While 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.
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.