SharePoint Saturday UK 2012 Review & Low-Tech Social Network Analysis!

By Ant Clay posted 12-18-2012 05:18



Wow… what a great event!

Almost a week later and I’ve just about got the time to draw breath and reflect on SharePoint Saturday UK 2012.

The guys, Tony, Brett and Mark and all their helpers did a fantastic job of putting on a great community focussed, free event. If you weren’t there then I implore you to make a bit more effort next year!

There are three things I want to cover in this blog post:

·         SPSUK the event

·         My Session – “Have Pride in your Business Requirements”

·         The community experiment – “Low-tech social network”.


SharePoint Saturday UK

The event itself was the normal affair, over-subscribed and then under-attended; I know it was cold but if you buy a ticket you should really commit to attending… It is the same old story, with free events you get a high drop-out rate, but it’s such a shame for the organisers and those that do make the effort.

Anyway, about 300 fantastic people did rock-up for a full day of sessions, networking, Christmas merriment and give-aways. The keynote from the SharePoint Cowboy Eric Shupps was very well pitched, appealing to the full range of attendees and then it was off into the packed session schedule. In my opinion there was a pretty good spread of content across techie, end-user and business, the focus wasn’t too much on SharePoint 2013 which was good, but as always I did feel there was a lack of business content, just the usual suspects, including me, Andrew Woodward, Symon Garfield, Christian Buckley and a couple of others.

Take this as a “Call to Action”… If you have an interest in the business side of things then get in touch, let me or the organisers know, I’ll even offer you my support and help you to submit your ‘business session’ for next years’ event (or even a SUGUK evening?)


Have Pride in your Business Requirements

I had the honour to be speaking again this year; my session was “Have Pride in your Business Requirements”, as a twist to the normal approach I had the honour of co-presenting with Paul Barton (SharePoint Architect at Swisslog), a customer of mine referenced in the session. This added a great dimension to the session, because as a customer and being fully engaged with his business and its stakeholders, what he said really resonated with the topic and the audience. It was also great to hear first-hand about the value the Swisslog got from the approach we took, which is as you would expect, very ‘business’ orientated.

We got some great feedback from people at the session, if you missed it then look out for me doing the session again at SUGUK’s, check-out the slides here or maybe even get in touch and I’ll do a private session with you and your business stakeholders!

Ant Clay and Paul Barton present their session

An experiment - Mapping the attendees on a Low-tech social network

Huge thanks to Tony and the gang for humouring me and allowing me to run a bit of a community experiment throughout the conference!

As many of you will know, I am passionate about disrupting the status quo and constantly seeking for ways to do SharePoint, Collaboration and social projects more effectively and seek greater alignment with business vision and goals.

SharePoint Saturday UK is fundamentally a community event; community is about value, connections (new and existing) and shared learning.

What if we could map the connections between everyone attending SPSUK?

Well that is exactly what I tried to achieve using the Gamestorming activity ‘low-tech social network’ (

We started with a huge blank sheet of paper, masking-taped to the wall just before the entrance to the exhibitor’s hall.

Then we created out low-tech, or as Tony rightly states, ‘no-tech’ nodes or profiles.

Then we drew connecting lines between our profile cards and anyone we were connected with that had put a card up. If we wanted we could annotate the connection lines with the context as well which worked nicely.

Ant and others connecting via the low-tech social network

Then basically once myself, the ID team and a few other early adopters had finished, we left the network to emerge on its own with very little direction or interruptions from me. My role was to pop back to the emerging splendour of the low-tech social network and facilitate/help people to understand why we were doing it, how it worked etc.

What emerged was, in my opinion, a great success and something of great beauty!

Not only was it interesting to see the connections emerging, but also the context of the connections (more later), the hot-spots and really importantly the on-going ‘human conversations’ and introductions happening around the network.

It really felt like it was, for those engaged, a really cool focal point.

So, what emerged from the low-tech SPSUK social network?

Well my very rough and ready social network analysis and highlights are as follows:

·         About 72 people added their profiles to the network, that’s about ¼ of the attendees which isn’t bad as it wasn’t publicised except for some social media pushing

·         None of us are really artists, but the sketches to represent our avatars were wonderfully brilliant, fun and diverse… You guys need to use more visual techniques in your SharePoint activities, let’s talk about how I can help you do that J

·         Despite zero rules or policing, out of 72 participants, only one person/company took the p!55 with their profile (you know who you are!)

·         A kind of post-it note psychology emerged... People placed their profile cards either in groups (company, user group, company),  near the 1st person they wanted to connect to or in distant corners

·         Except for myself, Andrew Woodward and Matt Groves, it was only the girls that used multiple colours

·         Some of you are light-fingered gits! Thanks for stealing around half of my ‘not-cheap’ Sharpies L

·         SPSUK 2012 for some people was the first time they had physically met their connections

·         The number of connections mapped was huge, way too many for me to count, although I did just try

·         For this to work you have to keep coming back and making more connections which is difficult and time consuming

·         Maria Ward connected to about 8 people because she physically hugged them while they were at the low-tech social network – Love it, my favourite story!

·         People started to follow people on Twitter that they ‘met’ on the low-tech social network which is cool

·         I’m going to try to connect via LinkedIn and Twitter to those people that participated that I didn’t know before

·         The SharePoint Community is, and I know it’s been said before, very very well connected

·         Despite being chaotic, the end result is really quite something!

·         The passion, knowledge and expertise at SPSUK was phenomenal

·         People’s connection-context included  poked, hugged, married, worked with, twitter, know, Vegas, seen with, following, user group, beer, shared interests, met doing the activity, at the same sessions, want to work with, work at the same country and lots I’ve probably missed

·         There was a wonderfully rich mix of seriousness, fun, digs and requests to connect

·         We had the full range of SharePoint-types participate

·         There’s still a huge amount of the community that I just don’t know, feel free to reach out and connect to me!

·         Some people were quick with a basic avatar and a couple of quick connections, some people spend lots of time and effort on their avatar and connecting to everyone they knew (and some people just didn’t want to play)

·         I learnt more about the community and its diversity by browsing the low-tech social network than I ever have from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

·         The fact that the profiles and links were emerging over time and that you could watch people interacting, made the low-tech social network very fun, engaging and valuable.

The completed Low-tech social network and proud facilitator

So what next for the low-tech social network?

When I do it again at this scale, conference-wide then I would definitely look to video the action, sped up that would make an awesome piece of content. It would be great to get more people contributing, getting up above 80% would be my target. I’m also considering how we can highlight people’s conference desires i.e. looking for work, looking for an expert to solve a problem, looking for a beer buddy, looking for someone to start a company with, looking for someone to write a book with etc. etc. If we can crack that then people can scan the board for like-minded people who are looking for the same outcomes.

I’m also going to suggest that I facilitate the same thing at SharePoint Evolutions next year, do you think that would be useful and work?

Any other conferences, events, workshops etc. that you would get value from this activity and need a facilitator then let me know!

That’s pretty much it, a great conference, I loved speaking about “Having pride in your business requirements” with a customer and the low-tech SPSUK social network really worked!

See you next time!

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