Problems with the WordPress Twitter Widget

I was finding that the new WordPress Twitter Widget was giving me the “No response from Twitter.” error the majority of the time, so I thought I’d try switching to the RSS method for a while until they work out the kinks with the new widget. Turns out that the RSS option isn’t much better.  My guess is that the Twitter servers are just really overloaded most of the time.  Maybe it’s time to find a business model to fund some bigger iron!


Restricting SharePoint Designer Access

So, now that SharePoint Designer is free, your first question is going to be how to prevent people from using it, right?  Well, first, take a deep breath and sit back.  It’s time to think about what you actually want to accomplish.

SharePoint Designer is indeed totally free now.  What this means is that any pesky user can just go to Microsoft’s site and download it and install it.  If you work in an enterprise-level organization, you probably already have policies in place that dictate, if not downright restrict, what can be installed on people’s desktops, so this whole thing probably falls into that bailiwick.  If your users can’t actually install it, then the fact that it is free doesn’t matter.

However, let’s think about what Designer actually lets you accomplish.  Lifting straight from the Microsoft marketure (I’m copying and pasting a lot of text, and verbatim, to avoid confusion):

Q&A on SharePoint Designer 2007 Licensing Changes

Our different SharePoint server offerings provide a number of capabilities that can help improve organizational effectiveness through comprehensive content management and enterprise search, support for shared business processes and workflows, and capabilities for information-sharing and better business insight, across intranet, extranet, and internet-facing applications, all within one platform. SharePoint customizations include sophisticated no-code solutions such as Data Views, reports, and workflow tracking built by our customers quickly and easily using menus, task panes, and templates. In addition, our platform provides IT professionals and developers with the building blocks and tools for interoperability and extensibility that they need to build customized business solutions on SharePoint.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 top 10 benefits

Reason 1Be more productive with next-generation Microsoft Web technologies.

Enjoy a new level of support for creating and customizing next-generation SharePoint Web sites and technologies. Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 has deep editing support for the technologies underlying Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services technology, such as ASP.NET 2.0, cascading style sheets, and Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation.

Reason 2Customize SharePoint sites exactly the way you want.

Choose the format and content of your SharePoint pages with Office SharePoint Designer 2007 — the customization tool for the entire SharePoint family. You can tailor SharePoint sites to your needs and set brand requirements using the latest ASP.NET technology, established Web standards such as XHTML, and cascading style sheets.

Reason 3Easily make or undo changes across entire SharePoint sites.

Make format and layout changes to entire SharePoint sites simply by editing the master page and modifying the SharePoint cascading style sheets. Undo changes to the home page using the Revert to Site Template Page command in Office SharePoint Designer 2007.

Reason 4Maintain control over site customization.

Site administrators and IT managers can control exactly how Office SharePoint Designer 2007 is used to help ensure information workers have an IT-managed and -compliant experience. Set up Contributor Settings for each role defined in the SharePoint site, and control access to specific actions.

Reason 5Create workflows to automate business processes.

Automate business processes associated with SharePoint lists and document libraries using the Workflow Designer, a powerful and easy-to-use tool that comes with Office SharePoint Designer 2007. Set up custom workflow conditions and actions, link them to your SharePoint data, and deploy them with a single click, without installing server code.

Reason 6Create interactive Web pages without writing code.

Office SharePoint Designer 2007 has a full set of tools to help you integrate data into SharePoint pages and present that data using XSLT in SharePoint sites. You can access tools for using XSLT Data Views, List View Web Parts, Web Part connections, ASP.NET controls, and workflow.

Reason 7Integrate business data.

Create views and forms for working with a variety of data sources using tools supported by Office SharePoint Designer 2007. Build SharePoint Web pages that present and edit data coming from SharePoint lists and document libraries, XML files, Microsoft SQL Server databases, Web services, and enterprise systems.

Reason 8Develop sites compatible with a wide range of browsers and Web standards.

Office SharePoint Designer 2007 has excellent support for creating Web pages based on Web standards such as XHTML and cascading style sheets and meeting Web accessibility requirements for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG and Section 508 (29 U.S.C. 794d), including built-in compatibility checkers for these standards.

Reason 9Build advanced ASP.NET pages.

Office SharePoint Designer 2007 supports creating and editing ASP.NET pages. It provides the same level of support as Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 for ASP.NET control hosting, property editing, toolbox, and Microsoft IntelliSense technology in Code View.

Reason 10Manage and help protect your site.

Use reports in Office SharePoint Designer 2007 to help manage your site by checking for broken links, unused pages, cascading style sheets usage, and master page usage. Site backup and restore features make it easy to save your site to a single file for helping to protect data or moving it to another server running Windows SharePoint Services technology.

Does any of that sound dangerous?  Of course not!  It was written by marketers who wanted you to buy the product (but now it’s free!).  The point is that the capabilities contained in SharePoint Designer can allow your users to do pretty cool stuff all on their own.  (So do Microsoft Word, Excel, etc., and we IT folks have pretty much gotten used to that, though we may ridicule their lack of “expertise” behind their backs.  Look in the mirror: are you actually that much better?)

So, let’s assume that those annoying users are able and willing to install SharePoint Designer on their machines.  What are the real issues for IT or the governance folks?  As I’ve mentioned in the past, SharePoint Designer respects all permissions.  If your user has Read permissions on a site, they aren’t going to be able to open it in SharePoint Designer.  Period.  SharePoint Designer is an editor, so Read permissions just won’t do it.  But what if they are Contributors?  Yes, they can then open the site, but they will only be able to do things that are allowed by the Contributor role.  (Time to re-acquaint yourself with what’s behind the roles and how they work.)

Time to convene a meeting of your governance committee.  Think through all of this, and what you want people to be able to do.  SharePoint is a collaborative platform.  It’s the most important new platform for Microsoft, and it isn’t going away anytime soon.  Microsoft has said that SharePoint Designer will be free for good, now – all future versions.  You’re going to want to get your hands around this one.

Ok, you’ve read this far, and you still just want to keep everyone from using SharePoint Designer, period, no questions asked.  Here’s the article that you’re looking for, direct from the SharePoint Designer Team Blog.  It gives every nitty-gritty detail on what your options are.  My recommendation: think before you act.

Trying to Be Twitterific

I’ve decided to try out this Twitter thing that all the kids are talking about.  On my recent vacation, I made a concerted effort to imagine having Twitter available as we went around doing things: “Just saw a monkey cross the road”, “Ziplining ought to be a verb because it is so much fun”, “Boy, this is good pineapple”, “Good programming practices can’t fall by the wayside with today’s fancy tools”.  OK, I have trouble turning off my work brain sometimes, I admit it.

I’ve signed up with Twitter, added the Twitter widget to my blog’s sidebar, downloaded the GeoTwitter (I love the geocoding idea!) and Tweeter apps for my iPhone, and I’m good to go.  Now the test will be if I can come up with good “work” stuff to tweet about.  No monkeys crossing the road here.

I’ve heard some interesting stories about what *not* to do with Twitter: tweeting about the great sales meeting you just had with client X (the competition *loves* to hear about that — watch them swarm), mixing work and pleasure too much (“My wife and I just took a great bubble bath” doesn’t really give you much street cred around the office), “My boss sux” (Gee, do you think she needed to hear that???).

You can watch me learn here or in my sidebar.  Maybe I’ll think of some useful things to say.  If not, well then at least it’ll be a fun experiment.

Exciting News: SharePoint Designer Is Now Free!

I’d heard the rumors, but now it’s apparently true: My favorite Microsoft development tool is now free.  This seems like a shift in strategy for Microsoft, but they try to explain their reasoning in a Letter to SharePoint Designer Customers.

If you follow my blog at all, you know that I think you can do a heck of a lot with SharePoint Designer, and that it’s a good thing.  (See my diatribe entitled SharePoint Designer: Useful Tool or Spawn of the Devil?)  Opening SharePoint Designer up to all takers has got to have a lot of SharePoint administrators quaking in their boots, though.  Many governance policies will have to be rewritten as well.

Let me stress what may have been the most important point I made in my Tool/Devil post above:

Keep in mind that in SharePoint, EVERYTHING — let me repeat — EVERYTHING is security trimmed.  If you don’t have permission to access something through the UI, you won’t be able to access it through SharePoint Designer, either.

If you’ve been sloppy with permissions, then you may have some issues with folks using SharePoint Designer when you weren’t expecting it.

I’d recommend, though, that instead of panicking about this shift, you should think about what great capabilities it will put into the hands of your user base.  Power to the people doesn’t have to be a scary thing.

Hiding Permission Groups for Your WSS-Based Extranet

We’re using our hosted WSS site for our Internet site, our Intranet, and our Client Extranet.  This is a very cool use of WSS, IMHO.  Not only do we have all of the great content management capabilities for our external site, but we have the team-based capabilities which we can use to interact with our clients and amongst ourselves.

One of the tricky bits to this configuration is of course to get the permissions right.  Because WSS was built fundamentally as a collaboration platform, your users often see things that you don’t really want them to.  One specific thing you probably don’t want to expose is the permission groups.  For instance, if you have a group called Clients – Client A, you probably don’t want the members of that group to know that the group Clients – Client B even exists, not to mention its membership.

The solution for this isn’t totally obvious.  By default, every user who has access to a site can also see the permission groups and users from that site.  Since permission groups are managed at the Site Collection level, that means that they can see all of the groups, not just the ones that have permissions on the current site.  Sure, you might say, just create separate Site Collections.  That’s one answer, but since we want to be able to enable collaboration not only between us and our clients, but potentially also amongst our clients (should they decide they want to be a part of that community), separate Site Collections would be limiting.  We want this all to work within one Site Collection.

Removing the People and Roles link on the Quick Launch hides the visible navigation, but any user who has spent any time with SharePoint is likely to know that the page lives at /_layouts/people.aspx.  (You will want to remove the People and Groups link, though, so that the users won’t get the unsightly

Error: Access Denied

error page.)  Never forget that obscurity isn’t security!

To clean this up, I created new roles called Read – No Browse User Information and Contribute – No Browse User Information.  (See this previous post about managing roles.)  These are copies of the Read and Contribute roles, but with Browse User Information removed:


We have a permission group called Clients, and I assigned the Read – No Browse User Information role to that group on the Extranet site.  Each client sub-site has a permission group like Client – Client A which is assigned the Contribute – No Browse User Information role.  Now the users can read or interact with all of the content, as appropriate, but they can’t “see” each other. 

If you do this, make sure that you make the change for any child sites which don’t inherit permissions as well!