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The Rules of NewsGator Communities: Auto-following

In the few weeks that I’ve been working on NewsGator customizations, this question has come up several times: Can you make everyone in an Active Directory group automatically follow a NewsGator community?

What it comes down to is that the administrator wants to manage groups in Active Directory and not have to duplicate that effort in SharePoint. This makes sense: group membership should be consistent within the organization.

In version 2.5, this is a built-in feature: you will be able to create communities and spheres with members from SharePoint Audiences. You will have the option to create communities based on distribution lists and create the audience on the fly or use an existing audience.

In lower-numbered versions, however, out of the box NewsGator will not allow you to do this. If you have NewsGator 1.2, 2.0, or 2.1, here’s how community membership works:

1. AD groups can be used for access control only.

2. SharePoint groups are used to manage community membership.

3. AD groups cannot be added to a SharePoint group as a sub-group to grant community membership. You can add an AD group without errors, but it won’t affect community membership.

4. Once the NewsGator Community Processor Job runs, all new members of the site’s contributors group are added as community members and as community followers.

5. Community members have contributor permissions regardless of whether or not they’re followers.

6. If a user opts out of following a group, he/she will not be added as a follower the next time the Community Processor Job runs, but will retain contribute rights.

7. If a user is deleted from the permissions group, timer job run, user re-added, and timer job run again, the user will once more become a community follower.

So in the older versions, the way to make AD groups work for membership is by creating a custom timer job or PowerShell script …or upgrade.

Watch out for Errors

(Encountered in pre-2.5 environments)

Symptoms

Community Processor Job says, "Last run time: N/A"

Fix

Look for a "job definition … has no online instance for service" error in the ULS log. If you find it, check My Site Host in User Profile Service Application, under "Setup My Sites". Make sure that field is filled in. Even if it is, try re-entering it and saving the settings.

See this post for more about that error.

Symptoms

In some instances, community members are not automatically followed to the community, and in other cases, users find that they are no longer following communities that they had followed.

Fix

If you have a multi-farm environment, make sure you have NewsGator version 2.1 or later. Bugs in the lower-numbered versions cause inconsistent updates. "The problem with the job was that it would provide erratic behavior, but only noticed in multi-farm environments." - NewsGator

Symptoms

Members of a community don’t have contribute permissions. E.g., Bob is following a community, but cannot post a discussion item in that community.

Fix

This is only an option for a public community. In a private community the access lists limit all access, whereas in a public one, all logged in users are potential contributors.

Go to the community setup page (Admin tab, "Go To Site Settings" link).

NewsGator 1.2: select "Elevate Followers" option.

NewsGator 2.0 and up: check the "Enable public contribute rights" box.

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