Attention Aspiring SharePoint Bloggers: Shut Up!

Let me make this clear right from the start. If you are a SharePoint person looking to join the awesome SharePoint blogging community, chances are you’ll fall into every single pitfall there is. So, before you head over to and sign up for a new ‘Everything there is to know about SharePoint’ blog, shut up for a second and listen. In fact, you should probably shut up for a long time and, in some cases, perhaps it is better if you shut up forever.

That said, if you heed the warnings herein, approach blogging as something incredibly valuable, and you are prepared to put the sometimes insane effort that you need to produce good value content, then I welcome you and greet you with all my warmest feelings. You’ll be a very valuable community member and we will learn from you every time you post.

Now, let’s look at those pitfalls.

Think About Your Reputation

I’ve been writing for a while and more or less made it my life’s main professional purpose. I love writing, I love the feedback that you and the other members of the community provide.

I’m not that keen on reading. In fact, I actually read slower than I write. When I sit down with a book, it can take me a couple of hours to get through four or five pages of content, even for low concentration stuff like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. On the other hand, I can easily write four or five pages of content within an hour, and that includes at least basic self-editing and proof reading.

This is why I’m extremely cautious about what I read. When I start reading someone’s blog, I usually spend a good amount of time checking what that person writes, especially stuff related to technical content. If what you write isn’t correct, you’ll have a hard time convincing me that the other stuff you post is better.

This is just me, though, and although the world does revolve around me, I appreciate the fact that not everyone shares my perfection. I am quite confident, however, that if people are continuously exposed to rubbish, they stop trusting the source of that rubbish.

So, keep this in mind when you write: What you write is stamped on your forehead, forever. Are you absolutely certain that what you write is your best effort? If not, why are you posting it? Perhaps you should wait or do more research, test your solution a couple more times.

Yeah, that takes time. Welcome to blogging.

All Content Isn’t Valuable

Did you know that SharePoint Designer is free? Or that SharePoint 2010 is now available on MSDN? Or that Steve Ballmer has retired as CEO of Microsoft? Well, those kinds of updates will likely be thoroughly distributed through other channels. Nobody needs to read that on 50 blogs and you are not adding any value to the community or your blog by reposting what everyone already knows.

I saw this a lot just after said launch of SharePoint 2010. The situation was a bit special because the entire MVP community was under NDA and couldn’t say squat about SP2010 until a certain date. On that date, everyone had a spontaneous oral diarrhea and just had to post exactly the same information. I’m not saying the information was wrong or bad, just that I got a bit tired reading yet another ‘great new features of SP2010’ post on October 20, 2009.

On the other hand, if you can offer additional insight to those items of news, such as opinions, additional resources, background information, heck, even just a good list of related information, then don’t wait for another second and just start typing right now.

Before you post, ask yourself: Would I be thrilled to learn what you just wrote? Are you providing value to the community and to your blog that hasn’t already been added? If not, why not either skip that “woohoo, I read something that I also want to have written” post or do some additional research to find valuable and unique approaches to a story.

Yeah, that takes time. Welcome to blogging.

Some Content Pollutes

Do you know how to store custom properties in SharePoint custom field types? Neither does 90% of the people blogging about this niche topic. It is very complex, so it’s not strange, but still, there’s an inherent problem that comes from inaccurate or incomplete information.

If you write about something you think is right, think again. I’m not saying you are wrong, but read it again, and you may discover inaccuracies or ambiguous content. A helpful exercise is to ask yourself “in what situations is what I write not correct” and then try to either address or mention those exceptions.

You see, if 10 people write about a topic and three of them are technically wrong, then 30% of random googlers will find the wrong information. It’s not just your reputation that is affected by this, but also that unfortunate reader who may think your content is correct and implement that. The end result may be disastrous or just an inconvenience, but regardless, the content space is now polluted with erroneous information.

I’ve made those mistakes myself. Fortunately, I am blessed with several hundred regular readers who are quick to point out my errors, such as when I used a particular example from reflected SharePoint assemblies to show bad code in SharePoint. I’m not relying on blog readers to correct my mistakes, and in this case, I hadn’t done my mandatory research. And yes, there have been other cases too.

Before you post, you should make sure that what you write is properly researched.

Yeah, that takes time. Welcome to blogging.

Give Proper Credit!

It’s a community after all. Most bloggers never make even close to enough money to make up for the time they’re investing in providing content. The fact that most bloggers keep blogging is evidence that money isn’t the motivating factor.

If you find something very valuable and use that in your own content, whether that is technical information or just information, mention those sources. For example, this blog post was partially inspired by Christian Buckley’s post on called “The SharePoint Community Needs More Content: How You Can Get Involved”, a post with which I only partially agree, plus Daniel Antion’s post On Reading Blogs.

Suddenly, your content becomes part of a conversation with these people. Your readers will also appreciate the opportunity to learn from the same sources you do. And, if nothing else, it’s good for karma; perhaps those bloggers will link back to you and drive their readers to your blog as well.

Before you post your next post, think about this: If I took what you wrote and posted it on my blog, as my own content, would you be happy? If not, why not just add a link back to the original source and mention that you got inspiration from that post or that you took parts of your content from that source.

And no, that doesn’t take time, but welcome to blogging anyway.


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How to Save Money by Replacing Your Toolbox With a Nail – In Support of WordPress as a CMS

Joseff Betancourt posted an article the other day on how to save money by replacing SharePoint with WordPress. Sadly, the comment system at the CTOEdge site didn’t work at the time, so I couldn’t post a response there.

So, here it is:

Joseff, I’m sure you’re a great guy and everything, but apparently you know very little about SharePoint. That’s no necessarily unexpected, after all, even those of us who spend most of our waking hours with SharePoint find it difficult to keep up with everything.

However, what surprises me most is how little you must also know about WordPress and small businesses. You say that you could replace SharePoint as a collaboration tool with WordPress and some plugins that mimic a social site. That is truly like suggesting that you can replace a toolbox with a nail because all you’d use a toolbox for is hanging pictures on the wall.

I come from the SharePoint camp, being a long-term SharePoint developer. However, I am also a seasoned solutions architect. I strongly believe you are making a grave mistake here, one that the SharePoint camp has been doing for years. I absolutely love WordPress, I can’t think of a better tool for putting stuff on the web at the moment, but with your claims, you are doing WordPress a great disservice.

SharePoint should never be used for public websites, especially not for small businesses. For that, it is far too cumbersome and was never really designed to handle those tasks. Even a modest site would require so much in development effort and backend hardware (virtual or physical) that it would kill any reasonable financial analysis. Sure, in specific scenarios, SharePoint may be an alternative for public facing websites, but as a general purpose web content management system, it plain sucks.

For the clients I have that need a public site, I often strongly recommend WordPress over SharePoint. Even for my own SharePoint university, we utilize WordPress in a multitude of websites both because it is easy to use, purpose built for public exposure, and has an immense backing. Many of the biggest websites dedicated to SharePoint (like and are backed by WordPress. As you, I absolutely love the ease of customization, I build plugins to do pretty much anything that doesn’t come out-of-the-box or as third-party plugins, and I’m amazed at the theme system, outperforming SharePoint by miles.

The error that the SharePoint camp does is forcing SharePoint into a role in which it is inherently not suited. As an analogy I’ve used before, yeah, you can use a Ferrari to swat flies. It’s extremely expensive, difficult to do, and there would be a lot of better ways of accomplishing the same task using other tools.

The same can be said, I’m afraid, for WordPress. Claiming that WordPress can replace SharePoint to save money is missing the point and doing WordPress a great disservice. What you’d end up with is a tool that was not built or even intended for a fraction of the features that SharePoint does. In the end, users will end up with a difficult-to-maintain system that is likely far more expensive to build and will never truly fit _their_ needs. Ultimately, what will happen is that you’re forcing tools to behave in manners to which they are not intended. That’s bad for SharePoint and it’s bad for WordPress.

Yeah, you could get the WordPress Ferrari to function as a charger for your iPod, but it’s not really using the tool for what it is intended, and I’m certain most people would see that it is less than optimal use for such a fine piece of machinery.

Use WordPress where WordPress shines and leave other tasks to tools better suited for those tasks. Leave SharePoint to do what SharePoint does and keep it away from tasks it shouldn’t handle. Both platforms can, in theory, be used for virtually anything, but that doesn’t say it’s a good idea to use it for everything.


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Enabling Declarative Workflows for Anonymous Users in SP2010/2007

Christophe asked a question about how to allow anonymous users to start workflows in SharePoint 2010. The question spread on both Twitter and SharePointOverflow before I had a chance to answer directly, so I’m posting the response here rather than trying to chase all the locations Smile

By default, anonymous access to run declarative workflows are disabled. This only affects anonymous users because a workflow started by an anonymous user would need to be assigned special credentials that would exceed the normal permissions of the anonymous user. For authenticated users, the workflows run with the credentials of that user, but there are no such credentials for anonymous users.

This situation occurs when you’re trying to email enable lists that have automatically launched workflows attached. In these scenarios, anonymous users can send emails to a list and have a workflow start, regardless of their permissions on the list.

It’s actually a very useful feature, and I’ve described such a scenario as part of a solution in an article I wrote several years ago on SharePoint Designer Workflows. Back then, anonymous access was enabled by default. In WSS3 SP1, Microsoft changed the behavior to not allow anonymous access at all, but allowed it if you set a special property in WSS SP2.

You can enable anonymous workflow access by setting the declarativeworkflowautostartonemailenabled property on the farm, either using SharePoint Manager 2010 or through PowerShell or STSADM:

stsadm -o setproperty -pn declarativeworkflowautostartonemailenabled -pv true

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