Dear Microsoft: Please Make Modified Dates in Site Contents Reflect Content or Structure Changes Only Again

Looking at the modified values in Site Contents has always been a quick way to recognize where activity has occurred – if it has. Without running any code we can quickly see if a site has been used recently. (It was easier to eyeball this in SharePoint 2007 in the vertical listing than it is in SharePoint 2013+, but that’s a different UI issue – tiles aren’t helpful for every use case.)

Site Contents in SharePoint 2007

Site Contents in SharePoint 2007

Site Contents in SharePoint 2010

Site Contents in SharePoint 2010

For months now, a list no one has touched for over a year on Office 365 might say “Modified 23 hours ago”. It seems as though lists and libraries are being “touched” by some background process(es), changing the modified time incorrectly.

Site Contents in SharePoint 2013

Site Contents in SharePoint 2013

An example would be the site in my Sympraxis Office 365 tenant at https://sympraxis.sharepoint.com/sites/Demos2013/_layouts/15/viewlsts.aspx

On that page, I see a number of lists and libraries that say “Modified 5 days ago”. I know for a fact that I have not modified any of those lists or libraries in quite a long time (at least months) and I’m the only person who would be in there.

False Modification Info

I’ve seen this in multiple tenants on Office 365, so it isn’t just something in my tenant. It’s VERY confusing to end users and brings into question the integrity of the platform.

I’ve been told by support that this is “expected behavior” and has been the case since SharePoint 2013. I believe this should be fixed.

I’ve added two UserVoice items to collect votes on this. It seems to be the best way to get some people in Redmond to pay attention to the issue, as my support conduits have failed.

It’s a shame when I feel I need to become an agitator to get  my friends out Seattle way to pay attention to this sort of issue. I know they are better and smarter than this, but large companies sometimes end up with processes that aren’t conducive to absorbing input. Things are SO much better in Redmond now, and I am sincerely enjoying working with the Product Group out there as an MVP.

In this case, let’s politely and constructively let them know this matters to us (and in my case, to my clients) by voting for the UserVoice items. Requests with more votes get more attention. so let’s let them hear us.

Today the SharePoint Mobile App Comes to iOS

One of the big May 4th announcements comes true today, with the release of the Microsoft SharePoint app on iOS. (Yes, we iPhone folks get to have most of the fun!) Read all the details about the release on the Office Blogs.

In case you missed the details, the Microsoft SharePoint app for iOS puts “your Intranet in your pocket” – though it’s probably more useful in your hand. Here are a few views of the app from the Office Blogs post. 
SharePoint appThe version they’ve release today looks a little bit different than the May 4 screenshots, but the basics are all there: Sites, Links, and People. I expect we’ll see continuous and rapid improvement on the app going forward, so keep an eye on it!

Learn more about the new SharePoint mobile app in this video, which was released for the May 4 event:

Dear Microsoft: Please Listen to Us About the New Document Library “Experience”

One of the latest hubbubs in the Office 365 world is around the new Document Library “experience”. (I refuse to use the word “experience” in this sort of context without a little sarcasm and some air quotes.)

There’s a new “experience” coming to Office 365 that makes Document Libraries look a lot like the OneDrive browser UI that some of you must use. (I prefer to use a synced folder on my devices to interact with OneDrive – when syncing actually works.)

In case you haven’t see the new “experience” yet, here’s how it goes. Here’s a very simple Document Library in our Sympraxis tenant.

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When you go to a Document Library for the first time after the functionality hits your tenant, you can choose to walk through a Motherhood and apple pie set of intro screens that show why the new experience is swell.

New Document Library "Experience" Prompt

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And after clicking on “Let’s get started”, you see the new “experience”…

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Note the small link at the bottom left that lets you switch back to the “classic” view – for now.

The issue isn’t so much the new “experience”. I do think since people hate change, it’ll cause a lot of discomfort in many organizations, especially since it’s roaring into all tenants. In fact, the new capabilities are indeed swell. The issues are around existing customizations to the branding of functionality of Document Library views.

If you’d like to see what’s got people upset about it, you can check out the UserVoice item Allow Javascript customization and CSS branding/theming in the new Document Library Experience. There’s also a very long thread at the Office 365 Network in Yammer about it.

I do think the “Working on it” message in the UserVoice entry should give some hope. Microsoft knows there are issues. If they can’t address them and others like them, the flow to Office 365 will reverse back to on premises. What I think sows a lot of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt about this is it feels – yet again – like it could be a slippery slope.

Document Library default views are often built into what amounts to applications, or at least launch pads into application. It can be anything from simply adding some explanatory text in a CEWP at the top of the page (which is, after all, a Web Part Page) to full fledged functionality provided by additions of JavaScript using jsLink, DVWPs, JavaScript, CSS, etc. In many cases, the view page ends up looking little like what it started out as.

There simply has to be a way to keep these view pages in the mix, as considerable investment of time and money have gone into them. One would hope “telemetry” will show many people *choosing* to stick with “classic” (in this case meaning “functional” and “useful”) mode pages, even if all the “Working on it” stuff happens.

What I’m asking for in this post (Are these Dear Microsoft posts of mine merely rhetorical? I hope not.) is for a sincere attempt to hear what the concerns are. There are many times where people are feeling like a change to something new risks removing some of the exact reasons why the SharePoint platform has been successful in the past. Running Office 365 as a service can indeed be at odds to the successful methods used in Document Libraries, but understanding how to continue the exact patterns of enhancement that were encouraged in the past – by Microsoft- is critical.  Change can be good, but not if it undoes past investment and successful implementation.

I like the image that Brent Ellis (@Brentless) posted in the Yammer thread:

Do No Harm

Software development isn’t medicine, but still…

Create a Simple SharePoint 2013 Employee Directory on Office365 – Part 5 – Sorting & Refiners

This post in the series was sitting in my “outbox” for a long time. Sorry to people like Nigel (@Nigel_Price) who probably gave up on me!

In a company with 100 employees, clicking on once of the letters are the top of the page will probably narrow things down well enough that you’ll see everyone with that letter at the start of their last name on one page. If you have many more employees, you may end up with too many people to see very easily. And since we’re limited to 50 results in the Search Results Web Part, you may need to page and/or scroll a lot, depending on what properties you’ve decided to show for each person (one line vs. two lines or more, for example).

There are a couple of out of the box capabilities we can use to sort or filter our results a bit more. Because we’re using search to drive the directory, we have all of the native search capabilities that SharePoint gives us. Let’s take a look at adding some sorting and improving the refiners.

Sorting

In the Web Part Properties for the Search Results Web Part, there is a checkbox labelled “Show sort dropdown”. It’s in the Settings section (which is full of other options as well).

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By checking the box and adding some of our own JSON into the field below it, we can control what sort options are available. The JSON should be an array of sort options taking this form:

{
    "name": "Last name (A-Z)",
    "sorts": [{
        "p": "RefinableString00",
        "d": 0
    }]
}

The values break down like this:

  • name – The text value you’ll see in the dropdown
  • sorts – The parameters for the sort that apply when the option is selected
    • p – The managed property to sort on
    • d – [0 | 1] If 0, the assort is ascending, if 1 it is descending.

Note that for the Last name sort above, I’m using the RefinableString00 managed property I set up in Part 4. If we tried to do this with the LastName managed property we’d get an error because that property is not Sortable.

Here’s a pretty basic set of sorting options that should at least get you started. I’m giving you four pretty basic sort options:

  • First name (A-Z)
  • First name (Z-A)
  • Last name (A-Z)
  • Last name (Z-A)
[{"name":"First name (A-Z)","sorts":[{"p":"FirstName","d":0}]},{"name":"First name (Z-A)","sorts":[{"p":"FirstName","d":1}]},{"name":"Last name (A-Z)","sorts":[{"p":"RefinableString00","d":0}]},{"name":"Last name (Z-A)","sorts":[{"p":"RefinableString00","d":1}]}]

You should be able to take this and enhance it for your own needs.

Refiners

Next we probably want to adjust the refiners a bit. Out of the box, the Refiners Web Part will display properties that look to a machine like useful ones, but they may not be the most useful in your organization. You may want to show refiners that are part of the search results already or you may want to show refiners that aren’t visible in the results.

Changing which refiners you see and in what order works like this:

  • Edit the page
  • Put the Refinement Web Part into Edit Mode
  • Click on Choose refiners
  • Change the settings
  • Save it

The key action here is to add or subtract from the Selected refiners in the Choose refiners dialog. For each refiner, you can change the settings on the bottom of the page. Note that refiners use Display Templates as well. I’m not going to go into building Refinement Display Templates, but you can see them in _catalog/_masterpage/Display Templates/Filters.

In my case, I’ve got refiners for Department, JobTitle, PeopleKeywords, and BaseOfficeLocation. You will probably want some others which work for you.

Refinement configuration

You should see the impact of these changes immediately upon saving the page. Assuming that the properties you have selected have been indexed, that is.

What Next?

There are a number of different directions we could go from here. We could build a similar page to show a Site Directory [Nigel]. We could enhance the display of each person to show additional information about them or metrics about their recent activities. We could add as second alphabetical listing row below the first so that if you selected the letter B, you could the choose the next letter (only lit up if there are people lurking there). As with most functionality like this, coming up with the innovative ideas can be even harder than good execution on them. In this case, some of the limitations in Office 365 make it even more difficult that it should be.

I’d love to see:

  • Ability to trigger a full crawl of the User Profiles when we change the schema. It wouldn’t have to happen right away, but it would at least remove the need for Powershell.
  • Allow us to build a more intelligible set of “RefinableType” properties so that we can manage them better. If we create more than a handful of these special mappings – as most organizations will do over time – then management is going to be cumbersome at best. We can’t even search by the Alias names.

Then basic process here should work for many different use cases. As you’ve probably gleaned from this series, building good metadata and taxonomy isn’t just an academic exercise. The whole point is to make content easier to find, and a People Directory is no different: it’s a customized page that allows us to perform a certain used case in an optimal way. What “optimal” means is going to vary based upon the characteristics of your organization.

  • How big is it?
  • Why would people be looking for each other (beyond the simple phone list idea)?
  • What information is important for people to see vs. that which must be secured?
  • etc.

I hope you’ve found the series useful. If you’d like to know more or have other ideas, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

References

SPC Adriatics 2016 Follow Up

One of the best parts about my job is that I get to travel to exotic locales to talk about SharePoint. My most recent jaunt was to the fine country of Croatia to attend SPC Adriatics. Every conference has its own personality, and SPC Adriatics is know for being fun and filled with meat. Who wouldn’t go?

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The triumvirate of organizers – Toni Frankola (@ToniFrankola), Adis Jugo (@adisjugo), and Nenad Trajkovski (@ntrajkovski) sure know how to put on an event. They were ably helped this year by the talented Branka Obuljen Štritof.

SPC Adriatics Speakers

Unfortunately, I was sick in bed for Day One of the conference and still off my game for Day Two when I did my two sessions. I apologize to everyone who attended my sessions for not turning in a better performance. I hope I’ll get another chance to visit Croatia and do a better job.

Regardless, here are links to the two slide decks I presented.