7 Tipping Points

Over the past weekend, I read an exceptionally good history book.  I know that most programmers are not quick to pick up a history book and might rather read the Comprehensive Reference to COBOL Development for the Modern Computer instead.  But seriously, this book is worth a look.  its title is: “7 Tipping Points that Saved the World by Chris and Ted Steward.  What makes this book different is that the authors take the reader on a tour of several thousand years of world history to explore just seven events that they maintain hold the key to defining the world we live in today, specifically the freedoms we currently enjoy in America.

While one might argue for a different set of 7 events or maybe 8 events or even 10, perhaps more interesting is the reasoning why the authors chose these events over others.  I will not detail these 7 key events here because that would ruin your discovery of how the authors made their choices, but I will whet your appetite by giving you a short description of each one.

The first event occurred around 700 BC when the Assyrians, after defeating most of the Middle East turned away from conquering Jerusalem leaving it as the single place where Judaism could survive.  How does that affect our democratic free nation?  I’ll leave that to the authors to explain.

The second tipping point occurred a little over 200 years later in 480 BC when a small band of Spartans along with an assorted group of local soldiers tried but failed to protect what we now know as Greece from a Persian invasion at the Thermopylae Pass.  How can democracy rise from such a defeat?  The key lies in what the previously disorganized city-states of Greece did next.

Fast forward 800 years to the rise of Emperor Constantine and his battle over Caesar Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge which ultimately led to re-uniting the Roman Empire under Constantine the Great and the rule of Christianity in the Roman empire.

The fourth key occurred in France or Gaul as it was known at the time at the Battlefield of Poitiers.  Here a small band of warriors under Charles Martel stood against a larger invading force of Muslims and prevented the Muslims from moving deeper into southern Europe.

The fifth tipping point involves Genghis Khan and his descendants.  In the early 13th century Genghis Khan , a title for his real name was Temujin, conquered more territory than any other single man and in far fewer years holding territory from the Pacific Ocean in the east to Eastern Europe in the west.  But why did they stop their advance into the rest of Europe which surely would have changed our history dramatically?  BTW, did you know that a descendant of Genghis Khan still ruled in Uzbekistan until 1920?

The sixth tipping point was not a battle.  Rather it was the discovery of the new world by Columbus.  The problem was that Europe in those days was on the brink of collapse, if not serious decline.  Corruption in the Church and in governments combined with a decrease in innovation, plagues, hunger, death and disease threatened the very continued existence of Europe.  But the discovery of the ‘new world’ gave renewed hope, challenge, access to gold and new food sources, and it also gave people a new sense of destiny.  As you read this chapter, think about some of the parallels to our world today.  Where is our ‘new’ world and did we abdicate our future when we cut the shuttle program without a real replacement?

The final event or tipping point was the Battle of Britain.  This multi-month air war at the start of WWII may have changed the destiny of Europe, not just England.  But as you read this chapter, see if you are not struck as I was by the description of some of the events and attitudes leading up to this event.  The calls for pacifism and disarmament in England are echoed in the news today.  Resentment over the wealthy amid high unemployment of 25 to 70% sounds like it came right out of our newspapers.  Dissatisfaction with the government of Britain and the flirtation with communism as an alternative to the current problems by the intellectual elite of England conned by the propaganda of Stalin’s Russia sounds all too familiar to events today in America.

If at all possible, get this book and read it, study it, learn the patterns because history does repeat itself but only if we let it by not learning from it.

Where Should I Publish My Content?

I work at a public school district office where we have deployed SharePoint for all of our outward facing web sites (district and school sites) as well as used SharePoint for internal Intranet and collaboration sites.  While to our team, it is fairly obvious where different content type levels should go, it is not always obvious to our end users.  Therefore, I put together the following guidelines to help our users make decisions on where to place content.  Perhaps a variation of these rules will help you or your organization too.

The Internet

Content on the Internet should only include information that you would want anyone in the world to view.  For us that mostly means parents and students, but it could literally be anyone in the world who visits our site.  This content is generally available anonymously, meaning the user does not have to log into our servers with a user name and password to view the content.  It also means that the content should not use a proprietary file format that might prevent people from opening and viewing the content.  Note that I did not say that they needed to edit the content.  Because they typically do not.  But consider that even a Microsoft Word document or a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet might be unreadable to users without Microsoft Office installed on their local computer or perhaps if they are viewing the web site from a mobile device.  Even users who have Microsoft Office may have an old (pre 2007) version and cannot open the new 2007/2010 file formats that end with an ‘x’ (.docx, .xlsx, etc.) The best solution is to publish all of your content directly to a SharePoint page in a content area or a content editor web part.  The next best solution is to convert your document to a PDF document and display it or make it available for download through a hyperlink.  Another solution might be to have Office Web Apps installed on your server, but that will be covered in a later blog.  Failure to use one of these methods could result in some users getting messages to login in as SharePoint in its confusion tries to open the library in which the page or document was stored.  But the most crucial concern is to not publish content on an Internet site that you don’t want everyone in the world to see.  School sites, since they are public facing, also fall into this category.

Intranet Sites

Intranet sites are generally used within an organization for content meant only for anyone within the organization.  This includes information that you do not want the public to see or information that would not be of interest to the general public.  Generally there are no viewing restrictions to the Intranet content within the organization meaning that all employees can view the content, but like all SharePoint sites, you may want to restrict who can add, edit, and delete content from these sites.  Both Internet and intranet sites usually employ an approval process so that posted data is not viewable to either the general public or even all employees in an organization until someone has viewed and approved it.  Of course, some people will blindly approve documents to be published without first reading them and there is nothing you can do to prevent that.  But don’t be tempted to turn the approval process off thus turning your site content into the Wild Wild West. 

Collaboration Sites

Collaboration sites are generally used for groups of employees who work together to share documents, schedules, tasks, etc.  They are very interactive sites in that most viewers are also contributors which is unlike Internet and intranet sites which typically have many more viewers than contributors.  Using a wildcard in the URL for these sites, we have divided collaboration sites into two types, team and project sites. 

We define project collaboration sites to typically hold content related to discrete projects which have an easily identified start and end date.  Project sites also often involve  members from different departments.  But most importantly, projects generally have an end and at that time, you can archive and remove that project site from your portal.

Team sites on the other hand are used by departments or smaller workgroups within a department. They often don’t have an easily identified start or end date (yes, departments can be created or dissolved), but will rather have members come and go over time.  Team sites may be used to store information about a project that must continue to live even after a project ends.  For example, suppose you have a project site dedicated to the design, development, and deployment of a new application such a Roach Monitoring application.  After the project is complete and the application is deployed to production, you may want to place the application’s documentation on the team site so you can archive and remove the project site.  If you don’t first store the documentation to another site that will remain active on the portal, users may have trouble learning how to use the application when the project site is removed.

Some final comments about collaboration sites.  They are never visible to the public.  They usually do not use approvals for pages or any other libraries or lists.  They may not even be visible to all users in your organization.  They generally allow the upload and storage of more file types and maybe even larger files than your Internet and intranet sites allow.  Finally some web parts work better for collaboration sites than they do for web publishing.

I hope these general guidelines help you to decide where in your SharePoint portal you should publish your latest content.