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Managing user profile properties on SharePoint Server 2007

My Site functionality in SharePoint Server 2007 has added more clarity to the portal definition as a personalized and individually controlled way of managing content.

My Site in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 has added value to the portal world.

Not too long ago the distinction between the words portal and intranet was considered vague. My Site functionality has added more clarity to the portal definition as a personalized and individually controlled way of managing content, personal information, distribution group memberships and alerts. A portal promotes the sharing of information, thus encouraging collaboration. At the same time, My Site also provides privacy of the content.

User profile properties define a portal user's individuality. These properties store all essential information, such as contact details, distribution list memberships and colleagues. All can be retrieved from Active Directory and LDAP; from external data sources such as databases and legacy applications; and through the use of the Business Data Catalog (BDC) or from the SharePoint Profiles data store itself.

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 User profile properties are not limited to those that are created by default during the creation of the Shared Services Provider. Custom profile properties can be created in SharePoint and mapped to AD properties to accommodate situations when Active Directory is being used to track all possible information about a user. But they can be maintained independently of the AD account properties as well.

Some of the profile properties are displayed on My Site as part of the profile information. Depending on a company's security policy or the portal governance model for the "portal," administrators might have to set policies to guard the privacy of the information for some of these properties even though they are part of the profile.

The security and availability of profile properties on My Site can be controlled at different levels. Settings that are applied globally throughout all user profiles can be modified at the following locations:

  1. Personalization policy setting in the Shared Services Provider (SSP) administration site.
  2. SSP administration site through the "Edit" option on View Profile Properties page.

Alternatively, these settings can be modified on a per-user basis:

  1. SSP administration site, through the "Edit" option on View Individual Profile interface by the SSP administrator.
  2. Edit Profile link on My Site by the owner of My Site.

You can modify personalization policy settings at the Profile services policy section of the SSP administration site by selecting the "Edit Policy" option on the profile property that you want to modify. Figure 1 shows Edit User Profile Property".

Profile Services Policy
Figure 1: Use the Profile Services Policy to control required information. (Click on image for enlarged view.)

The Profile Services Policy is a way of targeting profile information to the intended audience for the property. It also controls whether the property is required to have information or whether it is optional.

  1. Policy Setting dropdown box has three options:
    1. Required – The value for this property is required.
    2. Optional – The value for this property is optional.
    3. Disabled – Only SSP administrator can see this property.
  1. The Default Privacy Settings dropdown box consists of five options for accomplishing greater precision in maintaining privacy levels and sharing information that meet the specific needs of the company.
    1. Only Me – Only the owner of this profile can view the property.
    2. My Manager – Only the owner of this profile and his or her manager can view the property.
    3. My Workgroup – Only owner of this profile and all users reporting to the same manager can view the property.
    4. My Colleagues – Only the owner of this profile and all others identified as this user's colleagues can view the property.
    5. Everyone – All users who have "Use Personal Features" permission can view this property.
  1. The "User can override" option identifies how much control each My Site owner has over the visibility of this profile property on My Site. If "User can override" is checked, the user can change the profile policy settings for this particular property from My Site. Those changes will apply to his or her site only and will not affect others.
  2. The "Replicable" checkbox option specifies whether this property can be replicated into content databases, thus making it available on other sites. These properties are updated during profile import. This option can be selected only if the property is visible to all users and the "User can override" option is unselected.

Profile Policy Settings can also be edited from the "Edit Profile Property" screen, which also allows the administrator to define visibility and the control that My Site owners have over their profile properties. They act as master settings for all My Site profile properties. Users might change these settings if they are allowed to under the profile policy. The changes will apply to his or her site only and will not affect others, unlike changing the settings under the SSP administration site.

To modify these properties as shown in Figure 2, click the "User Profile and Properties" option on the home page of the SSP administration site. Then go to "View Profile Properties" and choose the property to be modified by selecting "Edit" from a dropdown menu.

User Profile Properties option in SharePoint
Figure 2: With this option, users can make changes that apply to his or her site only. (Click on image for enlarged view.)

If the option called "Allow users to edit values for this property" is selected under the Edit Settings portion of the screen, it will permit users to modify the value for this property. Alternatively, it can be set to "Do not allow users to edit values for this property," which will do the opposite.

The Display Settings options will be effective if they do not contradict the policy settings. Even though Windows admins can still display profile properties on the Edit Details page of My Site, there might be very little value in displaying the property on the Edit Details page if users cannot override the default privacy settings and are not allowed to edit the values in the property. If "Show in the profile properties section of the user's profile page" is checked, then this property will be displayed under the "My Profile" section of My Site if it has any value to display.

An administrator can also change the profile property setting on a per-user basis from View Profile Properties by selecting the user profile to be edited.

User profile properties in Figure 3 can be edited by users from the My Profile tab of My Site by clicking "Edit Profile" link.

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Figure 3: Users can edit user profile properties. (Click on image for enlarged view.)

By giving users some level of control over their profile properties, Windows admins greatly empower them. End user education is one of the most important topics and should be emphasized.

Profile properties are used to search for people, to target content to specific audiences and to manage social networking. Some considerations should be made before allowing properties to be edited by users because the relevancy of the content presented to the end user will leverage the efficiency of search and content presentation, and it will define the value of your portal.

Natalya Voskresenskaya, MCTS, is SharePoint Architect at Conchango, a consultancy and systems integration company based in London. With 10 years of experience in design, architecture, development and deployment of Web-based applications, Voskresenskaya has been developing portal solutions since 2000. Her work with SharePoint started with SharePoint 2003. For more information, check out her SharePoint blog.

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