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.
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,
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