Create a Business Solution, Step by Step, with No Managed Code at SPTechCon Boston 2013

SPTC_Boston2013_speakerbadge[important]If you’re coming to this post late, remember that you can still save $200 by using code ANDERSON, right up the conference![/important]

SPTechCon Boston 2013 is coming up fast. If you haven’t registered yet, do so by tomorrow (June 28) to get $400 off. If you use my code ANDERSON, you can get an additional $200 off. Act fast because there’s only a day and a half left to save that $600!

I’m doing two regular sessions this time around and one tutorial. Tutorials at SPTechCon used to be called workshops and I always wanted to try to do what I think of as a “real’ workshop: a session in which we work through some challenge as a group from start to finish. I managed to convince David Rubinstein (@drubinstein) at BZMedia, the SPTechCon head honcho, that this would be a good idea for me to try. We’ll see if I led him down a garden path or not, I suppose.

Here’s the description of the tutorial, taken directly from the listing on the SPTechCon site:

People often ask this instructor how he comes up with the somewhat unorthodox solutions he has built in SharePoint. In this tutorial, you will learn how you can devise powerful solutions from beginning to end without deploying any managed code. First, we’ll take a business problem submitted by one of you, go through a rapid design session, and figure out how we might build it. Next, you’ll be taken through the actual solution the instructor whacked together based on the requirements beforehand, and we’ll compare and contrast. Hopefully, we will hit on most of the same high points that we’ve designed into the solution together, but since we won’t know until we get there, all bets are off!
We’ll do the work in SharePoint 2010 so that the solution’s usefulness will be as wide as possible. However, we’ll dip into SharePoint 2013 as well to see how the solution might work there and discuss how we might approach things differently.
If you are interested in this tutorial and have a small solution you’d like to see the instructor run through, please send it to him via his blog ( before July 15. He will post the details of the requirements you’ll use, and then get cracking on his solution. A few constraints just to keep things relatively straightforward:

  • Single-site collection
  • Departmental scale solution (we’re not going to rebuild My Sites)
  • Things that are off the table: User Profiles, External Content Types (BCS), complex workflows, etc.

In other words, the point is education, not complexity or a production-ready solution. Come prepared to roll up your sleeves and participate. We’ll be making it up as we go, and we’ll all learn together!

Level: Intermediate

Topic Area : Developer Essentials, Information Worker Essentials

This post is to open up the discussion about a good topic or solution for the tutorial. If you have something you think would have broad appeal, I encourage you to post it as a comment here. Katie Serignese at BZMedia is also going to help me get the word out, so if something comes to me some other way, I’ll post it as a comment here myself. Even if you can’t make it to SPTechCon for some reason (Really? It’s a great conference!), if you have an idea, please post it. If you’re not there, I’ll still make sure that you get the demos and slides

In this case, it’s not a democracy, as I get to decide on the final topic(s). However, I’m sure many of you will have great ideas. If nothing else, we’ll gather a list of interesting things that one ought to be able to accomplish in SharePoint.

Please leave your ideas by July 15 and I’ll post the “winner(s)” shortly thereafter. Then plan to attend my tutorial on Sunday, August 11 from 9:00am-12:15pm and see if I can pull it off or not. It might be like watching a bad trapeze artist working without a net or it might be a thing of beauty. If you miss it, you may never know!

SPTechCon Boston 2012 Follow Up

SPTechCon Boston 2012The SharePoint Technology Conference (SPTechCon) has always been one of my favorite SharePoint conferences. It was the first big conference I ever spoke at, and the folks at BZMedia(where’s Katie’s photo???) who put it on are all aces, every single one of them.

I only did one session at the latest iteration in Boston because I totally forgot to submit anything before the deadline. On the day of the deadline, I begged a little bit and David Rubinstein relented and slid me in. Since it was almost literally in my backyard, I didn’t want to miss out! Next time in San Francisco, I hope to do a workshop or two as well as some “regular sessions”.

My session in Boston was one that I’ve been doing different versions of over the last year or so called Flying in the Cloud: New Ways to Develop for SharePoint. It’s different every time because I am always adding new examples based on the client work I’ve been doing.

In the session, I talked about some of the ways I’ve been building things in SharePoint way back to the early SharePoint 2007 days, when I worked for what I call Jornata I (ask Scott Jamison or Mauro Cardarelli about those heady days). To me it’s not a new way of working, but with SharePoint 2013 coming along with its new app model, it’s becoming almost fashionable to use things like jQuery, Web Services, DVWPs, XSL, and CSS. You know, that “no code” stuff.

If you’re interested in the demos I showed, I’ve packaged them into a couple of WSPs which you can download and instantiate in your own environment if you’d like. Additionally, for each of the examples, I’ve done other blog posts which describe what I did and how they work, along with the code. If you can’t find the posts, feel free to ping me via the contact for or on Twitter (@sympmarc) and I can shoot you a link for what you’re looking for.

Software Development Literacy – Wave of the Future or Doomsday Device?

A few months ago, I read a newspaper article – which unfortunately I can’t find – about the idea that software development literacy may someday seem as normal as reading literacy is today. I didn’t think it was far-fetched at all. In today’s world *everyone* touches a computer in some way, even if it’s only the chip that runs the fare collector on public transportation. (This isn’t a discussion about rich and poor – I tried to come up with the most benign example I could. Admittedly, it’s more a first world example.)

Today there was an article in the Boston Globe about a company called FreeCause here in Boston that is doing something unique. The story explained that…

…29-year-old company chief executive Michael Jaconi told all 60 of his employees that they had to learn the programming language JavaScript. The idea is not to turn everyone into an engineer, but to give employees — from accountants to designers to salespeople — a better understanding of what goes into developing the company’s software.

Jaconi’s initiative is a recognition that technology has inserted itself into almost every aspect of modern life, and it’s a subject people increasingly need to know. In many companies, technology often creates barriers that separate technical from nontechnical workers.   “There’s a pretty big divide between engineers and nonengineers, and what I wanted to do was bring those two camps closer together,” said Jaconi, a serial entrepreneur and former political campaign worker who is learning to code along with his employees. “I thought that this would facilitate more efficiency, bring teams closer together, and ultimately make our company perform better.”

Oddly, unless I’m really out of it, there’s a bug in the example the article showed in one of the accompanying pictures. Bonus points if you spot it.

Learning JavaScript

Image from the Boston Globe Web site

I tweeted a link. (Through the wonders of HootSuite – the awesome social media tool I prefer over all the others – I also posted it to Facebook and LinkedIn at the same time.)

The fastest response I got on Twitter was from my friend Dan Antion (@DAntion):

I expected I’d hear something similar from a good number of the developers who follow me on Twitter, and eventually I did hear from quite a few with what amounted to disparaging comments about the idea. At best they were, like Dan’s, a sort of “uh-oh”.

I think it’s more complex than that initial reaction and also more important. Let me explain my thoughts.

As a consultant, I am paid to be an expert in some things. What many of my clients don’t realize, though, is that because I don’t specialize in any particular industry and I’ve been in consulting a very long time, I also have to know at least something about a lot of things: car manufacturing, stock trading, theme parks, higher education, pharmaceutical discovery, and the list goes on. (Those are all examples of real projects I’ve worked on over the years.) I have enough humility to know that I’m not an expert in fields out of my chosen one, but I have to know *something* about others in order to advise in a useful way and to write useful solutions.

Think about your major in college. Do you “do” that thing now as your everyday activity? I majored in Mathematics, and it’s pretty rare that I “do” math. I studied all kinds of things in college: psychology, chemistry, film making, rocks for jocks [geology], etc. I don’t “do” any of those things on a daily or even yearly basis. But I’ll argue with anyone who says that a liberal arts education – wherein one studies a wide range of things – doesn’t add up to a well-rounded, multi-talented individual. (Full disclosure: my major was actually called “Computer Mathematics”. The last time I came up with an interesting, computer-based  way to factor primes was in college, though.)

Another thing I’ve seen over my years of consulting is that, generally speaking, the teams that I’ve seen be most effective share some traits. They are usually cross-functional, highly motivated, and inquisitive about each other’s knowledge. I’d take a team with those traits over specific, homogeneous knowledge any day. Note that I mentioned “inquisitive about each other’s knowledge”. That means that they want to learn a little something about what the others know. This helps them to work together more effectively.

As software development becomes more and more pervasive, what’s wrong with everyone having basic literacy in it?

We might be able to interact with technical customer support better. We may be able to understand what to do or not do to avoid infecting our computers with viruses. We may be able to save unending time by not doing things that cause our work to be lost, requiring us to recreate it. We might understand what we’re asking each other for just a little bit better, making us more able to collaborate on the important parts of the task at hand rather than level setting every time.

Simple programming knowledge (I almost said “basic programming knowledge”, but that would be too specific) is an excellent idea. To apply knowledge management principles to “using a computer”, if we can identify what the key things the high performers know that make them good at it and can teach the low performers just a scintilla of that knowledge, everyone’s competency rises. By knowing something about what’s going on under the hood, I posit we all become better digital denizens.

Also note that nothing in the article said that the accountant or the salesperson has to become a software developer. They just have to learn the basics – enough for “every FreeCause employee develop a product such as a Web page or toolbar component that could potentially be integrated into the company’s loyalty rewards software.” That’s potentially. Not definitely, and not absolutely.

I’m going to go with Jaconi’s idea as a wave of the future, and one I welcome. There’s plenty of other stuff to worry about in the doomsday category, and this isn’t one of them.

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KM Forum: Fitting SharePoint to Knowledge Initiatives

Bentley Library

Image via Wikipedia

This coming July 20, I’ll be on the “Panel of Experts” at this event at Bentley University. We’ll be discussing Fitting SharePoint to Knowledge Initiatives, a topic near and dear to my own heart. SharePoint is really cool technology, but as I’m frequently saying, it’s just a tool which must be a part of a much wider set of plans and initiatives (dare I say governance?) if it is to provide any real business value.

My co-panelists are Mike Gilronan (@mikegil) from KMA LLC, Michele Smith (@mingshan) from The MITRE Corporation, and Marc Solomon (@attspin) from PRTM.  I’m honored to be included with these bright folks, and I look forward to the discussion.

Also on the roster is Sadie Van Buren (@sadalit), who will be presenting on Planning for SharePoint: The SharePoint Maturity Model. If you follow this blog, you know that I’m a huge fan of Sadie and her SharePoint Maturity Model work.

If you’re in the Boston area and can make it, this promises to be a “meaty” event about KM and SharePoint. I hope to see you there!