Last summer, there was a series of posts that were challenging the foundation and future of the SharePoint community. One of those posts was on this blog and, although I didn’t write it, it raised some serious questions. Last week, Bjorn Furuknap wrote an article that made me realize, if Bjorn is to be trusted, that the SharePoint community is still suffering from growing pains. If Bjorn is right, and I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, my reaction is “meh”.
From my point of view, the SharePoint community is the hundreds of thousands of people using SharePoint to solve business problems on a daily basis, not the few thousand trolling for work. I am part of that larger community, I’m not sure if I’m part of the community Bjorn wrote about. I’m not here for the money, the prestige or the booth babes (now I know that my wife, who proofreads this blog, will read Bjorn’s blog). SharePoint is the tool I recommended to my employer to satisfy a pressing requirement. OK, I guess I am here for the money after all.
Like most of the people in the community, when I need ‘how to’ answers, I turn to the people that I follow, re-tweet and trust. It may seem like I circle the wagons around the same small group of people, but so what – those people are providing the answers and advice I need. On the other hand, that observation really wouldn’t be accurate. When I get stuck on a SharePoint snipe-hunt, you know, trying to figure out how to do what Microsoft says we can do but which never works, I turn to the SharePoint community. I search my favorite sources first, and then I simply search. I almost always find the answer in someone’s blog or in a comment on someone’s blog. When I like what I read, I bookmark that blog, I start following that person. If I grow to really like what that person has to say, I add them to my “Daily” list in Twitter. Talk about recognition, less than 10% of the people I follow are on that list. I can honestly say that all (both) of the SharePoint consultants I’ve hired were on that list before I hired them.
That list is not becoming, as Bjorn might say, “an unmanageable mass of junk” – I keep it clean and useful. Since I can only read so many tweets in a day, I prune away those without value or with diminishing value. That’s why I don’t worry about the trend that Bjorn mentions. It might be true that some people are taking shortcuts, calling attention to themselves or their close circle of friends, but I think I can see through that. If that’s your approach, you won’t remain on my list very long. I might also point out that SharePoint practitioners make up less than 10% of my daily reading list. I follow woodworkers, scientists, Steeler fans, people whose opinions I value and people that make me laugh. So, if you want recognition but are losing your grasp of SharePoint, try one of those topics.
What about me, why do I bother writing this blog? I rarely have answers to questions about how to do things. In fact, I sometimes ask more questions than I answer, or at least I try to get you to ask questions. As trite as this sounds, I am trying to give something back to the community, but again, not just the SharePoint community. Not only do I consider myself to be part of the larger SharePoint community, I consider myself to be part of the enormous community of information professionals. If someone in that group is thinking about using SharePoint to solve a problem, I’d like to think they might find an answer in this blog. So, do I get recognition, high pay,
a booth babe? (Proofreader strikes). Once again, the answer is “meh” – it doesn’t really matter. If you are trying to give something back, trying is enough; at least that’s how I feel. I can say without hesitation, that the highest praise I ever received for this blog was when Marc Anderson said that “it’s a Saturday kind of read” – as someone who tries to be an effective writer, it was gratifying to hear that.
Now, in keeping with one of the comments on Bjorn’s blog, I’ll mention someone else in my clique, AIIM. Oh wait, AIIM isn’t a person, it’s a community. Well, technically it’s an organization of information professionals, but why be technical. If you are looking for an opportunity to give back, I would urge you to consider joining AIIM. I’m not sure if it was in the early days of the SharePoint community, but in 2006 I listened as John Mancini stood on the stage in Philadelphia during his keynote address at the AIIM Conference and referred to SharePoint as “the elephant in the room” of the ECM community. I gave a presentation at that conference in which I briefly mentioned SharePoint, and John urged me to propose a presentation for the 2007 conference that focused entirely on SharePoint. AIIM doesn’t recommend any particular technology, but they work hard to cover all of them. They also provide tons of information of value to everyone involved with information management. If you want to see for yourself, come to the AIIM Conference in San Francisco in March where you can hear John, me, lots of bona-fide, and a few Certified Information Professionals (CIP) talk about the community in which SharePoint thrives. See, Bjorn was right; in the end, it is about me.
One last thing: as the title implies, I do have a request. Can you wonderful members of the SharePoint community who blog about solutions, please start tagging your blog entries with “SP2007”, “SP2010”, “SP2013” and the like? As someone who frequently searches for answers, it would be nice to be able to easily filter on version, particularly since some of the solutions that work in one version don’t end up working in future versions. Thanks!