration of platform was to ease the community management workload.  Much of the power of both SharePoint and Yammer is that it puts what was once in the hands of only IT into the hands of data creators and consumers.  Now that you can update web content with SharePoint without coding HTML, you've freed the creators and consumers from going through technical staff, and you've freed technical staff from maintaining content.  Likewise for Yammer, people can decide on their own when a group is needed, who should be invited to that group, and the raison d'etre of that group. 


It seems to me that migrating away from Yammer while at the same time making group creation and maintenance a community management function, you've actually increased the workload, while at the same time squelching community development.  Am I misunderstanding something?

Hey Tom, 


We wanted to get out from behind the Yammer sign up process, which wasn't designed for a community like this. Allowing members to create groups added a ton of noise. Pair that with a flat group structure and we ended up with more than 1,400 groups on the network, without an easy way for members to navigate and find the information and solutions they are looking for. In fact, there were many duplicate groups. We also had an issue with teams of people hosting their own private Yammer groups (about anything) on the network, which is designed and resourced to be a community about Office 365. Community Management was a pain due to so many inactive, private and public groups that were off topic, along with redundancies and no line of sight across the network, new members posting to All Network because they don't know groups existed, etc. Internally and externally, members didn't know where to post. This network makes it far more clear (and the experience will continue to get better). 


If folks here are interested in having a group, reach out to admins and our network team will discuss it with the internal stakeholders to come to a conclusion on whether or not to create it. Our goal is to prevent it from devolving into the wild west again. 


We've actually reduced our 'eventual' workload. I understand the previous network was very valuable for many (especially enterprise socialites), but this network is better geared to serve the larger Office 365 audience. 

One man's noise, is another man's treasure

A responsive mobile web experience just won't cut it, they never do, mobile users expect the performance and behaviour of an app. Just ask the teams doing apps for Outlook, Sway, Groups, Delve, SharePoint, Skype, OneNote, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Send, Video, OneDrive, Lens, Flow, PowerApps and ... Yammer.

With all credit to you for the best of intentions... My thoughts, on LinkedIn.

On Community, Value... and Control

Hi, I'm from an organisation that is new to Yammer, but has used a number of other ESN solutions and digital collaboration tools.


I agree with the previous comment about focusing on mobile responsive - based on our experience with other vendors and their products and managing users, you need to develop a solution that is both mobile responsive AND also develop native apps for iOS and Android (as a minimum). Most users want (and expect) both.

Did my reply to this thread from yesterday disappear?


I do respect you, Mike, and what your team is trying to build here. That said, I've summarized my thoughts on LinkedIn ("Community, Value... and Control"), as to why you're likelier in my estimation to end up with a forum than a community. 


At the same time, I'm empathetic to the challenge you're facing and the situation you're in, here. I will try and post resources in the Yammer Community Management board, which please note, I also did yesterday.

Mike, I've now had a respectful reply to you deleted twice (unless I'm mistaken, as I've heard nothing from you directly). Is it because I linked to a blog entry elsewhere summarizing my position? Because without the ability to blog here, I've simply done it elsewhere.


If it was more about the sentiments I expressed, what is offensive in saying that a high-control forum will be less likely to deliver collaborative community value?


Can you please share your moderation policy for this network so that I am less likely to write posts that will go poof?

I do hope that an over-excessive moderation stance is not being taken here because it will absolutely and utterly drive people away from considering this network as somewhere in which they would want to participate. I anticipate that Michael Holst will clarify the situation about posts and make it absolutely obvious that no reasoned and rational contribution from an MVP would ever be suppressed. Evidence of such action would make people think twice about future support of these fora.

@Michael Holste, it would really help us understand if something went awry in Melanie's attempts to link to a blog as you suggested upthread.

Hey Melanie, I can promise you that I have not deleted your posts. I will check our spam quarantine and see if it ended up in there.


As per moderation policies, I think you all have a pretty good idea of how moderation here works. No solicitation, no personal attacks, no flaming, keep criticism constructive, and treat others with respect. I will look into why/where your posts went. 

Hey Melanie, looks like they got caught in the spam quarantine. They have been moved out of there and should be available on the network. We just turned this on late last week so it is still learning. Apologies for any confusion. (You should know I'd never censor you) :smileyhappy:



Mike, glad to hear it. That's what had me flummoxed... deletions without contact is not what I expected from an experienced community manager like you.


I was left to wonder about the moderation policy for this space, and the implications for the culture here.


I'd encourage you to publish an official version of the policy, BTW. Given your ambitions for the size of this space, seems advisable to have that long-established and ready to cite.



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