Community and Misconceptions

When things get fuddled and messaging goes pear shaped.

Pictures might vary from the actual “minibus”.

Most of you know that I have been involved in various community activities in South Africa and other countries for the last 10 years. From running user groups to SharePoint Saturday’s, etc. Today (4th April 2018) it was brought to my attention that one of our community events has been misrepresented.

I would like to take this opportunity to rectify that.

Enter: The inaugural AOS Road Trip.

For years, being involved in the first SharePoint Saturday in South Africa back in 2008, (Edit: Christian Buckley corrected me so eloquently about my dates, where is my mind, apologies to all for the misrepresentation, it was 2009) run by Zlatan Dzinic I was intrigued by how much people enjoyed the event and also how desperate the industry was for knowledge transfer through events like SharePoint Saturday. Circa 2012: I was involved in Sharing the Point Africa. A multi-city excursion with a team of international speakers which culminated in SharePoint Saturday Nairobi. Due to travel constraints, we were unable to go up the coast of South Africa to host smaller events, similar to the full day SharePoint Saturday’s we have across the globe.

Since then, its been my dream to take a bunch of speakers, along the coast of South Africa, to smaller communities who are not able to travel to the larger cities to attend the bigger events. And in 2016, this dream got realized through the AOS road trip. Initially it was speakers coming out for one or more of the SharePoint Saturday’s we host in South Africa who got asked if they would be keen to jump into a “minibus” and do these smaller events along the coast.

One of the speakers, Johan Myburgh suggested that he ask AvePoint (whom he works for) to pay for the vehicle as he would have hired a car to travel to these events and presto, we had the “minibus” sponsored.

AvePoint then also sponsored the AOS multi-city tour of Canada which was a huge success, albeit slightly different to the South African concept.

Fast forward to 2017, and AvePoint once again sponsored the vehicle for the 2nd road trip of its kind. Thanks to Warren Marks for organizing the “minibus”.

You must be asking me why I am writing this, well go have a read here. Christian Buckley joined us last year for an epic road trip. However, this is where the misconceptions started. So let me clarify:

  1. AvePoint sponsored just the bus. The rest of the tour, including accommodation, venue and food was covered by the tour itself and not AvePoint (In 2016, Microsoft South Africa paid for the rest)
  2. AvePoint have only sponsored 3 “buses” to my knowledge, the 2 in South Africa and the 1 in Canada, not “several”.
  3. The theme was not decided by AvePoint. Everyone had an opportunity to submit sessions like a typical SharePoint Saturday. In fact, in 2016, we had hoodies made with “SharePoint Saturday mini” embroidered on them.
  4. The “core” benefits of the tour is to ensure that there is an equal spread of knowledge across the Microsoft tech, as well as an equal amount of local speakers.
  5. This is not an AvePoint initiative. This is a community driven concept because we saw the need for smaller events in regions that are unable to make it to larger cities.
  6. The greater purpose was to build a spin off of sorts around being able to provide SharePoint Saturday and AOS event organizers with a similar facility; transportation to other eager community organizers, should they believe that there was a need to do the same thing we did in South Africa. This conversation stopped when it no longer became a community driven concept.
  7. Although the post was written by Christian Buckley, who I did approach about it, he was informed by AvePoint that it was “their RedBus Tour” hence the post been written in that light.

Based on the above clarifications, my questions are:

  • Why would AvePoint not mention the community that put together the tour?
  • Why would they not reference the original idea?
  • Is there any specific reason for representing the concept and their involvement in it as more than just a sponsored vehicle?

We do these events because we believe in learning through sharing and that everyone should have an opportunity to learn, especially people in areas that are not seen as major cities. We give of our time, we do not get paid for any community activities because we believe in giving back, paying it forward.

What spurred me to write this is that I am tired of companies/people taking what we do as community members and touting it as their own. The message and reason behind what we do is misconstrued and invariably, the community is taken advantage of which has left a bitter taste in my mouth.

AvePoint, if you going to support the community, don’t make out that you did more than what you actually did. We do not appreciate being taken advantage of.

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