What “The Far Side” can teach us about SharePoint

If any part of you has a sense of humor, January 1995 was a tragic time in your life as it marked the end of one of the greatest comics of all time The Far Side. No other comic has ever been so hilarious in its intelligence and randomness (although Calvin and Hobbes does come close). Gary Larson’s brilliant sense of humor will forever live on in desk calendars, books, and bazillions of internet references. So, what the heck does “The Far Side” have to do with SharePoint you may ask?? Well.. more than you might think actually. Even though the comic ended years before the first version of SharePoint came slithering out the primordial ooze, we can look back on some of them with our SharePoint goggles on and glean some insight into SharePoint and even find some wisdom and guidance.

So, I posit that “The Far Side” can teach as a lot about SharePoint. Inconceivable you say?? Well, let’s see what pearls we can find.

So, your company just told you to “Go do SharePoint.”


How many times have I heard that? Raise your hand if this is your story? I still remember the first day when my boss walked in my office and nonchalantly dropped that bomb in my lap and I had not a clue what to do or how to begin. You are left with a seemingly unpleasant choice: learn this beast called SharePoint or gain the ire of your boss by refusing to do your job. Not a great place to be. Well, for all you frustrated SharePoint people out there, take heart. It may seem like a daunting task with no clear path to victory, but it gets better and there’s lots of help out there. At least sip the kool-aid.

Not to bad, eh? Let’s see what other nuggets of wisdom we can mine from probably the best known Far Side ever.

No matter how smart you think you are, read the directions.


So, you are smart? So what? You’ve been developing software for 15 years you say? big deal! I say. Don’t assume you can do SharePoint development, project management, or administration. Go learn, read the blogs, books, and learn from the experts. Your life will be easier and you won’t look like a fool.

Learn to use the correct SharePoint Terminology


I’ve said this several times before, but SharePoint has its own book of terminology. Remember when a Web Site was the same thing as a Web Application in your conversations as web developer? Well, they are TOTALLY different things in SharePoint, and that’s a simple example. Learn the terminology and understand it. It will allow you to ask the right questions as well as allow the experts to understand you when you speak.

Beware of bears in a cave


Okay, so maybe not bears and maybe not in a cave, but please use caution when you do things in SharePoint. It’s so easy to wander somewhere that you shouldn’t and do some damage if you have the access. Develop on a development server. Test your patches on a dev server. Don’t do a basic install. Stay out of the Content Database. The list goes on of the things that will eat you for lunch if you aren’t careful.

Things aren’t always as they appear in SharePoint


So, this has always been one of my favorite Far Side’s and I had to stretch to make it work for this blog. Let’s see… how can I make it work. Okay.. I got it.. just because someone says they have the answer doesn’t mean they do. Just because an error message is pointing you in one direction doesn’t mean the resolution is in the totally opposite direction. It’s frustrating. You need to learn to keep an open mind when trying to figure stuff out in SharePoint. Yeah.. my reasoning is a little weak here.. but look.. the cows are standing up and talking!!!

Keep an eye on your administrators, developers, and farm


Like it or not, there are a million things that can cause you pain on your SharePoint farm. It may seem like there is some supernatural reason for your problems or outage. Indeed, things like “Unknown Error” “Service Unavailable” or just a random 404 might make you think it’s God playing a cruel joke. However, most problems can be prevented by just keeping an eye on your farm and being diligent. Are your developers disposing of objects? Are they abusing jQuery? Did your admin configure something the wrong way? Is your server running out of resources? This list goes on and on and on as well.

Beware the SharePoint “Expert”


Unfortunately, many of us have fallen prey to that SharePoint “expert.” They may put on a good show and talk the talk, but in the end they really didn’t have the skills to do the job and caused more problems than they fixed.  Use care when getting help for SharePoint. Do some research. Ask some people you trust for their opinion.

You will know the SharePoint experts by their scars


The corollary to the previous comic is finding the SharePoint professional you WANT to do the job. You know these guys know their stuff because they’ll have some scary stories about the problems they encountered. Let’s face it, who would you rather have working for you, the guy who swears he’s an expert and can do any job, or the guy who’s been burned enough to know he doesn’t have all the answers. You learn so much more from your failures than you do your successes.

We were all beginners at one time


So, something I have to continually keep in mind is that there are many things that seem completely like common sense to me and are the most complicated things in the world to people just getting started. I have a session called “Wrapping your Head Around the SharePoint Beast” that I’ve done for three years now. EVERYTHING in that session is common sense to me and anyone who’s been doing SharePoint for a couple of years. I almost scrapped the session entirely when I realized that there are people having SharePoint dropped in their lap every day and having struggles with things we take for granted. So, if you are just getting started, please don’t be discouraged if someone treats you like you should know something, and if you are an “expert” remember that you were in their same shoes not so long ago.

The SharePoint Community


Okay.. okay.. I kid.. I kid… sorta… If you have been in the community for a long time or are brand new, just keep in mind that people are people. We all have our good days and our bad days, and there are a few jerks sprinkled in. Try not to let them bother you and maybe give them a second chance just in case they were up all night trying to fix an issue on their farm the night before.

Just your average SharePoint Junkie


Does this not perfectly sum it up? People outside of the community just don’t get it, and those SharePoint haters sure think we are insane, but we love what we do. I know I’m looking forward to my next SharePoint Saturday and hanging out with all my SharePoint friends. To some people this would be hell, to us there’s nothing we’d rather do.



Yes… yes you may leave now. As always, thanks for reading.

posted @ Tuesday, October 18, 2011 9:51 PM

Comments on this entry:

# re: What “The Far Side” can teach us about SharePoint

Left by Laura at 10/18/2011 10:32 PM
Yer cool, and like, so funny. ;-)

# re: What “The Far Side” can teach us about SharePoint

Left by Toby at 10/18/2011 10:52 PM
AWESOME! Tanks man! =D

# re: What “The Far Side” can teach us about SharePoint

Left by Tamara at 10/19/2011 10:12 AM
This isn't a stretch at all. Even the cows. Well done you!

# re: What “The Far Side” can teach us about SharePoint

Left by Nancy at 10/20/2011 6:52 AM
Brilliant. Will be shared early and often.

# We were all beginners at one time

Left by Andy at 10/27/2011 1:26 AM
I am always fall on this category. Whatever i can do its never been enough. i had limited experience of Developing and i am stretching my self and there is always not enough for the BA. My main Job is Admin and i am wearing all hate. I am still learning after nearly 3 years as SP admin. For some people its just changing CSS like Web and if i explain its not working like that way in SharePoint then they say how its be different then Web? i Like this article. Very well written.

# re: What “The Far Side” can teach us about SharePoint

Left by Techrevmarrell at 10/29/2011 10:26 AM
Great article! Good memories, and it some valuable nuggets of wisdom in there.

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