SharePoint Holmes and the Missing Message

SharePoint News is easy to create and manage, but that does not mean things can not “go wrong”. This is often due to unexpected or unknown behaviour. So, you can imagine that our hero SharePoint Holmes likes the functionality! 😁

The situation

I received an issue in our support system from a News reader who saw an interesting News post on a SharePoint site. However, when he clicked on it, he got an error message. He had refreshed the page, closed SharePoint and reopened, and even logged out and back in, but he could not open it.  
(What a model employee, by the way, doing the most obvious troubleshooting actions before logging an issue. I have seen many people get into a complete panic when they get an error message, while a simple “did you turn it off and on again” could have solved the problem)

But how could that be? He saw the item, it had recently been posted in the site! 

An obvious case for SharePoint Holmes. I grabbed my problem-solving cap and set to work.

The investigation

I logged in as admin into the site and checked his permissions. This was a site accessible for all employees. Good.

Then I looked with him at the site’s homepage. The red-lined item was the problem post.

Screenshot of SharePoint site home page, with News posts. It all looks good, but there is one News post that gives an error upon clicking.
The site in question. Everything looks normal, but the red-lined post gives an error message.

When he clicked the post, this was the error message. Do you see what SharePoint Holmes sees?

Screenshot from Error message saying:
"Hmmm… can't reach this pageIt looks like the webpage at https://ellenvanaken.sharepoint.com/sites/Communicationsite/SitePages/Changes-in-the-ERP-system.aspx might be having issues or it may have moved permanently to a new web address.
ERR_INVALID_RESPONSE"
This is the error message.

Right, the site above says “Intranet” while the error message refers to a link in “Communicationsite”.

I got the same error message upon clicking the News post, (confirming once more this was NOT a permissions issue), and checked the URL of the site where the item had been posted. There was “Intranet” in the URL of the site with the issue, but the error message was for an item in a “Communicationsite”.

💡 Aha, this looked like a News post that had been created with the “News Link” option. This is an easy way to share News from one site to another. Instead of creating your own post, you can click on Add > News Link and add the URL in a popup. SharePoint will then add thumbnail, title and description, and you can keep that as is, or edit when needed. When someone clicks on the post, they will be redirected to the post in the site where it was created, in this case the “Communicationsite”.

Screenshot from SharePoint site with News web part showing what happens when you click the Add  button under News. You will get two options: News post (to create a news item from scratch) or News Link (to link to another news post in SharePoint or internet)
An easy way to share News from other sites or even the internet

First I checked whether my hypothesis was correct. I opened the Site Pages Library in the Intranet site and looked for the post. When I opened it it looked indeed like a “News Link” page: a page with the link and the Page Details, nothing more.
💡 Normally the image from the Source site would also be shown, but in this case it was missing, and this was a reason to suspect that the original News post had been deleted.

Screenshot of the page that you get when you add a Link to a News Post. In this case there is no image, which is a clue for SharePoint Holmes.
This is what you get when you add News as a link to another site (or the internet). Normally you would also see the image, but this time it is empty, another clue.

I then opened the “Communicationsite” and checked the Site Pages Library (just to be on the safe side) and when I could not see the post, I went to the Recycle Bin. And yes, there it was.

Screenshot of the Recycle Bin of the site where the News item was posted
The News post from the link has been deleted in the site where it has been posted. Links to this post will now be inaccessible.

I contacted the person who had deleted the News post and enquired about the deletion. It turned out that the deletion was done accidentally in haste, and only a short time ago, as the image was still visible. (After a few days, the image will disappear as it is no longer stored in a Site Assets Library)

The solution

In this case, the “deleter” restored the post in the Communication site and that action restored access to the News post in the Intranet site.

Of course, it will not always be as straightforward. Sometimes it can be necessary to delete a post because it is outdated and potentially harmful to keep.

It may make sense to agree on a form of Life Cycle Management for News posts within your organization, and only delete something when a post is older than 1 year, for instance, if it does not need to be deleted earlier. You may want to read “Writing SharePoint News posts – our way” for more agreements you can make with your fellow News publishers.

As News Publishers will not be able to see easily where their News items are being shared, you will never be able to completely prevent issues like the above. But it will help to inform your News Publishers about this potential issue when using the “News Link” option.

Tip: you can check if your News post has been used in another site as follows:

  • Copy the title of the post and enter this in the Microsoft365 homepage Search box (so you search all through Microsoft365)
  • Alternatively, use some keywords from the title that are less common
  • Click the News tab in the Search results
  • Check if there are more entries than yours
  • If you want to delete the item you may want to warn the Publishers who have added your News post to their site.

This will not really help if someone has posted it to a restricted site that you have no access to, or when they have changed the title, but it is an option to reduce any “damage”.

Screenshot of two News posts with the same name, indicating that one is a link to another. The News Search vertical will help filter out the News posts.
Another News post that has been added as News Link: two posts with the same name in Search, in different sites.

About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role was solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I had a standard response, but sometimes I needed to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

2 thoughts on “SharePoint Holmes and the Missing Message

  1. atrain204 January 23, 2023 / 4:55 am

    This article has great timing. I was recently asked about retention policies for SharePoint News and I’m curious what you think.

    I view SharePoint News as long-term information/storage. Do you think a site can have “too much” news?

    • Ellen van Aken January 25, 2023 / 4:07 pm

      Thank you for your question. I am not an expert on retention, but I think any information that should be available for a long time, should also be a page in a site rather than only News, because News will move to the bottom of your feed as time goes by and will be difficult to find. So when there is a new homeworking policy that should definitely be shared as News, but it should also be on a page in the Employee site, or Policies site, where people can find the info after the News post has moved from their view. Not everyone is inclined to use search, many people like to navigate a structure. So you need them both to accommodate all users.
      As for “Too much news”, the Site Pages library can have tons of pages, so technically there is hardly a limit, except that 5000-items-view-limit but I do not know if that is still valid. And especially when you have many publishers in one site, the library can get messy after some time, and not so easy to find your way if you have to scroll through many old News items and pages. Creating different views might be an option to create an overview, though.
      In my last organization, we deleted News posts after two years. Anything that needed to stay, needed to be transferred to something more permanent, e.g. a page.

      Hope this helps!
      Best regards, Ellen

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