SharePoint 2013 SDK is Out!

To all those who are looking to keep on top of the latest and greatest, well, here’s some good news for you.

Microsoft just today released a preliminary SDK for SharePoint 15, called the SharePoint 15 Technical Preview Managed Object Model Software Development Kit. That’s right, campers, we’re ready to start consuming information about SharePoint vNext, SharePoint 2013, or whatever it ends up being called.

I’ve already started to read the SDK and found some extremely interesting things there. As always, I’ll be distilling this information and making it available to you, most likely in the form of a USP Journal issue series, just like I did for SharePoint 2010. If you want to keep up to date on that, the easiest way is to sign up for the USP Journal mailing list.

Of course, don’t be a stranger here either, I’ll definitely post a lot of public information. A great way is to follow the Furuknap’s SharePoint Corner RSS feed or just follow me on Twitter and you’ll get information as soon as it’s available.

Oh, and I’ll tag the articles with SharePoint 2013 too, so you can check out that category here too.

That’s it for now, I’ll get back to reading and I look forward to keeping you up to date on SharePoint 15 :-)

.b

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What’s Wrong with the SharePoint Community?

Over the previous months, I’ve been both reading and hearing multiple comments about how the SharePoint community is going down the drain. I have some thoughts on the subject I’d like to share with you.

Now, if you drink the Kool-Aid, you know that for several years, the SharePoint community has been a great place to hang out, with tons of learning, constructive debate, and a social atmosphere where both newbies and seasoned professionals can mingle with friendly peers. In fact, in a rather short list, I pointed out the SharePoint community as one of the primary reasons why I love working with SharePoint.

When I wrote my first book, Building the SharePoint User Experience, that community helped me, both prior to getting the contract, during the writing, and also afterwards. I am still grateful to the community, both then and now, and will continue to contribute in any way I can.

But there’s still major problems with the community, and here’s what I think is wrong.

You Suck!

Becoming part of the community includes great benefits for all involved. New blood brings new perspective to old issues and bring new problems for the group to solve, further increasing the ‘global brain’ of SharePoint knowledge. At least that’s what the posters should say.

However, in reality, it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves. Really, we’re here just because we gain some benefit from it.  I’m motivated by learning, for example, so I focus most of my efforts towards that goal. Others may be motivated by gaining money, prestige, social acceptance, a sense identity, or any other factor. Once you get to the bottom of your motivation tree, it’s eventually all about you.

Which is perfectly OK. You’re selfish, and that’s good because you’ll do best if you are motivated by the betterment of someone you love or at least have to hang out with every day.

The problem arises when the goal becomes more important than the means because that’s when people start taking shortcuts. You want to be faster so you do anabolic steroids, you want to be smarter so you cheat at an exam, you want to pick up that hot blonde chick or hunk over at the other end of the bar so you lie about your job, you want to have more money so you deduct a few creative expenses on your taxes.

The more prestigious and valuable a goal seems, the more people will do whatever it takes to get there. As the SharePoint community grows, being noticed as part of that community becomes both more rewarding but also more difficult. As the community grows, the reward for being recognized also increases, whether you are motivated by money, peer recognition, prestige, or whatever.

You’re Paid Too Much!

The reward, or promise of reward, in SharePoint is fabulous. SharePoint is booming and there is a desperate shortage of skills. Those that are recognized as skilled can ask clients and employers for massive amounts of money. I’ll not argue here whether that pay is fair or not beyond saying that I think it is, but regardless of whether I’m right or not, the fact remains that begin recognized as skilled in SharePoint is lucrative.

It’s easy then to focus on getting that reward at virtually any price. Heck, who wouldn’t take a few shortcuts to earn ten thousand dollars over a few days in a repetitive way? Add to that the pressure to produce at an ever increasing rate, combined with the difficult economic times, and the temptation to seek quick fixes to complex problems may be too hard to resist.

Even if you currently are a long-term member of the SharePoint community, it’s still a struggle to keep up. Not just are you expected to do your regular job, but in order to keep that job, you need to keep up with new ideas and topics, expand on the knowledge an ever increasing topic list, practice what you already know so you don’t forget, and answer questions from peers and others.

And then you’re supposed to contribute actively to the community. The more the community grows, the more you need to deliver back to stay on the top, and the more tempting it may be to take those shortcuts. There’s simply not enough time to do proper research or to fully evaluate someone else’s arguments. Changing your opinion even if you realize you’re wrong may be perceived as a sign of weakness, and if you’re going to be ‘a SharePoint guru’, you can’t have a dent in your reputation, right?

After all, with the amount you’re paid  and the income to which you have become accustomed… Well, slowing down isn’t an option.

Back to the Roots of Quality?

When I first joined the SharePoint community, information was scarce. That’s one of the main reasons I wrote my first book; to uncover what was missing.

However, at the time, there wasn’t the same amount of prestige and money in SharePoint. Granted, it was a growing technology, but adoption was still slow. Those who wrote had little other motivation than to post to help others. That meant that their reward was simply a ‘thank you’ if they even got that, and not a $300/hour paycheck. There weren’t any SharePoint Saturdays with fans lining up to meet you, nor 7,000 people conferences where the superstars never had to buy a single beer at the ensuing SharePint. Heck, there wasn’t even SharePint.

These days, money and prestige seems to be the main motivators, maybe not as much for the old-timers, but certainly for both ISVs, consulting houses, and perhaps especially for new people arriving at the scene, drawn by the smell of money, boothbabes, and recognition.

The sad fact is that this is detrimental to the very community we try to maintain. Sure, we need money, and peer recognition is nice and all, but when that becomes the goal, and such a sweet goal, we tend to sacrifice quality in too great an extent.

It’s been a couple of months since I really took a deep look at what’s being written about SharePoint and the responses people get in forums. It’s a sad state, to be brutally honest, when many of those I previously admired for being highly skilled and great role models start churning out content that lacks even basic research. I see SharePoint MVPs who can’t even spell SharePoint, I see articles that make ridiculous claims about what’s possible and not, I see people promoting rubbish as the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I especially see ‘experts’, often with just a couple of months of SharePoint experience but also those with track records of literally years, throw proper research and great ideas under the bus because it does not fit into their picture of the world.

Sadly, I can’t see any way for this to change. Well, human nature could change, but the moon could also turn into chocolate mousse, and it’s not likely. The rewards are simply too great and the temptation is too strong to ask anyone to just stop and don’t produce for the sake of production. The SharePoint community is rapidly turning into an unmanageable mass of junk where the newbies scream as loud as they can to get attention and the old-timers struggling ever more to keep up with the rapid pace.

I know one thing, though, and that is that when SharePoint 2013 hits the shelves, or even as soon as people start posting information, we’ll have a completely new definition of community chaos on our hands, and I for one do not look forward to that.

Thanks for your time,

.b

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Formal and Informal Learning

It may come as a surprise to you, but formal learning isn’t the way most people learn today. It never has, which is why it is so strange that so much of our evaluation of others depend on their formal learning background.

Wait! Hang on, what is formal learning? Why is it not good, and, far more importantly, what is the alternative?

Formal Learning

It stands to reason that the opposite of formal learning would be informal learning. Now, if we ask Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, about informal learning, they certainly have an explanation on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Informal_learning.

How does this help us understand what formal learning is? Well, check the URL. If you change the Informal part of the URL to Formal, you would get http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formal_learning, right? Well, try that link and see what happens.

That’s right, we’re now talking about education. Formal learning, easily defined, is the training you get while attending traditional schools, universities, classes, workshops, and so on.

Traditionally, these forms of studies have a fixed curriculum and you are lead through that curriculum by someone. It doesn’t matter whether you want to learn everything there or just a portion of the content, you still need to go through all the content.

This may be a good thing in some situations, after all, if you ask a child of six what they want to learn, I highly doubt it will be art history, grammar, or integral math. They probably really want to go to school and learn, but we still need to give them direction and tell them what they need to learn to be productive and responsible members of society. Can’t have that without calculus, after all.

Even if you do detect my slight sarcasm there, especially considering I’ve never passed any math class myself, the argument about needing to formalize the paths of students at the very best applies only to small children. It definitely does not apply to older children and least of all to grown and mature adults.

As adults, we need to learn math only if we are hindered by our lack of math skills. And if we do need to improve our math skills, we likely would want to improve our math skills in something that has a real life impact, such as understanding how to calculate a mortgage or figuring out how sales tax works.

However, I’m still not sure that formal learning really has a place at all. Coming from a dean at a university seeking accreditation for a formal education in SharePoint, that may surprise you.

What’s the Alternative?

When you learn, you mostly learn from non-formal studies. There’s no formal education in walking, blowing your nose, moving your head around, or scratching your elbow. Still, by the age of five, you know how to do all those things, and you don’t have a day of formal training on your resume.

Even when you start school, there are no formal classes in making friends, finding your way home from school, getting a girlfriend or boyfriend, or behaving around other people. Still, by the end of your high school years, you likely master these aspects of your life, and more. You’ll have learned how to sneak out without your parents noticing, you’ll have learned to get dressed and brush your teeth, you will have learned so many things that formal training wouldn’t dream of teaching.

So, what about after high school, or even college? Is there a formal education in hanging around the water cooler or coffee machine at work? What class did you take at college to learn where your cubicle is, or what your daily routine would be at work? What teacher taught you how early you’d have to arrive in the morning to get the parking spot you wanted?

Trivial tasks you say? Maybe, but trival doesn’t mean unimportant. You may get a job without the right education, but you won’t get a job if you can’t dress in the morning.

But let’s assume you are right. Let’s say that all the things I’ve mentioned so far are solely trivial and meaningless tasks that everyone takes for granted. If so, what additional formal education does one employee with 20 years of experience have that makes them so much better than a PFY fresh out of college? No formal education you say? Well, the more experienced employee has 20 years of informal training, training that they have received on their job, from their co-workers, or from mentors who they have looked up to during their careers.

Why are your parents always wiser than you are? Do they have more education? Well, they may, but even if you vastly outrank your parents in education, they are most of the time the wiser, not because of their formal training as parents, but because of their informal training that they have received during their additional years of social interactions.

On the job, what class did you take to understand how your current client’s needs match what you have done before on other projects? You’d chalk that down to experience and there are no university classes teaching you experience. Still, it’s what comprises most of our adult learning.

Education or Experience

If you ask any 22-year old CS major about how easy it is to get a job, they’ll likely say that they’re struggling with getting interviews because of their lack of experience. Recruiters want a good education but employers want to know how you handle real life situations. That’s rather hard, considering you’re not going to get that experience until, well, you have the experience. It’s a chicken and egg problem if there ever was one.

So, how about doing it the other way around? How about skipping the formal education completely and focus solely on gaining experience through work? If you’re going to land a job, especially in the economy of the recent financial turbulence, you need to offer employers something that makes you valuable. Considering you’re likely going to be less productive and make more mistakes than someone who has decades of experience, your value delivered will be lower. That means you’ll likely need to accept a lower salary.

But wait a moment, is that really so bad? Your salary as a student is practically nothing, so anything you get above that will be pure profit, even minimum wage. At the same time you are gaining experience that increase the value of your ‘product’, so it’s not like you’re sitting down for four years when all your friends are being good and attending university.

Add to this the fact that your education will cover tons of material that an employer can’t turn into money and you’re actually wasting at least a portion of your time spent in classes, simply because your education is never targeted completely at the job you want.  

I’m certain that other employers will have different opinions on this, but I would much rather hire a 22 year old person who has done 8-10 projects over the past four years than someone who just spent the same four years on a chair in a class room, studying stuff I don’t really need. In fact, I’d much rather train someone on the job or send them to specific training if they have proven that they know how to work. I would even value someone who failed miserably in their first couple of years, simply because they are far more likely to learn from their mistakes than someone who has never seen anything but the perfect scenarios they often face in school.

My advice to those who struggle getting a job is thus this: get a job at any cost. Work cheap, heck, work free, if that’s what it takes. Prove to your employer that you can produce value, fall into the pits and prove you can get out, and prove that you know how to handle real life. You’ll pick up a lot more learning a lot more efficient than you would attending a university, learning informally rather than formally.

.b

Sources read:

The Other 80%. http://www.internettime.com/Learning/The%20Other%2080%25.htm

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