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Using MSDN (and other) Forums for SharePoint Support

I could write on at great length about MSDN forums, etiquette, naming conventions, search, etc.  I may do that, in fact.  I wanted to point out a small thing which may help people have a better overall experience.

I’ve lately been telling people that if you run into some kind of problem with your SharePoint environment, development project or other SharePoint related activity, post a question to the forums earlier in your action chain rather than later.  I know for myself that when I have a problem, a number of potential solutions present themselves right away.  I order these potential solutions in terms of likelihood, applicability and how easy they are to investigate.  I go through that list and by the time I’ve gotten to #10, I’m making registry changes to a key “/foo/bar/almostThere/isThisIt/noThisIsNotIt/iCantBelieveIAmDoingThis/finallyThere!” on the advice of a blog found on page 8 of a Google search.  When that doesn’t work, I finally post a question to MSDN (e.g. here: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/sharepointgeneral/threads).

I suggest that you reverse that approach.  Post the forums much earlier in your investigation because:

  • It’s free to you anyway.
  • There’s no guaranteed SLA (of which I’m aware, at least).
  • Therefore, it can take a long time for people to respond.
  • People often do respond eventually.
  • If you wait until 2 or 3 days after the problem first surfaced, you’re frantic for a response and forums are not a good place for emergency help (unless you’re lucky).

So, basically, it’s easy and free and you have a good shot at getting some kind of answer, but it will take a while to get that answer (again, unless you’re lucky).

I used to think that I should hold off on looking for community help because I don’t want to waste someone’s time asking for help when I could find it out myself.  Some forum moderators and active participants may feel that way, but I don’t (at least, I don’t feel that way any more).  I don’t see any downside.  The worst case is that you post a question and then answer it yourself some time later, possibly “wasting” some one’s time.  I don’t see a big risk in that and there’s value in the researching of questions like that in any event.

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4 responses to “Using MSDN (and other) Forums for SharePoint Support

  1. Unknown April 20, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Paul,Have you considered using Twitter as a quick help tool? Quite often you can post a quick query on there and within minutes, you can get a host of useful links. This is something that came up a while back with Joel O and we both agredd that we didn\’t want to see Twitter turn into a FAQ but well worth using for quick fixes/suggestions etc.For more detailed issues, then Technet is by far the best resource (which I frequent a couple of times each day)

  2. Mike April 20, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I think the last bullet point should be bold. When you wait that 2-3 days you are both frantic and frustrated which normally means you are less open to solutions. There are a number of issues I\’ve spent 2-3 days on only to find that it was a common issue, just not common to me. I also like Dave\’s idea of using twitter, though I have had mixed results there. Unless you are highly connected you may not get the response that you are looking for. Using hastags like #SharePoint or #MOSS helps raise the visibility though.

  3. Nelson April 20, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Twitter is a good idea.

  4. Unknown April 21, 2009 at 3:50 am

    I\’m with Mike about emphasising the 2-3 days thing. Its not a quick fix and shouldn\’t be used that way – I am sure I saw someone last week complaing that his problem hadn\’t been solved in two hours despite it being posted at 12:30am on a Saturday of a holiday weekend. I\’ve started more and more to use it as a way of pre-empting problems. eg \’Before I go off and do x by writing a y, is there a better way of doing it?\’

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