The Lit Maven

Archive for the ‘Microsoft’ Category

DirectionsWe’ve come to the end of another Code Camp in the Philadelphia area.  Nothing is left of the 550 attendees, boosters, sponsors, students and staff that came to Penn State University, Abington Campus except lots of  pictures, memories and heads filled with new knowledge and ideas.  Featuring twelve tracks, from Architecture to Web Development, and  an Open Spaces Forum, attendees were treated to choice tidbits of technology like Windows 8, Azure, PowerShell, KnockoutJS, Razor and, of course, SharePoint. These terms were bantered around all day like pencils at an SAT exam.   Located in the Philadelphia suburbs, Penn State’s Abington campus is a woodsy oasis – a perfect retreat for a peaceful day of nerding.  And, nerding they did!  Some classrooms were filled to capacity – yes, I’m talking about YOU, Javascript and jquery!  Others, like the Lap Around Windows 8, were punctuated with gasps of wonder at viewing a beta before anyone else has seen it. The classrooms I visited as unofficial Code Camp photographer featured seasoned speakers presenting live demonstrations of code, Lares, Penn Statecode, code with attendees in rapt attention.   This is the beauty of Code Camp: learning about new stuff, manipulating the old, prettifying the ugly and phasing out the obsolete.   Want to find a job or a product?  Code Camp was the place to be!  Our 24 sponsors financed the event and spent the day meeting and greeting attendees, offering job opportunities and presenting products for enhancing productivity in virtually any industry.  Keyword for this Code Camp?  METRO, a tie-in to Windows 8.  Everything from the tall banners in the classroom hallways to the ending slides in the auditorium featured the metro feel inviting all to get ready for Microsoft’s newest bombshell.  Metro speakers touted intros, but also ways of creating applications using HTML5, jQuery, and WPF XAML.  Another popular trend?  The Cloud – plenty of buzz!  And, although Web Development is always a huge draw, the Mobile Apps track was not far behind – just don’t build apps and drive at the same time. And, let’s not forget Tools and Data (where the REAL developers hang out!), Architecture (for those who like to plan and build) and SharePoint (for practically everyone).   Throughout the day, breakfast, lunch and snacks were served in the Lares Building, an amazing stone faced structure that looks out over an idyllic pond.  The day was sunny and warm, perfect for Code Campers to stroll leisurely between Lares (food and registration) and Sutherland (sessions), Classroompassing the sculpture of the Nittany Lion on the way – breathtaking!  At the end of the day, attendees were treated to a description of Penn State’s Information Science and Technology program (IST students attended Code Camp in force, helping to direct traffic, handing out USB drives and chatting with sponsors), a heartfelt thank you by a surviving cancer patient’s father (on behalf of Alex’s Lemonade Stand, our charity) and prizes, prizes, prizes! Members from each group – boosters, students and attendees – won LogiTech headphones, Kindle Fires and XBoxes along with generous prizes from our spoGrand Prizensors.  The day was followed by a wrap-up party at The Brick House in Willow Grove with lots of smiling faces to be seen and compliments overheard.  If you attended, please complete the evaluation. This helps to improve Code Camp for next time.  Any negatives?  Yes, one being that the classrooms were too small and attendees were turned away.  Your PhillyDotNet board will work on that. Until then, join us for our monthly meetings, register early for the next Code Camp and stay tuned for more good things to come!

There’s a lot of chatter in technology circles these days about wikis and how useful they are in SharePoint 2010.  I spoke about this topic at SharePoint Saturday on February 4, 2012 at DeVry University in Fort Washington, PA.  While researching for my talk, I came to love wikis as obscure relations in the huge SharePoint family of capabilities.  My first reaction to this brave new wiki world was wondering:  why would I use a wiki?  Now, the question is:  why wouldn’t I use a wiki?  Wikis were invented by Ward Cunningham in 1995 and heralded the dawn of social media as we know it today. One of my favorite Ward  quotes is from an interview from 2003:  “Wiki is like a leaky bucket of information.  It’s losing information every day.  But more information is coming in, so the net is positive.  Even if it can lose things, wiki always has more to say than it did the day before.”  The beauty of wikis is that, in the purest form, anyone can contribute, edit and/or delete.  A wiki is simply a shared online database of linked pages designed to be used quickly and easily (hence the name Wiki from the Hawaiian Wiki Wiki meaning quick) and is a place to create, share, list, organize, solve, collaborate and establish. It is a crucial element of Knowledge Management in that it allows people to take thoughts and ideas out of their heads and put them in a tangible form so that others can view and comment on them. The best example of a wiki and something I use almost every day is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is great because it is written by the people for the people in the people’s language so that it is easily understood.  Changes can be tracked and viewed.  If incorrect or malicious information is written, it will most likely be removed promptly and replaced by correct information.   There are many, many wiki examples out there – just Bing or Google “wiki examples”.  I read Wikis for Dummies to get a good idea of what this crazy concept is all about.  So, what does this mean in the SharePoint 2010 world?  The concept of a wiki being a shared online database of pages that anyone can edit fits quite nicely into the SharePoint philosophy of collaboration.

 There are two ways to use wikis within SharePoint:  1) within a Team Site and 2) as an Enterprise Wiki Site.  What are the differences and how can each of these be used for the good of the project or of the corporation in which you are working?  Wikis can be used within a Team Site to encourage and foster ideas.  Again, the emphasis is more knowledge-based than content-based.  Unless a Project Manager is a control freak and views himself as the ultimate Supreme Being of a Project, a team can use wikis quite successfully.  A PM sets up the wiki and allows his team members to go at it – it’s a bit structured and features a one-to-many focus, that is, one person will add an idea or start a brainstorm and others contribute to it or start new ones, but the wiki only has one topic – the project at hand or the team involved with the site. Use it for brainstorming, design collaborating, training, data gathering, request tracking and encyclopedia building.  For example, the librarians at Wyeth in Content Services created a manual for policies and procedures that covered everything from ordering documents to handling reference requests to training colleagues on resources to cataloging electronic and hard copy books and journals.  At first, the manual was printed out and kept in binders – basically, 200 pages of verbage. If someone changed something, a new manual would have to be printed out.  The end result (other than wasting paper) was that changes were made infrequently and the manual was continuously out of date.  When we switched to a wiki, changes could be made quickly (wiki wiki!) and [almost] effortlessly. If someone made a mistake or entered incorrect information, it was easy for the rest of us to track her down like wild dogs and make her pay for her sins.  This resulted in our manual becoming chock-full of correct and current information all the time.  Since we added a table of contents, we could link to all the parts of the wiki and find items very easily.  This was so successful that other departments copied our efforts and their policies and procedures were up-to-date and usable, too. 

Wikis can be adapted on the corporate level as well within the guise of Enterprise Wiki Sites.  This means that the entire site is a wiki – capable of holding large quantities of information in various forms. It stands alone and informs employees about corporate activities, benefits and services, thus cutting down on need for new employee training sessions that can last for several days.  Everyone in the corporation can edit the content within.  Sound scary?  Sure it does, which means careful consideration must be given before this wiki form is used.  The benefits of an Enterprise Wiki Site is that the focus is many-to-many, meaning that every department/business unit within the enterprise can have its own say; it is truly collaborative – people can add, edit and delete, but also comment and share; and there is the page rating capability.  False information is kept in check through tracking.  If anyone changes information either innocently or maliciously, that person is known and becomes accountable. 

Whether you are using wikis within a team site or if you have an Enterprise Wiki Site, you can take advantage of versioning control – versions are carefully tracked and can be easily viewed by all.  As with other SharePoint capabilities, wikis are fully searchable. 

What are Wiki Best Bets?  DO respect everybody; get your content up on the wiki and show people how to use it and edit it; add navigation; monitor and repair incorrect information quickly; write with a neutral point of view, cite references if appropriate.  DON’T set too many rules; write anything inappropriate or forget to link.  So, there you have it – wiki away and have fun!

Recently, I became embroiled in a conversation about Microsoft Office 2010, Word in particular.  A very intelligent, multilingual IT Guy  could not figure out how to change the space between the bullets and text on his resume.  He had at least 1.5 inches — too much whitespace and, in someone else’s jargon, looked out-of-place.  "That’s the default," he said tearfully. "I can’t figure out where the custom menu is for bullets!"  Some in the room were speechless. An IT Guy who couldn’t find something on a computer?  Others shook their heads in agreement – the "normal" toolbar worked just fine in Word 2003 – if it ain’t broke, why upgrade?  Those of us who have gotten over the initial shock and dislike of the now-famous ribbon can identify a little.  I remember looking at this Fluent User interface thinking, "Great!  Another new thing I have to learn!"  But, learn I did – and quickly.  Aren’t we all accustomed to the rapid changes made on a seemingly daily basis in the computer industry?  The ribbon (or "tabbed toolbar") has been embraced by Microsoft and has been incorporated in the Office Suite as a staple since 2007.  A ribbon is an interface that places menu items side by side in tabs.  This technology did not originate with Microsoft.  Lotus and Macromedia, among others, pioneered this idea as early as 1999.  Microsoft is currently seeking a patent on the tabbed toolbar.   In 2007, an uproar over the ribbon began.  Some said that power users would take too long to master the ribbon.  If this is the case, these power users are working on minimum torque.  My cat, Todd, could learn how to use a ribbon with a little nudge to his furry side.  Okay, I get it.   You’re busy, no time to learn all the great features so that you can access all of the great features in Office products really quickly.  My advice:  Take The Time.   Flustered by the ribbon?  As always, Microsoft provides help online, offline, within the product and from your next door neighbor.  F1 still works!  Click on each tab and take a look at what is in there.  Click on the question mark on the upper right hand corner of your screen.  Take a look at the ribbon tutorials offered by Microsoft for Office 2007.  Some things have changed in 2010, so if you have the product or if you are planning to install it, visit the Getting Started with Office 2010 then choose your poison in the left hand frame.  You can also find some videos on this page.  For example, you can learn how to use the ribbon in PowerPoint in under 2 1/2 minutes!   Who knows?  You may even learn how to place your bullets properly!