Why SharePoint Share?
It is a great question and one that I thought about before creating SharePoint Share. As Jermey and Joel point out, there are several avenues to share information, so why create another? I found myself frustrated by my current SharePoint RSS feeds was the main reason. I will go into that in a minute, but first thought I would summarize the issues I see in SharePoint information I consume from the web (which I am sure is not unique to SharePoint): trending topics, personal, local, fire hose, cryptic, and lastly the barrier to entry.
In a page of my RSS feeds it is typical for me to see 30 to 50 percent of the same trending topic post like SP2 is released, the SP2 issue, or one of the conferences that is coming up. Another 20 to 30 percent seem personal in some way, and lastly 10 percent are local based, like a local user group meeting. You add that up and it is pretty dismal. Yet I still go to my RSS feeds because there can be great finds in there, things that I would never even have searched for, but after seeing I can use them immediately or know of them later when they are more applicable.
That was enough reason for me to start SharePoint Share, but I also looked at two of the current alternatives that I was aware of: Delicious and Twitter.
Delicious and other bookmarking sites like Diigo (which I hadn’t heard of until now) are great for a number of reasons. First they allow me to save my bookmarks to a common area so I can use them from anywhere. Second, they support tagging so I actually have a chance to find them again, and lastly they allow us to share them with others and aggregate what is popular and not. When searching for something specific I will always use Google first, but then I will try Delicious (especially if it is a common area within SharePoint like workflows or InfoPath). I don’t however view it as a daily/weekly resource because of two reasons: fire hose problem (100+ links posted just today), and most people don’t use the notes feature so you are often left with only a cryptic title. Added to this is the trending issues especially when you start looking at multiple services like Delicious and Diigo.
Twitter suffers from the same two issues. Instead of a fire hose though, it seems more like Niagara Falls. And although 140 characters would often be better than a lot of titles on blogs, a link still is cryptic on what it exactly is and/or solves. I won’t rant on URL shorteners in this post, but I will say I don’t like not knowing where I am going to end up when I click on a link. Beyond that though, I am sure there is tons of great links and conversations on there about SharePoint, but I don’t see them because of the noise. From questions to rants, there are too many tweets marked even with the #sharepoint hash that don’t add anything to the community. That is probably how Twitter is suppose to be, more of a dip your toes in every now and then, but either way you are still going to have to filter out the noise.
My goal for SharePoint Share is to avoid the problems of trending topics, personal, local, fire hose, and cryptic. The personal, local, and fire hose issues are pretty much solved automatically. Cryptic can be a hard line to walk as you don’t want to put too much information on a platform like SharePoint Share as then it would replace the actual article. I will modify post titles and descriptions as I see fit and add/remove tags as needed to help with this issue. Avoiding trending topics is probably the most difficult problem, and I don’t know if that is necessary a bad thing always. If the community wants those type of items posted then I don’t see a problem with having them on the site.
Another problem that I haven’t mentioned yet is the barrier to entry. All the items above, whether it be a blog, Delicious bookmarks, or Twitter require an account. SharePoint Share does not. I think it is easy to see that most SharePoint administrators, developers, and end users don’t use these other tools to give back to the community, but I hope SharePoint Share gives them one avenue they can do that with by quickly adding content they find helpful or interesting without creating an account first.
In the end, I think all of these tools and resources solve different issues for different people and as a community each one has its place. I hope, between the issues it solves and some upcoming features that I plan to introduce, that SharePoint Share can add to the great SharePoint community.