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Phonetic People Search in SharePoint 2010

People Search is the gateway to many of the new social aspects in SharePoint 2010

Maybe you hadn’t noticed, but talking about Search is my favorite topic in SharePoint (with ECM closely following it). :)  This is why I am so excited about the new features we are seeing in Enterprise Search.  Wildcards and built in refinement were enough to bring a tear to my eye, but People Search is what I think a lot of people will be impressed by.  You see People Search is the gateway to many of the new social aspects in SharePoint 2010.  Your old stuffy CIOs are going to absolutely hate it (since they were probably the ones that blocked twitter and facebook at your organization).  The new hip CIOs that find value in social media are going to totally embrace it and organizational efficiency and the sense of community is really going to go up.  Not to tangent on the whole social thing though, let’s just take a look today at how it’s easier to find people in SharePoint 2010.

Let’s consider my great new fictitious company.  It’s not a big company but there are a number of employees.  Ok, so my fake company isn’t as complete as the one we have seen at the demos at SPC or anything, but hopefully you get the point.  Consider the following users stored in Active Directory.

PeopleSearchActiveDirectory

To work with People Search, you must first have successfully configured user profile synchronization, set up a connection, and then done a full crawl on your Local SharePoint Sites content source.  If your user profile synchronization service isn’t working, do yourself a favor and just reinstall because you will never get it to work.  The content source still uses the sps3 protocol to crawl user profiles.  If no people are returned when you search make sure you have a content source setup using that protocol handler.  I’ll probably write another post on how to set this up pretty soon.

To get started with People Search we start with an Enterprise Search center and click on the people link which gives us a plain search box like the one below.

PeopleSearchStart

Let’s say that I need to lookup the phone number for my IT Director, Michael Adams.  I can of course type his full name in like this and get a result (this is what we basically had in SharePoint 2007).

PeopleSearchResultsFullName

We get a result as expected, but you know, I really don’t call him Michael, I call him Mike.  Shouldn’t that return me a result too?

PeopleSearchResultsPhonetic

Absolutely!  In SharePoint 2007, if you asked for that people would look at you like you wanted the impossible.  Now it works beautifully.    Clicking on the user’s name takes you to the profile page where all of the cool social stuff happens.  I could do several posts on it alone, but here is a quick look at what it looks like.  It allows you to see the org chart along with recent activities along with a corporate style facebook.  Very cool.

PeopleSearchProfile

What else can this thing do though?  Say we want to look up our Team Lead, Richard Jackson.  He doesn’t go by Richard though.  He goes by *** (no jokes please).  Will that yield a result?

PeopleSearchResultsPhonetic2

How cool is that.  The search engine seems to understand nicknames.  So this really isn’t necessarily happening phonetically, it just has a nice thesaurus in it now, but at SPC, we did see search examples where things were spelled phonetically and it worked.  I haven’t had a ton of luck getting that to work.  I also saw it work with non-English names.  Hopefully I can demo that stuff too pretty soon, but I still thought these things were worth showing off.

Let’s do one more example though.  Let’s say I know the last name of the person I need to contact is Williams.  We’ll pretend I am lazy and I only type in Willi in the search box.  Will that give me a result?

PeopleSearchNoResults

The answer this time is actually no.  People Search does support wildcards now, but it is not on by default.  Change the query to Willi* and we’re in business.

PeopleSearchResultsWildcard

It returns matches in both the first and last name.  Very cool.  I’d love to be able to inherit from the PeopleCoreResultsWebPart to add an option to allow wildcards all the time, but Harneet Sidhana [MSFT] does not think we should be able to.  Apparently the web part is perfect and no one would possibly ever want to change it.  Ok, so the web part is pretty cool, but I would like to make changes and that’s just not going to be possible. :-(

Stepping aside from that tangent, I have to mention the Organization Browser.  It’s a cool use of Silverlight that makes it very easily to browser the organization.

PeopleSearchOrganizationBrowser

This picture doesn’t do it justice.  It certainly would be a lot cooler if I had pictures uploaded for all of my users.  From all of this, hopefully you can see that it should be a lot easier for end users to find people in your organization.  I’m really excited about these new features.

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More Stories By Corey Roth

Corey Roth, a SharePoint Server MVP, is an independent consultant specializing in Cloud technologies such as Azure and Office 365. He also specializes in mobile development. Corey serves as the product manager for two cloud-first mobile app platforms: BrewZap and HappenZap.

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