Category Archives: General

Just stuff that doesn’t really have to do with anything in particular – blog updates, friend updates, etc…

Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects

The new book is out!  Brought to you by the wonderful folks at Microsoft Press.

Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects with SharePoint 2010  is intended to be a practical guide for evaluating business needs and creating SharePoint solutions using the out of box capabilities. The audience for our book is anyone who wants to build solutions: from someone newly familiar with the core SharePoint concepts (lists, libraries and sites) through .NET developers who want to be more familiar with the platform so they know when code is needed and when it is not. 

Where I believe it is a bit different from other step-by-step how-to books is that we start from the business requirements and walk through steps in the decision making and design phases all the way through creating a fully functioning site. So, rather than just the click-by-click solution building, we are also introducing enough of the analyst methodology to show others why decisions were made. 

Now, we’re obviously not going to be able to capture every single decision made, but hope to walk through enough of the process to help someone who wants to build business solutions on the various SharePoint 2010 platforms how to get started and be successful with their own solutions.

For my chapters (8,9,10), I wanted to demonstrate solutions that could be created on any of the available versions of SharePoint, including the Office 365 Small Business plan and SharePoint Foundation.  So, they are a bit on the simplistic side but I think demonstrate a number of core concepts that can be re-used for other solutions as well.  These solutions can also be augmented with additional functionality, more-so with higher level versions (SharePoint Server, Enterprise and Office 365 E plans).

Note: This book was originally conceived of as a digital only book that could continue to evolve as best practices and platform capabilities changed and feedback was received. But, alas we went ahead with a traditional publication. I do plan to continue commenting on and adding to my chapters by way of blog posts, etc. If it is received well, I’d also hope to see a ‘vNext’ version (post 2010) that revisits scenarios with new functionality and takes off where this one left off.  Smile  So, let us know what you like, and what you’d like to see done differently.

The Authors:

The concept for this book and chief cat-wrangler of the authors was  Jennifer Mason. 

Big thanks also go out to the folks at O’Reilly and Microsoft Press for publishing for us.

Check it out on Amazon – available as paperback or Kindle versions:
Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real-World Projects

Ebook versions are also available through the O’Reilly site.

If you have a chance and can provide feedback – please do.  Blog about it, reply to this post, or write a review on Amazon and then let us know!

Thank you!

Office 365 as a SPD Learning Platform

SPD = SharePoint Designer, currently in the 2010 version.

In my previous post about using Office 365 as a learning platform for SharePoint, I briefly mentioned SharePoint Designer.  But, we could have spent a lot more time talking about it than that – hence this follow-up post. 

In the previous post, I mention using Office 365 because its very inexpensive and easy to spin up for any user, giving you the ability to learn and try things you might not be able to in your production environment.  Well, is even more true with SharePoint Designer. 

Creating new sub site, new lists, tweaking list columns and playing with views are all things you can do in your SharePoint environment and they are *mostly* non-impacting on your production environment – if you play with them the right way and don’t affect your users.  SharePoint Designer has a little higher risk level, can be a little more invasive/impacting on uses, and some environments have it disabled – so you’re not even able to use SPD in your current sites. 

Enter Office 365 and SharePoint Online.  Now you not only have a great way to use and ramp up on out of the box browser-based capabilities, but you have a fully-functioning site that SharePoint Designer can plug into – without risking your production environment and content.  You can now build and demo functionality that you can show your colleagues, bosses and IT/SharePoint team to demonstrate the value that can be had with SPD created solutions. 

Top things to check out with SharePoint Designer using your new Office 365 account (in my humble opinion):

  • Conditional Formatting – If this value is lower than X, then display this field with red text, show this funky icon, etc…
  • Data Views – Format list views in ways you can’t with the browser-based configuration capabilities. 
  • Condition/Action Driven Workflow – Create basic and more complicated workflows that aren’t available in the pre-created workflows.
  • Adding and Editing forms – Very quickly add or edit NewItem and EditItem forms.  For example remove fields or reformat the form to make it more intuitive for users. 
  • ‘Designery’ stuff.  Smile – Yea, not my bag, but can’t talk about SPD without mentioning it’s capabilities of managing and tweaking the site design. 

There is more, but that’s these are the top items that come to mind for me and deliver a lot of value in the business cases I’ve seen. 

Plus – SharePoint Designer 2010 is free. So check it out.

Office 365 as a SharePoint Learning Platform

Want to learn about SharePoint core list and library functionality in your own playground?

I’m doing two SharePoint 101/Intro to SharePoint talks this week. One for a local company’s internal user group and another longer one for the Minnesota SharePoint User Group.  One was 2007-centric while the other was 2010-centric.  As I go through the content, it never ceases to amaze me how a basic understanding of the core concepts of lists is invaluable to working with SharePoint – regardless of the version and how many of the wiz-bang features you are implementing in SharePoint.

So, that brings me back to a topic I’ve been meaning to raise for a while now in regards to Office 365. Unless you’re in the IT department at your company or have connections, you may not have easy access to a ‘sandbox’ where you can try out different SharePoint capabilities without potentially effecting production data.  Yes, there was definitely ways you can do and try some things, but at the end of the day, you want to play around and production generally isn’t the best place to do that.

Enter Office 365.  With the current version of SharePoint Online offered, the comparison to on-premises functionality is pretty good, especially when talking about the core features I’m talking about.  Yes, there are differences, but if your intent is to get a baseline understanding of Lists, Libraries, Views, Columns, SharePoint Designer (SPD) capabilities, out of the box and SPD workflows, and more – SharePoint Online is a great place to do it.

I don’t want to get into the detailed feature comparisons in this article, but P1 is analogous to SharePoint Foundation while the E3 plan is closer to the SharePoint Server/Enterprise features.

It’s REALLY easy to spin up an account and have a SharePoint site ready to play with.  You don’t have to have your own domain name (.com address, etc.) or really anything else to get started.

Office 365 is FREE for a 30 day trial, so you don’t really have any excuses.  If you want to keep your site around, you can pay as little as $6/month (for a single user) or $10 $8/month (also a single user, in the E1 plan, which you can downgrade to when your E3 trial ends).  Thinking about that as training costs – it’s nothing.  Now, you have your own private (and supported) environment where you can try things out without needing to bug IT for a site, list or whatever AND when you put something cool together you can easily show it to your boss or co-workers.

Now, you’ve got an Exchange email account and a Lync account you can play with as well (topics for another day…).  The Exchange account doesn’t need to be configured on any client devices if you don’t want – it can be fully accessed via the O365 web interface which could be useful if you’re experimenting with SharePoint workflows and don’t want to clutter up a real mailbox.

If you do want to add a real domain name to the account, it’s pretty easy as well – the O365 documentation is pretty helpful.  Only note I’ll make here is to not use a domain name that you are currently using as a Windows Live account as there may be some conflicts there – another topic for later.

So go get the trial of either the Small Business (P1) or Mid/Enterprise (E3) plan and get started now.  It’ll make you a better SharePoint user.  Don’t forget to read my previous post about picking your domain name before signing up…  Smile


*Just a day after I wrote this Microsoft went and added/changed some things – namely they LOWERED the price of the Enterprise licenses which makes it even harder to decide between the two.  Find out more HERE

Office 365 – ‘Domain’ Names

Just a few little tidbits to keep in mind when creating an Office 365 account, for trial or other reasons. When signing up for your account, you are asked to define a ‘New domain name’  (at the bottom of the image)


I find this a little confusing because most of us identify a ‘domain name’ as your sites main URL – like “”.  What the registration is asking for isn’t the same thing.  Being part of Microsoft’s ‘cloud’ offering, Office365’s domain name is “”.  They are asking for a subdomain name to use and be unique on their environment.  The ‘real’ domain that you’ll likely be adding to the site later can also be used to log on, but so will the ‘domain’ name you are specifying at registration time. You may change your ‘real’ domain names, but your ‘ domain name’ will never change.

If you follow the What’s this link, you’ll get a little more information:


So – WHAT we’re talking about should now be fairly clear.  The trivia that I’d like to call out is the following:

  1. At present, domain names can only be used for a single account/site one time. If you create a trial account and then close it, you can’t create another account with the same domain name.
  2. Domain names cannot be moved between the ‘major’ plan levels. For example, you can upgrade from E1 to E3, but you can’t take a domain from P1 to E1.
  3. Domain names cannot be edited or changed. They stick forever.
  4. Even if you add a real domain name to your account, the 365 domain name is still used in a few places. I can’t remember the other one I ran into, but the first place – that I still see from time to time, bugs me and is public facing – is when you send a Lync meeting link.  It looks something like:[YourUnchangeableDomainName]/

So, if you’re really creating a test trial, don’t use a name that you might want to use for real. In fact, use something almost completely irrelevant if you want. It would look better in that Lync URL than something that might seem dated or just wrong.

When you create your actual 365 account put at least a little thought into the domain name, even though it will mostly be behind the scenes. Think about how your marketing department might react to an old brand term showing up in that Lync URL when sending meeting invites and links to your customers.

Microsoft SharePoint MVP 2012

January 1, 2012 – Got word early that I was re-upped for 2012.

(yea yea, I’m slow.  But hey, I’ve been busy…)

A big Thank You goes out to Microsoft and the SharePoint community for another year being recognized as a Microsoft SharePoint MVP.  I am honored and humbled to be recognize in such a rich community filled with great speakers, authors, forum participants, consultants, vendors, users, and customers.

I don’t want to say that the honor is bitter-sweet, but while I am very excited, it does make one stop and think about all the people that make up our community: both those that are recognized and those that should be.  The SharePoint community wouldn’t be what it is without everyone that participates and contributes on a regular basis. It’s risky to name a few because there are so many, but a few I want to mention are:  Raymond Mitchell (@iwkid), Sarah Haase (@sarahhaase) and Mark Rackley (@mrackley). 

So, what do we have to look forward to this year?

  • Lots of ongoing user groups, both locally and online
  • More SharePoint Saturday and mini-conference events
    • We are planning 2 this year in Minnesota (Twin Cities) starting with the first on April 14th. Last fall we had over 400 people in attendance!
  • SharePoint Conference 2012 !!
    • Likely with the first tidbits about vNext!
  • Lots of other conferences and summits
  • More SharePoint books on all kinds of topics
    • We’ve got one coming in March… another post coming on that

Another fun year ahead in the SharePoint world – I hope to visit with lots of you throughout the year.  Now, keep an eye on the SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities site.  Registration will be opening soon!

SharePoint Saturday – Columbus, OH

(FINALLY posted…)

SharePoint Saturday Columbus (OH) was held a few weeks back on August 20th.  The organizers did a wonderful job organizing the event and pulling everything together at a nice venue and pulled together about  130 or so attendees. 

I presented my Lists: Used, Abused and Underappreciated session in the first time slot of the day, had decent attendance (25 or so) and fantastic participation throughout the session.

If you weren’t able to stick around until the last timeslot of the day, Jennifer Mason did a session on simple dashboards which was an excellent follow-up to the content introduced in my session.  Check her slides out – HERE.  

My apologies for the delay in getting the slides out there – I had a slight detour on my way home and was off the grid for 5 days or so – only now getting back up to speed.  My slides can be found on SlideShare – HERE

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Office 365 – SharePoint Online ‘Sharer’ Beware

The short story:

Beware of using the ‘Share Site’ or ‘Share this site’ links in Office 365 – SharePoint Online without knowing exactly what it is doing: you are potentially granting users access to more content than you intend to. 

The longer explanation:

In my opinion, security is one of the most confusing things in SharePoint for users to manage.  This is both because the flexibility of its design leads to a confusing implementation and because most users aren’t properly trained on how SharePoint security works (yes, this should be handled through a governance policy). 

Because of this, a number of issues usually arise: users don’t have enough access or users have too much access.  Just this weekend I was chatting with someone that uses SharePoint in their organization and she described a conversation with their SharePoint contact who was giving her access to a site – or so she thought.  Typical, irritating to users and something that needs to be handled better in order to successfully accomplish user adoption.  

The flip side of that problem is giving users too much access – more access than you are intending them to have.  Sometimes this isn’t that big of a deal, but many times it can be a serious issue with competing clients seeing each other’s content, etc. There are many examples of how this could turn out badly.    

Well, in SharePoint Online, as part of Office 365, Microsoft has added a nice and easy way to grant users access to SharePoint by way of the ‘Share this site’ link.   Unfortunately, while this is a very easy way to grant users access, it will in many cases grant too much access unintentionally – not because it doesn’t work properly, but because it isn’t doing what most users will expect it to do.

First, a quick primer on SharePoint security:

  • SharePoint has a number of containers and entities, all of which can have security attached to them:  Site collections, sub sites, lists or libraries, folders (I’m not touching this topic in this article) and items.   
  • Security can be assigned directly to these containers and items by adding a user and defining the permissions they have.  Users can also be granted access through an Active Directory security group or a SharePoint security group. 
  • By default, security in SharePoint is inherited.  When you have security on a site collection and create a sub site, you can tell SharePoint to have the sub site inherit the permissions of the parent site collection.  People and groups will have the same permissions to view, add and update on the sub site content as they did on the site collection. 

There are lots of details to work through if you want to dig in, but those are the basics.  Now to the specific problem scenario. 

I have a SharePoint Online site collection and I want to create an area where I can collaborate with people outside my organization on a project.  To me, this translates into a sub site (or even better a site collection if possible) because I can isolate security at a whole site level, I can have a landing page for users, I can add additional lists later without having to change security, etc. So, I create my sub site. 

By default, my site has a document library which is all I really need for starters.  Now, I want to grant my external users access to the site – here comes the potential issue.  SharePoint Online has the ‘Share this site’ link right on the default page.  You can get to the same functionality by going through the Site Actions menu and selecting ‘Share Site’.  Both are shown below.



Either of these links will open up the following form:


Herein lies the potential for a security issue.  Now, the form does some nice things.  It allows you to add users to groups and then send them an email that will alert the user to the fact that they now have access and provides them a link to the site, list, etc. that you’ve just given them access to.  Where this form causes issues is by only allowing you to add them to the pre-existing ‘Visitors’ or ‘Members’ SharePoint security groups.  By adding users to the ‘Visitors’ or ‘Members’ groups, you are very likely granting them access to more than just the sub site. 

The Members and Visitors groups are default groups added to most SharePoint sites and many site administrators allow the groups to be inherited in sub sites and lists as they are created.  Members are generally able to read most everything and contribute to most lists and content.  Visitors can read, but not contribute.  If I were to add my external users that I want to collaborate with on one specific sub site to either of these groups, they’d have access to much of the rest of my site as well unless I had specifically gone and locked down my other content by breaking inheritance and/or removing the Member and Visitor groups from my other sites and content – which most administrators or users do not do. 

Suggested Approach:

The suggested approach to granting users access to only the sub site (or list) is to do it directly/explicitly rather than using the shortcut.

  • On the sub site, select Site Actions –> Site Settings


  • Select Site permissions


  • In the ribbon, select ‘Stop Inheriting Permissions’


  • Now, there are plenty of variations here, but we’re going to add a new group.  Even if I’m only adding a single person right now, it’s better to have a group in place in case you want to add others later with the same permissions.  The group will be visible throughout the site collection (trivia, but might actually be relevant if you have groups for partners, clients, etc. in the same site collection).  So select Create Group from the ribbon.


  • For simplicity’s sake in this example, give the group a name and select the permission level you’d like for the group.  I’m using ‘Contribute’.  Click Create.
  • From the Permissions page (where you land after creating or adding a group), click the name of your group.
  • You are listed as a member by default, but now you can also add other users who will all take on the permissions of the group.  More importantly, they will only have permissions in the sub site, rather than in other areas of your site collection that you might not want them to have access to.  Click New –> Add Users


SharePoint security and permissions have many options.  Be aware of what you are doing when adding users, groups and managing their permissions in order to maintain the security you need and want. 

SharePoint Online (O365) and Windows Phone

I LOVE the ability to view my SharePoint calendars in Outlook right with my Exchange calendars.  This is one of the greatest features ever in my opinion.  The problem now is that I expect to be able to do the same thing on my smartphone devices – but cannot.

Playing with the Windows Phone (pre-Mango) tonight and was hoping to be able to display a SharePoint calendar in my phone’s calendar view.  You’d think if anyone could do it, it should be the MS device but no go. 

Here’s the official post/statement:

Ok.  It’s lame, but Mango isn’t that far out, so we’ll just wait and see. 

Sad smile

To be fair, I haven’t found a way to get this to work on the iPhone/iPad either, though there are a number of 3rd party apps available to assist with access to SharePoint sites.  On the iPad, the screen is big enough to actually navigate to the calendar site itself, which is better than nothing, but I still would like the one-stop-shop available with Outlook. 

Bamboo got close at one point – it looks like a product called MashPoint actually allowed some functionality for ‘real’ SharePoint servers for 2007, but nothing is available for 2010 or the Office 365 solution (sandbox solution).    

If Mango can pull this off – major points to them.  It still won’t solve the problem of my wife wanting to access our family SharePoint calendar on O365 though… Her employer doesn’t allow browser access to O365 – #FAIL. 

Hanging a Shingle: TrecStone…

A month ago (May 2011), I started a new venture called ‘TrecStone’ -  under which I’ll be doing consulting work, potentially adding other folks to the team down the road.  As you may imagine, I’ll be spending a lot of time in the Microsoft SharePoint space.  More specifically, I’ll be assisting organizations with their SharePoint platform strategy and utilization of out-of-the-box capabilities. 

The short story is that many organizations start their SharePoint implementation with a specific project or goal in mind. Once that solution is in place however, efforts to expand use of the platform tend to fade.  With much of the cost of SharePoint being up-front in hardware, software, training and customizations, it should be a priority for the business to make the most out of the platform they’ve already invested in. Yet, many times the enormous potential of the SharePoint platform remains unfulfilled.  My passion is to help organizations better understand their business needs and how SharePoint’s out-of-the-box capabilities can be aligned with those needs. 

I’m particularly excited about Office 365 entering the marketplace, as it will introduce new users and new use-cases while at the same time removing significant efforts to get started and manage server environments. 

Check back to see how things evolve as we get ramped up:

Please let me know how I can help you or your organization!

Office 365 – The New Business Essentials

I recently attended a conference session about resources and tools available for new business owners.  While a lot of the conversation what about raising seed and venture money, one topic was about the tools and services that are essential to a new business. 

They listed a lot of the things that you would expect: A phone number, a good place to get business cards and a business address (see below). Being in the technology field, I was thinking along different lines. They didn’t mention a domain name, email and a website, though I hope it was just assumed.

I would argue that with the release of Office 365, this is also going to be a small business essential tool.  Office 365 is going to be a simple, inexpensive tool that can meet the core email and website needs while being chock full of so much more potential. 

  1. Sign up for Office 365
  2. Get yourself a domain name and configure your Office 365 account to use it for email and public-facing site. You may need some guidance or assistance with this, but it’s a lot less than setting up your own servers and there are a LOT of resources to help – online and other. 
  3. Build your public-facing site.  This can be as simple or complex as you’d like to make it, but with the template and tools available, you can be up in minutes. 
  4. Now, go about your business.
  5. In the meantime, start to look at all the other capabilities you have:
    1. Lync Online – Conduct your online meetings without needing another services like GoToMeeting, etc…
    2. SharePoint Online – Store and share your documents and other content.  MUCH more later as you learn about SharePoint’s capabilities…
    3. Exchange Online – Primarily your email, but so much more than the basic accounts you had in the past. Manage your calendar and resources and sync them from multiple devices. 
    4. and so, much more…

To be fair, during the session they did also mentioned DropBox, and GoToMeeting. Dropbox may still be a useful tool, depending on the devices you’re using, though Office 365 is going to fill a lot of that capability as well.  GoToMeeting is fully surpassed by the Lync Online capabilities and integration that Office 365 offers. 

So, if you ask me – I wouldn’t start a business without spinning up a Office 365 site as one of the first things. 

Notes and References:

  • The conference I was attending was the MHTA Spring Conference.  They did a fantastic job.  If you’re in the Minneapolis, MN area and can attend I highly recommend it.  MHTA is the Minnesota High Tech Association
    • Grasshopper Virtual Phone System – This could be useful as an alternative to giving out your cell number to anyone.
    • – Yep, you need to have business cards and these are certainly inexpensive.
    • A P.O. box – Don’t want to be using your home address, but I prefer the UPS box option that allows for a real address with no ‘P.O.’ and notification when stuff arrives.