Archive for February 2009

Podcasting/Screencasting and Live Labs Community Clips

February 26, 2009

I have been trying to work on doing more screen casts for both personal and professional items, and incorporating that into my daily process.

The why:

I probably do 10+ Different Presentations on SharePoint or something else a week, several training sessions at least a week, and it just makes sense to start recording more stuff to be used for communicating ideas, concepts, or training to people.

It doesn’t have to be professional though. I know my friends and family often call and ask me to help them with all sorts of technology related things. You could record a screen cast explaining to aunt Mabel how to access her email.

I mean in the above case Aunt Mabel also has to learn how to open a video, but that might be easier than the steps to access her mail, or how to send an email etc.

Hopefully that and your own ideas are enough as to why, now lets move on to what you and I probably need.

Example (really general and simple) Requirements for screencasting and podcasting:

Let’s jot some of the simple requirements any podcaster/screencaster will have:

  1. The ability to record screen casts and podcasts.
    This will include the need for hardware, software, and equipment (such as microphones, speakers, and headphones).
  2. The ability to store all screen casts, podcasts and related material securely.
  3. The ability to access, search, and organize my screen casts, podcasts and related material.
  4. The ability to share my screen casts internally, and externally.

And how about some secondary requirements they might have have:

  1. The ability to backup my screen casts, podcasts and related material would help assure me that any work I do will not be lost.
  2. Get a really cool sounding accent. This makes your videos way more enjoyable to watch.

Some of the things I intend to use to help me get podcasting, and/or screen casting away:

  1. So first of all there is the well known PKS (Podcasting Kit for SharePoint) located on codeplex: http://www.codeplex.com/pks which I fully intend to use to share and access my screen casts internally (and eventually externally). The kit and SharePoint together will provide me with an enormous quantity of features that should satisfy many of my requirements. 

    IF YOU HAVEN’T USED OR TRIED THIS I HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING SO. Even if you aren’t doing screen casts/podcasts the code is all there and there are quite a few neat tricks/features in the package.

  2. Then there’s MSN Soapbox, Youtube, Itunes and lots of other popular places where I can post them easily and share to the community (and of course my blog, if I ever get away from the javascript/embed object hating wordpress). This satisfies many of my requirements as well.
  3. I intend to start using Microsoft Live Labs Community Clip (http://communityclips.officelabs.com/Default.aspx) for my simple screen cast authoring. (Anything that’s a personal note, or a quick capture.) It’s a wonderful FREE Microsoft live tool for screen capturing that can automatically send to MSN Soapbox. This is also the first tool I will recommend to many users starting out, because it’s very simple and user friendly.

You also are going to need more powerful video editing software so you can edit and make your screen casts more appealing, and  it doesn’t hurt to have a good evangelization and marketing model as well for how you are going to get attention for each type of screen cast or podcast as well.

Hope this helps either inspire someone to also do more screen casting, and podcasting or improve their daily lives/work using the power of ‘information capturing’ in some other way. I mean that’s what SharePoint is all about isn’t it?

Richard Harbridge

Development and Design Concepts (How to get to Predictable Development)

February 24, 2009

Today I stumbled upon an old post by Alan Cooper located here: http://www.cooper.com/journal/2007/10/design_engineering_the_next_st.html
(Thanks to another blog post on SpittingCAML for bringing my attention to it.)

I want to ask you all a question based on the article and Development/Design Concepts that are debated out there, but before I ask the question I need to give some background:

The article is extremely well articulated and while I am not a fan of necessarily grouping people as one collection or another it does a good job of illustrating some of the deep set challenges of our current Development Practices (I speak of a wide generalization based on what I have seen in organizations I have worked with). The issue described in the article particularly is that of unpredictable development.

The issue Alan illustrates here of unpredictable development clearly describes that the approach to solving them is by better understanding individual programmer objectives or goals and mapping that in a way to the processes we use to create the end solution.

He creates two classifications, builders and designers and explains each. For the sake of brevity I will just quote the illustration here:

The first camp is composed of builders: those programmers who, like the many carpenters and masons who preceded them in history, take a sublime joy in seeing their handiwork take form in the real world where it can be—and is—used and appreciated by others. They may be hammering together packing crates or they may be painstakingly crafting Steinway pianos, but seeing their products of wood and steel assume a tangible form that gets things done in the wider world provides them with a sense of accomplishment and well-being. It achieves their goals.

The second camp is composed of designers: those programmers who, like the many visionaries who preceded them in history, take a sublime joy in seeing complex, apparently intractable problems dissolve in the face of their creative thinking. They may be arranging utensils in their kitchen drawers or they may be painstakingly calculating how to shape a girder to support a mile-long highway bridge, but seeing that the solution they imagine is the best and most efficient one possible provides them with a sense of accomplishment and well-being. It achieves their goals.

Of course, the builders share in the joy of devising clever solutions just as the designers revel in seeing their creations take real form, but if a mutually exclusive choice between the two options ever arises, each will be happy to focus on the type of work that best satisfies his goals.

What I think is important here (and I am trying to be objective) is that the article outlines a simple yet effective way to help improve development processes. The method outlined: By creating designers and builders with appropriate roles and responsibilities that run in line with their personal goals and objectives; the development work and end result will be far more predictable and of higher quality. This quality can be measured as reduced cost, higher morale, and so on.

You can read hundreds of books and articles, and of course this is a heated debate topic, but for me personally I believe that the only way a development process and methodology will be effective is if it works for the actual developers you have on staff.

As an individual developer it is extremely important to know and understand your fellow developers. It is even more important for anyone structuring development practices or managing developers to understand the developers they manage. Knowing their personal goals, interests, and objectives will allow you to assign them with the work that is most suited to their personality and style.

Realistically the ‘builder’ and ‘designer’ is an extremely oversimplified description, but it has value in that it is a separation of developer types under more than one classification. This way there is a greater chance of them getting the kind of work they want.

Let’s think about that for a moment:

  1. What happens if a developer falls under both types? Or seems caught in the middle?
  2. Or if (as is the case in many small development groups) the developer must constantly change roles to deal with the increased demand?
  3. Then even comes the more challenging aspect of:
    Who makes the judgment for which group they belong under?
    The manager? The developer? Co-workers? A objective and neutral testing process?

It becomes a spiral of questions that quickly pulls attention away from the important and easily understood concept that the individual’s goals and personality (regardless of what they do whether it be development, design, consulting, analysis, etc) should have an impact on the work assigned to them and that the only way we can try and assign work is by using classifications.

We use classifications for everything. From our professions (Analyst, Designer, Developer, Manager, etc) to often our personalities themselves (Introvert, Extrovert). These all provide value if they are used correctly.

The great article Alan wrote depicts two interesting classifications of developers which separates them by their goals and interests (or personality).

Hold on a second, I said earlier I am not a fan of grouping people or classifying them, and yet I just described how it is effective? It is effective and works in many situations however these can never be static, and will and MUST change based on hundreds of influencing factors.

You will no doubt need to break each classification down further, or adjust them to match the kinds of developers you have, or adjust them to better suit the kind of architecture and design work necessary for successful projects based on the technology you use. All these reasons and more such as cost, organization style, your own management style, etc will influence how you structure it. In some cases for extremely small development groups it won’t make sense to even have classifications.

So in summary (I know I rambled a bit, apologies) Alan’s article is really fascinating and good because it shows that many other people understand that the personality of developers influences the development process and development design concepts. He also (based on his own situation and experience) suggests two classifications that work for managing and working with his developers.

So the question I give to you is:

What classifications would you use?
The same ones? Or different ones? If they are different why are they different? What is your situation like?

Have fun thinking about it, or applying some of the concepts Alan describes,
Richard Harbridge

Visio Template for SharePoint Wireframing

February 24, 2009

As always I love finding new Visio templates for anything related to SharePoint. While recently I have begun using Mind Manager Pro (from Mindjet and as a direct result of Ruven Gotz’s presentations) instead of Visio in certain situations; I still use Visio for a lot of the workflow modeling I do, as well as documenting architecture diagrams.

If you have stencils for Visio and are used to the tool you can use this template from Erica Toelle to give you a head start on whipping up some wireframes. Even if you are a developer, or analyst and not a designer it might help you sort out ideas with a client on the fly. I know I have done this on many occasions an in some cases just used it to illustrate some ideas to the design team.

http://cid-1b6acb7b24d13da6.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/.Public/Site%20Wireframe%20Template.vsd

Hope this helps you,
Richard Harbridge

Windows Live Blogging!

February 23, 2009

So the other day I downloaded all the new Live tools (along with the new live messenger, and decided to give the blog writer another shot).

I was extremely impressed. It handled everything better in my mind than the wordpress editor (built in) and I fully intend to now write my posts using this tool from this point onwards. It’s editor does a really good job of ‘what you see is what you get’ taking into account custom CSS even.

The following is my simple test post with the tool which can be found here: http://windowslivewriter.spaces.live.com/default.aspx?sa=424591536

I wonder how well this will work with the template I have running on wordpress.

There is only one way to tell I suppose!

  1. First I will write a blog post.
  2. Then I will post it through Windows Live Blog Writing Tools
  3. Then I will see how well it handles advanced formatting.
    1. Such as another level of steps.
    2. And another level of bullets.
  • Example A
  • Example B

It’s pretty impressive actually. Far better so far than the wordpress editor!

I loves you Live Writer. Like this turtle loves this strawberry.2651265613_c8595434e8_b

<script language="javascript">alert("Yeah Man");</script>

Creating A-Z Expanding/Collapsing Lists

February 23, 2009

So as most people know I am a big fan of the posts regularly placed in the SharePoint End User (GetThePoint) blog and Mark Gillis did an excellent post on Friday I just want to reference here: http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/blogs/GetThePoint/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=170

The important thing here is that it clearly explains how to use groups to create effective, and powerful views which using calculated columns let you create various kinds of list views. The one I personally like (which illustrates the point well) is the A-Z list of names with a simple calculated column. Effective, efficient, and easy to understand.

Hope Mark’s post helps you think of creative ways to use SharePoint views in your everyday work,
Richard Harbridge

Microsoft Directions Tour (Canada Wide)

February 18, 2009

Interested in a series of free sessions from Microsoft outlining how you can become more profitable and improve your business in these times of economic uncertainty? Then sign up to attend their free tour across Canada!

http://www.microsoft.com/canada/smb/RoadmapTour/default.aspx

TOUR AGENDA (Toronto Agenda)

Time

Content

0800 – 0830 (30 min)

Arrivals, Registration, Continental Breakfast

0830 – 0900 (30 min)

Session 1: Innovating through Adversity: Optimizing IT in today’s Economy

In this session, we’ll discuss the current business environment and the role of Information Technology.  We’ll discuss a simple maturity model developed by Microsoft with Gartner that will help build a roadmap to optimized IT investments with goals of savings, productivity, or opportunity.

0900 – 1000 (60 min)

Session 2: Maximum Agility: Helping to reduce costs while maximizing efficiency with your core software foundation

We’ll discuss:

- Building a roadmap towards core software foundation optimization.

- The role virtualization plays in IT cost and productivity goals, along with optimal virtualization scenarios.

- System management and security capabilities that can help manage, protect, and secure your environment in an optimized manner.

- Products and tools for establishing an optimized desktop.

- Best practices in establishing a cost-effective and highly productive core software infrastructure.

1000 – 1010 (10 min)

BREAK

1010 – 1120 (70 min)

Session 3: On the Road to Peak Productivity: Driving business productivity through integrated innovation

In this session we’ll discuss:

- Building a roadmap towards a software foundation that is optimized to drive business productivity.

- Speeding collaboration, searching, and process flow through portals.

- Minimizing costs and maximizing efficiency through online meetings and unified communications.

- Cost-effective online service options for business productivity.

1120 – 1130 (10 min)

BREAK

1130 – 1215 (45 min)

Session 4: Optimizing Operations: Maximizing potential through business-critical operations automation

In this session, we’ll discuss how Microsoft Dynamics® CRM and ERP solutions can help your company:

- Increase operational efficiencies through automation, resulting in the ability to respond rapidly to the changing demands of your business.

- Increase employee productivity with familiar tools, thereby reducing training time and increasing potential ROI.

- By leveraging existing IT investments, as these solutions fit with your current systems, and will therefore help to maximize return on your current investments.

1215 – 1245 (30 min)

Wrap Up

1245 –

Light lunch (optional for attendees)

· Speakers available for additional Q&A

The tour is targeted to companies with 200-1500 desktops so if you match the bill you should come out,
Richard Harbridge

Creating a Localized Form in InfoPath 2007/InfoPath Form Services

February 17, 2009

Ronald Tielke released a nicely written article on msdn a short time ago on localizing and supporting languages in an InfoPath Form.

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd425033.aspx#ip2007LocalizingForms_Introduction

I recently saw a presentation by Jim Schwartz at imason which displayed similar functionality (for a large form deployment). This has always been a bit of a difficult spot in working with InfoPath and it’s good to see some more content around it and support/patterns for developing localization.

Hope this saves someone time and effort when creating multiple language supported forms,
Richard Harbridge


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