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Wonder what a Microsoft 1:1 hackathon looks like? OnePlace Solutions Teams/Graph Engagement Experience

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I was fortunate enough to be involved in a 1:1 hack engagement with Microsoft recently where OnePlace Solutions hosted some eager Microsoft engineers for a week long engagement. The intention was to see how we could harness some of Microsoft’s new Teams extensibility options and the Graph API, and for Microsoft to identify limitations or areas for improvement.

The format of the event:

  • brainstorming possible ideas ahead of the event itself
  • discussion and selection of a few possible ideas
  • splitting up into teams and scoping what were would try to achieve within the scope of the hack
  • working in a compressed scrum process (daily stand-ups, task refinement and retros)
  • present to a wider audience on the last day of the hack to show what had been achieved and the business benefit

It was amazing to see how quickly the Microsoft engineers were absorbed into our development team, brought up to speed with our existing code-base, and starting to deliver functionality.

The real takeaway and reason for writing this article it just to let everyone know what an awesome opportunity these engagements are from Microsoft, a bit of what you can expect and that I highly recommend getting involved if the opportunity arises.

What did I see as the biggest benefits to our business of doing this hack with Microsoft?

The tips, tricks and work pattern knowledge sharing that occurred only comes when you truly try to work together on a project and aren’t just academically sharing knowledge. We all work in different ways and by running the hack almost as a true project (in a condensed form) there is a lot more than just the coding that is being discussed. VSTS, scoping, work item tracking, design white-boarding sessions, daily stand ups, retros, git source control, review of pull requests. All this is outside of the actual coding and using the technology being hacked on, but it is also a critical piece of developing in an efficient, scalable and measurable way.

Accelerated and focused learning on new technologies. The speed of getting across where a technology like Teams extensibility is up to, what’s possible when applying to problems we are trying to solve, and that hard first mile of understanding the frameworks, dependencies, and tooling to get the first hello world skeleton running.

Outside of the technology it’s a great opportunity to meet and build relationships with people who share a similar passion and spend a lot of their time working to solve similar problems. At OnePlace Solutions we are a passionate bunch of technologists that enjoy working in a social and supportive environment – from what I’ve experienced the hack is a perfect match for the way we work, with Microsoft bringing the same mindset, energy and support to the hack. We spent as much time laughing and discussing topics outside of technology as we did on it. At the end of the day we are social creatures and I found the hack was a perfect environment that bought people together with a desire to want to work together on a common goal, to challenge and push each other to do more in a fun and supportive way, and have a good laugh at the same time. Having access to global Microsoft resources to get definitive answers quickly, removed the amount of wasted time and frustration which allowed productivity, enthusiasm and energy levels to remain high.

We dedicate an amount of time each sprint to R&D, which usually involves educating ourselves in what is possible with new technologies and APIs and often going as far as prototyping code to see what’s possible and where the limitations are. It’s hard to imagine a better return on investment than spending this R&D time with Microsoft in the format of a 1:1 hack.

So a huge thank you to the Microsoft engineers, we had a great time and my advice to anyone thinking of getting involved with these engagements is that they can have great value to your team.

Microsoft Insider Dev Tour – Sydney 2018

The Insider Dev Tour is such a great event for Microsoft developers, you get the key announcements and latest news that came out of the Build Conference, delivered locally in a more intimate and interactive environment. Best of all it’s a free event put on by Microsoft.

I was very grateful for the opportunity to present two sessions at the Insider Dev Tour in Sydney last week.

  • Create Productive Apps with Office 365
  • Drive User Engagement Across all your Devices with Microsoft Graph

If you attended I hope you enjoyed the experience as much as I did. The following are links to the resources mentioned during the presentations.

Microsoft Graph Explorer

Adaptive Cards Visualizer

Insider Dev Tour Labs

Github repo of demos from the Create Productive Apps with Office 365 session

Github repo of demos from the Microsoft Graph session

insider-dev-tour-sydney-cameron-dwyer-mvp-graph-api-office-365-microsoft

 

SharePoint Conference NA – The photos and my takeaways

SharePoint returning to Vegas, would it work like the days of old? There is certainly something special about the SharePoint community and this conference had that tight knit community feel to it.

Vegas amazes me at the amount of people it seems to just be able to soak up without really skipping a beat, making it the perfect place for hosting a conference. There’s no transport required to venues and endless dining and entertainment options.

We had a really busy time on the OnePlace Solutions booth, a big thank you to everyone who stopped by to see what our latest products are capable of and keeping us busy. We had more quality conversations than we were expecting, and it’s great to hear peoples passion for SharePoint and Office 365 coming through in those conversations.

While there was a lot being announced at the conference, I was happiest to see metadata in SharePoint finally getting some love. I had thought that SharePoint had lost it’s way a little on the metadata front in recent years. Especially in the shift to modern UI for document libraries and lists. I believe it is the metadata that made SharePoint so valuable for building solutions on top of. So I was super excited to see the modern document library webpart receive a big overhaul in it’s support of metadata.

Lists also got a refresh and I think the ability to generate a list (and columns of the right type) by directly importing a spreadsheet is genius. I think is a fairly common work pattern for users to start playing with tabular data in Excel and at some point it becomes valuable to share – providing such a simple way of moving from Excel to SharePoint should drive adoption of SharePoint lists as the central shared location for this data and then provide a wealth options on what can be done with that data once it’s in SharePoint.

I was technically impressed (and surprised) by the augmented reality of SharePoint Spaces and the work that had been done to bring this to the masses. I think it appeals more to the content management space than the document management, file management, collaboration and business workflow process areas I typically work in.

Below is a quick video of my reaction after the keynote.

 

 

5 reasons why email is still king for business communication

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The last few years have seen an explosion in the number of tools available for us to communicate not only at a consumer level, but also in the context of our workplace both internally within companies and externally between companies.

I primarily work with Microsoft technologies, but even within that small sphere the options are plentiful:

  • Email
  • Yammer
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Skype for Business
  • Skype
  • Office 365 Groups
  • LinkedIn

Outside of the Microsoft world it’s not uncommon to encounter these popular options as well:

  • Facebook
  • Slack
  • Google Hangouts
  • Twitter

I’m actually a fan and regular user of many of these other than email. I use Microsoft Teams internally quite heavily, along with Yammer for cross company communication and Twitter for more widespread public broadcast and consumption. I’m also not unknown for shooting off a quick message on Skype or sharing something or reaching out to someone on LinkedIn.

I think each of these messaging platforms has a particular area in which it shines but other areas that let it down (which is why many of us use multiple platforms). Much has been said about what platform to use for the different types of communication and what you are trying to achieve:

https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/cloudyhappypeople/2017/09/28/now-it-makes-sense-microsofts-collaboration-story-in-a-single-slide/

https://www.avepoint.com/blog/strategy-blog/microsoft-teams-office-365-groups-sharepoint-yammer/

https://www.avepoint.com/blog/technical-blog/office-365-groups-vs-teams/

I’m still of the opinion that while email is by far the oldest of the communication/messaging platforms it is still the backbone of business communication and this is for some key reasons that I don’t see changing in a hurry (mainly due to commercial interests!)

1 – People want to feel in control

outlook-rules-stay-organised-cameron-dwyer.pngIts natural for people to want to be in control, to be in their comfort zone. If we take a mature rich email client such as Outlook, the user has many ways in which they can organise, arrange and maintain their communication that makes sense to them and allows them to feel in control. Since the email that resides in the users mailbox is not shared, the user has ownership (and hence a sense of control) over the email and is free to manage it without affecting others. Outlook has the following features that allow a user to gain control and stay on top of email communications:

  • Folders – Users can create a folder structure that makes sense to them for organising email. They are not locked in to only viewing messages in the order and “buckets” it’s presented to them in, which isn’t the case for many other platforms where it’s usually a case of one shared view that has to fit everyone.
  • Categories – Users are free to create and assign categories to emails to assist with later retrieval or to mark that they need to do something in response to the email
  • Followup actions with reminders – Emails can be flagged for followup at a specific date/time because often communication is requested something of us or requires a reply or some action in return.
  • Rules – Users can create and apply complex rules to assist with organising emails

In contrast, most other message system provide rigid ways of viewing messages and unless requests are dealt with in a short time frame, they are easily and quickly lost in the noise. The users have very limited options for organising the messages in a way that suits them.

2 – People want to protect themselves and their data

With email, the sending party and the receiving party both have a copy of the email that they can govern according to their information management policies. This becomes particularly important when that email contains information that needs to be treated as a record, or if important information is stored as an attachment.

The attachments on an email can be both an advantage to email and it’s Achilles heal. Too often people send around a document (that is a work in progress) and you end up with no version control and people working on multiple different copies of it. A much better scenario is to have the file stored in a central system (e.g. SharePoint or OneDrive) and share out a link to the file so everyone can work on the same file. Once the file is completed though, and especially if it is an important document or deliverable to an external company – that document is of high importance as a record to both parties. By sending the file via email both parties have their own copy to retain for their records. Imagine if you were issued with a project scope document which you agree to (which is stored in the sending companies Document Management system) – you view and read the document via a link into their system. Now it comes time to deliver the project and they fall short on delivering to the agreed scope. You go back to look at that project scope document only to find you no longer have access! Not a situation many businesses would allow themselves to get into. So while external sharing works during the collaboration process, I don’t think it would satisfy the document management or records management requirements of both sides involved.

3 – People want to get the job done, not think about which tool to use

social-media-mess-cameron-dwyer.pngYou can rely on anyone you want to communicate with having an email address. The same can’t be said for any of the other platforms. Unless you communicate with someone regularly, you probably have no idea what messaging platforms they use, and it’s a large burden to put on someone to force them to create an account and join up to a messaging platform or social network just so you can communicate with them.

Knowing that not everyone is going to be on the same messaging platform implicitly means that this is not going to scale and you are either going to have to use multiple messaging platforms or fall back to a common platform that everyone has at times – which is email.

4 – People want simplicity and their time back

scoail-notifications-overwhelming-cameron-dwyer.pngMost people I speak to would love to have more time in their day. They struggle to process all the information that is thrown in their direction and to stay on top of what they need to action and respond to. Take myself, I get messages and information coming at me from email, Yammer, LinkedIn, Teams, Facebook, Twitter (and I’m sure their are others). If I had all the time in the world I would proactively go to my email client, Yammer app, LinkedIn app, Teams app, Facebook app and Twitter app to check those unread notifications and unread messages in feeds. This works if you’ve got time to “do the rounds” constantly and respond immediately, but that’s rarely the reality. What I find happens with most people (myself included) is that for each of the messaging platforms I go into the settings and I get it to notify me of any direct messages by sending me an email, and maybe get it to send a summary email every day/week of the top things I’ve missed (if the platform supports this). Now I just have to monitor my email inbox and I’m not going to miss anything important (like a direct message to me) and I have a rich toolkit to set followup flags, categories and reminders. If I’ve got time then I might go to the individual apps and use their beautiful interfaces to stay on top of things, but the majority of the time I’m content that anything important will come to me in my inbox.

5 – People don’t want to be locked in

locked-in-cameron-dwyer.pngThis I feel is probably the biggest issue underpinning the success of the current wave of messaging platforms. They are backed by companies that want to lock you in to using their service. This makes sense, at the end of the day they are running a business! This means it is in their best interest to behave in the following way:

  • Once you have your data stored with them, make it hard for you to take it and leave
  • Closed to members only – they want you to get the people you are communicating with to “join” their platform thus trying to steal users from their competitors and win more market share
  • Don’t integrate with other messaging platforms – how great would it be if a Facebook user could send a message to a Twitter user or Teams user? One standard for messaging between platforms? Great I don’t have to join a heap of different providers and setup all these accounts, sounds wonderful; But what do these companies stand to make out of that? It’s not going to increase their active user count.

To the contrary, no company “owns” email. A lot of companies provide email services, but the email protocol is well known and these system will all happily talk to each other and we enjoy an email environment where we can send a message to someone else without having to consider the email provider they are using. It is usually possible to export email and take it with you should you want to change email providers or systems. This type of export or change of provider just doesn’t make sense in most modern messaging platforms.

For these reasons, if I were forced to only keep one messaging platform and had to throw away the others, email is the one that would stay.

I recently spoke with Jeremy Thake in an interview that discussed the place of email in the Microsoft ecosystem that discusses these topics and more.

How to fix “The operation could not be completed” error adding references to Visual Studio 2017

The Issue

Using Visual Studio 2017 and attempting to add a reference to a project you receive an error stating “The operation could not be completed”.

cameron-dwyer-vs2017-add-reference-error-01-add-reference

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The Solution

It seems that to bring up the Add Reference dialog in Visual Studio 2017 the Microsoft.VisualStudio.Shell.Interop.11.0.dll needs to be regsitered in the GAC. You can follow these steps to register this assembly in the GAC:

Open the Develop Command Prompt for VS2017 (ensure you run the as administrator otherwise the GAC registration may fail)

cameron-dwyer-vs2017-add-reference-error-03-dev-command-prompt-as-admin

Change the current directory to the PublicAssemblies folder for your Visual Studio 2017 installation. Mine was:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\Enterprise\Common7\IDE\PublicAssemblies

Note: this path will be different for different versions of Visual Studio (e.g. you may find your path is C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\Community\Common7\IDE\PublicAssemblies)

cameron-dwyer-vs2017-add-reference-error-04-public-assemblies

Run the following command to register the assembly in the GAC:

gacutil -i Microsoft.VisualStudio.Shell.Interop.11.0.dll

cameron-dwyer-vs2017-add-reference-error-05-add-to-gac

Now restart VS2017 and try to add a reference to your project again and you should see the Add Reference dialog appear.

cameron-dwyer-vs2017-add-reference-error-06-add-reference-dialog-working

What’s the difference between a UX designer and a UI designer?

I love this infographic, quickly sums up the differences (and similarities) between a UX designer and a UI designer.

[Click the image to see full size]

UX-designer-vs-UI-designer-difference-and-similarites-Infographic

How to copy an entire folder structure without copying the files (tip for starting the new financial year)

Here’s my tip to start the financial year off with some organisation. If you save your important files in a folder structure per financial year, then you will be ready to create that new folder for the new tax year. To save time and keep your filing structure consistent you can quickly copy the entire structure (including all subfolders) with the following technique. Using this technique, only the folder structure is copied (not the actual files). So you will be up and going with your new folder structure for the tax year and continue filing.

Here’s a simplified version of what my filing structure looks like:

image

Now simply create your new folder (under which you want to duplicate the folder structure)

SNAGHTMLee6bc1b

Now open a Windows command window and run the following command. It’s the /T option that copies just the folder structure not the files. You can also use the /E option to include  empty folders in the copy (by default empty folders will not be copied).

xcopy “c:\users\cdwyer\documents\2012-2013” “c:\users\cdwyer\documents\2013-2014” /T /E

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Job done, you should now see your copied folder structure ready to start filing into for the new year.

SNAGHTMLeeedad2

Microsoft Surface will be Available on October 26

According to forms submitted to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, the Surface tablet will become available at the same time as Windows 8 (26th October 2012).

microsoft-surface-available-26-october-2012

Windows 8 Release Date Announced

windows-8-touch-release-date-announcedAt Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference (in Toronto, Canada) Windows Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Financial Officer Tami Reller announced that Windows 8 is on track to Release to Manufacturing (RTM) the first week of August, with general availability by the end of October.

Microsoft Surface Tablet – Specs and Image Gallery

The Specs

OS Windows RT Windows 8 Pro
CPU Nvidia Tegra 3 Intel Core i5
Weight 676 g 903 g
Thickness 9.3 mm 13.5 mm
Display Size 10.6” ClearType HD Display 10.6” ClearType HD Display
Power Consumption 31.5 W-h 42 W-h
Ports microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae
Accessories Office 15 Apps, Touch Cover, Type Cover,VaporMg Case & Stand microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video, 2×2 MIMO antennae, Touch Cover, Type Cover, Pen with Palm Block
Memory 32 GB, 64 GB 64 GB, 128 GB

Official Microsoft Site for Surface

Official Microsoft Surface Spec Sheet (PDF)

The Images

What I Like About It

  • The uber sexy keyboard/cover
  • A consistent operating system (Windows 8) across desktop PC and tablet. If it works it could be a game changer.
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