Alerting Another SharePoint Design #FAIL ??

Today I was asked by a colleague to help solve an alerts issue in SharePoint. Solving the issue was relatively easy but the outcome of the investigation left me even more convinced that the SharePoint design is severely broken.

For a while now I have been convinced that the Alerts functionality in SharePoint is built badly. Alerts are driven around the list and not the view. Alerting would be far more useful if it acted upon the View and not the list contents. If you have a list in which entries can pass through many statuses (statii??) then it is more useful and logical to have alerts based upon items appearing in a view rather than being added or changed in a list. Surely this is more in line with how RSS works?

When you introduce SharePoint in to an organization it is often their first taste of collaboration software. When people are unfamiliar with the environment it leads to situations where people will setup content and alerts for other people. This is a VERY dangerous thing to do in SharePoint. 

One of my golden rules for SharePoint is – Only Setup Alerts for Yourself – Never for someone else.  

After today’s escapade I am even more convinced that the Alert feature in SharePoint is potentially unmanageable. Just work through this scenario with me and you can begin to understand the issues. 

A colleague asked for some help because he was getting two alerts when a new item was being added to a list. The answer to his problem was simple. There were two alerts set on the same list that were triggered to email immediately when a new item was added to the list or anything changed in the list. 

Deleting one of the rules solved the problem. However during the analysis to determine which alter to delete I uncovered a number of interesting facts about Alerts. 

When you want to check your alerts you can go to the relevant list/view and click on the Actions Tab and select AlertMe

When you do this you are taken to a New Alert page. The New Alert allows you to create an alert and have it routed to anyone you can identify as a Sharepoint user.


To manage your alerts you need to select the link “View my existing alerts on this site

When you select one of your alerts to edit, it takes you in to the Edit Alert page and shows only your email address regardless of any other names you included in the alert

Bottom line: You can’t delete an alert that you setup on behalf of someone else. 
Bottom-Bottom line: You have no record of who you setup alerts for. 

If you delete alert that you setup for yourself and other people it does not delete the alerts for the other people. They have to do that themselves. 

I am sure that the SharePoint design team will claim that this is a logical approach – indeed it is. However, I don’t believe they can argue for the logic of NOT displaying the email addresses of others who were included in the alert. If you are not going to show me who I included on an alert then don’t give me the option of adding other SharePoint user’s email addresses to the alert. Come on Microsoft – at least be consistent!

What does this mean?

If you are managing alerts on behalf of other people you have no information to identify who you might need to tell to go and update their alerts. This oversight is just plain crazy!  

I go back to my golden rule: Only Setup Alerts for Yourself – Never for someone else.  If you don’t follow this advice your SharePoint alerts may quickly become unmanageable.


2 thoughts on “Alerting Another SharePoint Design #FAIL ??

  1. Mark, Here’s a few points you may want to look at. 1) SharePoint *does* allow people to setup alerts based on views (wss3 and moss 2007). I do it all the time.2) I agree, as a general rule, that users shouldn’t setup alerts for other people. But many users want this capability. I’ve seen it used by a number of users both wisely and unwisely.3) Once you setup an alert for someone else, it ceases to be your alert. The people that were included now manage it from their page. The primary reason is because it is now it "belongs" to that individual. Let’s say you set me up for an alert. I immediately go in and delete the alert because I don’t want it. If you had the ability to go back and manage the alerts and people you originally setup, then you could inadvertantly add me back and that causes user dissatisfaction.

  2. Mark,Thanks for the info. I have tried setting up an alert on a Wiki Library. My alert was All Changes, Someone Changes an item that appears in the following view: Contents (This is a view based upon wiki content that contains "Contents_Page").Somehow this fails to trigger an alert if an item is added or removed from the Contents View.

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