Technology is so much easier when everyone shares their knowledge

Technology is so much easier when everyone shares their knowledge

I note that the avuncular Steve Goodman has posted an updated version of his well-respected Exchange environmental report, refreshed to deal with Exchange 2013 SP1. Don’t worry, this PowerShell script is well capable of dealing with Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2007 servers as well, which makes it a very valuable tool indeed.

Contributions to the technical community based on hard-won field experience are the very best examples of effective knowledge sharing in action. Some of the most successful Microsoft tools, like the Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer (ExRCA), are good examples too.

I wish more of my fellow Exchange MVPs were as good about sharing useful knowledge as Steve undoubtly is but the sad fact that, in my opinion, fewer than 50% of the 102 Exchange MVPs listed on Microsoft’s MVP site do as much as they could, or should. It's just my opinion. No more, no less.

Apart from the language barrier that MVPs working in the non-English speaking world sometimes face when connecting with a largely English-centric industry, I can’t quite work out why so few (in relative terms) of the MVPs seem to be active and ongoing contributors. After all, you can only become an MVP if substantial evidence of your contribution is provided to Microsoft and recognized by the relevant development group. At least, that’s the way things are supposed to work. 

But MVPs are not the only ones who sometimes find it difficult to share their experience. For instance, as an executive inside HP, I spent several years trying to convince senior technologists to share their knowledge better. Despite having many tools to help, including some influence over the promotion process, my efforts were never successful in the sense that I intended. Some people did extraordinarily well and became real champions within the technical community. Others ignored pleas to contribute and ploughed their own furrow. I suspect that HP is not the only large company where it can be challenging to have people contribute as they should. Office politics, after all, comes in many different shapes and sizes.

My experience is that some people can never be convinced to share because they regard knowledge as power. Sharing that knowledge with others weakened whatever status they felt they deserved, at least in their eyes. What they didn’t understand is that those who share have an enhanced status within the groups that they work within. It’s also true that the rise of the Internet and the many sources of information that now exist means that it is hard to keep any “secret sauce” to yourself. It’s just better to share.

Returning to Steve Goodman’s script, I recommend this as something you should include in your toolbox. In fact, it makes sense to scan the InterWeb for other snippets of PowerShell code or complete scripts that might be useful too. Because PowerShell scripts contain visible and reusable code, there’s lots opportunity to browse and learn, especially (in this case) about how to interrogate Exchange about databases, servers and other objects.

Other examples of where to look for reusable code include Paul Cunningham’s site, which is full of good stuff. Paul seems to find lots to do with ActiveSync so it’s somewhere to check if you need to exert control over errant mobile devices. A completely different example is provided by the Exchange development blog authored by Glen Scales, where you’ll find lots of examples of how to use Exchange Web Services to access server data. Paul and Glen are Exchange MVPs who do a great job and are always willing to share their knowledge.

By the way, if you know someone who deserves to be an MVP in any technical discipline related to Microsoft technology, you can propose them as a candidate to be reviewed by Microsoft by completing an online form. You'll be asked to provide some information about yourself, the candidate, and why you think they should be an MVP. The evidence that you provide is critical - it should include references to accessible and credible examples of their technical ability, including their willingness to share their knowledge with others. A link to a blog is a good example, providing of course that blog is well-written and contains original content.

One of the strengths of the Open Source movement is the willingness of many to make contributions to advance software and knowledge. It would be great if the same positive attitude existed within the Exchange community. I think it does and I believe that we will see this in action very soon at the Microsoft Exchange Conference. Roll on MEC!

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna

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