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Sharepoint 2010 – Light at the end of the tunnel?

…or oncoming train?

I recently challenged Dr Kenji Takeda, our local Microsoft fanboy, to see if he could convince me that Sharepoint was a good thing. I come from a LAMP background and have never had a very high opinion of Microsoft products. It’s a tough sell, but it wouldn’t be interesting if it wasn’t.

Kenji is game and we’ve had our first session, so here’s a braindump of what I’ve learned. The key thing is that (he says) Sharepoint 2010 kicks ass and takes names compared to previous versions. Apparently it implements REST which’ll make our LAMP scripting people much happier. The other interesting departure is that it’s browser neutral, working on Chrome, Firefox etc., although amusingly not IE6. I still have not got an install to play with and kick the tires. When I do I’ll make another post. It can apparently allow similar web-based document editing to Google Docs, possibly with more features (want to see that too), and can store your data onsite unlike Google who do somewhere-in-the-cloud or nothing. Google docs can undertake not to take your data outside the EU, I believe.

The thing which worries me is that we’ve got lots of places we can and might use SP in the unviersity:

  • Intranets for Projects – both research and student learning. It can provide a shared document store, internal blog and wiki. This might be great for some project teams and dreadful for others. One size does not fit all and I don’t think we should try and force it on everyone.
  • Public sites for Projects – This makes me nervous due to getting locked into the URLs. We should at least try and make sure that it provides good solid cool-URLs for pages and resources. (eg. end with .html and aspx)
  • Workflows – to manage business processes like expenses claims or Health and Safety forms.
  • Document Management – I’m not a big fan of our current DMS but I suspect I just don’t like DMSs so am not yet convinced this provide an improvement.
  • Social Tools – facebook-style profile pages, comment walls etc. These are kinda cool but need to be usecase driven. Where possible they should source all information from existing sources, but give users clear instructions about how to get it updated and what the turn-around will be. For information collected by the system (eg. a profile photo), it should be made available to other systems to avoid many data sources. It strikes me this would be excellent for building database-driven public profile pages too, like ECS has for years.

So far I’m still not convinced! There’s some good noises, but I’ve never actually used Sharepoint.I suspect it has the power to be very annoying if not well configured and lovingly tended. There’s some very positive things (interoperability), but I won’t trust that it really does it until I’ve seen it really working.

I’ll write another update sometime later in the summer, when I’ve learned more.

Posted in Intranet, Sharepoint.

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