On Reading Blogs

clip_image002While in Boston for SPTechCon, I was having dinner at a pretty good Irish Pub. I sat at the bar as I normally do when dining alone and the bartender gave me a copy of the Rules. Beginning at 5:00 on Mondays, this restaurant features $0.10 wings at the bar. I was having soup and a Rueben sandwich, but the rules were fun reading. They specify things like “you can’t mix sauces”, “you have to buy wings in groups of 10”, “you don’t get bread or a salad with your ten-cent wings”, etc. My first thought was “who needs rules for ordering chicken wings?” but in less than 10 minutes, two people asked the bartender for variations covered by the rules. One wanted to order 15 wings and one wanted half BBQ and half with the house sauce. In addition to not following the rules, both of these people got mad when their request was denied. Seriously people, you are eating 10 wings for $1, how can you possibly complain?

Last week, I was searching for a way to filter a Lookup Column in SharePoint, and I found references to several blog entries. One of the posts that looked promising was followed by a number of comments indicating that the solution was not foolproof. One for those comments began:

dude, do you monitor this at all? it seems that you are blogging solutions to make yourself look good but you are not actually familiar with the solution

That comment bothered me; I thought, “this is the guy who gets mad when he can’t order 15 wings.” First off, there were over 30 comments on the blog and the author had already answered one by saying he hadn’t had time to look into the question. He also encouraged the person asking the question to post any solution he found. Second, I doubt very much that anybody blogs to make themselves “look good” – blogging is work, it’s work we don’t need and although some of us enjoy writing, it’s still time we could use to write something else. The fact that I can search on “sharepoint filtered lookup column” and get 40,000 plus results is amazing, and you are complaining that the blogger isn’t answering questions fast enough? Perhaps you need to watch this video.

Since I author several blogs, I calmed myself down and I reread and thought about the comment to see if it had value; I found little. I appreciate every comment I get on my blog, and I try to respond to every one, at least with a “thank you for your comment”. On the other hand, I don’t often blog about technical solutions (I read other blogs to find those). It takes time to find errors in SharePoint, particularly when the solution works for you! This guy figured out something that worked for him, was pretty cool, and judging by several comments, his solution worked for others. It didn’t work for everyone but how was he to know that? How was he to test and debug that? Have you tried debugging SharePoint? If you’re the kind of person who needs rules to order ten-cent chicken wings, here are my rules for reading blogs:

1. Thank the blogger for taking the time to take screen shots, research a topic, copy links, write, edit and publish a blog entry.

2. Understand that your mileage may vary. There are a staggering number of permutations for SharePoint configurations; the likelihood that you and the blogger are working off similar configurations is slim.

3. Treat the information as a clue. If nothing else, the blogger has given you information you didn’t have before. If you can’t find the complete answer, take the blogger’s solution and use it as a starting point.

4. Contribute something useful. If you have a question, or if the solution didn’t work for you, add as much detail to your response as possible. You may help the author or others solve your problem. Better yet, if you have a comment that can help others avoid a problem, add that to the blog. Even better yet, solve your own problem and post the solution!

5. Do NOT contribute something useless. The Guidelines for Social Media that IBM offered to the world include the rule: “Don’t pick fights” – follow that rule, and don’t post comments that only make you look good, or make the blogger look bad.

6. Create your own blog. If all the SharePoint blogs out there haven’t managed to answer your question, find the answer yourself and publish it. If you don’t want to create a blog, write an article for End User SharePoint. I guarantee that before you post that article, you will gain a huge appreciation for every blogger who ever posted a technical solution.

7. Compare blogs. I read about eight blog entries (see #1 above and go watch that video) before deciding on my solution, and I ultimately decided to try a different approach (see previous post ‘Unfiltered’). The last thing I would ever do is plop the first bit of JavaScript I found into a web part.

8. Remember that SharePoint is global. Bloggers may be posting in their second language and they may not operate under the rules, laws and business conditions you live with.

The SharePoint community is a wonderful collection of intelligent, creative, passionate people, most of whom are willing to share their experience with others. Take advantage of that amazing resource and please, please don’t do anything to discourage the people contributing to the community.

7 thoughts on “On Reading Blogs

  1. Thanks Dan Some really good points made here, i am also a SharePoint blogger and it makes a nice change to see people talking about appreciating bloggers not just knocking them.Thanks againDave

  2. Daniel,Splendid post. Keep in mind, though, that blogging simply for the sake of blogging seldom brings value, especially in a community like that of SharePoint. In fact, I'd rather say that unless you contribute, as you say, something useful, then just shut up. Who is to say what is useful? Well, the umptieth post on SharePoint Designer being free isn't useful, and the same goes for who know how many articles on SharePoint 2010 being available on MSDN. Bloggers are rarely news providers and to me, it doesn't make sense to be a reporter in that context.An additional hint could be to do some research before posting. When I write, I usually spend several hours finding out what everyone else is writing and avoiding the same topics unless I can bring new insight into a particular issue. Opinions? Absolutely! I love hearing people's opinions, both on technical and soft skill topics.Not every contribution is valuable. Many contributions polute more than they help, especially stuff that is not properly understood, explained, or researched. .b

  3. Agree with Dave, thanks Dan. Blogging IS hard work and it's only good manners to reply to comments, as well appreciate a good blog when you see one. Like this one. So thanks.I know your post was about reading blogs specifically, but for blog writers out there – one of the things that irritates me is people who just rehash other people's blogs and make it sound like their own in the beginning, and then just have these “read more” things or links to the actual article – I end up reading the same thing 3 times! Such a waste of time. And then they've got the cheek to put it on Twitter too. Just post the original article man, time is short for all of us.Don't know about anyone else, but I read voraciously and am subscribed to just about every SharePoint blog out there, so it drives me mad when people don't write original stuff and just refer to something else. Waste of a blog and a sneaky way to get hits. There are a few people that regularly do this, have started unsubscribing from them.Thanks for being original.

  4. Earlier today, I sent a draft of a post for http://trainingdebate.com to my daughter for review. We collaborate on that blog and I was thinking about a short series on effective use of social media. OK, I guess we can leave the ‘how not to blog’ portion out of that. I appreciate these comments and I agree that sometimes, bloggers can be wasting space. I don’t read many of those blogs, and the blog that spawned this post isn’t one of them.I guess there is a really fine line between useful and useless. I am glad to be considered to be on the right side of that line on occasion. Thanks for reading and for adding your thoughts.Dan

  5. Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I would like to put in writing like this additionally – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and by no means seem to get something done.

  6. @Indian SP Dev – Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I would encourage you to find the time to share your experience. As Bjorn says, "blogging for the sake of blogging seldom brings value" but if you have something of value, please find a way to contribute it to the community.D

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