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SharePoint Fest Chicago 2012 Interview: Todd Klindt and Shane Young

​Featuring more than 80 technical classes and seminars taught by Microsoft Certified Trainers, Microsoft engineers, and Microsoft MVPs, SharePoint Fest Chicago 2012 takes place this week from Tuesday, September 25 to Thursday, September 27.

Last week we shared an interview with Innovative-e Managing Partner and SharePoint MVP Dux Raymond Sy on his keynote presentation at the event. This week, we have an interview with two more Microsoft SharePoint community thought leaders speaking at the event: Rackspace Consultants and SharePoint MVPs Todd Klindt and Shane Young.

Klindt and Young will present two sessions together at the event:

· “SharePoint 2010 Administration Coolness – Infrastructure Review” at 4pm CST on Wednesday, September 26
· “SharePoint 2010 Administration Coolness – Upgrade” at 10:15am CST on Thursday, September 27

Read below to learn more about the sessions as well as Klindt and Young’s thoughts on SharePoint 2013 and recommendations on what to do in the city of Chicago.

You’re both delivering two sessions on SharePoint 2010 together at SharePoint Fest Chicago. Could you tell us what the sessions are about?
Shane Young: We have the “Upgrade” session and the “Infrastructure Review” session. For the “Upgrade” session, we’re going to talk about upgrading from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010. It seems like really old hat, but we’re actually finding there are a lot of late adopter customers who are just now seriously looking into SharePoint 2010 because they know they need to get to 2010 to even think about SharePoint 2013. So these types of sessions are actually pretty well attended. It’s definitely not an academic talk explaining how the upgrade should work. Between Todd, Rackspace SharePoint Engineer Stephen Wilson, and I, we’ve done more than 100 SharePoint upgrades for customers at this point, and we’ve been advisors on a few hundred additional upgrades beyond that. So we have a lot of experience to share the problems people are going to face and how to get around them as well as how they should approach the upgrade. We try to pass on that wisdom and dive into what’s really going to happen when you do an upgrade, the tools you need to be looking at, the problems you’re going to have, and PowerShell scripts to really get to the root of the issue. So our “Upgrade” session is a hardcore, “Here’s what’s going to happen to you.”

Todd Klindt: It’s going to be an hour of all the things that Shane and I have screwed up when we’ve tried to do upgrades. We spend six hours fighting a problem, and then we spend 30 seconds explaining it to the class so they don’t spend six hours fighting the same problem.

For the “Infrastructure Review” session, Shane and I see a lot of different SharePoint environments as consultants. When people come to us, it’s not because everything is working great and they want to show their farm off. It’s because something horrible has happened and this has two benefits. For one, it gives us the ability to make fun of them for screwing their farm up, and that may be my favorite part. But also, it’s given us a big catalog of things people do wrong with their farms.

When we begin working on a new farm, it’s kind of like with doctors and the television show House, where, because everybody lies, we don’t really believe anything anybody tells us about their farm. So we have this process where we go through and just look for problems. We try to get our own feel for what’s going on with the farm, how things are configured, as well as what works and what doesn’t work. It gives us a good health check for what’s going on. So this session shares all the places that we look at SharePoint farms…all of the nooks and crannies.

Why did you choose these particular topics for the event?

SY: Because they are sessions with a lot of value that we can share. Like the example Todd gave, because we spent six hours solving a problem, we can tell you in 30 seconds how to get around it. Then, when you face the problem, it will only take you six minutes to solve. With both of these sessions, we really feel like you can walk out with clear cut takeaways that can make your professional life a little easier.

TK: Shane and I are very practical guys. We don’t do a lot of sessions about business process or bringing the users on board. We really like to do the nuts and bolts technical stuff, so these sessions really allow us to indulge ourselves in that.

What is one takeaway you want attendees to walk away with after each session?

TK: For the “Infrastructure Review” session, the takeaway for attendees will be a list of things you should check on your own farm. Because if Shane or I ever jump on it, these are the things we’re going to make fun of you for doing. So try to minimize that.

SY: Really just that I’m better looking than Todd. Other than that I don’t think there are a lot of takeaways.

TK: I don’t think that will be the impression at all. They’ll come by wondering why I’m keeping this dead weight with me. I’m smarter, I’m better looking…

SY: Really, though, our takeaways are just the right ways to do things. Don’t go read the books. Don’t have an academic session. Just go dig in. Especially with the “Upgrade” session, what we preach in there is to go do an upgrade. With the toolsets available to you, there’s no reason not to just try out an upgrade. Don’t plan for six weeks. Set up a test environment and just do it.

Which features of SharePoint 2013 are you most excited about?

SY: For me, it’s seeing that this is another pass at SharePoint being more of a mainstay. As a guy who makes his living working with SharePoint, it’s good to see that Microsoft is still really investing in SharePoint. We’re getting more toolsets, we’re getting more social features, there’s a fancier new User Interface, the infrastructure is going to scale better, and search has been revamped. It’s not like SharePoint is slipping away in the night. If anything, you can see that Microsoft is continuing to double down on SharePoint. It really makes me feel good at the end of the day knowing we’re still in the right place.

TK: For me – again, Shane and I are nuts and bolts guys — I think the things I’ve been most excited about are the back end aspects that end-users won’t necessarily see. But, as a consultant and an administrator, there are more knobs to twist and more buttons to push. Previous versions of SharePoint stored the entire file when you uploaded it. So if you had a 50 megabyte (MB) PowerPoint and you changed one slide, it uploaded the file as another 50 MB in your database. SharePoint 2013 is only storing deltas. Search also does some fun stuff that it didn’t used to do. Like Shane said, Microsoft has architected the platform so that it scales better, and watching the back end part of that has been the most exciting aspect for me.

As organizations make plans to upgrade to SharePoint 2013 once it’s generally available, how do you suggest they prepare in advance?

TK: The guidance on this for me is the same as upgrades to SharePoint 2010: Clean up your messes. If you have data you’re not using, delete it. If you have problems that you know about now, fix them. If you have sites that are structured poorly, fix them now. Those are the kind of things that make upgrades more painful. When we give our Upgrade session, we’re going to spend the vast majority of our time talking about how to deal with those exact things. One of the things I talk about with a lot of my topics is hygiene and how to keep things clean. So if you’re going to upgrade, fix your messes sooner rather than later.

SY: We give such simple advice sometimes, but no one ever likes to do the easy stuff, such as the “Spring Cleaning” Todd just described. They say they will get to it after the upgrade. Why? If you’re complaining your database is too big and your backups are running too long, but you’ve got 100 gigabytes (GB) of content that no one is actually using, why don’t you clean it up now instead of just saying you’ll do it next time? One of the most common things we hear is, “Oh yeah, we’ll do that as part of the upgrade. We’ll change versions of Windows, SharePoint, SQL, and do it all over the weekend.” Why? Do you want to have a bad weekend? Why not take baby steps and break it down into consumable chunks?

TK: Just last month I did an upgrade for a customer from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 and I spent an hour trying to get one chunk of the SharePoint site to work. I went back to the customer and told him I don’t know what’s going on but I can’t get it to work. And the guy said, “Oh yeah, that’s never worked.” I asked why he left it in and he said he just didn’t want to deal with it. So I spent an hour trying to fix this thing that, had they spent 30 seconds to delete, wouldn’t have been an issue. So, again: hygiene.

SY: That cost their company real money…not that Monopoly stuff.

How do you feel an event like SharePoint Fest Chicago benefits the SharePoint community?

SY: There’s a lot of upside. The SharePoint community is a very strong community, whether it’s in person or on Facebook, Twitter, and Yammer. For a lot of people, though, it’s hard to get plugged in until you go to an event like this and you start to meet those people in person. You have those conversations and really start to move the needle personally for yourself, make connections, and become a bigger part the community. It’s really the most awesome technology community I’ve been around because of the level of engagement.

TK: Beyond the event just being fun and making new friends, the technical value is measurable. There have been countless times when I’ve stumbled across a really niche problem and I’ve sorted it out on Twitter. Because people know me and I know people, the solution shows up and I get help. Having events like this allows people to expand their base and draw from more sources, and also to give back. It feels good answering someone’s question, too.

Outside of your sessions, what is one thing each of you is looking forward to most at SharePoint Fest Chicago?

TK: I can answer this one for Shane. I’m sure the thing he’s looking forward to most is hanging out with me. He lives in Ohio and I live in Iowa, so he doesn’t see me as much as he’d like. I think that’s probably going to be the highlight for him.

For me, these types of conferences are strange because I get kind of nervous before presenting. I don’t allow myself to do any fun activities because I feel like I should be preparing instead. At this event I’m presenting in the very last session on the last day. But, again, I’m looking forward to touching base with my friends and seeing people I haven’t been able to see lately. Then if I get a chance to sit in on session and learn some stuff, I’ll do that too.

SY: The only thing I would add is that I have a newborn baby here at home, so getting sleep for a couple nights will be good.

What do you recommend conference attendees see and do in Chicago when they’re not at the event?

TK: Chicago is about a six hour drive for both Shane and me. The number one thing I always try to do when I go to Chicago is find a Giordano’s pizza place and have some Chicago style pizza. Downtown Chicago, with the Miracle Mile, is great. You’ll recognize so many buildings from movies. The city has a lot to offer, and you’re going to have fun if someone drops you off in downtown Chicago and lets you wander around for a couple of hours. On Thursday, September 27 there’s an Anthrax concert, but I don’t know if I’m going to go to that.

SY: I’m different from Todd, as I’m the anti-tourist. I travel so much for work that I don’t do anything in any of these cities. I’m content just hanging out at the conference and sitting in my hotel room on adventures like this. I’m just not a tourist.

For more information on SharePoint Fest Chicago, please visit the event website.

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