SharePoint Community Maturity
I’ve written a few times about the amazing growth and passion within the SharePoint community (see SharePoint, Hillbillies, and Community, and What Came First: SharePoint or the Egg?), but a few folks have noted the slow creeping presence of ego within the ranks. Mark Thompson continues the dialog around the changes happening within the SharePoint community – including his encounters with some of these “negative vibes” – in his post SharePoint Community; Loud but not so clear, which was followed up by Marc Anderson in a post of the same name.
While I do believe that the SharePoint community is unique in many ways, it will go through some of the same shifts and cycles that all communities go through as they mature. Change is constant. The community shifts and evolves as the people within it change and as old ideas are retired, and new ideas explored.
An important part of any community is recognizing that there needs to be ongoing renewal. I’ve heard many people remark about the decline of some well-known, historically well-attended (paid) conferences as a direct result of the success of SharePoint Saturdays — as if this was a negative thing. It might be negative for the company/sponsors driving those events that are now in decline, but I believe this is a good thing for the overall community as it forces those events and their owners to think differently about their market, and to reinvent themselves in an effort to stay relevant. Just as in product development, having competition improves the quality of what is being delivered. Biblically speaking, competition separates the wheat from the tares.
I think, to some degree, this is what we’re seeing within the community. We’re at a certain stage of the lifecycle – moving from “early adopters” into solid “early majority” territory. Some competitors are finding it difficult to "rule" in a quickly expanding field where you can’t rest on your laurels just because you’ve been there the longest – you need to actually deliver the products, the content, and the expertise that people want and need. Those who can’t compete – or who seem to be in decline, for whatever reason – often find themselves getting caught up in some "anti-community" activities (trash talking,. disparaging the success of others, talking doom and gloom) that sit somewhere between low-integrity and unethical.
It’s easy to lose focus on what’s important. I think the most salient point from Mark and Marc’s comments (and Dan’s input) is that we can’t forget about the newbies — whether new to the technology, or new to the community as a speaker/expert.
I do not agree with people who think the SharePoint community is cresting. We’re now seeing a huge influx of business users, and those interested in moving from business user into more of the IT Pro realm. Based on adoption rates of businesses, the data points to a growing community for some time.
But I do agree that the passion of many community members is waning — they’ve seen it, they’ve done it all, and maybe they’re a bit road-weary. It’s a natural cycle. Most of us will reach that point as some point in our careers when you just need to make a change. The hard part sometimes is recognizing that you’re done, or maybe you just need to take a break from the community, taking some time to rest, reinvent yourself, or just to figure out a way to reignite the passion.
If people don’t pause and recognize where they are in the cycle, they may put on blinders that skew their perspective of the community, or the technology, or the people within the community. In other words, because their excitement or interest is waning, they project that view onto the community, and believe it to be fact.
It’s tough to look inward, to get past the ego. Thankfully, I don’t have one