The Managed Metadata Service application is, in my opinion, the most important new service application in SharePoint Server 2010.  It’s responsible for enabling the centralized management of terms (also called metadata or tags) and deployment of content types across site collections, web applications, and even farms.  Terms and content types are the backbone of information architecture (IA), so the fact that SharePoint 2010 now does these tasks, and does them well, is a big win!

 

Yesterday, SharePointPro Connections conducted a live, online elearning event. You can learn more about such events at www.sharepointproconnections.com/events.aspx.  There were several questions about term sets in the Managed Metadata Service application, so I thought I’d repeat the questions and answers here in hopes that they would help the broader community.


Q:
What’s up with the management hierarchy of the Managed Metadata Service and terms?

A: The management hierarchy is quite confusing at first, then really “obvious.”  The administrators of the Managed Metadata Service application are “gods” of the application—they can configure the properties of the service itself.  But they aren’t term store administrators by default. Typically, the first step in managing a term set is that the Managed Metadata Service administrator makes himself/herself a term store administrator.  The term store administrator is the “god” of the term store database, which is everything about terms, but nothing about the content-type hub or other service application or proxy attributes.  The term store administrator can create term groups and assign term group managers.  Term group managers can assign term group contributors.  Term group contributors are able to actually create and manage term sets and terms.  The term group is thus the “security container” of the Managed Metadata Service—it defines who can change terms for any term sets or terms in the term group.  Of course, each term set is exposed only by the managed metadata columns in which the term set is used, so there’s a sort of read permission in play, but only conceptually.  And each term set can be configured as an open or closed submission policy, which is again conceptually a kind of permission.  One of the most confusing parts of all of this is that the term set owner, stakeholder, and contact are only “informational” attributes about the business owners.  These three properties have no permissions associated with them.


Q:
Can a user type in a value that isn’t stored in the Managed Metadata Service?

A: Term sets can be configured with a closed (default) or open submission policy.  Open term sets let users add terms.  Once a term set has an open submission policy, you can add a managed metadata column that uses the term set to a list, library, or content type, and you can (important) select the allow fill-in values option, just as you’ve been able to do on choice columns in SharePoint 2007.  Now, a user who has permission to edit an item or document with the managed metadata column can add a value, and that value will be added to the term set.  By default, term sets are closed.


Q:
If a term set is closed, can users make suggestions?

A: Yes. You can also add a contact email address to a term set.  Users who are selecting a term can click a link that sends an email message to the contact, in which they can suggest a term.  But there’s no slick way to keep track of suggestions and approve them—it’s just an email message that goes into the Inbox of a term set contact.


Q: Can a term set be linked to an external database and kept synchronized with that external database?

A: No, not out of the box. It’s a “clearly missing” feature that I imagine will be in SharePoint vNext.  However, I am CERTAIN there will be (or maybe already are) third-party solutions available to address this obvious need.

You can IMPORT a term set using a simple CSV format, but keeping it in sync isn’t available out of box.  Of course, you can code anything if you have the resources.


Q: Is there a way to add terms from Active Directory?

A: This has the same answer as above—you can import but not sync info into a term set.  However, you can, of course, sync user profile attributes to the User Profile Service in SharePoint, but that’s not terms or the Managed Metadata Service.

 

The Managed Metadata Service application is, in my opinion, the most important new service application in SharePoint Server 2010.  It’s responsible for enabling the centralized management of terms (also called metadata or tags) and deployment of content types across site collections, web applications, and even farms.  Terms and content types are the backbone of information architecture (IA), so the fact that SharePoint 2010 now does these tasks, and does them well, is a big win!

 

Yesterday, SharePointPro Connections conducted a live, online elearning event. You can learn more about such events at www.sharepointproconnections.com/events.aspx.  There were several questions about term sets in the Managed Metadata Service application, so I thought I’d repeat the questions and answers here in hopes that they would help the broader community.

 

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Q: What’s up with the management hierarchy of the Managed Metadata Service and terms?

A: The management hierarchy is quite confusing at first, then really “obvious.”  The administrators of the Managed Metadata Service application are “gods” of the application—they can configure the properties of the service itself.  But they aren’t term store administrators by default. Typically, the first step in managing a term set is that the Managed Metadata Service administrator makes himself/herself a term store administrator.  The term store administrator is the “god” of the term store database, which is everything about terms, but nothing about the content-type hub or other service application or proxy attributes.  The term store administrator can create term groups and assign term group managers.  Term group managers can assign term group contributors.  Term group contributors are able to actually create and manage term sets and terms.  The term group is thus the “security container” of the Managed Metadata Service —it defines who can change terms for any term sets or terms in the term group.  Of course, each term set is exposed only by the managed metadata columns in which the term set is used, so there’s a sort of read permission in play, but only conceptually.  And each term set can be configured as an open or closed submission policy, which is again conceptually a kind of permission.  One of the most confusing parts of all of this is that the term set owner, stakeholder, and contact are only “informational” attributes about the business owners.  These three properties have no permissions associated with them.

 

Q: Can a user type in a value that isn’t stored in the Managed Metadata Service?

A: Term sets can be configured with a closed (default) or open submission policy.  Open term sets let users add terms.  Once a term set has an open submission policy, you can add a managed metadata column that uses the term set to a list, library, or content type, and you can (important) select the allow fill-in values option, just as you’ve been able to do on choice columns in SharePoint 2007.  Now, a user who has permission to edit an item or document with the managed metadata column can add a value, and that value will be added to the term set.  By default, term sets are closed. 

 

Q: If a term set is closed, can users make suggestions?

A: Yes.  You can also add a contact email address to a term set.  Users who are selecting a term can click a link that sends an email message to the contact, in which they can suggest a term.  But there’s no slick way to keep track of suggestions and approve them—it’s just an email message that goes into the Inbox of a term set contact.

 

Q: Can a term set be linked to an external database and kept synchronized with that external database?

A: No, not out of the box. It’s a “clearly missing” feature that I imagine will be in SharePoint vNext.  However, I am CERTAIN there will be (or maybe already are) third-party solutions available to address this obvious need.

You can IMPORT a term set using a simple CSV format, but keeping it in sync isn’t available out of box.  Of course, you can code anything if you have the resources.

 

Q: Is there a way to add terms from Active Directory?

A: This has the same answer as above—you can import but not sync info into a term set.  However, you can, of course, sync user profile attributes to the User Profile Service in SharePoint, but that's not terms or the Managed Metadata Service.