Playing “the shell game” with SharePoint folders

ShellGameThe other day, I gave a training session in SharePoint document management. For most people, managing documents in SharePoint is synonymous with  “putting them into folders”  so I knew I had some explaining to do.

I decided to demo “folders”  and  “metadata” with a simple example.
I created two document libraries.

  1. Folders: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris.
  2. A choice column called “Location” with the same cities, and one column for Document Categories “Agenda”, “Meeting Minutes” and “Presentation”. Of course I prefer to capture Meetings information in a different way, but this example would be familiar to most people.

Both document libraries contained 5 documents, according to Site Contents. 2doclibs I showed both libraries and asked my audience to tell me how many documents there were for location Amsterdam.
For the metadata library it was easy: it was specified in the Grouping.

Grouping shows you immediately how many documents are in a certain category.
Grouping shows you immediately how many documents are in a certain category.

The other one was a bit less obvious. So I said I’d give away my precious SharePoint mug to the first person that could give me the correct answer.


So I opened Paris. 1 document.

Then I opened Barcelona. 1 document.

“Three” some people shouted. I opened the Amsterdam folder. No documents in folder Amsterdam. Nothing.

The audience gasped, and looked at me expectantly. Then I told them that a folder is counted as a document. And I showed them the other library again with the much more transparent grouping, and also showed them a view grouped by Document Type, and some other views.

The next day, two people called me to ask if they could do “that with the groups” in their own site.

I may still have several thousand people to convince but I was happy to see that some people got it. So, perhaps this is a good way to show people the difference and the benefits.

Please let me know if you have the same experience – or have found other ways to convince people in a nice way that they can relate to. Summing up all the reasons for not using folders is not always convincing for end users.

It is a sort of “shell game” really. O dear, have I just done gamification with SharePoint? 🙂

And in case you were wondering:  this is my SharePoint mug!

SharePoiint mug
My wonderful coffee mug from a SharePoint Connections event. Translation: “Silence! SharePoint guru tanking inspiration”.

3 thoughts on “Playing “the shell game” with SharePoint folders

  1. Jacky April 9, 2015 / 7:11 pm

    What a great way to demonstrate the difference. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ellen van Aken April 9, 2015 / 7:18 pm

      Thanks, Jacky! To be honest, I was surprised it worked. 🙂

  2. Andrew Gilleran May 5, 2015 / 10:44 pm

    Love that story Ellen and a great way to show how to get rid of ‘folderitis’!

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