As mentioned, users of the SharePoint 2010 platform can create and use their own user profiles. Although the primary interface for managing these profiles at the user level is the My Sites site collection, the actual user profile content is maintained and managed by the User Profile Service application. As well as storing user profile information, the User Profile Service application provides a number of additional features that enable social computing on SharePoint 2010.
SharePoint 2010 is an enterprise product that’s designed to be installed in organizations with an existing infrastructure for supporting many users. One common feature of such an infrastructure is the presence of a user database. In the case of the Windows platform, such a user database is provided by Active Directory; if the organization is using a Sun-based infrastructure, the user database may exist as a Sun ONE LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) server.
One thing that all user database implementations have in common is that they contain information on users, and it is likely that the same user accounts will be used to access content within a SharePoint farm. Rather than duplicating user information between the user database and SharePoint, the User Profile Service provides full two-way synchronization capabilities that allow user information to be synchronized automatically between systems.
Active Directory and its LDAP counterparts from other vendors provide a user database that can be extended to include additional information. Custom fields can be added to user accounts, which can then be synchronized with SharePoint. However, the synchronization process is not limited to a single data source. User profiles in SharePoint can include user properties from a number of different data sources. For example, while data such as username, first name, and last name will most likely come from an LDAP system, other properties such as past projects or cost center will likely come from a line-of-business application. By making use of Business Connectivity Services (covered in Chapter 15), the User Profile Service can import data from practically any data source and include it within a user profile. User properties can be added using code, as this snippet shows:
Notice a few things about this code. At first glance, it may seem that we’re adding the same property many times: first, using the Core Property Manager, then with the Profile Type Property Manager, and finally with the Profile Subtype Property Manager. In fact, user properties are multi layered, and each layer is managed using its own object. The following class diagram shows the objects involved.
Subtypes are an interesting addition in SharePoint 2010. They allow user profiles to be grouped. For example, within an organization, not all users may use a particular line-ofbusiness application, and for those users, it doesn’t make sense to include data from that application within the user’s profile (since it would be blank anyway). By creating a subtype for users of the line-of-business application, user properties from the application can be added only to members of the subtype.
The following code shows how to add profile subtypes:
Audiences are a useful feature introduced in SharePoint 2007. When it comes to building content management systems, or indeed any system for presenting information to end users, it’s important that you display the right information to the right users. On the surface, this may seem like a job for application security—after all, security is partly about determining whether a user is authorized to perform a particular action.
In some circumstances, this is the case; however, consider the following scenario: A company provides an intranet application that displays relevant data and links to commonly used applications. Users in one department are likely to have requirements different from users in another. Both groups of users have access to all of the information, but certain items are more relevant to each group and should therefore be featured on the intranet site. Clearly, this is not a security requirement, because both groups are authorized to view all content. It’s more of a personalization requirement, and this is where audiences come in useful. By applying criteria to user properties, audiences can be easily compiled and used for personalizing content.
For example, to pick up on our line-of-business subtype, all users who have a particular cost center code can be grouped into a single audience. Content related to that cost center can then be displayed where appropriate.
Although user profiles can contain properties that define where a specific user sits within an organizational hierarchy, sometimes it’s more useful to know how an organization is structured at a higher level. For example, if a user reports to a marketing manager, it’s reasonable to assume that the user works within the marketing organization. However, if you’re looking for information in the marketing organization itself, this information doesn’t help you.
If, however, the marketing organization has its own profile, you can easily locate the information that you need and understand how the marketing organization fits within the wider enterprise structure. Organization profiles, new in SharePoint 2010, can also use custom properties and subtypes in the same way as user profiles.
Adding properties to organization profiles is similar to adding properties to user profiles—the main difference is the manager objects that are used. Here’s an example:
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