Fighting, err… working with SharePoint

For the past several months I have been creating, adding, and quality controlling metadata in a SharePoint 2010 document library.* I thought those months had given me some crucial SharePoint skills, and that SharePoint had become relatively intuitive.

There are four kinds of people in the world, according to an Arab proverb (according to Bartleby):

… those who don’t know that they don’t know; those who know that they don’t know; those who don’t know that they know; and those who know that they know.**

Reflecting on my experiences this past week (read on, I get to that shortly), I used to be the first kind of people, and now I feel pretty confident that I’m in the second category.

Recently, I took on a project to analyze and inventory all the Intranet content owned by the team I work with. SharePoint is the platform for our Intranet content as well as the document library used to index documents, so it should be very similar, right? (Read on…)

The next step of the project requires writing guidelines for creation, updating, and maintenance of our content. As part of the process, I developed my own page on SharePoint, which was intended as a collaboration space. Without any guidance or instruction from me, it grew to serve also as an example of exactly what we don’t want to guide our team to do. It has brought to my attention details I otherwise would not have known to consider, and shown me what content maintenance procedures we want to avoid.

For example. Originally, when I decided to share project-related documents on our SharePoint sites instead of through the document management system, I created a site. A very easy thing to do, it was also the wrong thing to do. Sites are more complex and have more (unnecessary) features, such as individual document libraries, which have cluttered up our sites, which provided the original impetus for the project.

Correcting my error involved deleting the site and creating a page – and discovering that the page, unlike the site, did not have any built-in web parts, such as one that would host project-related documents.

Along the way to creating a guidelines-compliant page for project collaboration, I have spent much time troubleshooting and have learned many things. The following are some examples:

  • How to create a related documents web part that links only to relevant documents, instead of the overall Shared Documents list, or Related Documents lists which link to content relevant to the current user (i.e., me).
  • How to edit and delete new document libraries – changing titles, adding links to documents in the document management system, etc.
  • Where web parts go when they are “Closed” – and how to retrieve them if necessary.
  • What specific web parts do, look like, what their functionality and customization limits are.
  • That checking a page back in once it has been created is essential for sharing it with others.
  • That two people cannot edit the same page at the same time.

Finally, being still in that second category of people, I am sure I have a lot more to learn. On the other hand, the more I learn, the more I feel capable of troubleshooting and discovering for myself additional features, uses, and limitations of SharePoint. It turns out trial and error works very well. I would argue, too, that it adds adhesive to the things we learn, making them stick longer in our heads.


*All future references to “SharePoint” refer to the 2010 version. I have heard that the latest version is more intuitive.

**This wasn’t the exact quote I was looking for, but it makes the point. If you want to read more about this quote and its variations, here’s another example and (sources for more) from the same Bartleby page:

        Men are four:
He who knows not and knows not he knows not, he is a fool—shun him;***
He who knows not and knows he knows not, he is simple—teach him;
He who knows and knows not he knows, he is asleep—wake him;
He who knows and knows he knows, he is wise—follow him!

– Lady Burton—Life of Sir Richard Burton. Given as an Arabian Proverb. Another rendering in the Spectator, Aug. 11, 1894. P. 176. In Hesiod—Works and Days. 293. 7. Quoted by Aristotle—Nic. Eth. I. 4. Cicero—Pro Cluent. 31. Livy—Works. XXII. 29.

***If I had written that quote, I would have given the fool a chance to learn that she doesn’t know, before shunning her.


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