So, I got involved in the community way back in 2008 when Zlatan Dzinic asked me to come along to the first SharePoint Saturday ever in South Africa. This was held at BCX where both Zlatan and I worked. We managed to get funding for a few pizza’s and drinks and we had a total of 20 people attend, with 4 sessions on the day. Suffice to say and unbeknown to me, this was the start of my journey into the great Microsoft community that we have in South Africa.
I missed the 2009 events and officially got handed the keys to SharePoint Saturday back in 2010 when Zlatan left the country. I managed to secure Dimension Data’s venue and we had a bunch of international speakers fly in, including Zlatan, Ben Curry, Michael Noel and Toni Lanni. What came as a huge surprise was the response I got from sponsors and delegates alike as SharePoint Konsult at the time sent out the invites from a @smcenterprise.co.za email address. People were under the impression that it was a vendor event. I even got comments from Microsoft directly. Ever since then, I have registered sharepointsaturday.co.za, communitysaturday.co.za, spsplus.co.za, etc as the primary method of correspondence.
It was clear to me that being involved in the community required me to be completely vendor and company agnostic. To such an end, no company I have worked for since 2008 has ever paid for anything I have done in the community and also in my personal capacity as an international speaker, MVP or community lead. I made certain that everything, including flights overseas, had been covered by myself.
The reason for this blogpost is that I have finally had enough with how people see what I do and what level of commitment I have to the South African SharePoint Community. So let me clarify a few things for everyone out there:
- I make no money from being involved in the information worker community or SharePoint Saturday, never have and never will
- I do not promote any company that I work for through any community event, I have never, and will never
- I do not convolute or whittle the community by using it as a springboard to promote my personal company (which I do have), or the company that I work for
- I do not share any confidential information, including that of delegates with any company that I work for. In fact, if the company that I work for wants that information, then they will need to secure a sponsor slot that allows for it, which in the past, they have all done
Let me dispel some myths that have been going around for the last few years about not only the information worker community but also SharePoint Saturday.
- Unethical behavior
- We have had challenges at community night where banners were put up by other companies as their communities representation was done through another entity. This was not sanctioned by the community and was shunned upon. If it does get to a point where that happens it will be because we have added sponsor options to our monthly community nights across the country and yes, this is going to happen.
- We have had other event organizers show up at our community nights, handing out pamphlets to their events without asking.
- We have had team leads push their own initiatives to boost their individual companies, these people were asked to no longer associate themselves with the community
- Using SharePoint Saturday to push your own imperatives or that of your company without being a sponsor, this will no longer be tolerated. There are no “friends” when it comes to being ethical.
- SharePoint Saturday paying for speakers
- It has come to my attention that certain individuals have been telling previous year’s sponsors that we pay for speakers to come out and then certain community members/organizers take these speakers to clients. Let me iterate. WE DO NOT PAY FOR SPEAKERS. If a sponsor/company wants to pay for speakers to come out and present at SharePoint Saturday, I will more than welcome it as it, adds better sessions to our events. They come out on the sponsor’s dime, and the sponsor can do whatever they want with them. I am just glad that the event gets the speaker for free.
- SharePoint Saturday Sessions
- As part of the sponsor options, Diamond and Platinum are the only levels that get guaranteed a speaker slot. That’s what they pay for. The other speakers get ratified based on topic importance firstly, then level/type (100 – 400) then speaker popularity. We never rate speakers on the company that they work for. Even I was rejected as a speaker for SharePoint Saturday JHB a few years ago. Strangely enough, I have only ever presented twice at SharePoint Saturday and that was only because we needed speakers.
Let me give you some truths that doesn’t get told:
- Bradley Geldenhuys has been involved in the Information Worker community since 2011 and is my partner in crime running SharePoint Saturday and IW across the country. Many of you may know that but you don’t know the following:
- He bankrolls upfront payment of all expenses for SharePoint Saturday through his company GTConsult
- He does not get involved in speaker selection as his involvement in the selection may be misconstrued as company biased
- He has in the past paid out of his own pocket when we have gone over budget for SWAG and food due to lack of sponsors
- He provides us with his own personal resources to co-ordinate and help with the overall management of the events at no cost
- We had a sponsor last year pull out at the last minute after confirming that they pay for a speaker to come out to present. As usual, GT picked up the tab for the speaker. I was not made aware of this until people started spreading rumors. Funny as one of the people that spread the rumor, actually ambushed the speaker by inviting people in his company to a presentation that he got the speaker to do
Everyone that is involved in the Information Worker Community and SharePoint Saturday does so because they love being able to build community, watch people grow and are evangelical about sharing their thoughts, views and passions in the community.
For those who use the community for their own personal gains, you are not wanted, we will not let you tarnish what we are trying to build so please leave us alone as you are ruining it for all of us.
I am tired of always worrying about what other people think and or say. I have remained impartial and unaffected since the beginning, but when the blatant disregard for what community is, what we do in the community and how we conduct ourselves in the community is challenged; to those out there, the gloves are off, next person to challenge the integrity of the community and any event that I am involved will have to deal with not only me, but the full brunt of the community and what we stand for.
Our motto is “Learning through Sharing”. There’s no “I” or “Company” or “Status”. Just passionate people, excited about talking about their experiences with SharePoint and the greater Microsoft Ecosystem.
Be cool my Ninja’s.