Category Archives: General

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

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.

SharePoint Community Events… Busy Days

There are a handful of things happening in the next day or so that might be interesting to folks in the SharePoint space:

  • Wednesday 4/20 8:00 AMMichael Gannotti’s Coffee Talk will be taking place. His talks include:
    • Microsoft Productivity News
    • Productivity Customer Onsite Experience
    • Special Guests
    • Tips and Tricks
    • Gadget of the week
    • Live Audience Q&A
  • Wednesday 4/20 11:00 AM – Q&A with the SharePoint MVP Experts.  Access the event by checking out the MSDN Events and Webcasts page.
  • Wednesday 4/20 6:00 PM – Microsoft Store at the Mall of America.  From 6:00 – 8;00 there is a Special Event for Business solutions.  They’ll be covering Microsoft Signature Pro and Microsoft Office 365 – Cloud versions of Microsoft’s communications and collaboration (yep – SharePoint) products.  Oh, and did I mention a 15% store discount during the event?
  • Thursday 4/21 11:25 AMSharePoint ShopTalk
    Register for this week’s event.

Hope to see you there!

Office365 – Public Beta Available

Today the public beta for Office365 opened up.  (Happy Tax Day).  So, what does this mean?  And where do you get started? 

Well, there are a TON of resources out there for you to learn about Office365, how to get involved and what it can mean for your organization.  For starters:

So, what is this and why should you care? Office 365 is the newest version of Microsoft’s online (aka ‘cloud’) application offerings. This includes (depending on the version and licensing):

  • SharePoint Online
  • Exchange Online
  • Lync Online
  • Microsoft Office Professional Plus

The big picture is that you can use these services without installing, configuring and managing the hardware and core software stuff – a big load off for many organizations.  You do still need someone that can configure and manage the service for your organization. But it’s a lot less work and hassle than managing an on-site set of servers.

More importantly, you need someone to define *how* your organization is going to use these services and how it fits with the organization’s goals and technology roadmaps – which is where people like me come in.   

The short story is that it’s a lot of bang for your buck.  The next batch of questions now become:

  • Is Office365 a good fit for your organization?
  • What is the best way to use Office365 in your organization?
  • How will it work with your organization’s existing capabilities?

Office365 has a lot of potential to improve the productivity of users and organizations, but it also has the potential to add to the clutter of tools and systems that are out there – just as any platform used poorly can do. 

So, check it out, allow yourself to get excited by the potential, but then slow down and put some time into planning so you can be successful down the road. 

OneNote Needs Mind-Mapping

I recently saw a post about a Microsoft-hosted event called the 2011 U.S. Innovative Education Forum, which reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to post – a request to Microsoft:

Please add mind-mapping functionality to OneNote. 

That’s it. 

It really should be there – here’s why:

  • Kids are using it – It just makes sense to them because it’s the way we all think.  My second grader came home from school and showed me his ‘research paper’ that included what he called a ‘web’. It was a mind-map. Kids are already being trained to use this method for learning, organizing their thoughts and working from them. Fantastic. 
    Now, bear in mind that our kids to to a STEM school, so all public schools might not be using mind-maps yet, but they should. They used a tool called Kidspiration / Inspiration.  They weren’t sure which one. 
    I picked up the Home and Student version of Microsoft Office 2010 which includes OneNote and the kids are all over it – they love it.  Adding the mind-mapping capability just seems to be the next step. 
    Kids today are the future of your software market.  Yea, I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true and there are more of them than there are of us – so it’s a good investment.      
  • College age students would use it too – I can’t imagine how different my note-taking would have been with a mind-mapping tool and the right hardware that’s available now. 
  • Adults are using it – More and more I’m seeing people in meetings using some sort of mind-mapping software to take notes, which I think is fantastic.  I use a tool on my iPad right now called iThoughtsHD which is pretty good and is supposed to sync with client apps, though I don’t have one yet. In the meantime I just use the e-mail method which sends a list view of the content along with an image of the map. 
    For the same reason that it works for kids, it works for adults too – it’s a tool that’s consistent with the way we think. 
  • It makes sense and is an extension of the other note-taking that people want to do.  Let’s get it in the right tool.  If you step back and think about it, the core functionality seems to align with what’s already available in Visio for managing shapes and relationships, but the user scenarios are more aligned with OneNote.  Students and kids aren’t going to buy Visio. 
  • Once it’s built into OneNote, let me have the other Office integration features that we’re used to: create tasks that link to Outlook and SharePoint.
  • Let me add people as nodes – people pulling from my Outlook, the SharePoint Profile Store or Exchange.  
  • While you’re putting that together – make an iPhone and iPad version of it that syncs to the Cloud…  Smile 


Oh, and meanwhile, Kid #1 comes up to me one morning and asks “How can I get access to my OneNote at school?”.  Smart little bugger. Now I need to get them set up on Live

Thanks for listening.