Getting Good Answers to Your SharePoint Questions

This post was cross-posted on NothingButSharePoint.com on 4 May, 2011.


When someone new contacts me through my blog with a question about SharePoint, I’m usually game to help. (Though saying *please* is always a really nice thing. “You have to tell me…” or “give me the answer now…” isn’t so great.)

If you contact me for the first time (at least that I can remember – sometimes it’s not so easy to keep all the real names and handles straight, especially over time), I’m likely to preface my reply with this:

First off, thanks for turning to me with your question.  I’m happy to try to help, but you should really use the MSDN Forums (e.g., http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/sharepointcustomization), SharePointOverflow (http://sharepoint.stackexchange.com/), or the EndUserSharePoint.com Stump the Panel (http://www.endusersharepoint.com/STP) to get the fastest answers.  I’m very active in each and I’m just as likely to see your question.  Additionally, others can benefit!

It doesn’t mean that I won’t give you a quick answer, but asking your question in the publicly available forums is always a better idea. By doing so, you’re contributing to the corpus of useful content available to *everyone*, including me and your future self. (I can’t tell you how many times I find something I’ve forgotten by Binging and finding my own answer to someone else’s question.)

Here are some additional suggestions. Yes, these are only suggestions. I don’t own any of the forums, of course, nor do I own the Internet, the use of hashtags, or your behavior. Do what you will, but try to be a good Netizen about it.

Do some research before you ask your question. Asking something without doing any work first is sorta lazy. There’s so much content out there about SharePoint that it’s overwhelming, but getting good at using Bing or Google to find answers is a skill which every SharePoint professional must have.

Each of the forums above (plus many others) has a sort of “personality”. I encourage people to try to consider the personality of each forum site for each question they may ask. For instance, if you have a really hard admin question, Stump the Panel is probably not the best place for it.

Another thing I’d suggest is that you choose a channel, post your question, and then BE PATIENT. You’re asking people you may not know to answer your question FOR FREE. Someone will get to it when someone gets to it. *Don’t* post the same question in multiple channels at the same time. If you do post in multiple places, it is very likely to mean that some number of people will waste their time answering a question which has already been answered elsewhere. Instead of posting multiple places, choose one, and tweet the headline with a link to the post, using the #SPHelp hashtag if it’s urgent. That’s going to get you the most eyeballs in the shortest time.

Speaking of the #SPHelp hashtag, I worry that it will become overused, and therefore worthless because of all the noise there will be in the channel. That’s basically what has happened to the #SharePoint hashtag. Recruiters, spammer, and all sorts of people have flooded the channel so much that just following #SharePoint has become sort of a worthless pursuit. In my case, I only watch combinations of the #SharePoint hashtag with other terms, just to screen out the noise. So my suggestion for the #SPHelp hashtag is to use it when you need urgent help, and that’s it. I don’t think it makes sense it add the #SPHelp hashtag to a tweet about a new blog post of yours, for instance, unless you believe that everyone reading the post is going to save endless headaches and is of an extremely time sensitive nature. One instance I can think of might be the CUs which broke SharePoint. That was definitely news everyone could use.

Finally, here’s something I tweeted the other day:

Answering other people’s questions isn’t just a great way to give back to the community; it’s also a great way to learn about SharePoint. I can’t even measure the value I’ve gotten in earning all of the points I have on the various forum platforms. Almost every time I answer a question, even if it is one I’ve answered before, I think about the topic in a new way. If you do decide to answer others’ questions, be sure that you know the answer. Don’t just shoot back with a different question or an observation unless you believe it’ll help solve the problem. Worst of all is to give an answer that is just plain wrong. If you *don’t* know the answer, please, please, please, don’t make something up! There’s actually less of that out there than I used to see, but anything more than none is still too much.

If you aren’t the type of learner that can get as much out of reading and/or answering the forums as I do, consider more formal training. Yes, I’m on the faculty of USPJA and a part owner, so I’m biased, but I think it’s an excellent and affordable way to boost your SharePoint knowledge. There are many other great options out there as well. But try answering questions on the forums. Earn valuable (well, valuable as far as cachet, anyway) points!

My Blog’s First Year at WordPress and "Are You Being Served?"

On the occasion of my blogs’ first birthday here at WordPress (it’s longer in the tooth than that, but I migrated over from Windows Live Spaces on 2009-01-06), I wanted to have a party, but that seemed excessive.  Instead, in an a propos coincidence, I saw a post over at my friend Christophe’s fantastic Path to SharePoint blog entitled How to get your SharePoint question answered.

Path2SharePoint Path2SharePoint 5:18am, Jan 06 from Web — New post: how to get your #SharePoint [end user] question answered http://tinyurl.com/SPquestion

It seemed like a great idea for me to outline my own mental framework for answering all of the questions, suggestions, and raves (well, OK, not so many of those).  My thinking is pretty similar to Christophe’s, I think.

Issues or questions  on my blog posts

If you see something in my blog that you don’t think is right, then by all means let me know with a comment on the post.  I find enough things out there on the Interwebs that I think is sub-optimal or just plain wrong and none of that does us all any service.  I welcome error corrections, constructive criticisms, etc., but flaming insults don’t usually make the moderating screen.  I let almost every legitimate comment through, but only if it is civil.

Questions or requests for clarification are always welcome.  I post this stuff for general benefit, so if you need more information, especially if you think it will help others, then post it.  Also, sometimes I may have posted an update or a newer post on the same topic with more up-to-date information or a better approach. I try to link the posts if I do, but try a little searching with the search box on the right and you might find more to go on.

Issues with the jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services

If you have questions or issues with the jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services, I would prefer that you use the Discussions or Issue Tracker on the Codeplex site.  This is mainly to keep things isolated over there that might help other users of the library.  Start with the Discussions and if we determine that something is a real issue, I can copy it over to the Issue Tracker.  Of course, if the context is a blog post about the library, then feel free to comment here on my blog.

General SharePoint questions

I try to answer every question I get, just like Christophe.  As any of you who have noticed my posts on the MSDN SharePoint – Design and Customization forum, my EndUserSharePoint.com articles, my posts on the EndUserSharePoint.com Stump the Panel forum (where I’m now the moderator of the jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services Solutions forum), my Twitter activity, etc. may have found, I’m pretty dogged about it.  I firmly adhere to the adage “AN EDUCATED CONSUMER IS OUR BEST CUSTOMER”, made famous by Syms here in the States.  The more the SharePoint community knows about how to use the platform wisely, the better off the entire community will be.  No, I’m not entirely altruistic about this: I want to earn my chunk of the pie as well.  But the more everyone knows, the more we all gain.

I like the way Christophe puts this:

I’ll respond immediately if I can, but most of the time it requires some investigation, and I put your message on hold until I have a final answer (which sometimes means never…).

To be honest, there are only so many minutes in the day! In most cases you’re getting free advice, suggestions, etc., so it all happens based on whatever else is going on in my life whether it be work or personal.  Don’t forget that we all take vacations, have bad days, etc.  I can’t get back to you in 15 minutes EVERY SINGLE TIME, like some people seem to expect!

Finally, I work for a living, just like you [probably] do.  I am always looking for interesting projects for Sympraxis Consulting LLC to take on.  Sometimes the smallest little conversation on my blog turns into real paid work, but certainly not often.  If you like the way I approach things and have something I may be able to help with, let’s talk about it.

Happy birthday, blog!

Revived Stump the Panel: SharePoint Q&A at EndUserSharePoint.com

There’s a new, revived Stump the Panel over at EndUserSharePoint.com as of today.  Those of you who follow EndUserSharePoint (@EUSP) know about the difficulties they had last month when their hosting provider shut them down due to high trafiic.  (Sort of a good *and* bad problem to have!)

Well, Stump the Panel is back with a better interface, and I’m please to report that I will be moderating one of the forums about SharePoint and jQuery: jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services Solutions.  This is a forum where we can discuss jQuery with SharePoint on any level that might interest you, as well as the specifics of my jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services.  Yes, there’s the Discussions forum on the Codeplex site, but Mark and I figured that we could serve another or larger audience by implementing a forum at EndUserSharePoint as well. So yes, I’ll be trying to spread myself more thinly across the MSDN SharePoint – Design and Customization forum, SharePointOverflow, the Codeplex site, and EndUserSharePoint, but the important thing is to give folks options so that we can help them make the most of SharePoint.   The more the merrier!

Stop by and say hello, ask a question, leave an example of what you are doing with jQuery, etc.  I look forward to hearing from you!