Category Archives: SharePoint Events

The Importance of User Groups

Just wanted to say a few things about why I harp on getting people to attend the user groups. Microsoft leads in the enterprise primarily because there are many more trained and qualified technicians with lots of reachback into blogs and documentation who work on the Microsoft stack than there are with niche Linux distributions. It helps Microsoft’s business to push Channel 9 and other things because this free training helps to evangelize those who use it to recommend additional Microsoft products and the ones in which they already specialize.

For the same reason, not only is it in Microsoft’s interest for you to have your user group to share knowledge, but it helps you as well. As SharePoint becomes more in demand because you and the others who attend push for its use in the enterprise, you become more valuable as one of the few who have the knowledge and experience that you have built yourself but the knowledge others have shared with you. It makes you stand out from those who have not been learning from and sharing with their peers. The user groups you attend become hubs of knowledge that help you gain knowledge, but when you get ready to share, you also tend to learn more about the subject so that you can be the authoritative source when you present to your peers. It makes us all better.

Hoarding knowledge does not improve job security, but a great many people tend to think it will. The truth is that you will be known as a thought leader in the material the more you share. That makes you stand out as the subject matter expert you become when you are active in your user groups.

I stress to you that, even if the topic of the night falls outside of your role when it comes to SharePoint, you should attend all of the meetings you can. It strengthens the group because a group really is more than the sum of its members. It helps you network. You might not be actively be seeking new work, but opportunities pop up in odd places. You will learn that someone new to the group is having an issue that you or your company is uniquely suited to tackle, and you can help grow your company and become more valuable within it.

While this post has focused on SharePoint user groups, it applies to all user groups, communities of interest/practice, and professional associations. A lot of SharePoint Saturday conferences have lost a lot in the way of sponsorship dollars over the years, and these events are where some of the best in the industry get together to share their knowledge with you for FREE. Speaking obviously helps their resume and helps to get their company’s name out there, but you should rarely avoid free knowledge. You might think you know it all, but that speaker might share one little tidbit that will change how you do everything and could make you so much better at your role. Go to your groups. Evangelize SharePoint or whatever product/platform/practice you use. Stand out among your peers.

SharePoint Saturday Pittsburgh

For the second annual SharePoint Saturday Pittsburgh, I got to speak again. Great venue at Carlow University, but I’ve not got the best AT&T coverage. I don’t know if it is the building or the location of the nearest tower. I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Irwin because it was very nice and less expensive than the Hampton Inn right next door. Plus, I didn’t want to worry about rush hour traffic leaving Pittsburgh when I was arriving on Friday night.

 

The schedule for this was great. I love that I know most of these speakers already. Some really great folks signed on for this. I decided to sit in on the following sessions:

 

John Ramminger’s Leveraging External Data in SharePoint Online and On Premises

Learned a lot here. Helping me to finally try to use Business Connectivity Services.

Tim Beamer’s Document Security in SharePoint, permissions aren’t enough

I think I can comfortably set up Data Loss Prevention in SharePoint for one of the guys I’m working for. I don’t know if I read about this or saw another session on it a year or more ago, but I could swear that I’d seen a lot of this content before.

My own session, SPS Analyst Series: The Build Process (I’ve given the same session over and over for a couple years now, but I do make tweaks.)

Wish I could have seen Joe McShea’s session, Spice Up Your forms and Views with Client Side Rendering (CSR), or Nikkia Carter’s session, BI: From the Basics. She is really good, but I see and talk to her often enough that I might be able to pick her brain another time.

 

Mohamed Derhalli’s Styling SharePoint Pages without Writing Code never happened.

He didn’t make it, so a bunch of us stayed in the room and just talked about crazy stuff we were running into. That is the best. A conversation is better than a lecture any day.

 

CA Callahan was the main reason I stuck around until the end of the day when I knew I’d have a five-hour drive going home. She had Now where did they put that? Overlooked web parts, features, and templates of SharePoint.

I always learn something new when I listen to her. The main thing this time was Word Automation Services. I had never even heard of that. One can create aspx files from Word documents with this. I really need to see it in action. To convert the content in a Word document from someone’s user guides or standard operating procedures, I had been publishing the Word document to a wiki then copying the html out of the body into the page where I wanted it. The best part of this was being able to have pictures come through properly formatted, and it is great for creating knowledge base articles. You can even make properly formatted Word templates for each kind of KB article you have so that the fonts, colors, and formats are all locked in place from a document library that has the template in its content type. This is definitely something I need to investigate further.

 

Sponsors of SPS Pittsburg included the following: