The following was posted as a comment to Mark Rackley’s blog article Is the SharePoint Community Past Its Prime?
Last fall while I spoke in Ramallah, Palestine and watched as a SharePoint Saturday event was being streamed from Ramallah into Gaza strip via webcam I couldn’t help but consider how social technology had transformed business. It was an amazing experience which might not have been as successful had it not been for social media and community efforts.
This year I am presenting at many international SharePoint events. I would not have these opportunities if it had not been for introductions made via social software. Among other things social media provides transparency and community. Before social software the speaker pool at our local conferences was much, much smaller and handpicked by vendors to be sure their marketing dollars were spent in a way that would capitalize the new products and services. This was the way business was done. After all conferences are marketing events.
Social media changed many of the traditional event and conference models. For me personally social media has given me a fair chance in presenting my ideas through tweets, blogs, forums and conferences. It leveled the playing field for me. I am fascinated at how it leveled the political landscape at a much, much larger scope during the recent uprisings in Egypt, Syria and the rest of the Middle East. This phenomenon is not a SharePoint phenomenon but a global force that affects many people at many levels around the world.
Across the globe communities are being formed in much the same way as ours. Photographers, journalists, technologist and trades that have larger number of consultants which travel have more opportunity to meet in physical groups. Our SharePoint community is a perfect fit and we seem to thrive and have many opportunities to meet in person. Do trust me, we are not alone. Sometimes I have grandiose thoughts and assume that I am part of the only technology community which is gathering, socializing and sharing ideas. It seems silly to write such a suggestion knowing how many millions of people are using the same social tools I am.
One shouldn’t confuse Microsoft’s MVP group for “the community” itself. In my opinion this is simply Microsoft’s contribution to a much bigger and broad community. Having Microsoft sponsor and supporting the broader community efforts with the MVP program adds much value to SharePoint efforts around the world. Many MVP's actively support the broader community at personal expense and effort. Some express concerns about the MVP process and get frustrated, this is not a new frustration and no process is perfect. It is worth nothing that most individuals thrive in the SharePoint community without the MVP title. I believe Mark’s contributions and his blog post prove this to be true.
If I could retitle Marks post it would be “How Transparency and Social Media are Evolving the SharePoint community.” I have noticed newer communities forming around Office 365 and Windows Phone. I have noticed more Office 365 tweets than SharePoint tweets this week, perhaps because I am looking for them. It would be great to share lessons learned and help these newer communities thrive as we continue to evolve. Who will host the first 365 Saturday?
It’s awesome to realize each of us can use the phrase, “Thank you for being part of my community” and It will mean something slightly different to each of us.