Disparate Information Sources (aka Not Enough Cowbell)

My previous entry about open source web parts and commercial vendors sparked an interesting response by Michael Ekegren, an IT consultant in Denmark. In it he talks about level of support you get from commercial offerings, the (hope/promise) of future enhancements, and a difficulty for end-users to embrace SharePoint as there's no mechanism to "download and play" like there is for desktop applications. All good stuff.

However there's a bigger demon lurking under the surface that I wanted to gripe and be angry about. Namely the almost complete and utter uselessness of Microsoft's Web Component Directory (and others like it). Okay, Microsoft had a great idea out of the gates with this. A central directory where authors can upload content (components, training, documentation, etc.) for SharePoint, and consumers can search and download it. Nice and all sounds good on paper.

I went on there to check out what's new. They have a nice feature to show you the latest entries uploaded. However of 5 latest "components", 3 of them simply redirected me to a vendor site where I had to fill out a request form to get a demo of their software. Hardly user friendly from my perspective. I mean, what would you feel like if you looked up in the web pages the name of an automobile parts shop only to find when you get there you have to fill out a bunch of forms and they'll call you to later when you can come pick it up (or have it delivered). Maybe it's the instant gratification guy in me but that just blows chunks. In other cases, I get sent to a vendor where I can "apply" to view a demo. Again, this isn't a very optimal use of anyone's time. If I wanted to see a demo of something I would have gone to the vendors site in the first place, not through some 3rd party site where I *thought* I was going to download the goods. Yes Bil, not everything can be downloaded blahdy, blahdy, blahdy, blah. Oh yeah, also there are close to 40 "components" but they're part of standard Microsoft packages (like Great Plains, etc.) so having them available in the directory is useless because they won't work without the product installed (and if I had the product installed, I wouldn't need the Web Parts because they come with the product install, sheesh).

Recently the GotDotNet workspaces got an overhaul and they even have a dedicated area for SharePoint, however it also falls short IMHO. I mean, best of intentions and all but implementation is a little off. I mean, it's great they have a section for SharePoint, but it's almost information overload with what's presented there. Everything is on one page (albeit split up into sections) with what's new, workspaces, web parts, code samples, newsgroups, developer tours, downloads, FAQs, trials, sample sites, technical information, training, seminars, webcasts, and related sites (whew). Also it's pretty much impossible to search on GDN and get half decent results. Also there are some (many) workspaces that I have to apply for membership just to download a tool or web part. Again, not very user friendly IMHO.

Having said all this, I just don't think it's quite there yet. There are some resources that are great (kudos to some like SharePointCommunity for setting it up) but like that automated file viewer I was looking for, it's just not what I'm after. Maybe I'm alone but I think we, as SharePoint geeks and nerds, deserve better. I believe that the SourceForge guys got it right (mostly). Easy search with results. A software map to be able to drill down and find something topically. Everything open and avaiable and a pretty simple mechanism to both create new projects and apply for membership to one, should I decide to help out. SharePointCommunity is a great resource but again, I look at things from a working perspective. What do I need to get my job done? I am working on, spinning up, and launching, something that I've talked to several people about and hopefully will come to deliver what I believe is a gap in being able to share and collaborate on what is touted as the premium collaboration platform, namely my SharePointForge project. Okay, it might fall flat on it's face coming out of the gates, but what's *YASR out there?

*YASRS - Yet Another SharePoint Resource


  • Hi David,

    There's nothing wrong with SourceForge (and the dozen or so variants like it). The thing (as far as SharePoint is concerned) is that it's small fishes in a big sea. It's like saying what's wrong with the internet. Well, nothign if you know how to use Google and can ignore the noise over the signal. What I am building is a SourceForge, but scaled down to cater to SharePoint projects and tools so a person doesn't have to enter the magic words to filter out things that are not SharePoint focused.

  • Posted a comment, reflections about being a vendor on the SharePoint platform and finally what should a sharepoint add-on portal provide end-users?

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