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


@MichaelHolste 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

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 ( @MichaelHolste ) 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?

@MichaelHolste 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 & 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.



@TonyRedmond 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.

@MichaelHolste 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?

@MichaelHolste 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