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Hi, This is Wayne. This is my site, my stuff, my blog, blahblahblah. The site itself is powered by WordPress and the Scary Little theme. I thought it was cool, and I still do.

Wednesday night was a great re-connect for me.

Bill English, master presenter, speaker, knowledgable technologist, authoradozentimesover and heavily credentialed super-cool guy flew into Austin to speak to our local SharePoint Users Group.  

Ok, I gotta say… that photo right there is probably 8 years old.  He looks way cooler than that now, mainly because now he has a goatee.   And, as we all know, really good looking people end up converting to goatee.

Bill hailed from Minnesota (my birth state, another awesome checkmark on his list of awesome traits that make him awesome) and I soon found out why he was so willing to come down to Texas — when he boarded the plane in Minneapolis earlier that day, the high temperature for the day was five below zero.

That?  Is cold.

Here in Texas all we get is a little bit of freezing rain or sleet.  It hardly ever snows.  We just get the cold water pooling up and then the wind cools it just enough to make it really really cold.  Cold enough to freeze your butt off.

Like here:

That’s where I literally froze my butt off.  Nasty, isn’t it?

Bill came to speak to us (shoot, there were 40+ people there; I think it was our biggest gathering ever!) about Findability.  This topic is very apropos for SharePoint people because evidently being able to find your stuff is important. 

Someone should tell Google.

I first met Bill wayyyyyyy back in 2002 at a SharePoint class he was giving in Orlando.  We got along famously and he helped launch me into giving strong user community support of the SharePoint product.  I believe I authored over 1400 newsgroup answers on the Interwebz for the rest of 2002, gave training classes, authored some white papers and before I knew it, I was awarded the Microsoft SharePoint MVP.  

I was found to be one of only eighteen (18) MPV’s in the world, Bill included.  Being an MVP was a great ego boost, because they’d bestow some sort of cool gift, some “Microsoft money,” membership into MSDN or TechNet, and a trip to Redmond for the big MVP bash, among other things.  It also gave me some street credz when I posted because it’s like “hey, listen to me because I’M AN MVP!”  

Nowadays there’s 135 SharePoint Server MVPs worldwide, so I guess anyone who can correctly capitalize SharePoint can be let in.

Um, that was some humor right there.  Did anyone miss it?

Is this thing on?  tap-tap-tap.

Seeing Bill again and talking SharePoint has refueled my passion for the product.  At work, I’ve mostly delegated the SharePoint torch so I don’t work with it day-to-day very much but it’s not for lack of wanting to.   I love getting lost in coming up with new ways to help the company save time, automate processes, search for what people want, and write nifty little solutions that help someone with a business problem.   I love picking apart the engine under the covers and pushing an out-of-the-box implementation to the limit.

I also like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. 

…silence…

…crickets…

ahem.  

Well, Bill is at it again, with upcoming speaking engagements, probably another book deal or two, and is expected to be one of the leading authorities on the next version of SharePoint, whatever and whenever that will be.  It’s an exciting time and I can’t wait to see what comes out!

Thanx for spreading some SharePoint love in Austin, Bill!

I’m baaaaaAAAaaack!

note: the way I typed that above does not imply I’ve been gone very long.  It’s just how I type sometimes.

wayne's 3-minute ditl day in the life

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This is yet another in an apparent series of articles on SharePoint.  And, like some of the more recent articles, this one requires a tip of my hat to Matthew McDermott of Catapult Systems for helping us tackle this with a million times more safety than would normally occur if we were attempting these actions on our own.

catapult systems
Use Them.  Really.

With Sharepoint, there’s this thing called “MySite”.  It’s a personalized, customizable, directory-enabled site for users.  It’s really cool – most of the information comes from Active Directory, like phone number, email address, reporting structure, etc. and it can show you the files you’ve been working on (anywhere in the company) and give you document libraries to store personal and project-based documents.

mysite generic wayne hall

  1. Private and Public Views
    When a user looks at their own MySite, they can switch between these two views.  The above is an example of a “public” view – normally if I look at my own MySite, I don’t want to look at my own picture.  Well, I *do*, but I don’t want everyone to know that.  The Public view is what everyone else sees about me, and the Private view is customizable and presentable to me and me alone.  I might put my calendar on there, or pictures of my kids… it’s a drag and drop kind of workspace, like the Yahoo and Google’s of the world where you can put whatever you want wherever you want.
  2. Active Directory info
    Most of the time, our corporate directory is up to date with reporting structure, phone numbers, email, etc.  SharePoint pulls this info straight out of Active Directory so I don’t have to keep and maintain yet another set of information on employees.  It also has neat dropdowns that let me schedule meetings, use VOIP to call an end user, do instant messaging, email them right from the page, and see their presence info (ie, at their desk, in a meeting, etc).  It even lets me know if they’re free in the next 8 hours or what office they’re from.           sharepoint presence outlook integration
  3. Shared Lists
    Each employee can use the web to store documents, lists, or have private documents.   They can create new websites without knowing any HTML or coding, and collaborate with other employees easily.
  4. Recent Documents
    This is really cool – since SharePoint indexes not only itself but also other fileshares throughout the company, it can know what YOU have modified or own, and shows the recent documents not just on the SharePoint server but any file server in the company.  When other people view your site, they can see the documents you’ve been working on that THEY have access to, again increasing collaboration.  This is cool for system admins who have access to EVERYTHING, and then we can watch people make their resumes.  Ok, I’m kiddding there a little.  Just a little.
  5. Shared Workspaces
    If the employee happens to have other sites they made with other employees, they can show up here, giving kind of an automatic bookmark

Now, none of this is new.  This is from a product called SharePoint 2003, which you can probably guess is about 4 years old now.  Microsoft has released SharePoint 2007 (aka “MOSS”) and it improves a lot of this.

Why am I telling you about old stuff?  Well, for one, it’s still in use at a lot of places.  And secondly, if one of your SharePoint administrators inadvertently edits the MySite in FrontPage and breaks it, you just might want to know how to recover.

That’s what this article is about.  In the extended entry, so’s I don’t bore most of you all.  See how I put YOU first?

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Don’t you hate it when something eludes you for a long time?  And you spend lots of time trying to fix it?  You ask for help, get nowhere.  And then you just learn to live with it?  And it annoys you AT EVERY TURN and you STILL just let it sit, etching away at your sanity a few seconds at a time?

That’s how it’s been for me with this annoying piece of my blog – at some point after a ton of customization early on, my sidebar decided to display BELOW the post and comment form instead of where it belongs – (dramatic pause) ON THE SIDE.

blog wordpress theme div tag wrapping

This was so annoying I can’t even tell you.  I had asked a few friends about it too, over the past few months.  I was convinced it was either too many DIV tags or not enough DIV tags.  So I spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME counting, recounting, and looking for tools that would tell me if I have too many nested tags, and then playing with the tools, and then forgetting about the whole dang thing.

The thing’s been like that for over a year.  GEWEEEEESH.

So recently, that same consultant who helped me with SharePoint pointed me in the direction of a nifty little tool called the IE Developer Toolbar.  And this tool pointed to what the problem was, which in my case was a simple error in pixels and the browser being forced to “wrap” the next section down a row.  So it’s not that I had the wrong tags at all – something in the middle column was too fat, so the sidebar was forced down.

Once I fixed that, I got a much better looking blog entry page:

div tag wrapping pixel fixed

I have more technical detail in the extended entry below for those interested.

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I love our little set up.  We pay a consultant to come here and fix SharePoint stuff for us, and since we paid for his time, we own the resulting work.  And then *I* get to blog about it.  I figure it’s a fair trade – he does the work, I get the credit.  Isn’t that the way life is supposed to work?

By the way, if you need SharePoint help, consider engaging Catapult Systems – top notch help, let me tell you.  In particular, Matt McDermott has been a fantastic resource many times for our company.  I think his full name is Matthew, but he goes by Matt.  I keep forgetting to ask him where he keeps the excess “hew”. 

Catapult Systems Logo
Use them.  Really.

So maybe we’ll change our relationship to this: HE does the work but *I* explain it to the masses.   That’s what this entry is – a technical explanation of something we solved in SharePoint – namely, how to do something really cool with search.

First, a quick introduction.  SharePoint is a Microsoft product that gives companies a great intranet tool, collaboration platform, document search, a portal, and a ton of other great things.  I depend on it daily, as do many groups at our company.

One of the recent projects we engaged Matt for was to help us with the technical side of rebranding our intranet.  There are many things you can do out-of-the-box, but some of the ones we wanted to do weren’t so easy.  And one of the things that kept eluding me was how to get a better “Search” web part on our main home page.  We didn’t want the generic search that it includes at the top of the typical SharePoint area:

sharepoint generic search

And we didn’t want the overkill “Advanced search web part” that is on the main built-in search page:

Sharepoint Advanced Search Web Part
(click to enlarge) 

But instead, we wanted something between the two and that could fit nicely on the right side in its own Web Part Zone, plus give employees two main functions: an easy and smart Employee Lookup and a quick search of documents both in SharePoint and on the file shares throughout the company: 

Intranet Mockup with semi-advanced search web part 
(click to enlarge)

So Matt helped us out.  I’ll put the rest of the technical details in the extended entry below for those of you who want to know the solution.  And get a few laughs.  And it might cure acne, but I haven’t told the FDA about that yet.

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