SharePoint UK User Group Meeting with Lawrence Liu

So, Thursday night the user group had a meeting with Lawrence Liu. I’d gone to find out about the “Fantastic 40” templates – but it wasn’t about that so much. Given that it seems that the 20 that have been released are, essentially, showcases for the designs you can make with the out-of-box functionality, and that the other 20 aren’t finished yet (although look like more interesting customisation), I was actually glad that the talk was more varied.

Lawrence highlighted some things. First, the newsgroups aren’t really being monitored as much as the forums. Ask questions there. Secondly, we’re getting a new community site for SharePoint – the world’s first Internet facing SharePoint system. There is some talk about moving the SUGUK site to it – I think that would be good, having a common community. This site isn’t open just yet, they’re working on Passport integration (yeah, I know, but other than Passport it sounds like a great idea).

The second part of the evening was fascinating – it was about the ‘pain points’ of SharePoint 2007, and what the general plan for SharePoint vNext was. The pain points started:

  1. Dev Documentation
  2. IT Pro documentation

…which exactly matched our problems so far. The top 2 were bang on, which is a good sign.

There were some interesting points up there too:

Tools – We’ll, that I’d thought of, but he mentioned “Visual Studio 2005 Extensions for WSS”, which will make creating features less of an arcane, esoteric pain in the ass. It’ll be able to take a site definition and reverse engineer it into a feature, which will be cool. There’s also the hope of more community based tools, but I’m a little worried that we’re going to end up with a scattering of different little applications. I’d prefer one tool – after all, that’s one of the benefits of Visual Studio (except when you have to use Caspol, InstallUtils, etc.). Perhaps there’s room for a ‘collection of tools project’?

End-user training materials – Um, there isn’t any, really. MS are planning to release a feature for setting up a training environment soon, and hopefully there will also be materials accompanying that. They’re planning a SCORM training module for it.

Other than that – lots of bits of information, but too much to go into (or remember all that easily).

Regarding SharePoint vNext, well, there will be a Service Pack before vNext. Initial plan is for it to be out in roughly 2 years, and it’ll be an incremental improvement, rather than a leap forwards. Some of the folks at the user group meeting seemed to want something more dramatic – but let’s face it, it takes time to learn a new version, it can take a year for projects to really roll into motion, and nobody wants to buy if they can get the next version in 6 months – I think anything less that 2 years (3 years even) is too fast a cycle. 2 years is probably okay for an ‘improvement’ version, although I agreed with some of the comments about vNextNext needing to be something more dramatic. And I’m totally with Colin Byrne’s point about ditching CAML – God awful markup that it is.

The knowledge management extensions for SharePoint look like they’re being pushed back – and I think Lawrence said that they were being pushed back to vNext. There’s two problems with it, as far as they’re concerned – it only works with English, and it only uses Outlook email as the datasource for trying to produce someone’s knowledge areas. Given that they’ve got the SharePoint server itself, possibly desktop search, etc., I saw his point. Still, it’s possibly quite exciting for larger organisations.

Areas of emphasis for vNext – Search and something. Forgotten what the other thing was. But the search team have been given a bit more flexibility to move rapidly. Something about a competitor who’s name ends in ‘oogle’.

I guess the only other impression I took away was that there is a lot of stuff coming out in the range of one to three months. Hopefully not all at once, it’d be a lot to take in.

SharePoint UK User Group Meeting with Lawrence Liu

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