Fascinating.  First, we hear that pundits on the blogosphere have given the name AJAX to 1997 Microsoft technologies and called it ‘new.’ Now some folks are talking about the basic capabilities of Windows Sharepoint Services as though they didn’t happen three years ago.  (See Enterprise 2.0)

Blogs, wikis, worker-driven content in the Intranet.  Dude, Microsoft has been using these technologies, internally, for years, literally.  The product is Sharepoint, and it has been a FREE download for Windows Server 2003 almost since the day that product was released. 

The IT group I’m in uses blogs to communicate.  Nearly all of our documents, plans and specs are shared in public or semi-public collaboration sites, entirely self service, hosted through Sharepoint portal server.  In addition, there are two major Wiki sites with literally hundreds of sub-sites on each one for internal use.  (One based on FlexWiki, the other based on Sharepoint Wiki Beta).

Sharepoint is not just used in Microsoft.  It is one of the most successful server products in the line.  Once a company installs Sharepoint, it is hard to keep it from becoming a de-facto standard for collaboration, sharing, and distribution of content.  The product is unstoppable.

I guess I don’t mind when two scientists reach the same conclusion from different sources.  Happens all the time.  However, reputable scientists give credit to the first one to publish their ideas.  In this case, I’d expect that folks wouldn’t name products from other companies without also mentioning widely accepted products from Microsoft.

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

12 thoughts on “Ahead of the curve… again”
  1. I actually am very positive on what I am seeing from SharePoint v3 – it really looks like you guys are heading towards another "Exchange" class of product.

    That said – it is a bit rich to imply that the feature set of SharePoint v3 (eg the Wiki etc) which is not released, has been around for three years. This is an example where you guys hurt yourselves with the long development cycles on some products – the new features will be great but until they are released no-one but you guys can use them. Having an interim WSS v2.5 would have been useful in this example.

  2. I disagree that Sharepoint is a blog. At least not until the next version. Does Sharepoint tell a central site that it’s published? Really? Quick, tell me what the latest Sharepoint site at Microsoft is that was just published. With blogs I can go to http://www.weblogs.com to see that.

    Quick, show me which Sharepoint sites have linked to my sharepoint site internally. With Technorati I can see that.

    Quick, show me a permalink on each Sharepoint item so that I can link to specific posts.

    Quick, show me an RSS feed on each Sharepoint site. With a blog I have that automatically.

    Quick, show me how to customize my Sharepoint site’s look and feel. It’s hard. Far harder than it is to change my blog’s look and feel cause my blog’s look and feel uses standard CSS.

    Not to mention but a blog does just one thing very well. Sharepoint sites do lots of things which confuse users (like file sharing).

    I love Sharepoint for other reasons (lists, file sharing, and the fact that everyone has one inside Microsoft) but let’s not call it a blog, OK?

  3. I’m rereading my entry and I do make an implication that is not true.  So for the sake of honesty, let me state: While internal groups are using blogs, they are not (yet) provided by Sharepoint.  We do use Wikis, but they, too, are not from Sharepoint (yet).  Sharepoint does provide worker-managed content on the intranet.  However, Sharaepoint in its current version does not provide blogs in the tool.  We use three different products for that.

    In the near future, all three will be in a single product.

    To be fair to my original point, the Enterprise 2.0 discussions do not ‘require’ that the environment must come from a single tool to be considered complete.  That environment exists today inside Microsoft.

    The grouping labeled ‘Enterprise 2.0’ is available, entirely using Microsoft technologies, for free, today.  Flexwiki, Sharepoint, and any one of the many IIS-based blog servers (including this one).

    For a single integrated product… well I have my opinions about the long cycle times as well.  For now, I’ll keep them to myself :-).

  4. …and the cynic in me looks for the (not even vastly) improved outcomes…not a sausage!

    Maybe I’m being harsh…perhaps the by-products would have been even worse otherwise?

    Cheers, Frank.

  5. Nick, as someone who helps people implement Sharepoint I like the way you’re thinking, but frankly the main difference for me is this:

    Sharepoint usability SUCKS

    Let me share some examples …

    Action buttons are at the TOP of the page, so if a form takes you below the fold you need to scroll up to save it.

    Security is checked AFTER you try an action, not before showing you the action. So ordinary users get sucked into a settings page that has ONE link out of about 8 (from memory) that they can actually use.

    The handy quick links area is ONLY on the home page – every other page requires you to go back to that page in order to select a different page.

    I think you see where I’m going. Every single one of these is an issue for every customer I implement Sharepoint at.

    Now when you compare this to the usability of tools like del.icio.us, flikr, blogger etc., you find that they are way more user-friendly, and much easier for everyday users to actually use every single day than Sharepoint is. For a start the extra tools available to allow users to work from within their browser (like the TAG button in my Firefox toolbar from del.icio.us, or the BlogThis! link from blogger) make users much more efficient when working with those tools.

    Sharepoint’s UI is a ‘one size fits all’ design, it is nice because when people get used to it they know how it works, but that doesn’t make it easy to use every day.

    I look forward to v3 offering blogs and wikis out of the box, but that won’t matter much if it is still implemented in the same old half-assed way the rest of the UI is.

  6. Hi Angus,

    I have no defense against your criticisms.  Primarily because I’m not part of the Sharepoint team, but also, in all honesty, because there ARE some usability issues with Sharepoint.  I’m not ready to go to the same level of criticism as you are, but I admit to having Bad Hair Days with Sharepoint.

    That said, for a free tool that’s been available for three years, runs without defects on software that is widely installed in enterprises, is fairly easy to extend using FrontPage, and is wildly popular with end users once it is installed, I’d have to say that these usability glitches are nearly always easy for users to overlook.

    Measurables: customers don’t love the interface.  However, that hasn’t slowed adoption by much.  Results: massive adoption with occasional (valid) complaints.  

    If it sucks so bad, why does everyone use it?

    I haven’t seen the newest version, so I cannot compare interface styles.

    — Nick

  7. Ahead of the curve? Yes, definately. Just like the wonderful NetMeeting product that does way more than Skype does (but got killed off and forgotten). Just like how MSN Messenger supports video, audio, and at one point supported VoIP calls (years and years ago), and now all this stuff is coming back as new. Sigh.

  8. "If it sucks so bad, why does everyone use it?"

    This is the mantra of the monopoly, the thing the electric company says when you bitch about the rates.

    The fact is, high adoption does not neccesarily mean a quality product.  Companies and teams that are serious about improving quality don’t say this, they accept customer feedback and look for ways to incorporate it.

  9. Hello Andrew,

    I was saying this not from the standpoint of a recognized monopoly, but rather from the standpoint of a provider of an application that is widely accepted, but not recognized as being a pre-existing entrant in a ‘new-new’ space.

    I did not say this about Word.  I said this about Sharepoint.  Are you using Sharepoint?  If not, you should be.  Then you may discover that you already have many of the features of ‘Enterprise 2.0’ installed, for free.

    Give us credit for being in the leading edge.

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