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Your SharePoint User Group Is Just Lame Marketing

EDIT: OK, after reading through the comments I got, conceivably this is over-generalizing.  I didn’t mean ALL SharePoint User Groups are like this. However my personal experience with the one I did IS like this. The ONLY point that I am trying to make is that there must exist a business / technology split with these types of events where attendees aren’t barraged with marketing nonsense. It dilutes the actual message. The post has been edited in order to remove such oversimplifications.
I had never connected with a SharePoint user group before, for most people that run in my particular circuit that perhaps might be regarded as odd for an assortment of reasons, none of which I see a reason to go into. Though, after hearing about how I really should participate in the SharePoint ones for the last four years since being awarded my MVP in WSS, I became resolute that I would give it a sample. What harm could come out of it, worst case scenario they are just monotonous, humdrum presentations.

That being said, I have visited and presented at other user groups before, habitually just for .NET development and I’ll admit they were pretty fun (the Gulf Coast one is pretty tremendous). Under that assumption, hey, I really do enjoy SharePoint development, so one can assume the experience should be analogous.

So, I offered to the sponsor of a SharePoint user group to present a canned SharePoint security development presentation, pretty accustomed with the topic so I can do it in my sleep. The sponsor hastily accepted, subsequently we minimally connected in order to put negligible arrangements in place to determine structure of how the presentation would work with the remaining slots. I didn’t really pay attention to what he was saying because I was watching Survivor at the time and administrative scheduling doesn’t necessarily blow my hair back. This was in all probability mistake number one. Whoops.

So, a diminutive quantity of time passes and it is time for me to present on my topic. So, I ping the owner of the user group and ask him if I can just free-format the deck. While this isn’t unerringly how the conversation transpired, it is a moderately accurate representation.

[Conversation with User Group Owner]

Adam: I am just going to use the traditional Microsoft skin for the deck, is that cool?

Owner: No, we have a master slide with associated layouts that you can use for the branding.

Adam: Cool, can you just email it to me now. I want to ensure it doesn’t conflict with the pre-existing content?

Owner: On it’s a way.

(Crickets while I wait to get it)

Adam: Alright, got it.

Owner: What do you think?

Adam: I think just has your company logo all over it. I mean all over it. Like a collage of useless icons and random floating text. And it makes it seem like your company developed the presentation. I developed the presentation and I would like to maintain that credit.

Owner: Well, we like to brand the decks because we sponsor the presentation.

Adam: I understand that. However, the presentation is at your office. Can’t you just lay out some brochures or something? I mean, when people are Google mapping this, it’s going to say your company name. It’s already pretty marked as being sponsored by your company. Should I get a tattoo on my forehead of the logo too?

[/Conversation with User Group Owner]

This should have been my first inclination that the user group owner doesn’t have a passion for the technology, but rather a passion for a flavor of the month that is going to make him and his company money.

Then my day comes to present at the user group. I arrive 15 minutes prematurely in order to setup the appropriate AV equipment and supplementary associated materials in order to support my presentation. The owner is in attendance at the time as well, and of course, we strike up another conversation that is just as brilliant as the last.

[Yet Another Conversation with User Group Owner]

Owner: We made changes to your presentation.

Adam: No you didn’t.

Owner: Yes we did, just so that we can include some company information. And if you can drop these lines at some point during the presentation that would great.

(hands me a note card)

Adam: I can’t tell if you are being serious.

Owner: Yes, it is part of a process we have in place in order to expand our company name and heavily associate it with the technology as an outcome of hosting the user group. I am sure you can see that point of view.

Adam: I’ll be 100% honest with you [name removed], other people may be cool with this, but I am not your company mouthpiece. I don’t even work for your company. I came here to present, because, well I enjoy presenting on the topic and interesting questions ensue commonly following. And you are kind of a douche bag.

[/Yet Another Conversation with User Group Owner]

This is the fundamental, underlying problem with *some* (Edited For Clarity) SharePoint user groups; it isn’t about a passion for SharePoint, or even collaborative technology in general. If the hot thing that year was shooting flaming bunnies out of a water balloon launcher at your face, companies like this would have a user group for it. I am not alluding to that companies like this don’t merit something back for their efforts, but if you are having the fucking venue at your company, there are copious other avenues for creative advertisement without polluting the genuine content that people are interested in. Introducing such blatant advertising is both disrespectful to the presenter, and to the users it is just plain vulgar and boorish.  People go to user groups to learn about technology, not about the damn service offerings that your company provides. From my point of view, it is the collective mingling and the interchanging of ideas which really birth the interesting conclusions procured from user groups, not what companies offer what.

Anyways, I don’t think I will be going to anymore SharePoint user groups. Unless there is a bunch of free food or something.


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