SharePoint sites, and more specifically Intranets, are created to provide information that positively contributes to your users work life. Users have an unspoken expectation of your site. They expect the information being presented to be refreshed frequently, expand their existing knowledge or present them with information that they wouldn’t have otherwise known if they hadn’t found it on your site.
It’s unfortunate, then, that many new SharePoint Content Owners simply present RSS feeds in a web part to ‘flesh out’ their SharePoint site. The RSS feed web part on an Intranet or Internet site aren’t meant to be used in a “set it and forget it” way. The goal of your site should be to educate, to present information that the reader can’t get or can’t interpret themselves. The RSS web part, unfortunately, allows us to present information on our site in a passive manner. Instead, the way to view RSS, and other information presented on your site, is to focus on providing ‘quality, not quantity’.
Information needs to be targeted, timely, specific and relevant in order for people to find your site useful. Think about it for a moment: If EndUserSharePoint.com (EUSP) simply had information fed to it via RSS from other SharePoint blogs instead of original content written by knowledgeable professionals, would you continue to visit the site? Some would but most would not. There are those of you that will argue that sites with a mass of links being presented through RSS feeds are beneficial. To that, I say, I completely agree! It’s just not appropriate, and isn’t targeted and specific enough, for users of an Intranet or Extranet site. (That said, I do enjoy http://SharePoint.alltop.com from time to time, but it’s not where I spend time reading SharePoint info).
Join the Movement Against Passive RSS!
Given this, I am choosing to announce a new non-profit organization I am starting. It’s called the R.S.P.P.P.RSS.F, otherwise known as The Royal Society for the Prevention of the Passive Presentation of Real Simple Syndication Feeds! Ok….I’m still working on the name, but in the meantime, here’s a draft of our credo. Please repeat after me (to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance):
We, the SharePoint Professionals of the R.S.P.P.P.RSS.F (.com?), do solemnly swear that we will use the power of RSS feeds only for good, to keep interest in our site high and to focus on providing informational context to the stories we present. Heretofore, should any of us choose to stray from this, our stated credo (version 1.0), may the Site Administrator take away our Content Editor Web Part and force us to use Content Approval when we save any and all documents to our own My Site.
Let’s lay down some ground rules…and an approach that might help us to reach our stated goal.
- Create a page that has interesting RSS feeds on it. This can be a page with several RSS web parts on it, each presenting a feed from a different site you feel would benefit your users. Because the RSS web part queries for new RSS feed information each time you open this SharePoint page, I choose to present only 4 stories for each feed. This speeds the page’s load time and surfaces only the most recent articles.
- Every two to three days, visit your RSS feeds page and do a quick skim of the stories being presented in your feeds. Identify four new, interesting, pertinent stories that you believe your people would like to read. You don’t have to read each one, just skim it to make sure it’s valuable.
- Open up your SharePoint Announcements List that’s being presented on your site’s home page.
- Copy the title of the RSS story into the Announcements List Title column.
- Visit the web site of the news story. Copy the first 5 sentences or so from the body of the story and paste them into the Announcements List Body column.
- Hit ‘ENTER’ twice in the Announcements body to move below the pasted sentences.
- Copy the URL (aka the hyperlink) of the story and paste it beneath the first 5 sentences in your Announcements List Body column. You can even place the following words next to the URL (“For the rest of the story: <insert URL here>).
- Make certain you give credit where credit is due. You should also reference the author of the work and maybe the web site or news organization they write for in the body of your announcement.
- Lastly, if the mood strikes you, write a little something authored by YOU and tell why you think people would be interested in the article. A little bit of commentary from you, such as, “I was talking with Bob about Agile Project Management the other day in the hall. This article addresses some of the benefits that I spoke with him about”, really goes a long way to provide context for the reason the information is being presented on your site.
That’s it! It’s as easy as that. In doing this, you help your users receive information that they otherwise might never read. And now, given that SharePoint Announcements provide the ability to have an RSS feed, people might begin to subscribe to your announcements list because it has the latest and greatest information that is specific to your department or industry. How good does that make you look?!?!?!
Don’t leave it to your people to separate the wheat from the chaff. Find some great sites to subscribe to and publish only the most interesting articles from the feeds on your site. Sure, it takes a little time, a small amount of mousing-around and a little creativity to do this twice a week. But as we all know, if it ain’t worth doin’ right, it ain’t worth doin’!
Author: Lee Reed ThoughtBridge, Atlanta, GA
Lee Reed is an expert in collaboration and user adoption on the Microsoft SharePoint 2007 platform. His consulting with companies large and small throughout the East Coast has resulted in many successful collaboration environments and increased user adoption.
Lee is currently the Director of Business Process and SharePoint Education for Thoughtbridge, a Microsoft Gold Partner focused exclusively on the Microsoft SharePoint 2007 platform.