Inauguration

If there is a better time to start a new blog, I can’t think of one. Today, on the eve of SharePoint Saturday NYC, hours before I take the trek from Maryland to NYC, I am typing my first blog entry (of what I hope will be many) into Microsoft Word to publish to Office 365. Is it going to work? I don’t know yet, but it is exciting for me to think that if you’re reading this sentence, something must have gone right, but in this moment I had no clue.

Part of what would make my life easier and more manageable (at least as far as starting a blog is concerned) would be if I could create a blog post using Microsoft Word and publish it to my Office 365 Small Business site. The ability to save, add images, and publish all at once would simplify things greatly.

The session that I will be presenting tomorrow is titled "Managing my life with Office 365 Small Business". The idea came to me to talk about how I could use some easy SharePointisms to make my life more manageable and productive. What it has turned into is how to stretch the measly $6 it costs per month to the hot/fresh taffy fullest degree.

How I Use Office 365 Small Business

Email

Public Website / Blog

Private Website

Office Web Apps

Lync

Development Sandbox

 

It still seems like such a great deal to me to get all of this for the measly $6. Just hosting a simple public website on some fly-by-night host would cost more than this. The value is just an insane deal because it can be used as a proving ground for some ideas. Since my presentation is going to focus on the current version of Office 365 Small Business (SharePoint 2010 style) and not the shiny new Preview (a la SharePoint 2013), I will only mention that from what I’ve seen of the preview, there will be even more features added.

Now to post this with my fingers crossed in hopes that the bytes will flow though into the cloud.

Back Home

I’m ashamed of myself for not blogging live during the conference!​  I couldn’t believe how preoccupied I was during this event.  It was my first conference (not counting the SharePoint Saturday the Conference DC) and I have to say I was a bit overwhelmed.

To live up to my previous post, the sessions that I attended in person are listed here:

Monday (Oct 3)

  • 8:30 a – Keynote
  • 11:00a – SPC216 (Creating Beautiful and Engaging Web Sites w/ SP2010)
  • 2:00 p – SPC225 (Developing and Managing SharePoint Solutions w/ VS)
  • 3:45 p – SPC286 (Understanding SharePoint Administration Part 2)

Tuesday (Oct 4)

  • 9:00 a – SPC3995 (Upgrading SharePoint Solutions and Features)
  • 1:45 p – SPC338 (Developing SharePoint applications w/ HTML5 and JQuery)
  • 5:00 p – SPC314 (Best Practices w/ JQuery and SharePoint)

Wednesday (Oct 5)

  • 9:00 a – SPC389 (SharePoint Internet Sites that Integrate FAST Search)
  • 10:30a – SPC305 (Advanced Windows PowerShell for SharePoint 2010)
  • 5:00 p – SPC402 (Deep Dive on SharePoint Ribbon Development & Extensibility)

Thursday (Oct 6)

  • 9:00 a – SPC413 (The Inside Scoop: How the SharePoint Dev Team Troubleshoots)
  • 10:30a – SPC395 (The End to End Guide to Upgrading Custom Code from 2007 to 2010)
  • 12:00p – SPC372 (Packaging SharePoint Branding Elements for Deployment)

My proposed schedule was slightly different, but I had to miss some sessions to partake in other aspects of the conference. There were live Labs, the exhibit hall, free certification exams, and of course that very important nap that I took on Tuesday morning.

There was so much going on that I found it difficult to find a flow, but amidst the chaos what kept me going were the boundless coffee stations that were always full (at least the ones that I frequented) and had soy milk for use.  Being a slave to caffeine sometimes takes its toll after a long week of over consumption, but for the moment it helped to keep my mind capable of following some of the new topics.

Since all of my current development work (except for this site) is using MOSS 2007, I was particularly interested in the Upgrading/Migrating custom code sessions as well as the JQuery sessions where I could put any newly attained knowledge to immediate use. 

Here are some highlights from the sessions I attended:

SPC216 (Creating Beautiful and Engaging Web Sites w/2010)

Randy Drisgill (@drisgill) and John Ross (@johnrossjr) did an excellent job of making the high level aspects of a branding accessible to someone (like myself) who hasn’t undertaken such projects.  They covered the design process, and the importance of using wireframes.  Then came an overview on the technique of merging HTML mockups into a SharePoint master page.  Starting with this session and ending with SPC372 (Packaging SharePoint Branding Elements for Deployment) really helped to give me a full picture of how to put a branding solution together.

SPC225 (Developing and Managing SharePoint Solutions w/ VS)

Jay Schmelzer and Mike Morton (@mikemorton_msft) took me on a journey through the options within Visual Studio 2010 for developing packaged solutions (Sandboxed and Farm) for SharePoint 2010.  Most of this information I had tested out with VS2010 Beta and is similar to some of the functionality that was available (albeit less production-ready) with VSeWSS.  What really woke me up during this session was the introduction of SharePoint enhancements for VS2011.  A List and Content Type designer was demoed as well as a remote publish to Office 365 feature.  This immediately had me thinking about what I could be doing on my own site development wise considering the keynote announcement that BCS for Office 365 is going to be rolled out with the next version of Office 365.  Just when I thought I was done being wowed, they did a quick VS LightSwitch demo which opened my eyes to yet another tool that could be used for rapid prototyping, and then rolled into a solution package.  Simply amazing.

SPC286 (Understanding SharePoint Administration Part 2)

Todd Klindt (@toddklindt) and Shane Young (@shanescows) gave a lively presentation on SharePoint Administration for SharePoint 2010.  I had decided to miss their ‘Part 1’ because I figured they were going to be covering material that I already knew and I could always review it later.  Turns out I missed out on some fun times there, but oh well!  Their playful presentation kept me awake and entertained and must have had a hand in helping me pass the MCTS SP2010 – Configuration exam on Wednesday.  Thanks guys!

SPC3995 (Upgrading SharePoint Solutions and Features)

Wayne Ewington had the dubious task of the first session of the day following the first day of the conference.  I can only imagine that some had attended the DJ Party at the Hilton the night before and various other parties that evening.  He gave a competent presentation, although his computer seemed to be drasticly underpowered for his VM.  This caused some delays and may have impacted the 1st demo (which didn’t seem to work).  My takeaway from this session is the ability to create custom upgrade actions as part of a feature upgrade based on version ranges.

SPC338 (Developing SharePoint Applications with HTML5 and JQuery)

Ted Pattison (@tedpattison) woke everyone up after lunch by pitting Visual Studio vs. SharePoint Designer in a no holds barred matchup.  He selected a member of the audience to represent Visual Studio, and another member (Me!) to represent SharePoint Designer.  We shouted back and forth:

Visual Studio Rocks!  SharePoint Designer Sucks!

SharePoint Designer Rules!  Visual Studio Sucks!

Apparently, my SharePoint Designer chant has a bit half-hearted (because I really like them both!) and Visual Studio won.  What a great way to fire up the crowd.  He then went into the basics of how to link to the JQuery Library and how to deploy the library using a feature.  Ted then went into some usage of JQuery templates and how to apply them to HTML5 semantic tags as well as some examples of using new CSS3 and HTML5 graphic features.  His demos were really spot on and I can’t believe how much wisdom he imparted to the attendees.  If you haven’t seen this presentation, it is worth the download!

SPC314 (Best Practices with JQuery & SharePoint)

Eric Harlan (@ericharlan) and Mark Rackley (@mrackley) played on the classic good vs. evil archetypes for their presentation.  I figured after learning some JQuery from Ted Pattison in the previous session that I should solidify the knowledge.   They demoed a simple way that any "developer" could grind a farm WFE to a halt by creating an infinite loop on a web service.  That was worth the cost of admission alone, but there was more.  They showed simple tricks on how to improve performance, and deployment do’s and don’ts.  Overall it was a good session that kept my interest and, being a newbie to jQuery and SharePoint, gave me tidbits of knowledge I could use today.

SPC389 (SharePoint Internet Sites that Integrate FAST Search)

Runar Olsen and Cem Aykan gave a mind blowing presentation (to me at least) on how to leverage FAST Search for Internet Sites.  The concept of having web parts based on search queries that pulling up render indexed content just blew my mind.  Maybe I just hadn’t considered the possibility before, but seeing the demos in action made me reconsider some design decisions for intranet home pages.  As part of their demos, they introduced SQL Server StreamInsight and how you can try to add a bit of Artificial Intelligence to your site by determining a user’s "intent" and tailor your content accordingly.  Well Done!

SPC305 (Advanced Windows PowerShell for SharePoint 2010)

Todd Bleeker (@toddbleeker) is a dynamo!  He gave 110% the entire time and I am still catching up.  He cautioned the IT Pros that he was going to sling code and that this session was geared towards developing cmdlets for PowerShell.  He gave an excellent overview of the steps to all SharePoint Development (Make a DLL -> Write some XML -> Deploy).  His presentation was primarly a really long demo on creating a PowerShell cmdlet to enable/disable the developer dashboard.  There were many Visual Studio "Rock Star Programmer" shortcuts given with the most notable being the highly regarded "Ctrl-.-Enter". This session would be a great crash course for anyone trying to create a SharePoint WSP (PowerShell Cmdlet or otherwise).  The punchline of the whole presentation is  that just when he was about to execute his new CmdLet, his laptop battery died.

SPC402 (Deep Dive on SharePoint Ribbon Development & Extensibility)

Andrew Connell (@andrewconnell) and Chris O’Brien (@chriso_brien) gave a true deep dive presentation on extending the SharePoint Ribbon.  Being a MOSS 2007 developer, this was 100% new material.  I am glad that I was able to download the video so I can experience it again when I delve into ribbon development.  The biggest takeaway for me is that when developing a custom ribbon, take existing Microsoft code as a starting point from the CMDUI.xml file and customize it.

SPC413 (The Inside Scoop: How the SharePoint Dev Team Troubleshoots Performance and Reliability)

Corey Roussel gave a zen-like presentation on ways the SP Dev team tackles their own issues.  His calm demeanor and articulate speaking made this one of my favorites of the conference.  It is always great to see what is going on behind the scenes.  He gave us best practices on how to properly wrap calls to external code within monitored scopes and to not use monitored scopes for tight loops or for every function.  An overview of the developer dashboard was discussed as well as how to use correlation Ids for troubleshooting.  He showed a demo of SharePoint Diagnostic Studio 2010 which had many in the audience drooling.

SPC395 (The End to End Guide to Upgrading Custom Code)

Becky Isserman (@mosslover) gave a demo heavy session on how to upgrade 2007 solutions that were created using WSPBuilder and VSeWSS.  Her sense of humor and loose presentation style was great, but I felt like I was the only one who got some of her jokes!  Highlights for me were: the ugly truth that most branding will have to be redone and not easily upgraded; what is not possible in a SandBoxed Solution.

SPC372 (Packaging SharePoint Branding Elements for Deployment)

Christina Wheeler (@cwheeler) found a way to make the last session of the conference engaging, informative, and fun despite technical issues with the projectors.  After starting the conference with SPC216 (Creating Beautiful and Engaging Websites with 2010), I was ready to find out how to deploy these branding solutions properly.  Her end to end coverage on the topic was excellent and a great way to end the conference.  I really felt like I could go home that night and do my branding deployment, the only problem was that I would need to first do the branding (which is the hard part).  This session gave me the foundation to properly develop a branding solution that I could also use on Office 365 [BONUS!].  Her demo functioned properly and in retrospect is seems that SPC11 really did save the best for last.

Is the Rainbow a good omen?

​This day has started out well.  I couldn’t get any sleep last night because I was pretty excited for the conference and didn’t want to oversleep.
As the plane was about to take off, the most amazing rainbow surfaced and we proceeded to fly into it.
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I am now sitting in my room at the Hilton in Anaheim awaiting all the fruitful knowledge to be absorbed this week.  So much to learn!  I’ll be posting my proposed itinerary soon.

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