Recently, I’ve received a few comments about the training we provide at. The comments relate to some of our courses that (correctly) have screenshots, examples, and code from previous versions of SharePoint. Apparently, one needs to have the latest and greatest version in order to learn about SharePoint.
To me, that makes about as much sense as saying that you can’t learn how to drive unless you have the latest model car, or that you can’t learn to cook unless you have the correct oven.
Let me elaborate a bit on what I mean by that.
SharePoint Isn’t About Technology
A frequently heard quote in the SharePoint community is that SharePoint is far less about technology and much more about business. Developers know that when you’re dealing with business problems, you deal with business objects. You don’t walk up to your client and say that their vacation request problems are solved by X amount of classes with Y amount of methods or properties.
Business users don’t care about technology, and don’t let marketing or sales tell you otherwise. Business users care about themselves and the problems they face. When Frank in HR has to work two extra days every April to handle all the vacation requests, he doesn’t care whether what gives him those two days back is called SharePoint or SAP, and least of all which version of those platforms help him. He’s only happy to spend the additional time with his wife, mistress, or motorcycle, whatever his fancy is.
Tell me, in your car, assuming you have one, who made the chip that controls everything from the engine to the AC? You don’t know, you say? Well, it’s quite often the same for business users when they work with software.
In fact, it’s quite often the same with us developers. Do you really know what platform Google or Facebook uses to build their software? Or in what language the web services from Amazon are written? Most likely, you don’t, and you don’t care, at least you don’t need to care. All we need to know is how to interact with those platforms, through programming interfaces, web services, or whatever we can access.
SharePoint Isn’t About Versions
I have heard, more frequently than you’d imagine, people claim that there’s absolutely no point in upgrading to SharePoint 2010 when their 2007 custom solution solves their problem.
In other words, people’s problems aren’t going to change when Microsoft releases a new version of SharePoint. If you solve your problems with SharePoint 2007, why is SharePoint 2010 required at all? Or even SharePoint 2013? You built a solution to fix what ached you, but you won’t get different or new aches when there’s a new version of SharePoint out.
There’s even a huge chance that you get new problems with your existing solutions when you upgrade. Features change, custom code may break, your neatly designed layout may suddenly get an ugly ribbon bar, or a range of other things may affect what you already have. So, upgrading is a huge risk that may break what you currently have.
If you’re fond of food, you may have had a soufflé. Cooking a soufflé is quite tricky and depends greatly on temperature control and knowledge of your tools, most importantly your oven. You need to learn how your oven works in order to get the best soufflé possible.
Well, when you introduce a new oven, you’re actually not getting to cook new things, but you’re forcing yourself to learn how to cook soufflés all over again.
I’m not a fan of upgrading anything until there is something that I am unable to solve on my current platform. My current workstation, for example, on which I do all my development, authoring, gaming, and social interaction, is a rig I built in 2007. Granted, I upgraded the graphics card recently because I couldn’t play Skyrim comfortably on the old one, but beyond that, it’s exactly the same machine I bought five years ago.
And speaking of upgrading tools…
SharePoint Development Isn’t About Visual Studio!
The specific comment I got on the USPJ Academy training is that the Beginning SharePoint Development course isn’t targeted at Visual Studio 2010 or even SharePoint 2010. The examples are all in Visual Studio 2008 (and I only upgraded from 2005 just before authoring the journal issue) and screenshots are in SharePoint 2007. Apparently, that means that people can’t learn how to do SharePoint development.
Look, I understand the desire to have and use the latest gadgets. After all, the cool kids always have the latest fashion clothes, the newest phones, and play the latest games, and we all want to be the cool kids, right?
Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but SharePoint development is as much about Visual Studio as astronomy is about telescopes, to almost quote a famous programmer. Visual Studio is just a tool, little more than an advanced hammer, when you’re trying to build a house. Unless you understand how to build the foundation, how walls provide support, and how to build a roof that will keep the elements at bay, well, being the world champion of hammers isn’t going to mean anything.
Even if you learn how to use a certain hammer to build a wall, all you know is how to build a wall with that hammer. You still don’t know anything about building houses. You don’t know how people will live in the house and what they need to be safe, happy, and comfortable, which means a hell of a lot more to the residents than who made the hammer and whether it was a new or old hammer.
So, learning SharePoint development is like learning how to be a chef. You don’t learn recipes for your oven, you learn how food and ingredients work, how to mix them to produce great dishes, how to handle meat safely so you don’t get cross contamination, and, most importantly, how to give your guests or consumers of your food a great experience.
Screw the oven, I just want a nice, juicy steak!
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