Keeping Content Fresh and Available

Darren Rowse - ProBlogger.netHow do you get people to view content that isn’t on the front page of your site? Darren Rowse at ProBlogger.net has an article and video that will get you to start thinking about how to create references to other content within your new and existing content.

I just discovered Darren’s site and must say, I’m really impressed with what he’s trying to do. I’ll be checking in daily.

Planet SharePoint: Out of this World

If you are on twitter and following all things related to SharePoint, it’s impossible not to have see the RTs coming from Planet SharePoint. The really useful part, though, is that Planet SharePoint is actually a site that archives all of the RTs. I asked Yancy Lent, owner of Planet SharePoint, to give us an idea of what he is trying to do and what the future holds for his site. — Mark

Planet SharePoint

Guest Author: Yancy Lent
Planet SharePoint

Planet SharePoint aggregates blog posts from almost 200 SharePoint focused blogs. Each blog is checked every 20 minutes ensuring readers get the latest SharePoint information. New posts are added to the front page in chronological order and posted to Twitter. Before posting to the twitter feed {http://twitter.com/pl_sharepoint} the title is evaluated for industry keywords and hash tagged accordingly, ensuring maxim exposure. The blog polling also works to ensure blogs are still operating and quality checks are done every month or so to make sure every blog listed is actively blogging about SharePoint. Please be assured, I know the difference between not blogging and NDA silence.

Favorite Feature

My favorite feature is the use of post views or click totals as a method of crowd sourcing. Each post click through is totaled no matter where it comes from: the site, twitter, the feed. This gives the reader a temperature of sorts of what people are reading. This is also used to track the most popular posts and blogs on the front page.

History of Planet SharePoint

I started the site to further my understanding of SharePoint, the community and partner echo-system. I work as a Sales Engineer for Axceler and had to come up to speed quick on all things relating to SharePoint administration for our release of ControlPoint back in early 2008. I’ve had spotted success with other planets, they take the right kind of community to take off; the more passion the greater a chance for success.

The site is homemade and sits on LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PhP) with the exception of an open source class to do the feed parsing, called Magpie RSS. The site concept is not original, there are many other Planet sites out there mainly revolving around (pun intended) Linux technologies. I’ve tweaked the concept to focus more on the title and excerpt instead of the whole post. This makes it easier to peruse a large set of posts and give the original author the site visit they desire.

What’s in the Future?

The future of the site involves greater integration with Twitter and Facebook. My next effort will include Twitter OAuth to allow writers and readers to manage their data and possibly track certified reads either publicly or privately with zero effort. I’m also looking into cross-pollinating with other SharePoint community sites to aggregating community events and serve them up via iCal. Bottom line, it’s a blank slate in many ways and I’m always up for new ideas.

Guest Author: Yancy Lent
Planet SharePoint

Yancy has over 14 years of experience working as a developer, administrator, consultant, and sales engineer for enterprise collaborative platforms. For the past 2 years his focus has been working with SharePoint Administrators as a Senior Sales Engineer at Axceler. To see a gallery of other websites he’s created check out http://www.collaborancy.com.

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SharePoint Disaster Recovery Plan

A note from Mark Miller

This came in my email box this morning. It’s WAY outside my area of expertise, but I thought it would be good to expose the question and get some expert feedback from the community.

Any suggestions or comments appreciated.

Disaster RecoveryFrom Chip: I am looking for a 3rd party tool for Disaster recovery for SharePoint. Do you have any recommendations or know of anyone that has compared them?

The three main items I am looking for a SharePoint 2007 environment in order of importance are:

1. Complete disaster recovery preferable a warm swap
2. Restoration of granular documents, sites and site collections.
3. Ability to move sites onto other servers and into site collections.

Thanks for any help.
Chip

Project for a Rainy Day: Create a Weather Magnet for a SharePoint Dashboard

Weather MagnetIt’s a rainy, nasty Tuesday in New York City, so I stayed home from the office to have a day long playdate with my five year old daughter.

After building three tents from bedsheets, painting a house that stores her stuffed animals, coloring fingernails with bright red nail polish, and having her help me cook a lunch of her favorite angel hair pasta with tomato sauce, we decided to do something REALLY fun: create a weather magnet for the dashboard in a SharePoint site. Yeh, I know… she’s a real geek.

We did a little search on Google and found that AccuWeather allows you to create a site magnet without having to register, so we chose that one.

The sign in page starts a three step process: Basic info, Themes and Get Your Weather. We started by filling in our basic info:

Weather Magnet - Step 1

We then chose the size we wanted. At first we went with the small one, but there wasn’t enough detail so we moved it up to the 240 x 420 version, although the 728 x 90 banner was pretty cool. We chose "Basic Colors" and then "Orange" so that we could have a nicely colored magnet:

Weather Magnet - Step 2

The third screen we had to agree to give away her pet turtle by checking the box at the bottom:

Weather Magnet - Step 3

We were then able to access the code to be pasted into our web page:

Weather Magnet - Step 4

And the final output is this: a real time weather indicator.

From there, we moved into our SharePoint site looking for a place to place the magnet. Aurora gently reminded me that you don’t try out a new concept on the front page of a site. She suggested that we build a test web part page to test the code first. I reluctantly agreed, although sometimes I do enjoy hosing an entire site by inserting untested code from an unknown web site.

Inside the SharePoint site, we created a blank web part page and then inserted a Content Editor Web Part. Using the source view, we pasted the weather magnet code to see what would happen:

Weather Magnet - Step 5

After a little touch up, turning off the chrome and centering the content, we were ready to export the web part and place it on the front of our entrance dashboard.

Weather Magnet - 6

So there you have it, a nice little rainy day project that will make you a hero in your five year old daughter’s eyes as she proudly shows off her major achievement from the safety of her bedroom tent.

Weather Magnet - 7

Unlocking the Mysteries of Data View Web Part XSL Tags – Part 19: Miscellaneous – More Math / Number Functions

In the last article, I covered some of the XPath Math / Number functions; in this one, I’ll cover the rest. The first set included the ones that I considered somewhat tricky, and the ones in this article ought to be more straightforward.

One thing that I forgot to mention in the previous article about the Math / Number functions: SharePoint Designer tries to be "smart" about which functions it shows you in the XPath Expression Builder. It may not be as smart as it wants to be, however. For instance, when you are in the context of the default dvt_1.body template, you’ll see the functions which make sense to use with a nodeset. If you are in the context of the default dvt_1.rowview template, you probably won’t. This *may* make sense for your situation, or it may not. The moral of the story is that even the XPath Expression Builder can only take you so far. At some point, you may end up writing your own XPath expressions right into the code. (That’s the fun part, anyway!)

round(), ceiling(), and floor()

These three functions let you do things with numbers and their decimal places. They are pretty basic functions, and here’s the skinny on each.

The most familiar will probably be round(). This function "rounds" the value to the nearest integer.

round(1.24) = 1
round(1.5) = 2
round(1.87) = 2

Sometimes you need to be more proscriptive than what round() can do for you, and that’s when you use ceiling() or floor(). For instance, you may want to find which item in a nodeset contains a value at a certain percentile. In that case, you may want to use the ceiling() function:

<xsl:variable name="PercentilePos" select="ceiling($Percentile div 100 * count($Rows))"/>

 

Here’s a little table which shows what each function will return with some sample values.


value round ceiling floor
1.24 1 2 1
1.49 1 2 1
1.5 2 2 1
1.51 2 2 1
1.87 2 2 1

number()

number() is truly simple. Given a text representation of a numeric value, number() will convert it to a number that XSL understands. This is much like "casting" into different types in other languages. You’ll rarely need to use it (almost all numbers are represented and managed as text in XSL), but the syntax is: number(1.42) = 1.42 

random()

random is yet another of the ddwrt kids. (What would we do without that namespace??? And why isn’t it well-documented???)You supply random a lower and an upper bound, and it returns a random number between them for you:

ddwrt:Random(3, 5) returns one of the values in the set [3, 4, 5]

The function can only take integer values, so if you want a value between 0 and 1, for example, you could do this:

 <xsl:value-of select="ddwrt:Random(1, 100) div 100"/> 

This will return random values with two decimals of precision.

Well, there you go; that’s the rest of the Math / Number functions. I’m not sure what I’ll cover in the next article, but I’m not out of ideas yet. Any suggestions?

Build a SharePoint Community, One Brick of Content at a Time

SharePoint Summit 2010It’s Sunday morning and I’m relaxing a bit, getting set mentally for the next month at EndUserSharePoint.com.

I’m one of the keynote speakers at SharePoint Summit in Montreal, talking about the SharePoint Community and what it takes to create a site that not only provides information, but what is involved in building a community of users and contributors around that information. The following week I’m in London, speaking at SharePoint 2010 Evolutions. The last week of the month, I’m participating in The Experts Conference in LA.

The SharePoint Community is an anomaly. In all my years as a teacher and through all the various business segments I’ve participated, I haven’t seen anything like it. A large part of that is because of the way SharePoint 2007 was rolled out. There was such a lack of documentation and support that if you didn’t participate in the community, you wouldn’t be able to find answers to your questions. We were forced into each other’s arms just to survive.

My introduction to the SharePoint Community at large was through SharePointU.com forums, hosted by Dustin Miller and crew. There was a lot going on there, people just helping each other out. I didn’t realize at the time that it was such a common occurence. Then, as I started poking around on other sites, it looked like a lot of people were almost doing a Kerouac brain dump of just about anything SharePoint.

The real turning point for me was at SharePoint Conference 2008 in Seattle. I was new to SharePoint at the time, only having worked with it for for a short while, using it to organize data for an AIDS vaccine research project. What I remember most about those sessions was how much people were offering to share.

My favorite session was by Lori Garcia, talking about the five things she had done to get End User buy-in. She PACKED that room with over 500 people! She wasn’t a SharePoint Geek. I don’t think she would know a command line from a google prompt, but you know what? Her presentation was brilliant. Everything she said made sense. She did an analysis of why employees were surfing off the internal site… what were they looking for? Turns out stock quotes and weather were the two biggies that were missing internally. As soon as she put those magnets on the front of the company internal SharePoint site, like magic, the retention rate went up.

She added a quote of the day. She added "Ask the CEO". She added things that people really wanted.

But what wasn’t stated in all of this was that not a word was said about SharePoint. The End User does not care about SharePoint. The less you can mention it, the better. What does SharePoint have to do with the weather, or stocks, or sports, or daily quotes? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Absolutely nothing… and that’s as it should be.

In order to build community participation the way Lori did, you must listen to your audience. "Oh please… tell me something I don’t know" I can hear you muttering under your breath. You know what? I can say it until the cows come home but until you look at your site and say "What value am I adding to the business by maintaining this SharePoint site?", I’ll keep saying it: Your… clients… don’t… care… about… SharePoint! They care about their job.

Anyone who comes to your site is considered a client, whether you have an internal site that supplies daily updates to the project team, to the corporate facing sites that are pushing out information to a global audience. The problem is, that we’ve been taught since childhood that clients are people to be sold to. That’s a real problem.

If we are constantly in "sell" mode, constantly trying to "sell" the benefits of SharePoint, we turn off anyone who might actually be interested in the actual solutions that SharePoint provides.

This came up in a discussion with a friend of mine last week. She has a very well known product for children from ages 3 to 6. I would venture to say that literally everyone reading this who has children in that age bracket would recognize the product and agree that it is phenomenal. Her problem? "Mark, how do I get more people to come to my Facebook page and become a fan?"

I took a look at her Facebook fan page and within 15 seconds, I knew exactly what the problem was: You can’t build a community, an involved group of evangelists, by pushing product at them. Literally everything on the page was a push of the product. It was disconcerting because that’s not her. It’s not the way she is in "real life" or as a person.

"Content, content, content" should be the mantra of anyone trying to build a community. People do not become part of a community in order to be sold to. They are interested in what you have to say, not what you have to sell. In relation to SharePoint, this comes down to providing the resources and content in an easy to find interface. Simple to say, hard to execute.

Talking about SharePoint to the masses of users is a losing game. Nobody wins. People who want to know about SharePoint, the Power Users and Site Admin and Site Collection Admin, will be the core of any community that centers around SharePoint. These will be your evangelists, your ears and eyes to the SharePoint users who really don’t want to be a part of the community. To build a true community of evangelists, you must focus content so that they can use it to build internal buy-in with the "final" user.

There are now many sites that can help provide this kind of content, but the ones that really make it work are those that listen to their audience, that allow feedback both positive and negative, that answer questions and provide content for people who want to know about SharePoint. That’s what EndUserSharePoint.com is about. That’s what Jeremy Thake at SharePointDevWiki.com is about when it comes to Developers. That’s what Joel Oleson at SharePointJoel.com is about when it comes to content migration. That’s what John Anderson at SharePoint Blank is about when it comes to the core functionality of what SharePoint can do out of the box. That’s what Michael Gannotti at Social Media Talk is about when it comes to using social media in SharePoint. That’s what Michael Lotter has done to build SharePoint Saturday.

Each of these communities has something in common: a leader, a person who takes responsibility for providing the content, for monitoring the feedback, for stoking the fires of participation. If you look closely at any major community in SharePoint, there is someone walking point, making sure there is a consistent flow of relevant content. When you participate in those communites, there is no sales pitch for SharePoint. It’s information based, something you can choose to use now or know that it’s available in the future.

Twitter, FaceBook, Linked In, web sites, blogs, wikis… name any type of communication medium on the web and you’ll find the SharePoint Community has setup base camps, building knowledge bases around the ideas and concepts of the SharePoint platform. In all cases, where a real community is being built, someone has to lead. Someone has to say, "This is how we do it here."

The panic of not having support, and supporting content, will not be a problem with SharePoint 2010. It remains to be seen whether SharePoint 2010 will be able to generate the same type of community bonding that 2007 did. There is already a plethora of material being provided by Microsoft, as well as by every major training and consulting company that touches SharePoint in any way. Without the need to bond together, to share as much as possible in order to get things done, it’s questionable as to whether the community itself will survive as a whole, or split apart into various fragments working as specialists within the whole.

The next three years will be an interesting time with SharePoint. If you are in Montreal for SharePoint Summit 2010, I hope you’ll continue this discussion with me as part of the keynote and then throughout the hallways during the following two days. I want to know what you are doing to build community. What are you doing to create a legacy of content that you will be proud to see years down the road. What are you contributing because of your passion for a subject.

SharePoint is the playing field, but building community through sharing of content and user participation is the name of the game.

I look forward to seeing you in Montreal.
Mark

Mark Miller
Founder and Editor
EndUserSharePoint.com

Twynham School SharePoint 2007-10 E-book

Mike HerrityIn this week’s EUSP Newsletter, going out Tuesday afternoon, we will include a copy of Mike Herrity’s e-book, An illustrated guide to our work with SharePoint as a Learning Platform. If you don’t want to wait for the newsletter, you can download it directly from Mike’s site, SharePointInEducation.com.

Twynham School has increasingly developed a reputation for our use of SharePoint in an educational context. We have been using SharePoint since 2007 and in early 2008 the systems team at Twynham School wrote a guide to the work we were doing with our Learning Platform which simply became known as �the pdf�. This showed all our early work in the first year and along with speaking at dozens of conferences has led to over 800 schools contacting us in the last two years. The only problem with �the pdf� is it is now very out of date!

As well as this, March 22nd 2010 is our three year anniversary of working with SharePoint as a Learning Platform and to mark the event I have written up everything we have done in the last three years to produce an e-book. With the launch of SharePoint 2010 being just two months away it makes sense to record everything we managed to do with SharePoint 2007.

What the e-book is and is not
The main aim of the book is to give an overview of the development of our Learning Gateway over the last three years. It is not intended to give a detailed account of how and why we did everything. A version with all this detail would be over 100 pages and is perhaps a proposition for another time. The e-book is also not very text heavy but contains over 60 screenshots and is only 6,000 words so it hopefully isn�t too heavy a read. It hopefully shows what is possible for schools who are starting on their journey to SharePoint.

How to find out more?
For more detail on anything in the e-book you can read my blog www.SharepointInEducation.com which contains all the detail on our work. You can also contact me by email at mike.herrity@twynhamschool.com or call (44) 1202 495724. If you are so inclined and use twitter please feel free to link up with me @mikeherrity. I hope you find the ideas and examples in the e-book useful and look out for the free web part on page 43.

2010-03-29 This Week in SharePoint

Happy Monday. "This Week in SharePoint" is a listing of what we have been sent by organizations sponsoring a SharePoint event this week for listing on the SharePoint Community Calendar.

If we’ve overlooked you, please don’t hesitate to contact us with your events at SPCalendar@EndUserSharePoint.com or, for even better exposure, tweet to @TeamEUSP and we’ll pick it up from there.

Thanks to everyone for contributing. This is turning out to be a really nice resource.

8 things to consider when choosing an application to scan and capture documents to SharePoint

Guest Author: Stephen Boals

1 — Do you need a scanning application or a capture application?

The marketplace is filled with applications that provide a means to convert paper to digital form, and I like to divide the offerings into two distinct silos:  scanning applications and capture applications.  If all you need to do is load paper and scan to a document library, and your volume is fairly light, scanning applications provide a simple, easy to use interface for these types of operations.  Capture applications focus on efficiency, standardization and automation.  They provide enhanced feature sets like 2D barcode reading, zone OCR, data extraction, enhanced backend integration and more.  There is a gray area between the two silos, as most scanning applications have some basic capture features.  Choose wisely young Luke Skywalker, and if you can, select an application that can live in both silos.

2 — Standardization is King…and Queen, and Duke.

We have all seen the typical file server within our organizations, and it looks like a war zone.  The lack of folder and file naming standards allows every user to use creative license, and save things "the way they like."  Scanning is no different, and putting in a scanning and capture process without standardization allows the end user to take their paper mess and recreate it digitally.  We have all seen the studies on the early adopters of SharePoint that are pulling their hair out at the absolute mess that has been created within their libraries.  It is paramount to select an onramp application that provides document library, folder name, file name and content type standardization through custom rule sets.

3 — Hardware Agnostic – what about my 3-in-1?

Golly that’s a mighty big word.  Today’s imaging landscape includes all different types of devices: desktop scanners, scanning copiers, scanning fax machines, etc.   A scanning/capture application needs to work with just about anything out there that can be directly connected, or that can create an image file.   Leveraging the investment in existing hardware is important not only from a financial perspective, but also from a user familiarity perspective.  If you give users a simple, familiar way to scan, they are more likely to adapt to new technology.  Also, it allows flexibility in deployment and usage scenarios, and also gives you some hope any future hardware purchases will play nicely in your capture ecosystem.

4 — OCR, ICR and OMR – feature overkill?

Okay, I just had to delve into the imaging acronym soup.  Probably the most important here is the capability to create searchable PDFs.  Install the PDF iFilter, setup your crawl rules, and you now have a fully searchable repository.  ICR and OMR?  Aren’t those a little overkill for a SharePoint implementation? I see a number of organizations using OMR routing sheets to create a simple and effective cover sheet to route documents to a particular library and folder structure.  Organizations can pre-print these, place them next to copiers, and provide onramp capability from any networked scanning device.  ICR, not so much, but it has its possibilities.

5 — Barcodes – Aren’t they just overcomplicating things?

Barcodes can do more than just dazzle techies.  As organizations build out there entire document management strategy, the ultimate is the incorporation of barcodes into generated documents.  Take for example the HR Director who has barcodes placed on all her forms to provide separation as well as form identification.  Now when scanning employee packets, the capture software does the work, reading barcodes and routing documents to the appropriate library folder.  With 2D barcodes, we can now place 1,000 characters into a thumbnail size area, and automate the process further by embedding data into our contracts, forms, applications, etc.

6 — SharePoint Integration – Sure we can scan to SharePoint!

The SharePoint train has arrived, and everyone is getting on.  Integration means something different to everyone.  To one vendor, it means just dropping a TIFF into a library, to another it means full lookup capability, content type mapping and folder standardization.  Dig deep into what goes on under the hood to make sure you get all that you want in an application.  Make sure that they are using the SharePoint API, and that all the connectivity is done through standard communication formats.

7 — The Sandbox – Do you play nicely with others?

Every organization has multiple repositories across departments and groups.  Maybe it is the Accounting Department that uses SharePoint for AP, but also wants to dump check images to a folder.  Or the Law Firm that has a custom built MOSS Application, but also needs images scanned to their case management system.  Finding a flexible and extensible scanning/capture application that can fulfill multiple needs is an absolute requirement nowadays.

8 — Usability – "It just doesn�t work for me."

I have seen it time and time again, the end user revolt.  Put in a difficult, painful application, and it will soon have virtual cob webs everywhere.    The application needs to be user friendly, but should have some power user features as well to please the masses.  Along with this, and most important, is training.  End-user training on the use of the application and its capabilities can speed up the process, and overall adoption rate of the solution.

This article was originally posted on AIIM President John Mancini’s Digital Landfill blog which contains links to many other "8 things" articles. Some of the 8 things articles have been published as a series of free e-books, available at http://www.aiim.org/8things.

Guest Author: Stephen Boals

Stephen Boals is the V.P. of Sales for PSIGEN Software, Inc.  His broad background includes over 8.5 years as a Naval Flight Officer, "Big 4" Consulting with Ernst & Young, and various managerial/director level positions in IT, Technical Security and Professional Services.

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