In what circumstances (if at all) should we allow questions about products that either run on the SharePoint platform or integrate with SharePoint in some way, but aren't a SharePoint SKU?

List of SharePoint SKUs (not including Project Server as that just gets too confusing):

  • SharePoint Server 2003/2007/2010 Standard/Enterprise
  • Windows SharePoint Services 2.0/3.0 or SharePoint Foundation
  • Search Server? (Under discussion)

There are a few cases to think about. Here's some examples:

  1. Lotus Notes to SharePoint migration : Best practices - moving from another platform to SharePoint
  2. How do I send an email to the initiator of a nintex workflow? - support for third-party product integrating with SharePoint
  3. TFS 2010's SharePoint Project portal shows “Login failed for user \sharepoint.admin” error message. How do I fix this? - support for Microsoft product running on SharePoint

UPDATE:

The community consensus seems pretty clear. Questions will be allowed according to the policy outlined here.

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6 Answers 6

My thought pattern is that after a certain point, it may be wiser to not accept those.

For example, if I ask a question about how to accomplish something and I get a recommendation from a representative of Company X, and it works, that's fine. That's not asking about a third-party product.

But if I start to have problems specifically with Company X's product, and if I were to ask about that, I would pretty much be gunning to ask specifically that representative. And that's not how Stack Exchange works. It would be wiser for me to contact the technical support avenue for Company X, where I indeed will get personally tailored help.

The exception I would see is if it is some kind of third-party product that is so universally used that it's reasonable to assume that anyone could answer it. For example, there are hundreds of scripts out there for using Calculated Columns in WSS 3.0 to render HTML, which I would probably expect most people with SharePoint 2007 to be familiar with. In this case, I'll still be asking the general community, which is within Stack Exchange's functionality.

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Apologies, I've rephrased the question after further feedback from the community. Please check your answer to make sure it still matches your thoughts. –  Alex Angas May 14 '11 at 0:00
    
@Alex On account of not using all that much other than a basic WSS 3.0 installation and (very rarely, I prefer object model) SPD, I can't say I know all too much about specific things, but I believe my answer doesn't change all that much. First one is on-topic, second is off-topic, third one depends on what we count TFS as. I thought we had an answer to this question about TFS, but perhaps I had it confused. –  Grace Note May 16 '11 at 13:02
    
No - I think I confused things. Golden rule: don't ask two questions in one! –  Alex Angas May 16 '11 at 23:13
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Seems a bit different from the StackOverflow approach where they allow questions about:

  • a specific programming problem
  • a software algorithm
  • software tools commonly used by programmers
  • practical, answerable problems that are unique to the programming profession

I like using StackExchange Sites and feel that the equivalent for this site would be:

  • software tools commonly used when working with SharePoint
  • practical, answerable problems that are unique to SharePoint use

Which would 100% include Nintex or issue srelating to using TFS with SharePoint projects.

It seems silly do differentiate between open and closed source when running on a proprietary system like SharePoint anyway.

I am not involved in my companies decision to use Nintex WorkFlows.. but I have some questions and I think their site sucks.. sure wish I could ask questions here about them.

I don't have an issue with paid applications being suggested to me as I am on a budget and working to a deadline to I will always consider paid options if they are of benefit. I was not aware of significant SharePoint usage outside of Commercial Companies where you should always be considering to buy off the shelf rather than re-invent the wheel.

Its easy to look at someones rep.. then go look at the questions and answers they post to see if they are just pushing a product.

Also if someone suggests using another technology whether paid or not the answer should give enough information to make a call on whether to investigate further. If you decide to go with it and you get burned update the question and let everyone know!

In short StackOverflow is for questions for programmers - this site is for questions about a specific Microsoft Product only..

Why are we not just questions specific to SharePoint users and devs and admins.. whatever that may be?

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So.. we should allow questions about Nintex here because their support site stinks? –  Kit Menke Dec 19 '12 at 16:30
    
Not specifically because of that, its nice to have an alternative though. I would like to ask questions here about Nintex as its something I have to deal with on a SharePoint site I am working on.. I certainly would not want a Nintex stackexchange site to be set up. If working with Telerik, Dundas, Redgate, Resharper with the goal being to write a piece of code I post on StackOverflow.. If i use a turnip to create a sharepoint site I should be able to ask questions about that here.. i dont want to know about general turnip use, only from the sharepoint perspective. –  gordatron Dec 20 '12 at 8:38
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not so clear, what are the 3rd party products. what about Microsoft products? For instance, what about Forefront IM questions, closely related to SP2010 User Profile Services sync configuration? We should cover such a questions here for sure. the same for freeware and open source. but in my opinion we should avoid questions/answers related to commercial 3rd party products if they are here for any kind of advertisment.

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Apologies, I've rephrased the question after further feedback from the community. Please check your answer to make sure it still matches your thoughts. –  Alex Angas May 14 '11 at 0:01
    
imo my initial answer still valid, just want to explicitely say it with your examples: 1.Lotus Notes to SharePoint migration VALID 2.How do I send an email to the initiator of a nintex workflow? INVALID 3.TFS 2010's SharePoint Project portal shows “Login failed for user \sharepoint.admin” error message. How do I fix this? VALID please not that it is still my personal opinion :) –  Ivan Padabed May 14 '11 at 9:14
    
Thanks Ivan. Reading the question and comments for no. 3, I don't agree it's about SharePoint but rather the TFS integration with SP. The others though, I agree. –  Alex Angas May 16 '11 at 1:22
    
+1, This is exactly what I would have chose as well. Commercial third party products should be redirected to the appropriate support channel. They are off topic because they aren't really about SharePoint; they are about that product. –  Kit Menke May 16 '11 at 16:31
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

We do accept questions about the SharePoint platform (defined as the functionality available in either SharePoint Foundation, Windows SharePoint Services, or SharePoint Server), and community-owned, open source products based upon it.

We don't accept questions about the functionality specific to commercial products that integrate with, run on top of, or extend the SharePoint platform.

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A lot of people have invested in K2 and Nintex for their SharePoint farms. Is it really not relavant to ask such questions here? On StackOverflow I have asked questions about integrating Telerik ASP.NET controls and SharePoint.. –  Andrew May 18 '11 at 3:58
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Do you mean that we ban Project Server questions too? –  Alexey Krasheninnikov May 19 '11 at 18:27
    
@Andrew If we allow a certain type of questions, then we attract the experts for that domain. The more we widen that the harder this gets, and the more likely we end up with questions that can't be answered by our community. Perhaps we can answer questions on the more popular products, but people seeing those will ask questions about those not so well known. Then the site quality starts degenerating, and becomes less useful. Regarding Stack Overflow, that's a different site with different rules and problems. Your example may well be more appropriate there. –  Alex Angas May 19 '11 at 20:37
    
@AKrasheninnikov If they don't relate to the SharePoint platform, yes. I've tried to edit my answer to make this clearer, thank you. –  Alex Angas May 19 '11 at 20:38
    
@Andrew: Part of the reason such questions are more acceptable on SO is that the SO community is much more developer-based, which means they're much less likely to buy-in a solution. SPSE is more likely to attract those who can't develop their own solutions are hence would have often purchased from the spectacularly broad SP 3rd party solution market. –  Stuart Pegg May 20 '11 at 7:35
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rephrase to include open source projects such as CKS:DEV: We do accept questions about SharePoint Products and Technologies, defined as the functionality available in either SharePoint Foundation (WSS) or SharePoint Server (Standard or Enterprise) or open source products based on the SharePoint platform. –  Anders Rask May 20 '11 at 20:57
    
@Alex Thanks for the explanation. In my consultancy work I almost always see SharePoint integrated with another product (MS Project, CRM etc) so I still feel these are relevant, although at the same time I respect the site and community you are building here. –  Andrew May 24 '11 at 1:16
    
@Stuart I didn't think about it that way at the time, and I agree that my example is much more applicable to SO. I still feel these questions should be allowed on this site, but I also understand the rationale why not to. –  Andrew May 24 '11 at 1:22
    
@AlexAngas I thought the whole point of the stackexchange sites was to attract the experts in the various domains! I have looked at the [Nintex] posts, all of which are closed or on hold, and many have excellent answers that refer back to things like configuring the User Profile service correctly. Why do we discount this kind of discussion? Saying that this will lead to a degeneration of the site quality is unfounded. –  Nathan DeWitt Jan 21 at 14:11
    
@AlexeyKrasheninnikov MS Project integrating into SharePoint would have to be banned as well, because it is a "commercial product... that extends SharePoint." And we all know this is not going to happen. So in effect, this rule is against third-party vendors. –  Nathan DeWitt Jan 21 at 14:15
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I think the main hazard with 3rd party products is that often only the supplier will be able to answer (or even understand) the question.

This may lead to 'broken windows' in the form of unanswered questions. Often these questions would have been much better dealt with by the supplier's support team. And even if the supplier is willing to field questions here, it opens the site to the unpleasant prospect of being used as a surrogate support forum.

There was an example of this mentioned on Meta SO (with SO being the designated support forum for a company), but darned if I can find it now.

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Perhaps you refer to this question and answer? Some other questions include this and this, with others just echoing the first one mostly. –  Grace Note May 17 '11 at 17:17
    
@ccomet: Thanks from doing a better job of rummaging than me. :) It was indeed the Subsonic reference I was thinking of. –  Stuart Pegg May 17 '11 at 17:36
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I don't agree, some 3rd party tools that run on to of Sharepoint give users the ability to do things like you would in code, like web service calls in Nintex. –  PirateEric May 18 '11 at 12:07
    
@PirateEric: With no-one except the creators knowing whether any workarounds or completely different methods have been used to reproduce that functionality... –  Stuart Pegg May 18 '11 at 13:35
    
what if i want feedback from an independent community on a site controlled by the community rather than on a site owned and modded by the provider? –  gordatron Dec 19 '12 at 11:19
    
This is not true. Many questions will be answerable by others who have used the tool. The example in the OP was "how do I send email to the initiator of a Nintex workflow" or something like that. Anyone who has successfully implemented Nintex within SharePoint would be able to answer this question. The community support is still broad. –  Nathan DeWitt Jan 21 at 14:19
    
@NathanDeWitt: To be frank, the thing this site needs least is to increase its scope. SharePoint is an extremely broad subject as it is. –  Stuart Pegg Jan 21 at 21:42
    
@StuartPegg This site is perfectly capable of handling the broad scope that is SharePoint. –  Nathan DeWitt Jan 24 at 17:39
    
@NathanDeWitt: It's fine with SharePoint - although low votes rates and low return rates are usually indicators of poor community health. The issue is that spreading the expert community thinner by supporting 3rd party software will not help matters. –  Stuart Pegg Jan 27 at 8:27
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When those products allow you to do thihngs that you can natively do in code, like here. Executing batch commands through a web service in Nintex is just like doing it in other traditional ways. Blanketly dismissing all 3rd party tools as it relates to Sharepoint is short sided in my opinion.

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However, the answer in that question showed to be an issue with how the Nintex product was used. If the answer had been to do with SharePoint, not Nintex, I wouldn't have closed it. –  Alex Angas May 18 '11 at 12:32
    
In that case, yes, it was my fault as it was a logic issue in the workflow. The basis of the question was sound and valid in my opinion because the fundamentals of the question easily transfer to traditional Sharepoint development, what is the proper syntax for sending a batch command through a web service. –  PirateEric May 18 '11 at 12:45
    
@AlexAngas how do you determine if the problem is SharePoint or a third-party tool unless you let experts answer the question? If questions tagged [Nintex] are closed, then we would never find out what the problem is. –  Nathan DeWitt Jan 24 at 17:41
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