Reverse the Damaging Effects RSS feeds have on SharePoint User Adoption

SharePoint sites, and more specifically Intranets, are created to provide information that positively contributes to your users work life.  Users have an unspoken expectation of your site.  They expect the information being presented to be refreshed frequently, expand their existing knowledge or present them with information that they wouldn’t have otherwise known if they hadn’t found it on your site.

It’s unfortunate, then, that many new SharePoint Content Owners simply present RSS feeds in a web part to ‘flesh out’ their SharePoint site.  The RSS feed web part on an Intranet or Internet site aren’t meant to be used in a “set it and forget it” way.  The goal of your site should be to educate, to present information that the reader can’t get or can’t interpret themselves.  The RSS web part, unfortunately, allows us to present information on our site in a passive manner.  Instead, the way to view RSS, and other information presented on your site, is to focus on providing ‘quality, not quantity’.

Information needs to be targeted, timely, specific and relevant in order for people to find your site useful.  Think about it for a moment: If EndUserSharePoint.com (EUSP) simply had information fed to it via RSS from other SharePoint blogs instead of original content written by knowledgeable professionals, would you continue to visit the site?  Some would but most would not.  There are those of you that will argue that sites with a mass of links being presented through RSS feeds are beneficial.  To that, I say, I completely agree!  It’s just not appropriate, and isn’t targeted and specific enough, for users of an Intranet or Extranet site.  (That said, I do enjoy http://SharePoint.alltop.com from time to time, but it’s not where I spend time reading SharePoint info).

Join the Movement Against Passive RSS!

Given this, I am choosing to announce a new non-profit organization I am starting.  It’s called the R.S.P.P.P.RSS.F, otherwise known as The Royal Society for the Prevention of the Passive Presentation of Real Simple Syndication Feeds!  Ok….I’m still working on the name, but in the meantime, here’s a draft of our credo.  Please repeat after me (to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance):

We, the SharePoint Professionals of the R.S.P.P.P.RSS.F (.com?), do solemnly swear that we will use the power of RSS feeds only for good, to keep interest in our site high and to focus on providing informational context to the stories we present.  Heretofore, should any of us choose to stray from this, our stated credo (version 1.0), may the Site Administrator take away our Content Editor Web Part and force us to use Content Approval when we save any and all documents to our own My Site.

Let’s lay down some ground rules…and an approach that might help us to reach our stated goal.

  1. Create a page that has interesting RSS feeds on it.  This can be a page with several RSS web parts on it, each presenting a feed from a different site you feel would benefit your users.  Because the RSS web part queries for new RSS feed information each time you open this SharePoint page, I choose to present only 4 stories for each feed.  This speeds the page’s load time and surfaces only the most recent articles.
  2. Every two to three days, visit your RSS feeds page and do a quick skim of the stories being presented in your feeds.  Identify four new, interesting, pertinent stories that you believe your people would like to read.  You don’t have to read each one, just skim it to make sure it’s valuable.
  3. Open up your SharePoint Announcements List that’s being presented on your site’s home page.
  4. Copy the title of the RSS story into the Announcements List Title column.
  5. Visit the web site of the news story.  Copy the first 5 sentences or so from the body of the story and paste them into the Announcements List Body column.
  6. Hit ‘ENTER’ twice in the Announcements body to move below the pasted sentences.
  7. Copy the URL (aka the hyperlink) of the story and paste it beneath the first 5 sentences in your Announcements List Body column.  You can even place the following words next to the URL (“For the rest of the story: <insert URL here>).
  8. Make certain you give credit where credit is due.  You should also reference the author of the work and maybe the web site or news organization they write for in the body of your announcement.
  9. Lastly, if the mood strikes you, write a little something authored by YOU and tell why you think people would be interested in the article.  A little bit of commentary from you, such as, “I was talking with Bob about Agile Project Management the other day in the hall.  This article addresses some of the benefits that I spoke with him about”, really goes a long way to provide context for the reason the information is being presented on your site.

That’s it!  It’s as easy as that.  In doing this, you help your users receive information that they otherwise might never read.  And now, given that SharePoint Announcements provide the ability to have an RSS feed, people might begin to subscribe to your announcements list because it has the latest and greatest information that is specific to your department or industry.  How good does that make you look?!?!?! 

Don’t leave it to your people to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Find some great sites to subscribe to and publish only the most interesting articles from the feeds on your site.  Sure, it takes a little time, a small amount of mousing-around and a little creativity to do this twice a week.  But as we all know, if it ain’t worth doin’ right, it ain’t worth doin’!

Lee ReedAuthor: Lee Reed ThoughtBridge, Atlanta, GA

Lee Reed is an expert in collaboration and user adoption on the Microsoft SharePoint 2007 platform. His consulting with companies large and small throughout the East Coast has resulted in many successful collaboration environments and increased user adoption.

Lee is currently the Director of Business Process and SharePoint Education for Thoughtbridge, a Microsoft Gold Partner focused exclusively on the Microsoft SharePoint 2007 platform.

Taming the Elusive “Calculated Column” – Logic – Part 5

The Final List

In our list, we need to add in our additional two “Question” columns so create two more “Choice” columns (in the same fashion as the existing “Hungry” and “Thirsty” columns) called “Tired” and “Sick”.

Modify the “Column Ordering” to display the items on the “New Item” form in the correct order:


Taming The Elusive Part 5

Modify your view to display the fields in the same order:


Taming The Elusive Part 5

Create several items on the list to cover the range of all possible answers (Hint – use the “Truth Table” as a reference when creating the items):


Taming The Elusive Part 5

Based on our “Truth Table”, we can see that our logic does indeed catch each and every possible result (with the addition of displaying a result even if fields were skipped).

Conclusion

So what do we do with all of this?  What I’ve shown are obviously just simple examples using questions that aren’t exactly “Business Data”, but hopefully they will still serve as a foundation for how to begin building out formulas for your own needs.

Using the method of building out a “Truth Table” then a “Flowchart” for each and every nested formula may not always be the best approach for you given the time it takes to build them out, but as the complexity of your formulas increase, you might find that having them can decrease the “headache-time” of debugging and troubleshooting when your logic goes awry.

Hints:

  • Use Excel to quickly build out a “Truth Table” when needed (since it’s nothing more than columns and rows anyway)
  • And Visio (or a piece of scratch paper in a pinch) for quickly building hierarchical flowcharts (OpenOffice.org is another great option if you don’t have the budget for MS Office).

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get into the alternate use of the “AND” and “OR” functions for testing multiple conditions in an “IF” formula (that was my original plan), but that is next on my list so I’ll make sure and cover those in the next article.

Till next time…

- Dessie

Dessie LunsfordDessie Lunsford
Points-of-Sharing




There is no .Exists() method off of SPWeb and so it is hard to check whether a list exists.

The most efficient way to do this is the following:

Source: What Are The Biggest SharePoint API Mistakes? by Adam Buenz

An alternative way is to use Extension methods (C# 3.0 feature) and extend the SPWeb object with a ListExists method like this:

Note that this extension method also does a case-insensitive comparision of the list title.

Now this can be used like this:

Taming the Elusive “Calculated Column” – Logic – Part 4

The Logic of Flowcharts

If you’re familiar with Visio, or similar technical drawing programs, start by creating our first Question at the very top (this is the entrance point, or start, of our logic), and add in “Placeholders” for both the “TRUE” and “FALSE” results:

A “Placeholder” is a temporary value that will be replaced later.  Since we don’t yet know what our final result will be for either the “TRUE” or “FALSE” values, we just enter the text for the “Logical Value” in as a temporary marker which we’ll replace once we know the actual value to put in its place.



Taming The Elusive Part 4

Next, add in the second question (“Thirsty”) to both the “TRUE” and “FALSE” placeholders from question 1 (literally replace the text “Result if TRUE” and “Result if FALSE” with the second question), then add in placeholders for the “TRUE” and “FASLE” results for question 2:


Taming The Elusive Part 4

Continue this process by adding in the third question to each of the “TRUE” and “FALSE” placeholders of the second question, and then add the fourth question to each of the “TRUE” and “FALSE” placeholders of the third question.

Once completed, you’ll have 16 “TRUE / FASLE” boxes at the very bottom, which (coincidence?) matches up with the total rows in our “Truth Table”.

The completed hierarchical diagram (logic flowchart), should now appear similar to (Note – I’ve added in the actual values for the “TRUE / FALSE” results of question 4 since it’s the last question to be asked in the logic):


Taming The Elusive Part 4
(Click on image to view full-size)

Translating the Logic

Ok, so this is all good and fine…we’ve created a nice table of all possible results and have this neat diagram, but what the heck are we supposed to do with it to help us create the formula for our calculated column in SharePoint?

Believe it or not, the above flowchart is a literal translation of our exact formula.

The manner in which we achieve this translation is as follows.

The logic of our formula (with all four questions included), works out to:

Reminder: Create a Master Calendar live, online workshop

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow’s live online workshop on how to Create a Master Calendar in SharePoint starts at 1:00pm, EST. If you’ve been looking for a way to consolidate mutiple calendars in CSS or MOSS, this might be a solution for you.

Workshop Description
This workshop is a step-by-step creation of a Master Calendar solution in SharePoint. It includes the creation of content types, applying the content types to generate custom views in a master calendar and then exposing those views in team subsites.

All web parts, javascripts and documentation will be provided. Each participant will be given a SharePoint site in which to practice setting up the Master Calendar, including pages for testing its functionality.

Testimonials from previous participants of Create a Master Calendar in SharePoint

"Our Superintendent wanted a calendar that would enable employees to post certain events on their subsite calendars which would appear on the home page calendar. We implemented [Mark’s] solution, and are very happy with our new master calendar." [Ted]

"My first workshop and it was well worth it. I was hesitant to participate due to my lack of Developer or coding skill but everything was clear, easy to understand and follow." [Linda]

"I have attended many other sharepoint workshops/webinars and by far this was the best. I think what sealed the deal for me was the hands on interaction and being able to walk step by step thru the process on my own site." [Dave]





When trying to publish an InfoPath form from the InfoPath 2007 client you may receive this error in the wizard.

"The following URL is not valid: http://litwareinc.com/".

Reason

This only occurs on a machine with a all the components running e.g. SharePoint server AND InfoPath client which is typical of most SharePoint 2007 Development environments (see Building a SharePoint Development Environment for more info).

Resolution

  • Go to Start | Run…
  • type cmd and click OK
  • in command prompt type ‘net stop sens’ to stop the System Event Notification Service.
  • Go through the publish wizard again and you will find the error will not occur




You will receive this error when you try and publish an InfoPath Form to a SharePoint List within a SharePoint Site that has not got InfoPath Forms Services configured.

This form template is browser-compatible, but it cannot be browser-enabled on the selected site. This may be caused by one of the following reasons:

- The server is not running InfoPath Forms Services.

- The necessary features are not available on the site collection.

- They policy setting on the server does not allow users to browser-enable form templates.

Reason

InfoPath Form Services is a component of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS) that is required to host InfoPath Forms within a Web Browser.

Resolution

If the SharePoint Farm has MOSS installed, you need to ensure that you have:

  • activated the following Site Collection feature: Office SharePoint Server Enterprise Site Collection features
  • activated the following Site feature (the Site in which the List is located): Office SharePoint Server Enterprise Site features

Best Practice

From a development perspective the best thing to do is not publish the form from within InfoPath client at all! Instead deploy the Form to the farm which will make it available as a Content Type in any Site Collection it is deployed to. See Developing a InfoPath Solution using a Solution Package for more information on this approach.
As part of this approach you can activate the features required for the browser-enabled forms.

Live, Online Study SharePoint Study Group: Chapter 4 of Seamless Teamwork

The next session of the Online Study Group for Seamless Teamwork will be held next week, with the recording made on Tuesday. We’ll be looking at Chapter 4 of the book, which is about inviting the project team into the new SharePoint team space. In other words, we have the space set up, and now we need to let them know about it, how to find it, and how to know what’s going on inside it.

If you’d like to participate in the live audience recording, please review Chapter 4 of Seamless Teamwork and place a comment or question below. As room permits, we will send you a personal invitation for this week’s recording session, along with login instructions to the session.

We look forward to seeing you at the session.

Michael Sampson, Author, Seamless Teamwork
Mark Miller, Founder and Editor, EndUserSharePoint.com

Michael Sampson’s US Tour: March 23-27 2009

With going to Europe for a series of SharePoint and collaboration master classes the week of March 30 to April 3, it makes sense to add a week in the US on the way over there. Here’s the deal: I have five days available for consulting in the US, ideally working from the west coast over towards the east coast so I can fly to London late on March 27.

Here’s some possibilities:
– I could run a Seamless Teamwork workshop at your place … starting with an overview of the book, and then having a facilitated discussion about how to bring the ideas to life in your firm;
– I could run a workshop looking at different collaboration tools, and help you fast-track your analysis of which tools should be short-listed;
– I could facilitate a discussion on how to act as a business in the current economic situation, and help you plan how collaboration tools can help;
– … or something else (eg, see my blog for other content / focus ideas).

If you are interested in having me at your firm for one day (or a couple), please get in touch ASAP.

Note: this is likely to be my only US tour before November 2009 … so if you want in, get in. And hey, you don’t have to pay the international travel costs!

Michael SampsonMichael is an Industry Analyst and Independent Consultant focused on improving the capability of teams that can’t be together, to work together.

  • Industry Analyst … Michael helps end-user organizations understand the collaboration landscape, through independent analysis and briefings. His research as an Industry Analyst is presented at conferences around the world, and he shares his work on the Michael Sampson: Currents blog.
  • Independent Consultant … Michael provides impartial counsel and advisory services to clients wanting to improve the capability of people and teams to work with others through collaboration technology.

Michael is the author of Seamless Teamwork: Using Microsoft SharePoint Technologies to Collaborate, Innovate, and Drive Business in New Ways, published by Microsoft Press (2009).
Michael holds an MCom with first class honors in telecommunications-based IT, from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and is currently working on his doctorate in collaborative applications and virtual teams.
Michael lives in New Zealand with his glorious wife and eight children.