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SharePoint Retreat

On Saturday the 10th July I attended the worlds first SharePoint Retreat (#spretreat).

The SharePoint Retreat was organised by Andrew Woodward (@AndrewWoody) and Ben Robb (@benrobb) and was held in the London offices of cScape.

I was a last minute attendee after Andrew announced there was a vacancy during his Automated UI Testing session at the Nottingham SUGUK meeting, held in Strelley Hall on Thursday 8th.

My Journey To The SharePoint Retreat

Saturday morning dawned and I was up at 05:00 and on my way to the East Midlands Parkway (EMP) train station for the 06:39 to London.  It was an early start after a late night (01:00) and I was feeling tired.

The day was tipped to be a scorcher (30C+) and the temperature was already heading towards “HOT, HOT, HOT” as I stood on the platform.  EMP is a new station and therefore modern and clean but there is no WiFi and O2 (the carrier for my iPhone) is very, very limited <sarcasm>or is it just the reception display algorithm on my iPhone that’s wrong ? </sarcasm>

The train arrived, and like EMP, it was clean, modernish but, again, no WiFi and O2 reception is totally useless on this journey.  This is a ridiculous thing to not have in place for journeys between the middle of the country and the Capital – this is an EPIC FAIL

The 1.5 hours simply flew by as I, with no internet access, simply stared out of the window wondering what was to come at the SharePoint Retreat.

I arrived into St Pancras about 08:20 and Google maps managed to gain a signal long enough to predict that the walk to the cScape offices would take about 30 minutes and would be easily doable in the time but I didn’t fancy taking it on in the heat so I headed for the Tube – 1 stop on the Metropolitan line.

Of course, the Metropolitan line was closed for maintenance so I ended up walking – it ended up being about 20 minutes all in and even in the heat with a 17 inch laptop on my back it was a simple job.

The SharePoint Retreat

I arrived at the cScape offices and was let in by Ben where I met up with Andrew, James Fisk (@draken) who I already know and Nigel Price @(nigel_price) who I didn’t. 

Due to the Tube closures one or 2 attendees were going to arrive a little late but we set off about on time around 09:30. 

All attendees were arriving with a laptop – some had SharePoint 2010 development environments but not all.  SharePoint 2010 was to be used as the vehicle to surface our solutions but the learning behind this would go beyond any platform.

The Morning Sessions

The initial problem was set – “drive traffic to other parts of my website like the BBC and related news stories”  to all and the attendees split themselves into pairs to work for an hour on the problem.

Lots of discussion took place between the members of the pairs and Andrew and Ben were involved as the Product Owners (the guys with the requirements).

Some pairs questioned the Product Owners further – others didn’t and pressed on with their own assumptions/understandings (I know who I am).

The ZoomIt count down projected on the wall was a constant reminder of how quickly time was passing ……

At the end of the 1st hour, each pair talked about where they had got to in the hour that had just passed and some got up and made use of the projector to show and tell their current thinking – major kudos to them.

There were a range of solutions to the problem some of which were purely technical while others had gone so far as to consider the various user roles and the training implications.

For the 2nd session the problem was then added to by the Product Owner (mimicking real world last minute changes to requirements) and pairs were split up and reformed.

Another hour was spent progressing the problem and again a retrospective was carried out with most of the solutions beginning to converge on a SharePoint Search based solution.

Through both sessions we were supplied with coffee made by Woody and Ben – thanks again!

The Lunch Break

We were oblivious to the scorching hot temperatures (32C+) as we SharePointed with gusto and at the lunch break it was decided we would benefit from lunch in the local park so set off in crocodile fashion carrying Tesco bags full of picnic fare – including 2 bottle of white wine.

There were a few people sunbathing in the park but as good computer types we sheltered from the blistering sun under a tree and feasted on cheese, chicken, ham, bread buns (or rolls depending on where you come from), crisps, Twiglets, pork pies the works all provided for by 21apps. 

There was a moment when the police arrived in the park and we thought “Alcohol ban?” but they smiled, nodded and walked on like a scene from the (soon to end) ITV show The Bill.

The Afternoon Sessions

Returning back to the retreat, we moved round again and began to build some code – Woo Hoo!

A webpart that called the SharePoint Search API was the common theme and some pairs got further than others – but all invoked the Great God “Google” and it’s up and coming fellow deity “Bing” to seek enlightenment. 

All pairs were meant to delete their code as they moved from one hour to the next but this seemed to be happening less and less as the sessions rolled on.

At the end of the sessions, Woody and Ben ran a retrospective on the day and we compiled a list of positives and negatives which we then all ranked –  valuable input into the planning for the second SharePoint Retreat.

The SharePint Session

It’s impossible for 2 or more SharePoint people to get together without lifting a pint and the first SharePoint Retreat was no exception.  The bar was handily placed but a few feet from the cScape offices (did the barman say “Hi Ben” as we walked in? ;->).

A round of drinks were ordered (cheers Woody) and we stood outside on Farringdon Lane quaffing our drinks and reminiscing about the event.

It was decided by all that that the first SharePoint Retreat had been a great success that should be repeated for others to enjoy.

The Journey Home

I headed for the 20:15 train back to East Midlands Parkway and sat back and relaxed as I was knackered, leaving the train at 21:45 I arrived home at 22:15 absolutely knackered.

Jerry Springer Style “Final Thoughts”

Getting together with a bunch of people who are very enthusiastic about SharePoint is always a great thing.

Being with other people sparks ideas, thoughts and generally improves everybodys knowledge and ability.

I think I expected more coding to be required

I didn’t really go too far into the Show & Tell retrospectives, and didn’t use the projector or white board to show our solutions at the end of each hour long session – I will next time

I’d like to attend another in the Midlands

Final thanks to Woody and Ben for organising and sponsoring this

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