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,


Found this article valuable? Want to show your appreciation? Here are some options:

a) Click on the banners anywhere on the site to visit my blog's sponsors. They are all hand-picked and are selected based on providing great products and services to the SharePoint community.

b) Donate Bitcoins! I love Bitcoins, and you can donate if you'd like by clicking the button below.

c) Spread the word! Below, you should find links to sharing this article on your favorite social media sites. I'm an attention junkie, so sharing is caring in my book!

Pin It

Published by

Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

59 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with the SharePoint Community?”

  1. I wasn’t aware that there was any sort of decline in the SharePoint community. Have I missed some kind of growing meme? What brought you to the need to write this article?

    1. Matt,

      Although I don’t have all the links and comments (plus email and semi-private discussions), Christian Buckley summarized the debate from last summer on the topic nicely:

      It was originally Mark Rackley’s blog post that wanted me to respond, but sadly I was both out-of-reach at the time and the article is now gone (due to his incompetence, shame, or something like that, I’m sure 😉 ).


        1. You know, I read (ok, skimmed) through those articles and I honestly think it is much ado about nothing. Microsoft takes a hands off approach to building community by sponsoring community events and hosting a few conferences. Contrast that to an organization like Salesforce which requires registration of user groups through its corporate website for control of ownership or organizations like Google which don’t seem to have a community at all outside of developer meet-ups.

          The core complaint I hear in those articles is that the size of the organization and the somewhat schizophrenic simultaneous focus on numerous audiences (developer, IT, power user, end user) makes the information transmission somewhat muddled. Growing pains, nothing more.

          1. Matt,

            Microsoft never was or can be the solution to these problems, and they are problems even if one can dismiss them as trivial at this point. The problem is growing and growing at an ever increasing rate and if not understood it will be the death of the community as we know it.

            That may not be a bad thing. Note that nowhere do I say that I think the change or even death is bad, it will simply be replaced by something else. If growing pains is the terms, well, we can’t get back to being childrenand will have to accept that what we cherish today may be gone tomorrow and we’ll have nothing but fond memories about how good things were back in the days.


  2. Dear Bjørn,

    The huge and vibrant SharePoint community has been a great help to me to move from complete noob to reasonable experienced (in all modesty).

    Thanks goodness it’s a huge community. There’s so much stuff and great ideas out there we all can use to inspire and help us.

    Inevitable, with the growth of the community, rock stars appear and get applause. Alas, we’re all humans… So here come all the wannabee rock stars who want their 5 minutes of fame (hence all those horrible tv shows like Idols, gots talent, etc.).
    And the only way to get it without years of work, research and blogging is to shout as loud as you can.

    Anyway, I think the community is very capable of distinguish the good from the bad. Shouters will stay shouters and rock stars will (probably) stay rock stars.

    And maybe shouters will eventually turn into rock stars, like the moon could turn into chocolate mousse 😉

    1. The issue I have with this, or rather the problem that this causes (I don’t actually have a problem with any of this) is that for those entering the community for the first time, it is extremely difficult to distinguish bullshit from gold. The quality-to-quantity ratio is decreasing and putting even more pressure on those that seek to deliver only quality content.

      I don’t share your optimism with regards to whether people can distinguish good from bad. For example, in MSDN forums, you are rewarded for number of answers, not for their quality. A result of this is that it is more important to answer often than it is to answer good (answer, not reply, which is very different) and we end up with ‘answers’ that aren’t even close to good pratice.

      Users, on the other hand, have no other measure of a person’s competence than their rating, and someone with a lot of answers must be good, right?

      StackExchange has a better model, but it’s still not good enough.

      It gets even more confusing with the titles flying around. An MVP must be good, right? To someone completely new to the community, evaluating whether advice is good or not is difficult, so it’s easy to trust the titles. However, when some MVPs can’t spell SharePoint and others barely know the difference between development and programming, you can’t even trust a title anymore.


    1. Uhm… And that’s your criticism of this post? Geez.

      BTW, the winkey smiley think usually means something along the lines or irony. I love Mark, he’s a great guy and although he’s too modest inspires many in the community, myself included.

  3. Bjorn,
    Great post and painfully true. It seems the MVP title has lost its meaning. Giving someone a title of MVP for answering a high quantity of posts is a bit backward. I’d prefer someone with less number of responses to posts but a higher quality of response. I often browse the help forums and see some strange and sometimes “hacky” solutions. This reply is in no way meant to diminish the effort and achievement of the MVPs – a lot of them are great technical people.There just needs to be a better standard for ALL MVPs to achieve.

    The earlier days of the SharePoint community were better. There was less information out there in the way of blogs and books – but the quality was higher. I think we all need to take a step back and see if we are using Best Practices and common sense to provide the best technical solutions – or are we trying to rush through a project in order to get to the next?

  4. The SharePoint community is not ‘going down the drain’ but I have noticed that it is morphing into smaller and more discreet cliques. By that I mean: several years ago, there were a handful of socially visible peeps in the community that blazed the knowledge trail and produced allot of good information about the product that Microsoft failed to deliver in their documentation. These names are still around and still contribute but many others have come onto the scene with more specialized content (Search, Architecture, DR, Personalization, Design Patterns, etc.) and as a result I’ve noticed that communication within these cliques resembles something of an echo chamber that tends to exclude or ignore any newbie’s (or others who are professionally equivalent) that desire to contribute meaningful content to the conversation.

    As an example, among the collection of more ‘socially visible’ people in the SharePoint space, if you observe who writes what and who comments on it, it becomes clear that there are really several intermingling cliques where everyone is commenting on each others blogs, retweeting each other’s tweets, and following each other on the social networks … much to the exclusion of most anyone else who is technically equal (in some cases, superior) or would otherwise bring insightful contributions to the mix simply because they are not ‘socially active’. I suppose it’s a ‘respect’ thing or a ‘in or outside the group’ thing, but it’s not necessary and quite petty. I know several SharePoint wizards who are too busy solving business requirements and impressing clients and who would otherwise be considered an expert by most all of these ‘popular’ types because they are not ‘mixing it up’ in the social spaces. Clearly, the idea of being an ‘expert’ to or being respected by others is very relative to whom ones stands next to or associates with.

    However, a more significant problem I’ve noticed is that too many more-visible peeps never got the memo to ‘Check Your Ego At The Door’ or are ignoring it altogether. In the speaker room at SPSAusTx I overheard Bill English comment (paraphrasing) “It seems some people think they are more important than they really are”. In my opinion, this observation cannot be understated. I’ve met too many ego-centric, self-important people in this space.

    With the MVP program, I would agree that it needs some rework; feels too much like it’s being run by someone still living out their High School ‘in or out crowd’ mentality; a ‘secret decoder ring’ kind of thing. Regarding the MVP’s themselves, I do wonder how some ever received their award and wonder even more why others never have. That really devalues the program for me.

    And you mention disappointment with a number of unnamed peeps churning out bad content. Without references, this statement doesn’t carry allot of weight with readers. Surely, you have one or more ‘offenders’ in mind, eh? Considering how unbashfull you have been in the past about trashing other people, you can name names, huh?

    And yes we have a quality control issue in this space and a prime culprit is the obfuscation and confusion of ‘roles’ which I and others have written about, but nothing has changed. The issue will continue.

    Ultimately, we are seeing something not unlike any industry undergoing the flux of changes as supply and demand changes over time. Just so happens that right now demand outstrips supply and this is unlikely to change for the near future. It remains to be seen how much more this will influence the issues you raised here.

    1. Mark Freeman,

      I have observed the ‘clique’ thing too, but I find that to be a natural defense mechanism when a crowd becomes too large. It’s about controlling one’s environment and being socially accepted, something that is a lot easier if you hang around with a group of those you know and who knows you.

      Of course, as the community grows, this group quickly becomes too large to be comfortably homogenous so sub-groups appear. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, competition even in social acceptance can be good too because it forces the groups to become even more cohesive.

      As for name mentioning, that has a place when the target for a complaint relates to one or at the very least a few persons. This post, however, talks about the problems facing a large and grey mass, so calling anyone out would serve no purpose.


  5. If I understand the gist of the article and accompanying comments correctly there seems to be some level of dissatisfaction with the echo chamber quality of the internet and the “MVPs are better than everyone else” attitude exhibited by some MVPs.
    Assuming I’ve analyzed the content correctly, here is what I have to say about that. The Internet is an echo chamber. For every 1 post that tells you how to do something correctly, you have 100 telling you how to do it incorrectly. That is assuming that you can peel back the rebloggers and aggregators which add absolutely no value whatsoever. However, that’s the nature of the internet where content is not rated and is never removed. StackExchange and Quora have better approaches, as does Answers.Microsoft.com
    Reading between the lines on the MVP thing, what I am hearing is that folks who are not already in the club are having a hard time breaking in. As a six year MVP, I have a long list of community involvement that dates back nearly 10 years and includes a heck of a lot more than “answered 1,000,000 forum questions”. I work hard for my community and as a reward, MSFT recognized me with an MVP (first for SQL Server, then for SharePoint). But being an MVP doesn’t drive me and I participate at the same level regardless of that status. But that’s just me. Being an MVP does come with some undeniable perks (most notably instant credibility) and because of that people seek the status as a prize. But the real problem everyone is complaining about is that they have no idea how Microsoft evaluates people for admission into the MVP program. It’s a black box and that is quite deliberate. The people who are present, regardless of whether or not you feel they deserve to be there, have worked to get that nod. That also does not mean there are no other people who deserve that spot as much or more.
    As for the MVP echo chamber, one of the things that the SharePoint MVPs are astonishingly good at is the social collaboration thing. They talk to each other a lot, become friends and have conversations in public forums like each other’s blogs and Twitter. Who can begrudge that level of camaraderie?

    1. Matt,

      I’m not specifically targeting MVPs here, my beef with that program is for other posts. My concern is that the rewards for being noticed enough to get or keep that title is so high that it leads people to take shortcuts, which in turn deteriorates the community.

      I have great respect for many MVPs, not because of their titles but because of their actions. I have similar respect for tons of non-MVP community contributors, again because of their contributions and ability to properly present content and arguments.

      I’m somewhat baffled about the public and private comments I’ve gotten from several community participants after this post, but it goes only to prove a point; it’s more important for some people to _appear_ good than it is to actually deliver quality contributions. The latter requires some effort and a working brain, you see, and that’s apparently too much for some.

      And as for breaking into the club, for those who know a bit about how the MVP program works and also see quite a lot about what goes on inside, joining isn’t actually a reward at all but rather a “here’s a leash, it’s a nice leash, isn’t it? Attaboy, you’re proud to have a leash, aren’t you” type of thing. It’s one of those gold-encrusted turds that many newcommers see as the ultimate reward, but that really just ends up smelling bad after a while.

      So no, the MVP title to me is no indication of skill or quality. What you do matters, what you or others call you doesn’t.

      OK, so there was some MVP program beef there after all…


  6. The MVP Program is worthless. It’s all about politics and giving the right person a warm fuzzy while not stepping on someone else’s toes. It has nothing to do with technical ability or aptitude.

    The community used to be like a warm blanket. Inviting, cormfortable, something you looked forward to. Now you have to where the right clothes, say the right things, and be careful not to offend someone with your opinion. You are not even allowed to have your own OPINION anymore.

    You can bury your head in the sand all you want Matt. Why do you deserve to be MVP more than Bjorn? or Mark Freeman? or anyone else? Because you’ve been one for so long? That alone shows how broke the program is.

    The SharePoint community is going to continue to fragment as people rush to remain relevant in all the noise. It used to be about the technology, now it’s about the egos.

    I’m ready for the next ‘hot’ technology.

  7. Michelle,

    I’m not sure I think leaving the technology based on its users is a good approach. Doing so hurts only you.

    Also, keep in mind that this isn’t an MVP problem, it’s a community problem. MVPs can’t be blamed for others wanting a piece of their action. Individuals can be blamed for taking shortcuts, but that goes for non-MVPs just as much.


  8. Hi Bjorn,

    I thought I would comment on your post because more people will see my name and that will give me credibility.

    Besides that, I agree there has been massive growth in the number of “experts”. Along with those experts comes blogs, articles, and forum answers… many of which contain incorrect information. Thus there is more information making it harder to gain knowledge. Especially for the new-comer who hasn’t discovered trusted sources yet.

    I have commented on the community elsewhere, so I must be an expert on this subject. Therefore I declare that the SharePoint community is still a cool community.

    I am hopeful that it will continue to be unique and helpful rather than degrade into a competitive greedy technology segment. Maybe I have rose colored glasses (or are those beer goggles?). Regardless of my eyewear I like to peek at reality once in awhile to gain additional perspective. Thank you for your insights.


    1. Tony,

      I’m sorry to say I’m not as optimistic as you are. I agree, it’s still a great place, but as I’ve said here, I’ve already started seeing signs I fear will break the trustworthiness of community contributions to SharePoint.


  9. I don’t think anything in SharePoint is declining. It is in such a big demand that I am getting calls every second day with SharePoint contract offers. I’ve been working on SharePoint for last 5 years and been on different SharePoint conferences. Interest is huge.

    1. Berdia,

      The incredible demand means that prices increase because buyers need to do something to seem different from all the other offers. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. Frankly, I pick the projects I find interesting, for example projects where the client wants to utilize SharePoint and not force it to be something it isn’t. I’m lucky because I get enough interesting offers and I really don’t care about getting more money (I’m already giving away a fair share of what I get), but it may be different for others.

      The point of this article is to say that the rewards of succeeding and being noticed in the community is far too great. I mean, if you can pick whatever job you want and earn huge chunks of money from doing it with little or no competition, well, that seems to be an extremely desirable state. It’s desirable enough that it makes it very tempting to take shortcuts to get noticed.

      You’re quite right, everything SharePoint is growing, and if what I’m writing here is right, then the problem will also grow until the community breaks down under the weight of its own trash.


  10. Bjørn,

    For me, it seems the gist of your blog post is that the growth of the community is diluting the quality of the content out there due to people’s motivations.

    A lot of discussion in these comments is revolving around the issues concerning the MVP award status, yet you’ve only really mentioned that as one of the motivations for people joining the community and contributing as much as they possibly can, even if it adds no value.

    People are indeed motivated by the money. There’s a lot of hype around SharePoint, which creates a lot of demand, and a bigger demand for good SharePoint people. As those who are highly skilled in a wide variety of disciplines and credible are hard to come by, the value of these people goes up, therefore the prospective day rates for those also goes up.

    What worries me slightly is if the value of these people keeps pushing up the day rates, would it be entirely possible that SharePoint is just not a valuable platform to invest in, because the hardware, software and the people involved become just too expensive? This would result in an overall decrease in uptake, and potentially decrease in these elusive monetary rewards. This could perhaps be an example of a community participating in the collapse of a platform’s success, but otherwise it may not be. I’m just conjecturing worst case scenarios here.

    So, there’s money and status in SharePoint. That’s not a bad thing in it self. But you do raise a point that these may indirectly lead to the reduction in quality of information out there. What can we do out that? Not much. How will this affect the platform as a whole? Probably like this I reckon: the proliferation of bad practice, a rough patch of ‘lessons learnt’, then the whole thing cleans up. Then Microsoft releases another version and the cycle repeats itself.

    The next few years are going to be interesting to watch.

    1. James,

      Now that you’ve posted, can I say I’ve been Loved?

      On a slightly more serious note, keep in mind that money isn’t always a motivator. Quite a lot of strong community contributors have a net cost of participating in the community. Personally, I’ve spent a ton of hard cash building USPJA and USPJA Publishing, and that’s not counting the lost income I could have made had I simply invoiced clients instead. Others spend their own dime traveling to conferences and SharePoint Saturdays without any return beyond the contributions they make in building a great community.

      Of course, neither of us might have been particularly well-known if we’d just stayed at home or invoiced clients, so the publicity may be a motivating factor too.

      As for the cost, well, it seems to me that most of the installations I’ve done have a factor of about 1-to-3 in terms of hardware/software to manpower cost. It’s not just hiring the experts to build or manage your solutions, it’s also costs of training employees and internal costs in evaluating the new platform and changing the current way of working.


      1. I guess I generalise in my post as I’m young, mid-20s (yes, MID 20s, not closer to 30 for another year :), therefore I’ll happily accept in my youthful state that money is a big motivator, as I’m certain this is common amongst my age group (at least in England).

        My personal aim though is to become amongst the best, with deep level knowledge of the technology with awareness and oversight from the business perspective, always choosing the right solution and right path to any problem. The community is helping me achieve that goal thanks to the knowledge out there. Other rewards for achieving that goal come along in due course.

        Then again, is this a sole discussion about motivation? 🙂

    1. Hi, and welcome to the wonderful world of SharePoint. Don’t be scared, you’re in for a great time.

      Many of the people commenting here are what I call old-timers in the blog post. We’ve been around for many years and have seen the evolution of this great community. It’s one of the best technical communities I’ve ever seen in my 20 year career.

      The point of the article is also to point out dangers that face the community, not to tell you or anyone else that it’s already broken. In fact, it’s currently a vibrant and nurturing community that generally takes very good care of both newcommers like yourself or seasoned pros.

      As a new participant, keep a keen eye out for what goes on. There’s an old saying that you have two eyes and two ears, but only one mouth, indicating that you should see and hear four times as much as you say. If you do, chances are that your contributions to the community and what both you and others learn will be much better than if you fall into the trap of hoping to be heard simply by yelling loud enough and often enough.

      If you are scared away, however, by someone like me saying you would do better to shut up than to poison the well, well, good riddance and don’t bother coming back. Those that ‘contribute’ to the community by taking shortcuts, stepping on others, or simply pollute a knowledge base on which so many depend, well, at least I won’t welcome them and would do my part to point out their ridiculous behavior to the world.

      Again, welcome to a great community, when or if you have something valuable (by your or others’ definition), I look forward to hearing from you.


      PS: Feel free to post your name next time, it’s much nicer to talk to someone when you know at least a bit about who they are.

  11. I have two kids, a wife, a dog, and a fair number of people I call friends (some of whom are SharePoint people). We are all people. We are all trying to make the best of what we have given our situation. I was drawn to SharePoint because I love the technology. I love working with it. I lucked out because it has a great community. So far, I have made a few friends who I hope will be lifelong friends. I understand that it is different than it was a few years ago and in a few years it will be different again. I’m not worried. I will continue to participate. I will hopefully continue to meet new and interesting people. And I hope I will continue to learn. At the end of the day, though, I am going to come home, give my kids hugs, pet my dog, tell my wife I love her and, as often as I can, spend time with my friends doing things that I enjoy. I think SharePoint will be one of those things for a long time to come.

  12. I liked your post Bjorn, but I don’t believe the problems is with people trying to get ahead -granted there may be some (my motivation in contributing as you well know was simply to be recognized by the SharePoint team where I worked – that didn’t work by the way – egos of architects sometimes can’t handle a recognized business user getting attention.) Anyway, I’m certain I was easily one of the lowest paid SharePoint professionals in North America (and probably all of Europe) – so I can’t agree with you about that pay and the glory. It doesn’t work that way… although I admit, after I made a name for myself, I could have landed a number of better paying jobs but my circumstances limited my options.

    You do paint the community in an unfair light. What I see happening with the community is that too much fleeting discussion and praise happens on Twitter where it is lost in the stream forever. Newbies who do contribute quality posts may not see the chatter there, and even worse, those who come across their posts later rate the quality based on feedback – what may have caused a Twitter storm of interest one week is not captured at all in comments attached to the article and this is where we are losing our quality assurance as a community.

    As a community there MUST be comments! This encourages those with unique perspectives to continue writing, it shows all members of the community what is valued, it engages new users, flushes out new ideas. COMMENT people! Take minute and leave your thoughts – on everything that touches you in some manner – did you hate it? Tell us why! Are there other posts just like it, perhaps better? Tell that author about it. WE drive the community quality – our silence is what is bringing the community down. Speak up! Years ago we would see 20+ comments on every article, now we authors generally feel great if we can land 10. Hogwash. Speak up, show us what should be valued by adding your voice to the stream. Yes it takes a bit longer, but I believe it is worth it.

    I was going to write this into an article. You’ve already got everyone’s attention so I’ll just leave as this. As you state with Mr. Smiley above – leave a comment and leave your name. Even the biggest names remember you. You want to be noticed? COMMENT! We love it when you do – no better way to win my affections than to leave a wonderful compliment on something I wrote. And I’m sure everyone (even Bjorn Furuknap) loves it too!

    Thanks for stirring the pot again .b 😉

  13. Thanks for giving a signal. I definitly dont agree this will lead to the dead of our community. As long people exist with good judgement, we will be able to distinquis the good and the bad. You dont need many for that. Also, your known for extreme oppinions and seem to love rowing against the stream. And adding some self reflection, you might even agree with me, based on your knowledge about yourself. No harm meant, just giving an oppinion here.



  14. Interesting article, Bjørn. I just want to contribute a couple thoughts from a “newbie” perspective. I’ve only been active in the SharePoint community for about 8 months now. I started my blog really as a sounding board and knowledge base for myself and anyone else who happened to come across it. I don’t know how many times in the past I’ve solved a SharePoint issue by reading someone else’s blog post or a discussion board, so I figured it’s time I give back a little and share what I’ve learned.

    Since I am so new here, obviously I don’t have a comparative reference back to the “good ol’ days” when the community was evidently so much better. But I think the community is great! I’ve found answers way more times than not, and when I haven’t found the answer that I was looking for, I don’t think it’s because the author was incompetent; I think it’s because no two environments are exactly the same and so what worked for them just didn’t work for me.

    As far as motivation, I can definitely say I’m not motivated by “the smell of money, boothbabes, and recognition” as you suggest that most “new people arriving at the scene” are. If I were motivated by the allure of this big SharePoint money, I wouldn’t be working for the same great company that I’ve worked at for nearly 8 years now. Recognition – I tend to run away from the spotlight, and boothbabes… well I don’t think I really need to say much on that point 🙂

    I’m not saying that no one is motivated by those things, I’m just saying that here’s one newbie who isn’t.

  15. Not certain but I think I disagree with several statements you made in this article.

    “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?”

    I 100% disagree with this series of statements on the following grounds:

    1. There is no longer a ‘community top’. Or ‘top people’ within the community.

    ” to stay on the top ”

    The community has grown to a size where there are specialists sure, but no one or collective group of individuals that are perceived (even by a majority) to be ‘on top’.

    Am I wrong in this? I don’t believe so. I am learning all the time from such a massive mix of people that I can’t say any one individual is more valuable than another to my work in SharePoint. Certainly a few key resources I use very frequently created by specific authors provides more value to me, but it’s the resources, analogies, stories, etc that give me the value not the individuals.

    Now I am not saying that we don’t build personal relationships of trust and reliability. I have a very specific list of who I trust to be ‘top’ when it comes to giving me credible feedback, opinions, or suggestions for improvement, but that is personal to me. If someone asked me personally I would even share a few names from it, but again I am not saying they are ‘better’ or ‘the best’ at anything, just that I am familiar and comfortable with giving their names (as they have proven competency and demonstrated credibility).

    2. It has nothing to do with volume of content (in my opinion).

    ” more you need to deliver back ”

    There are still resources from 2007 that I use even now because the content was at such a high level of quality and re-use that I haven’t seen anything better or that matches it since. So it’s not about quantity at all unless I missed something.

    Certainly again we might develop trust in an individual after reading their work, working with them, or hearing them speak. That trust that might lead us to ‘want’ them to share more volume on specific topics. The material they already created continues to have the life/value it did previously unless something more reliable or better comes along.

    If anything I would suggest part of this issue is actually related to fear of other people improving on ‘my stuff’. This is a false sense of entitlement. Nothing is original and this is especially true in the SharePoint world. If someone went and created a blog with all of my material and entries and then slightly improved them.. I would commend them and point to those entries/material rather than my own, until again I improved my own beyond their improvements, and so on and so forth.

    But at the end of the day all content has a depreciating value over time (relevancy). So again assuming my initial point – that there is no ‘top people’ just ‘top content’ I would suggest the volume of content doesn’t matter.

    3. People often change their opinions and conclusions, but only when presented with something they can understand and agree to.

    “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?”

    Is this really a valid argument? I apologize but I couldn’t think of a single example where I have seen this before. I have seen accidental mistakes before, or people get so busy (myself included!) that they have spelling mistakes in code, or other issues that they haven’t resolved on their blogs/material.

    I think it’s also fair to note that some people may be confusing the motivation for someone ‘sticking to their guns’. Someone sticking to their opinion based on their personal experiences versus relying on an opinion that goes contrary to their experiences is often a legitimate and understandable behavior.


    Lastly with my fourth point I want to talk about this statement: “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.”

    Money and prestige are NOT the main motivators.

    It’s unfair to generalize the way this statement indicates. The same results or impact aren’t realized across each of these from community involvement.

    1. Do Vendors generally achieve greater profits from community participation? Yes. This can be both in sales, and perhaps more importantly, feedback and improvement in their products.

    2. Do Consultancies generally achieve greater profits from community participation? I would actually say No to this.

    The reasoning I used to conclude this? If they did, the majority of consultancies would be far more actively participating in the community, however we can see that this is not necessarily true. Certainly, it allows a consultancy to remain ‘competitive’ both from a knowledge growth perspective and a perception perspective. Those consultancies that have a strong enough competitive advantage without it don’t need to participate as much, or aren’t as interested (monetarily) in doing so.

    If anything I would suggest that certain talent is demanding this of employers which is driving it, rather than the employers recognizing profits and driving their employees to do this. This is actually probably a better driver for community involvement for a consultancy than any expectation of more sales or higher bill rates.

    Disclosure: I work for a company that is awesome at supporting our staff in participating in the community and bends over backwards to help. I also worked for the opposite kind of consultancy that considered it a breach of IP to share things publically, and worked internally for a few years (all while being part of the community).

    3. Do new people generally achieve greater profits from community participation? Not in the monetary sense, but certainly in skill set, and knowledge growth.

    If anything the opposite is true. If I took the $45,000 to $65,000 dollars I have spent on contributing, sharing, travelling, and supporting the community and invested it, or put it into the right kind of educational advantage I would argue the benefit would be greater monetarily (and far more reliable). This is especially true based on the time commitment (not at all included in those costs). I could probably (honestly) be well on my way to a PHD in something (more profitable), built a company, or developed a product for the time I have committed to learning and sharing with the SharePoint community, my clients, and my colleagues.

    If you want evidence by that consider bill rates. Do you know clients that would pay a higher bill rate just because someone has a blog or participates in the community? Think about why they might.
    If anything I would argue the only motivating factor for a client really doing that is that they understand the amount of extra effort, dedication, and passion that entails. They recognize that person might go above and beyond (more than once) on the project they are scoping. The same goes for hiring.

    Honestly? People who share and give more are people I would rather work with any day. That doesn’t mean just public sharing either, I would suggest they do it off of technical skills, merit, and understanding. It’s the same reason I (and this will create a bit of havoc) would be willing to pay (on average) a certified SharePoint Master, Architect, or even Pro (the other 2010 exams) more than one who isn’t. It shows at least some level of dedication to pursue and achieve a certified level of expertise.

    Of course it’s different for every person and every situation in which they participate in the community. I am not saying my arguments are all correct (at all), but what I am suggesting is that some of the statements require more solid research or evidence before I will believe them.
    To summarize:
    – It’s about the content and ‘value’ the members provide. Not about the members.
    – Volume isn’t as important as quality (I think even you agree to this and state it multiple times, but the phrasing of that paragraph seemed to suggest otherwise.
    – People inherently trust what they are familiar with and understand. So this leads to comfort on specific sources for them (individually).
    – The only group I would suggest are monetarily driven for participating in the community is vendors, which I think we all understand. That doesn’t mean the person working in that evangelism role necessarily is motivated by money, just that the company employs that role because it delivers results.

    1. Richard,

      Wow, that’s a lenghty comment, but I appreciate your input. I’ll answer as briefly as possible.

      I’m not saying there’s an elite group of people more valuable to the community than others. However, if you were to hire someone to do a job, hiring a celebrity is ‘safe’ and you’re more likely to get contacted if people know your name. To be seen in a huge crowd, given short time, it pays to peacock, and any pickup artist will tell you that it works very well as a method to attract attention.

      However, what those same PUAs will tell you is that peacocking is rarely a sign of a confident artist, but rather one that hopes to get the attention without the skill to follow up. Of course, with the attention drawn to hunks wearing mascara and purple feathers, if you want to pick someone up without looking like an idiot, you need to be all that more skilled, and that’s about as far as I want to use the PUA analogy at this time.

      Oh, but wait, you also need to do your regular job, cater to your family, and all the other things that require your attention. How are you going to compete for attention with every day producing a new peacock who is getting attention simply by shouting louder?

      In a healthy and balanced community, those that are truly skilled, great presenters, and offer real value will float to the top of that attention list. In that environment, contacting a ‘celebrity’ would be a safe option because you know that they command the respect and have earned the attention of the community, not by grabbing attention but by consistently delivering quality.

      By ‘produce more’, I did mean ‘produce more value’, not necessarily more posts. However, several reward programs reward mass production, not quality. I made that mistake when I first started writing USP Journals, when I initially wrote one every month because I thought the audience wanted more content. However, after a while and after long discussions with both the readers and the community, I started delivering fewer number of issues that instead were more demanding on me in terms of time, but actually produced much more value for the readers.

      So yeah, I’ve been in that pit too.

      I’m also not sure people are that motivated by being ‘right’ in their contributions. Although only one example, the way I see Mark Rackley right now working with Marc Anderson’s SPServices and producing new quality content is a great way of improving upon each other’s work.

      I’ll give you one example and that’s how parts of the community reacted when I posted about Laura Rogers and why she’s not a developer but should pick up on why development is more complex than she thinks. Of course, it wasn’t really an article about her, it was targeted at a group of community people who would benefit greatly by realizing they don’t hold all the answers.

      Laura is great, btw, and I hold no grudges against her either. She didn’t react, at least not publicly, but others did, using little but “well, I’m still right” as an argument.

      That wasn’t a unique incident even. I see that all the time, especially when I, or someone else, point out flaws in their arguments. Immediately, people become defensive and hold even harder onto their perceptions of reality.

      That’s the basis for my “you don’t want to be seen as making mistakes” claim.

      4. I’ll combine your somewhat lenghty final point into an item 4 here.

      You say that “if consultancies would increase their profits by community contributions, they would do so”. First, you assume that being a SharePoint consultancy means you have a brain, even one to share among all your employees. That’s far from the case. Second, many consultancies don’t need to work that hard to get contracts, simply because if you can spell SharePoint, you probably know enough to land a contract.

      Here’s one bona fide example from a client of mine (names anonymous, of course). I pointed out to the manager, after helping them out of a really bad mess, that the developers weren’t up to the task they were given. I offered to spend a few extra hours per week during the project to train their employees. His response was simply this, and I couldn’t make this up: “We don’t need to training because we know enough to land the contracts and can Google the rest.”

      As for newcomers, well, if you seriously believe that most people who come to SharePoint do so because they want to learn rather than being paid sometimes obscene amounts of money then I’ll be first in line to call you naïve.

      And I’m not even going to respond to whether it’s a good idea to pay someone with an exam (the MCP-stuff, not the real titles) more than someone who doesn’t, when everyone knows that passing those exams require little or no understanding of anything. Heck, I’ve described how I became certified good at SharePoint, 24 hours after learning how to spell it, just to prove how worthless the exams were.


      1. Individual perspective based on specific constraints. In this example ‘social impact’ by measuring Klout etc.

        Even that would result in a most likely different result if run today or tomorrow, etc. 🙂

        Also the comments that spawned from the top 25 influencers (about other people disagreeing or feeling many were missing) is a strong indicator that it is hardly a ‘majority’ vote scenario, and is again based off of raw statistics provided by algos and tools.

  16. Simply brilliant. Take away all the flash, and what it really boils down to is what do your references have to say about what you’re delivering. And not just your recent one, the ones from years ago, that companies are still sustaining. I recently encountered a company that treated working with SharePoint 2010 as a R&D project, and not development one. While it boggled me that they would invest so much money into an R&D, a year later, I can now see the wisdom in their decision to ensure the platform would deliver what they needed. I really really REALLY enjoyed the lack of pretension in this post — thanks for the reality check, I’m sure there are many that “SPDucked” haha!

  17. Great post! Looks like it may have refueled the community, good job 😉

    Made me thing about why I contribute in the community, feels good to bring it back to the basics, motivates me to do more. Thanks!

  18. I’m going to add a “can’t we all just get along?” comment to the mix:

    You know folks, there is nothing happening here that hasn’t happened in other growing networks. The technology is different, sure, and the tools we use to communicate are new, but the ways in which networks begin, grow, and evolve are not new. It’s inevitable as the scale of the SharePoint community expands that there will be change.

    To put it simply: the SharePoint community will end 12 to 24 months after Microsoft stops supporting the product (depending on sunsetting agreements with large customers and partners), which, in my estimation, is a long long time from today. In the meantime, there will be ample opportunity for people to share their unique experiences and perspectives on how to deploy it, how to configure it, and how to rally the troops to adopt it. As with any explosion of content, filtering that content to find what is the gold nugget (to you) will be the task, which is what perpetuates the community. We, the SharePoint experts, are the filters for others in the community.

    I say the more content, the better my chances of finding what I need. The more ideas and perspectives, the better the quality of the solutions I provide. The more opinions, the more solid my own business justifications for what I am building.

    Frankly, I think many people are just whiny. Stop bickering about what other people are doing or not doing, and looko at how much you can learn from others. Take what’s good, leave the rest behind.

    1. @Christian Buckley

      Usually I don’t do this, but… where is a like button here, so I could like Christian’s post?

      Bjorn, I have been a silent reader of your blog since quite a time, and you do have a lot of valid points here (problems keeping up the pace). But this is just a dynamic of growing groups… Interesting, I have opportunity to observe this “new” global community, as well as the new grassroot communities (like the one in my home city – Sarajevo, Bosnia), and, believe or not, it is not that different…

      Keep up good work, people, the next SharePint is somewhere behind the corner.


  19. Hi Bjorn,

    Just like Wendy, I started my blog for personal knowledge management. I can’t believe how many times I search something and end up on my own blog, only to realise I did that allready in an earlier project.

    I also have to add that (as a SharePoint Consultant) I landed my current project at a big bank in Belgium because I was so active on forums and blogs. That was the thing that made me stand out against those other guys. I could prove that I was much quicker in finding alternatives or solutions on the internet and that I had a valuable network (real-life, twitter, forums,..) who could help me when I had issues.
    So does it let me make more money?Well, yes, in a way because it led me to this project. Am I doing it for the money? Not really, but it helps.
    I also try to help people on forums, because I like to help people. Granted, I also like to be in the spotlights and try to stand out in a big world full of consultants.

    And I make errors. I don’t know everything about SharePoint. Laura Rogers even tweeted about me, about those damned developers that need to learn what is OOTB first! Well, I am not a developer, and I was just trying to help the guy that had the issue but suggested (what was apparantly) not the best solution. I just responded on how I would solve that issue.

    Trying to be constructive: I agree we need a way to “rate” posts. When I am googling for an issue, I find large heaps of false solutions or things that were in an old release or in the beta version.
    Perhaps, if we can use the community to somehow select good answers and blogposts, we can build a true global “SharePoint Knowledge Base”.

  20. Let’s continue the conversation during #SPJam next Wednesday, February 15 th at1 PM EST

    Mark Fidelman (harmon.ie) will host an hour-long discussion on the state of the SharePoint community. SharePoint experts will weigh in on its relevance today, its future viability and what needs to change to equip members to make continuous, systematic improvements to their organization’s SharePoint-based social and collaboration projects.

    See https://www.nothingbutsharepoint.com/sites/eusp/Pages/Tweet-Jam-2012-The-State-of-the-SharePoint-Community.aspx#.TzLjJSVHNig.twitter for details.

    Among the participants: Bjørn Furuknap (USPJ Academy), Mark Miller (Fpweb.net); Joel Oleson (Church of LDS); Dux Raymond Sy (Innovative-e); Dave Coleman (SharePointEduTech Ltd); Michael Greth (SharePointCommunity.de); Ant Clay (21 Apps); John Anderson (Bamboo Nation); Michael Gannotti (Microsoft); Lee Provoost (Dachis Group); Bjørn Furuknap (USPJ Academy); Bil Simser (FortisAlberta); Jeff Willinger (RightPoint Consulting); Marwin Tarek (SharePoint4Arabs.com); Scot Hillier (Scot Hillier Technical Solutions, LLC); Veronique Palmer (Lets Collaborate); Richard Harbridge (Allin Consulting); Jacob Morgan (Chess Media Group); Chandima (Knowledge Cue); and Michael Lotter (B&R Business Solutions); Andrew Woodward (21 apps).

    Making a special appearance will be Microsoft’s very own Mark Kashman. It’s sure to be a barnstormer – don’t miss it!

  21. Hi Bjørn,

    This happens in any IT technology. In the 90’s I was part of a small CASE tool community, which quickly became overrun by Big Consulting companies and touted as the do-all, end-all. And that was BEFORE social media!

    You are right, the lucrativeness leads to mediocrity. Eventually the market gets saturated, the skills become abundant and some new, shiny technology comes along. CASE was pushed out by ERP and web development.

    Our challenge as a community is to get over the “burnout” hump while upskilling the next set of leader/ doers. Everyone wants to be Jeremy Thake or Joel Oleson, but they can’t until they actually DO something. So do it properly Peeps!

  22. The business of SharePoint is business and that business is changing in the larger market that spends millions of dollars on SharePoint. This spending is on hardware & software , solutions, customizations, training, consutling, “governance”, etc..
    In today’s tight financial economy, the SharePoint-buying companies now want a greater rate-of-return and that means customized solutions to match their complex business processes which are also increasing. In short, a move away from hit-click-browser GUI with SharePoint Designers and a move towards Visual Studio type solutions. The other change is in the realm of SharePoint Administration – much of these tasks are being “outsourced” or moved upwards to the “cloud” – alleviating the SP Admin role in Corporate IT. These changes affect the perspectives and needs of the SharePoint community and also who rises to “the top”, i.e., the SharePoint Community Conclave.
    With over 2.5 decades of professional Corporate IT experience and after 7 years of administrating a major developer group (CTDOTNET/CTSPDG) that has over 2200 members, 50 monthly events (average monthly attendance of 50 developers), 4 CodeCamps (each over 150 in attendance) and managerially participating in a SharePoint Saturday (Hartford) – I can emphatically state that the (Microsoft) business of user/development community groups are changing and the Conclaves will have to adjust to it.

    1. SB,

      Thanks for chiming in.

      The beauty of development for SharePoint is that it caters to all business’ needs. Keep in mind that although experienced and alrger companies may want the all-in of a custom built SharePoint solution, most companies are not experienced or large, and there is a huge need for easy out-of-the-box or lightly customized solutions, I would guess by a factor of 1:1000 in number of projects.

      To pull this back toward the community aspect, however, the problem again resides in the community’s need to defend its position in the development landscape. Once you know something, you want to tell people that it is the best way of accomplishing something, and you want to steer people away from other methods.

      This results in incredibly stupid statements like Quest’s recent ‘stay away from custom development’ (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/eight-ways-to-prepare-for-the-next-release-of-sharepoint-now-2012-04-26) which is so insanely idiotic, it’s frightening. Of course, when Quest and others doesn’t know better and give out stupid advice, the consumers suffer and fear building solutions using certain methods.

      I’m not trying to point fingers here. I’ve scared my share of users away from doing heavy first tier customization myself. It’s a business survival strategy; you argue what gives you money, just like Quest wants users to use features and methods that their solutions target.


      1. The best (or worst?) kept secret is that SharePoint is ASP.Net or more precisely, SharePoint is a framework built on top of ASP.Net and there’s no shortage of ASP.Net developers.. all an ASP.Net developer needs is Sahil Malik’s book ‘ Building Solutions for SharePoint 2010′ and a 3-day week-end.. My point being that there are plenty of features and building blocks within SharePoint that can be customized relatively easily. In an Enterprise setting – SharePoint cannot stand alone like a stove-pipe but needs to integrate more with other enterprise services (SOA-style) and build solutions accordingly.
        Sure – Quest will sell you their interepretation of the future of SharePoint and lesser talented companies will sell you “governance” solutions.. I think most such companies are truly ignorant of their customers’ needs. I recall back in the SP 2007 days when I tried to “sell” “governance” to a major client, to which the VP (CIO) of the publicly traded company simply said – “SharePoint governance is crap & do I need governance for Exchange & SAP in my supply chain” ? Major corporations (like I mentioned above) already have their own “governance” which has worked for decades and they don’t need a new one (but ITILv3 may provide a new solution). Yet – the sponsors of major SharePoint Community events still try to shove “governance” down the audiences’ throats when the audience would rather learn more about SharePoint development or similar.
        My focus here is on the Community & I think the Community has been usurped with a lot of demagoguery & cronyism crap that needs to be flushed out..

        1. I think you’re grossly underestimating the effort involved in becoming a SharePoint developer and also the role of ASP.net in the process. ASP.NET is but a small part of what a SharePoint developer must know, and although I’m pretty sure you can get an existing programmer to learn something of the SharePoint object model within a few days, that’s about as useful as saying you’re a race car driver if you know how to pop the hood on a car.


    1. Thank you Chris,

      One reason I’m very excited for the community these days is that we have a new environment that so far seems to be shielded from the commercial aspects completely.

      Although it won’t cure the need of some to brag their way to the top, with few or no credible community contributions, it will at least keep the blatant advertising (have you purchased any of my books and journals recently?) and spam (buy my books, they’re the best and really cheap) away from real discussions (and I have a book on that too, I think)

      Here’s what I’m talking about:

      (I know you read it, but I’m putting it here for posterity. Oh, and buy my books)


  23. This is sooooo awesome. I wish I knew about MSP in 1995 when I was using word and doing data entry… But that time is now a memory of the fame and the fortune that I now wish I had… But I can obtain that now (smilezzz) I would like to know if you (The Community) would have any words of advice to offer for someone like me who is studying to become MSP Certified. I know that there are tooooooooooooooooooooooooonnnnnns of websites and tutorials that promise to give the neccessary information and tools to utilize to gain the valuable experience… But I need to know where are the hands on classes. Are there any real instructors in the area (DC MD VA) that offer thia. I am looking and sinking further as I go. Please help …(as I hear) —->>> I can get this experience and get certified in about 2weeks!!! Is this true???


    Thank you….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.