Too Simple

imageI recently ran into a problem trying to replace the chain on my chainsaw. There were really two problems. First, there are almost no chains to be had in the state of CT after Storm Alfred dropped a few gazillion tree limbs on fences, roads and power lines. Second, Husqvarna changed the style of chain that my chainsaw uses without changing the model number of the saw. I purchased what the guide in the store indicated was the correct chain, only to have it not contour to the tip of the cutting bar. Standing in Home Depot, I started browsing through websites looking for tooth design, chain width, pitch, etc. when it finally occurred to me that if I simply bought a replacement bar and chain kit, my problem would be rendered mute. In addition, I would have Oregon’s model number for the replacement chain in the future.

The fact that I was heading down the more complicated path at first, is no surprise to me; sometimes I skip right past the simple solution because I’m looking for something elegant. Give me a minute; I can spin that last statement into something that sounds more noble than idiotic. I’m not sure if it’s the developer in me or the fact that I like to make my job interesting, but I will often start out pursuing a solution that could probably be considered overkill. In spite of that, we have had three bits of success lately with very simple solutions. Note that there isn’t anything remarkable about these solutions, other than, perhaps, the fact that I ignored or forgot about using them at first.

$9 Answer – When we upgraded our Internet-facing server from SP 2007 to 2010, we reorganized our content to make installation, backup and restoration easier. An unfortunate side-effect of this effort was that the URLs changed for the sub-sites. Since the main server home page is just the front door to services being provided to our members, policyholders, employees and a wide variety of vendors, nobody ever really starts there. They go there one time, click the link that applies to them and then they bookmark the page they land on. We started thinking of all the ways we could make those old URLs work, when we realized that we could simply buy a domain name for each sub-site. Now, no matter what we do with their content, even if we take it out of SharePoint, they know how to get to it.

A Library is as Good as a Site – OK, sometimes a library is as good as a site. We had a policyholder contact us looking for help uploading a bunch of large files. As I’ve written before, our first choice is to direct them to the site we have set up for their company on our server. In this case, the company doesn’t have a site yet. Our first thought was that we had two choices: 1) we could make them wait a bit while we built a site for their company, or 2) we could send them through the generic “drop box” library that we have. Then we remembered that libraries in SharePoint are permission-trimmed content. We didn’t have to build them a site (yet), we simply created a library on the main page of our Policyholder site that only they have access to. That way, they end up heading to the place we want them to get used to, and they have immediate access to all the common documents available to policyholders.

SharePoint Libraries are Email Enabled – As you’re probably aware, this isn’t a new feature, but it is one that I tend to forget about. In a meeting last week, a group of us realized that in order to resolve a problem we were having with a vendor, it would be necessary to review the emails we have received from this vendor. Most people admitted to routinely deleting these messages but since I file them in a folder, I offered to move them into SharePoint. Later in the day, when I went to create the library to move them to, I realized that I had already done that. In fact, the message distribution rules we established in Exchange, already route these messages to the library via the library’s email address. Note: for those of you that are about to chastise me for not having documented this composite solution, I did, I just forgot to look at the documentation.

Albert Einstein supposedly said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” In reading up on that, it is not clear to me that he actually said that, or that he meant “everything” in the way we mean everything when we refer to SharePoint. Still, he was Einstein, so…