Browse Strategies and Site Directory

Now that I’m not at MS I can be a bit more candid about things I like and don’t like, I hope some of that came through in my previous blogs anyway, but want to let you know I have been honest, but maybe not brutally honest unless you were in my Good Bad Ugly sessions at TechReady5 and TechReady6 (internal technical readiness conferences).
 
The site directory out of the box is cute.  It fits the really small environments out of the box, but for even some medium environments a company needs to really think about a browse strategy for getting people to their sites.
 
What doesn’t work with Site Directory
 
I. All sites are added automatically generating at least a few problems.
1. Sites that are empty are added
2. Users that add their own descriptions can put some sites over the top in terms of scope.  Data may not be relevant.  
3. If you click on a site you more than half the time will not have access.  How many times does it take to make you not want to use the site directory?  Sites are not security trimmed.
4. Sites may no longer exist (some features in MOSS 2007 can help you take care of this one at least.)
 
What you need…
1. Sites that are useful and interesting… not old, not crusty, not empty, not shallow…
2. Sites that are security trimmed or are open
3. Categorizations need to be useful and easy to navigate and not empty nodes (not too deep)
 
MSWeb is one example of an interesting evolution of a site directory and browse strategy for the Intranet. 
 
1. First before it was even SharePoint there was a list of sites that was very groomed and managed.  People were able to find the sites that were approved, but you couldn’t find data that wasn’t exposed.  Even search was only of the known universe. 
 
Result… a site directory of the known sites that was easy to use, but was not automatic and was managed.
 
2. Then there was SharePoint 2003, I was anxious to see a site directory of all the sites at Microsoft.  An all inclusive directory of all sites allowing it to expose all those hidden gems of data across the company.  Search as well, was looking at true enterprise search or search of data across the company in all web based repositories including some limited file shares and public folders.  A site creation UI was designed to dump all sites into the site directory and search would be based on a dump of all of these sites and the site directory. 
 
Result:  A huge site directory that would make you proud, except in SPS 2003 we had all sorts of empty sites, deleted sites, and irrelevant sites.  Really you couldn’t find anything you were looking for, but the categories looked very impressive.
 
3. The next generation site directory would be scrubbed the hundreds of thousands of sites would be seen as irrelevant for the average person.  If they needed something out of an obscure site, then they would either know the URL or they could search for it.  This new directory would go back to the roots and start with the known universe.  If you’re looking for the SharePoint Team, there’s one public facing SharePoint site for that team and so on.  This more static, but managed list would be the stategy.  No more would it be a full list of all sites.  It would be open and official sites… not really a lot of collab sites, but more portal or WCM type sites.
 
Result: People started returning to using the site directory, but search really took over as the standard for finding data.  Browse took a back seat.  Browse still isn’t very big at MS, but there is some promise that these issues of manually managing such a list could provide promise for the future.
 
 

Public Folders and SharePoint Revisited

I expect most of you have seen the Exchange and SharePoint Team blogs both referring to Exchanges updated details.
 
I put my PF thoughts after the first set of guidance in a post titled "What about Public Folders vs. email enabled Lists in WSS?"
 
The most important detail is this new information from the Exchange team:
 
1) The Exchange team is going to support PF in the next version
2) Support is now going to be based on the 10 year support for the next version of Exchange
 
The table that was put together (which is most easily viewed on the SharePoint Team blog) is some decent guidance.  What is unfortunate is I see a few comments that say they are no longer planning on migrating their PFs as a result.  This is a bit confusing to me.  Sure the Exchange team isn’t pushing to kill PFs as fast as it had hoped, but it sure seems clear that the demise is still imminent and that they hope to transition these scenarios to SharePoint as customers can.  Notice that the table clearly has all new scenarios being built on SharePoint rather than saying use PFs on certain scenarios.  It’s true you really can find some strong reasons to use PFs today, but no one is encouraging you to buy Exchange for the PFs and to build custom solutions on them.  I think that’s quite clear. 
 
Migration is tough, I do encourage if you can do it successfully and have the budget, otherwise if you can at least stop the obvious file sharing that happens on PFs and limit the usage to archiving of distribution lists or other such scenarios that limit the scenarios where PFs shine.
 
If you were to ask me, I’d say the guidance hasn’t really changed, the mercy of the Exchange team has simply been extended to help the large enterprise customers who haven’t been able to map their scenarios to SharePoint.  Most of them now do have SharePoint, and whether the migration happens in WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007 or in SharePoint 14 is yet to be seen for some customers.
 
It’s culture and adoption that will drive it, but by having two solutions for the same scenarios can add confusion.  Some overlap is understandable, but my guidance would be to limit the scenarios so you can be clear with your users what PFs are for and what the SharePoint platform is for.  Today I personally wouldn’t be encouraging more proliferation of PFs, I’d be limiting the scenarios and seriously considering charge back and business justification so I knew how they are being used, so I could track the scenarios with SharePoint 14 and making sure MS knew exactly what my PFs were being used for.

SharePoint brings peace to the Middle East

SharePoint Brings Peace in 5 Ways
 
1. It promotes collaboration and social networking.  Collaboration brings us closer to each other and can help us work out our differences.  Having a single truth can help with BI, but it’s also important to recognize that one answer from another in different views can come from the same source.
 
2.   It promotes peace through self expression promoting understanding.  The platform itself provides creative ways of expressing ourselves though blogging, profiles, targeting and my sites.
 
3. It promotes peace through order and process through workflows.  The workflows built into the platform and easily extended are great ways of manging order and recognizing the order of things.
 
4. It promotes peace through discovery and search.  Insight and knowledge help us be enlightened by finding the things we are looking for and often the things that we might not have been looking for, but provide insight and come closer to a more perfect understanding.
 
5. It promotes peace through usage of a flexible platform.  A rigid system would be contrary to promoting mercy and understanding.  The flexibility of master pages and solutions make a systematic way of supporting change without impacting the core system.  Solutions can bring insight to the administrator and increase the ease of use and at the same time enhance the overall system.
 
 
Joel Oleson in Petra
 
I’ve spent the last week half in Jordan and half in Israel.  I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life this last week with some incredible people who are Arabs, Muslims, Jews, Palestineans and Israelis.  The thing they all had in common was a passion for SharePoint.
 
The SharePoint User Group meeting in Jordan was super relaxed.  Those guys know how to make a guy feel like a Shiek.  Mohammed Zayed and Muhanad Omar are both rock stars in their own right.  Young rising super stars in the  SharePoint world.  I had a blast staying up all night sharing stories and pondering about the mysteries of life and beyond and then going to Petra and almost getting eaten by a camel, or falling off a cliff by an overworked little donkey… Petra  is clearly near the top of the list of the 7 wonders of the world and our tour and the company made it the top.
 
I’ll let you know when I get the videos of me at the dead sea with the dead sea mud all over me properly edited. 🙂
 
The Jordanians are passionate about SharePoint and what it can do for them.  They really are realizing it’s potential.
 
The Israeli Office System User Group (made up of at least 90% SharePoint people) was a huge treat.  Avi (MOSS is his middle name) stole the show with his guitar playing of a western with me and my SharePoint skills.  It was extremely flattering.  He’s really THE Man.  (If you didn’t see this, ask him about it at TechEd Israel.  I’d be there if it wasn’t in conflict with the SharePoint Conference in Dubai.)    I have to say he went out of his way to really show me the way not just Israelis live, but to help me understand Jewish traditions and ways of life.  I have a huge respect for him.  Shabat Shalom and a HUGE Thank You (תודה, תודה לך!).  You and your family did more for me than anyone could ask.
 
Meron, thanks for the tour of Jerusalem.  Your persistence paid off with the mount of Olives, and going through the muslim quarter right after the call to prayer was an incredible experience physically and mentally.  The spirit was strong that day.
 
In a successful secret operation titled "migration of Joel." Which started from Plane, to Bus, to Car, to finally a mix of Taxi and border bus.  I witnessed a first hand miracle with a lot of praying as I was flying across Jordan, Mt. Nebo, Palestine and the occupied territories to then land in the Microsoft office in Tel Aviv in the heart of the promised land from the desert rock city of Petra some 5 hours earlier an impossible feat for even Moses.  (Well, if it weren’t for that stick and water incident with Moses, I’m sure he could have reached there, albiet 40 years instead of 5.)
 
Tomorrow I fly to Dubai and then mid week to Istanbul.  What other lessons will I learn?
 
One thing I do know from being in the Middle east… I’ve found that SharePoint can help assist in bringing peace…
 
Jerusalem and Joel
 

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Wow I’m in Dubai and I’m not at MS

My last day at work was pretty short.  My first appointment of the day was with HR to give them my AMEX, Blue Badge, and Prime Card.  They also wanted my parking pass, but I haven’t updated mine in over a year.  It feels like I’m naked to not have my blue badge.  I feel free, but also it feels a bit strange, like I’m missing something.
 
It was raining when I went into the appointment and snowing when I got out!  I got a taxi and headed to the airport to catch a Northwest flight to Amsterdam on my way to Dubai. We had to wait for 30 minutes while they de-Iced the plane.
 
So now 25 hours later I’m in my hotel in Dubai and I’m getting ready to start the day.  I’m headed to the LDS ward here in Dubai this morning before heading to Jordan via Kuwait to meet up with the MS folks there for 3 days packed full of customer meetings, Petra, and the Jordan SharePoint User Group dinner which is sure to please.
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