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Preview: Eli Robillard's World of Blog.

Eli Robillard's World of Blog.

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Interview transcript: Enterprise Collaboration in 2014

Thu, 31 Jul 2014 19:05:27 GMT

Recently I was interviewed for MNP's Impact magazine along with our CIO Scott Greenlay and national Microsoft practice lead Steve Maclean. While the finished product will appear in an upcoming issue of Impact, the raw transcript of my Q&A offers a deeper look at the social and organizational aspects of today's collaboration technology. I hope you enjoy.   Impact: Is collaboration technology necessary to business today? Why? Eli: Yes, business is collaboration - the people we work with, our teams, suppliers, and customers. And modern technology is evolution. It makes people more efficient by increasing the strength and visibility of our connections, it suggests new connections, and increases the speed that we can form new connections. So is collaboration technology necessary? Absolutely, this is an evolution that started with e-mail and a web presence in the late 90's. We've seen it grow into public conversations over social media in the last decade, and now those patterns are being absorbed by business in this decade. Microsoft's new mantra is "Work like a network," and those not doing so - those still working with last generation technology - are losing ground to their competitors. Companies not aggressively flattening their hierarchies and democratizing their knowledge landscape are losing out in knowledge retention, the ability to respond to changing market conditions, and in attracting talent. We evolve or die. Impact: What is included under the category - email? Internet? Sharepoint? Chat programs and social technologies like facebook and YouTube? Unique programs created/written to satisfy the specific needs of a field or firm? Eli: "Collaboration" is about working together towards a common goal. It takes many forms. Collaboration is the conversations we have with people, and increasingly with bots, as well as the information and principles that guide us in pursuit of our goals. To support our conversations we use all sorts of media - phone, e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, Newsfeeds, discussion forums - anywhere we can have a two-way conversation. Technologies like Microsoft Exchange, Lync, and Yammer support these conversations, and also forums like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook where we collaborate with our communities and customers. To organize the information we consume and create - we rely on document management, search engines, and the data in our business applications. SharePoint and Office 365 happen to give us a great experience for organizing, working with, and searching into this information, they are the hubs at the centre of our collaboration. As we move forward, technology will offer better insights into our collaboration. Business intelligence has progressed from static reports to real-time, geo-spatial visualization - the same technology that lets news pundits wave at maps where the heights of each country reflects its relative GDP - is now available for the board room. These are powerful ways to make a point. Technology that provides insight into "big data" is being applied to what we call "social intelligence." It lets us analyse the wealth of collaborative content being generated in documents, e-mail and conversations. We're moving from simple trending topics towards the ability to analyse and forecast public sentiment like the weather, or at least to make better sense of cause and effect in hindsight. And where it's always been hard to get people to curate content - tagging and organizing it - auto-tagging and search-based applications are now picking up the slack. It is now possible to design a robust information architecture that behaves in a self-organizing way. That makes it easier to find what we're looking for. That gives us comfort that we haven't missed anything. That helps our clients make better decisions. That lets us re-use search-based views that provide a fresh experience for collaborators - like generating a list of recent white-papers we've written on Technology Risk, and putting that feed in a site where we're collaborating with a cli[...]

[Guest Post] Thu, May 29: MVP Consumer Camp at Square One Mississauga

Mon, 12 May 2014 20:53:00 GMT

And now a (slightly edited) message from our sponsors: The first Canadian MVP Consumer Camp will be held at the Microsoft Store at Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga on Thursday, May 29th from 4pm to 9pm. My fellow MVPs will be there answering questions and showing off the unique features of Microsoft devices. There will be prize draws, Q&A sessions, snacks and refreshments. MVPs are recognized independent community leaders who share their passion, technical expertise, and real-world knowledge of Microsoft products with others. We speak at events, write books, answer questions in online forums, and have awesome technical blogs.  For those of you who haven’t been to a Microsoft Store yet, this is a great excuse to check one out and meet a few local MVPs.  If you can’t make the event, definitely try to drop in to a store to test drive Xbox games, check out Windows 8.1 (the new Start menu really does feel good on a tablet) or get hands on with the best Windows Phones in Canada.  Do you have any questions about Surface, Windows, Office, Windows Phone or Xbox?  Do you want to learn about how to get the most out of your gadgets?  There will be an MVP there who can provide answers! Hope to see you there! Register here! [...]

So you want to be a technical writer. . .

Fri, 09 May 2014 15:34:00 GMT

Writing is a little like presenting in that many people with much to share are great at communicating informal conversations and e-mails, but have a basic fear with either presenting, or with the prospect of "technical writing." With presenting, the way forward is easy - start with a small audience like a user group or a local Toastmasters chapter and build from there. With technical writing the approach is more like learning to code - the best path forward is to get a good desk reference and start reading other people's code to see how concepts are pieced together. The best desk references for writing are style guides. Style guides aren't something you need to read cover to cover. Typically I flip through, read the interesting bits on language and style, and come back to the guide to look up specific pieces like citing references, labelling diagrams, terminology, and so on. The place to start, and the best book ever written on writing is Elements of Style. The Microsoft Manual of Style is a terrific guide to technical writing, though the Kindle version is to be avoided as the formatting did not translate well. The 4th edition brings it up-to-date with guidance on writing about mobile devices, SEO and other modern topics. With a little digging around the web you can turn up digital copies of the 3rd edition, which offers good advice on writing (e.g.: Ch. 3 on Globalization, or Ch. 7 on Tone and Rhetoric), though some parts are now dated (e.g.: the section on COM). For formal academic papers the guide to follow is the MLA Style Guide, and it looks as though there is a variant specific to "scholarly publishing" now. Also check out your local university bookstore - the U of S used to publish a great booklet that summarised the essentials for citations and formatting, and I see now they offer a nice Editorial Style Guide online with guidance for business writing. Not directly related, but one of the more enjoyable style guides is the Washington Post Deskbook on Style. This is the book where I first learned the hallmarks of a good obituary and why news agencies always refer to the "alleged" crime. Plus I like the writing style of the Post and found it interesting to read from where that mindset flows. Reference in hand, the next step is to "start reading other people's code." MSDN is awesome in its consistency and the best example of all their style guide has to offer. If writing for an academic audience, check out what Microsoft Research (MSR) has to offer. MSR publications are mostly written as formal papers closer to what the MLA guide prescribes, and reading a few will give you a feel for the language and layout. They're also simply great reads on topics that often turn into products in months and years ahead. Conclusion: If writing a whitepaper or even a book, the Microsoft Manual of Style and The Elements of Style will serve you well. If writing for a more academic audience then get the MLA guide and read a few academic papers to get a feel for the language and layout. If you have a specific publication in mind, then contact their editorial staff as many have their own guides or templates for submissions.  Are they any other great resources you recommend? Sound off in the Comments! [...]

SharePoint Conference Keynote with Bill Clinton

Mon, 03 Mar 2014 16:38:00 GMT

Writing to you today from the mid-front of the room at Microsoft's SharePoint Conference 2014, where Bill Clinton is about to deliver the keynote. As the clock ticks the embargoes are over and reports are starting to come in on the next wave of SharePoint and Office 365. As I add to this post I'll put the interesting technical bits and links at the top and leave the inspirational parts as the closer.  Start with Jeff Teper's blog post for the big picture.See Arpan's post on what's new for developers: Microsoft Graph and Oslo (ZDNet) are the next evolutions of search and social mining, providing personalized content targeting, social commenting right inside O365 docs (I am so over inline Word commenting), O365 Groups are a quick way to fire up a team with a Yammer feed, connected inbox, calendar, document library and more essentials. Finally! Security and Trust are also watchwords this year, with the majority of O365-avoiders citing these as core reasons not to move to cloud. I've talked to a few of the security watchdogs at Microsoft now and they want the world to know they're serious about secure, reliable, hands-off stewardship of your information.  Jeff Teper and FriendsSee Jeff's blog post (link above) for the major news on investments.  Quick stats on SharePoint Online: 250,000 RPS, 400,000 cores in 20 data centres, and 400 petabytes of storage.1 TB site collections are out there, with virtually infinite scale. Watchwords: Security, Privacy, and Compliance.  Your data is isolated and private. We don't analyse it to advertise to you, we don't allow access for any other purpose except to provide great service to you. New Compliance Center provides one place to manage all compliance needs. Can discover with custom queries (which can be saved) all the places where a data type is used (e.g. US or UK passport #s), and then get a list of everyone who viewed those items across O365. Pretty cool when you think about it, that's a lot of power for a Compliance Officer to have without needing IT. OneDrive for Business now available as a standalone product you can integrate with your on-prem solution. Get to your docs securely from any device! Grab SP1 to take advantage of this today.  Jared Spataro- O365 continues double-digit growth, and has taken the crown from SharePoint as MSFT's fastest growing product ever.  - 500% growth, and adopted by 60% of Fortune 500 companies.- "We're going to talk about transformation." -  "How will these changes affect you?" - The Clinton Foundation has grown from 14 to 1400 staff.  President Bill Clinton - "Microsoft has been a very important part of the Clinton Foundation."-  The list of projects they've been a part of is 36 pages long.- Try to get the big things right. - When he became President there were as many Internet sites as have been created since this talk began.- The acceleration of technological change fuels the economy.-  Great examples of enabling the poorest people - in Haiti with a cellphone banking initiative of Scotiabank and a cellphone provider (banking was only accessible to 10% of people, while 80% had cell phones), and elsewhere in enabling fish mongers to learn pricing up and down the coast, leading to 30% better incomes and commensurate improvements in quality of life.  - The Gates Foundation has improved the lives of three times as many people with lower total cost than earlier initiatives, in large part because of great technology. - We need all to use our voices to build on the positive aspects of technology and this social integration and to disrupt the negative. Be a part of that. - "The burden of knowledge is a responsibility." - "90% of the world's fishing stocks are now understocked."- "We need to design a world where we constantly do more with less."  -"One of t[...]

Review: Microsoft Office 365 Administration Inside and Out

Fri, 29 Nov 2013 01:15:00 GMT


It is a common misconception that cloud-hosted services and infrastructure (SaaS and IaaS) are turn-key propositions that require less skill than self-hosted platforms to plan, deploy, operate and maintain. The reality is that a well-rounded book on the topic - like MSFT O365 Administration - must spend roughly 200 pages discussing planning tools and directory services, before even touching on O365 management. If considering an O365 deployment, you want this book in the arsenal.


The book is written for "Information Technology (IT) system architects who need to integrate Office 365 with existing on-premises technologies," but it is equally useful to everyone in the traditional TechNet audience, including IT Operations teams and infrastructure experts (IT Pros). Extensive attention is given to System Center monitoring and management (via SCOM, DPM, VMM, SCO, etc.), and SCOM alerts. Another chapter helps you install Orchestrator. Another covers Service Manager automation. By this time we're 400 pages deep and getting into remote administration with PowerShell.


But wait, there's more! At this point the tenancy is configured complete with monitoring and management, but we haven't gone deep on any of the actual services - SharePoint Online, SkyDrive Pro, Exchange, and Lync. The content is roughly proportional to the pain: Exchange integration gets the heaviest treatment, followed by SharePoint and Lync.


The SharePoint online coverage is terrific in describing SP's topology and constraints, and the App Store model used to add features. The book does not attempt to cover user-scoped topics like governance, information infrastructure, or social features (perhaps because it was mostly written during beta, and prior to Microsoft's announcements about Yammer integration). So you also won't see discussion of common issues with hybrid scenarios, including Search and Social.


So what you have is a great book with the insights of experience to get you into the game, plus a wealth of tips and tooling to ease the road ahead. The book is (almost surprisingly) well-written and concise with many step-by-step sections including full screen shots. I didn't work through them all so there may be corrections as these products are updated, but in the cases I read, the high-level plan is discussed first, terms are explained, risks are identified and troubleshooting guidance is provided; minor changes in the UI should not trip up anyone using this book as a reference. With a service established and integrated, the team can then look to other resources to go further into planning governance, information architecture, user experience, and App development. Well done and strongly recommended.


How to get your SharePoint dog to hunt.

Wed, 17 Apr 2013 17:24:00 GMT

[In response to a question on #SPYAM I wrote this update of an article form 2010 titled "The Relative Effort of SharePoint 2010 vs. 2007." -Eli.]

SharePoint is the best demo-ware ever, and that is why it is a multi-billion dollar product. It’s like going to the pet store and seeing a great dog that does backflips all kinds of tricks – and it really is a smart dog and it does all those tricks – but when you get it home you realize that what you need is a dog that hunts. SharePoint can be trained, but is fundamentally a platform where Microsoft's first priority was first to get the foundations right - to make it trainable and extensible, and today their priority is to make it work and scale in the cloud - their cloud.

If Microsoft's O365 scenarios are not your scenarios, then it is again time to fill the gaps with custom solutions and Apps. You need an experienced architect because solution design matters. You need to know what infrastructure you need to support your solutions. You need to know what components are out of scope for your business case so you do not provision needless infrastructure. If you want a hybrid of cloud and on-premise in any way, you need knowledge of both.

And fundamentally, you need to understand what specific business need you are solving so an appropriate solution can be delivered to meet it. "We need SharePoint" always ends in low adoption. "We need a generic template that works for both per-client CRM and project execution" always ends in low adoption. "We need a website where we can share shedules and designs with clients to support construction projects" is a specific need that can be designed and delivered. Solutions with a concise purpose and audience are seeded to succeed.

SharePoint is complex. There is no substitute for the knowledge and skill needed to design and deliver efficient, maintainable, and extensible solutions. If we were talking about a brand new paradigm with its own model - like when Facebook or Twitter were first released - I might agree with your executive - go ahead and kick the tires. But we're talking about your business, so unless you're okay to proceed out-of-box and without any competitive advantages, that dog will not hunt. Get some experts on your team.

How to Start a User Group

Wed, 02 Jan 2013 15:23:00 GMT

At this year's SharePoint Conference there was an active Community Zone where people could learn more about user groups, MVPs, and current events in the SharePoint community. I answered questions in the Community Zone on Monday and the most frequent was "How do you start a User Group?" Here are my thoughts, and I'd love to hear yours so please comment. The first and only requirement is location, once you have one you can book a speaker and make your announcement. Find a location where you can get consistent access as often as you plan to meet (e.g. monthly). It helps to choose a consistent day each month (e.g. "the third Wednesday of each month") and be ready to announce your next meeting's speaker at each meeting. If you can't plan that far ahead, give members at least a week's notice. The longer notice you can give, the more people you will attract. Build a website. I like because it's free for small groups and inexpensive as you grow (~$75/year). You can host your own SharePoint site but be aware this is a significant committment that introduces risks that a volunteer-run UG doesn't always have the resources to support. takes that whole headache away and lets your planners focus on planning (find ours at At your first meeting (or every meeting) ask people what they want to learn about. I write the ideas on a board or flip chart and then run through the list a second time to vote on topics. For the top 3 to 5, ask if anyone there would would like to present. You can often plan 2-3 meetings at a time like this. The point is to involve people and asking them what they want their group to be is a good step towards being able to ask them to contribute. A box of reusable name tags goes a long way.  After your first meeting register the group with MSTC: A user group exists for the community of its members, not its sponsors. While all UGs rely on sponsors for facilities, speakers, giveaway items, catering and other perks, you will build a stronger community with a policy of inclusion rather than exclusion. If you ever have to ask or answer who is "allowed" to be a sponsor or speaker know that you walking a slippery slope. Diversity strengthens. If you have a website that collects registrations or if you collect business cards for raffles at meetings then have a privacy policy. Here's an example: Your own members are your best speakers. Develop them. A night of 10-minute talks is a great way to encourage new speakers to share their stories. At TSPUG we start meetings by having new people introduce themselves and doing a general Q&A. People are often there to find answers, and if you can supply them right away they can sit back and relax for the rest of the night. User groups started as gatherings to talk about work. While those are officially "SharePints" now, always set aside time for people to chat and get to know each other. Let your local Microsoft office know you exist and ask for their support. Get your group announced in their regular missives to partners and customers (e.g. MSDN Flash), ask for giveaways, ask them to present.  As you grow, delegate. Different people can confirm the facility a few days ahead, coordinate speakers, check the registration count for catering, answer queries on the website, act as emcee, and tabulate evals. Speaking of evaluations - use them to get feedback about what people want to see, and get comments and scores to your speakers so they can improve. To encourage people to fill them out, use evals to raffle off the prizes you've collected from sponsors. Sit back and enjoy your new user group! What did I miss? Do you have a story to share? Comment! [...]

Our Toronto Mayor

Mon, 26 Nov 2012 23:20:00 GMT

If our ex-mayor coaches football the way he runs City Hall it probably goes something like this. . .

Coach: All right team, this is the league final, the game we've played so hard to get to all season. Out there are provincial and national scouts with contracts in their pockets, all you need to do is take the title. Here's the gameplan: Get out there and play the best soccer of your lives.

Player: Hey coach, no disrespect but uh, we're a football team.

Coach: Not tonight boys. Tonight we're mavericks playing by our own rules, and soccer is just another name for football. We're going to win this title on our own terms and pity the fools who say otherwise.

Player:  What about the refs? If we kick the ball around and don't stop play on whistles, our guys are going to get kicked off the field. How do we make any points without TDs and field goals?

Coach: Let the other suckers read their left wing commie rule books, and see how far that gets 'em. Hah, because we'll be playing soccer! One step ahead! It's brilliant! We don't need no stinking refs. Most of those losers are dead weight and the rest are politically motivated. How can you know you're going to win if you play by the same rules as the other team? We're underdogs! Mavericks! We make points by putting the ball into the goal. Heck we'll bring our own ball, and our own goal. And dictate the rules as we go. If I couldn't do that I wouldn't be coach - I took this job on my own terms and those are them. I make the gold, I make the rules. It's not how you play the game, it's whether you win or lose in your own mind.


Surprisingly, coach's tactics did not go over well with the pinko refs, er, judge. 

Ford pledges to fight the decision "tooth and nail" rather than with "knowledge and common sense," leading inside sources to believe that his attention was simply still on lunch rather than the legal battle at hand.

Recent SharePoint 2010 Books [CanCon]

Fri, 18 May 2012 15:37:00 GMT

Here in Canada, and particularly in south Ontario we're lucky to have an exceptionally strong SharePoint community. With the publication this month of Ruven Gotz's Practical SharePoint 2010 Information Architecture I count at least 6 books that were either written by, or contain contributions by our local SharePoint MVPs. Bookmark this post or watch my tweets for updates as I post reviews and add other local titles.   Practical SharePoint 2010 Information Architecture by Ruven Gotz Not yet reviewed.   Professional SharePoint 2010 Development 2nd Ed., co-authored by by Reza Alirezaei, co-technical editor Eli RobillardI'm a biased reviewer of this volume having contributed to the 2007 version and provided technical editing for several chapters of this release. That said, this is a great developer reference written by the experts who know these topics best. I wasn't aware of who the authors were during the editing process, and with each chapter I wondered, "was this written by the product team?" Seriously good insights, highly recommended.   SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Architect's Cookbook co-authored by Reza AlirezaeiNot yet reviewed.   Real World SharePoint 2010, co-authored by Reza Alirezaei This is a terrific collection of chapters by 22 SharePoint MVPs; basically 22 experts writing about the subject areas they live and breathe daily.   Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Development Cookbook by Ed MustersThis book is like a self-paced introductory class in SharePoint 2010 development led step-by-step by an experienced, thoughtful, well-spoken instructor, which is exactly who Ed is. Every topic Ed covers is treated in terrific detail, and that said, my only caveat would be to check the table of contents to be sure that the topics you are interested in are covered. This is a focused, hands-on introduction to standard skills - building a development machine, columns and content types, event receivers, web parts, packaging, basic workflow, basic branding, the client object model and more. And once you absorb this one you will be ready for more advanced material.   Expert SharePoint 2010 Practices, co-authored by Ed Musters Not yet reviewed.   And one more by the Easterners: Beginning SharePoint 2010: Building Business Solutions with SharePoint co-authored by Amanda and Shane PerranNot yet reviewed.   Thanks to all my local colleagues for taking the time to share their insights with the world-wide community. This collection represents hundreds of hours sacrificed from family, friends and work, and multiples of that in practical experience. Have I missed any? Do you have reviews of your own? Let me know in the comments. [...]

SharePoint Summit 2012 - Thank you!

Thu, 17 May 2012 13:37:00 GMT

Thanks to Danny, Reza, all the speakers and the rest of the team for hosting another great SharePoint conference in Toronto. Also a shout-out to the SharePoint Blues Band for putting on a great show Tuesday night, and for the privilege of joining them on-stage to play one of my originals. It was a lot of fun, and I hope we can do it again next year or sooner!

Also a big thanks to everyone who attended my session on Large-scale SharePoint Architecture. I've attached the deck to this post and added some of my thoughts in the notes, so it should be a good read even if you couldn't be there in person [Download].

Also as a special bonus I've uploaded my personal collection of Visio Shapes. I've been growing this template for several years now and use it almost daily, and I'd be interested to read or see how you use it too [Download].


Further Reading:

2012 SharePoint Summit Toronto

@SP_Summit Twitter Feed

Conference wrap-up message from Danny


Search: are you willing to manage it as an application?

Fri, 03 Feb 2012 15:58:00 GMT

The question was asked, "how hard is it to configure FAST and what does that effort give you?" The none-too-helpful answer is that with every search product you get what you give. FAST happens to have more substance so logically there will be more to configure than some alternatives, and you can get more out of it in the long run and continuously grow its ROI as you learn its ropes.

First ask what you're searching for - know your corpus. How large is the corpus, how many users will you have in years 1/2/3, is this a single farm or several geo-distributed farms, and is there non-SharePoint content to index (databases, public web sites, file shares, etc.)? Just as important is your organization's previous experience with search - do people wince when search is mentioned? Have you used search applicances? Do you have librarians, taxonomy managers, or a dedicated search curator? Have you customized or built apps on top of search? If what you have now brings the shivers, then it's easy to win friends and influence people just by delivering search that doesn't suck.

And now we arrive at the central question: Are you willing to manage search as an application? Apps get attention. When they don't work, the business has no problem kicking butts until they're fixed. So when search is more helpish than helpful, why does no one fix it? Garbage in, garbage out. Search needs to be managed as an application.

No search product is great when left with a default configuration. All are built to be improved, and along with the sexiness of the UX, this is where you will find the important differences in features. Capture that in your evaluations. FAST is better than many - it does some automatic tuning - but I would never bet a career or reputation on out-of-box FAST. No application or product does an acceptable job in the long run with a "set it and forget it" mentality. You would never treat your LoB applications this way. Nor does it work for, the Google appliances, FAST search, or SharePoint Enterprise Search. Users can scream at these products to serve better results all day (and they do), and the net effect will range from zero to nil.

Even a part-time assignment - a half day every other week - will make a sizable difference to user satisfaction. That time is spent reading feedback (you do have a feedback link on your results page, right?), investigating the search logs to see if people are finding what they're looking for (and configuring synonyms and "Best Bets" if not), and building "canned queries" and other ways to ease the experience. This is how the nifty "metadata-based navigation" in SharePoint 2010 came to be, and I see other managed search applications serve magic in their companies year after year.

So is FAST for you? It depends. If your corpus is under a million documents, your current offering is weak, and you can only afford minimal management, then out-of-box SharePoint Enterprise search is a great choice. If your indexing requirements are more demanding, or users more accustomed to a great experience, then FAST is a great choice to build on. If prepared to make any meaningful investment in people to manage search, start with FAST because it provides a great growth path for features and scalability. The question remains: To what extent are you willing to manage search as an application?


Revisiting an 8 year old post on cookies and opt-in

Tue, 31 Jan 2012 16:59:00 GMT

Common Sense and Opt-In: 

Eight years ago I wrote a brief piece on cookie management proposing that preferences be remembered by default with an opt-out option. The part that got the most feedback was this:

The act of remembering preferences in the form of cookies is not gathering information on surfing habits. If the issue is the perception of privacy, then educate your users about cookies. If you care about privacy, provide a button to delete cookies previously stored by your site.

Eight years later, these basic principles are reflected in the EU cookie law ( with the notable exception of opt-in vs. opt-out. People should know and care what's being stored on their machines, and as a principle transparency should always win.

The other idea worth a second thought is to make it easy for people to delete their cookies. Give them the ability to say "I'll use the site now, but to give me control over my own privacy, let me delete any cookies when I'm done."

Are these ideas still controversial? Always curious to hear.

Thoughts on SharePoint Application Pools, Recycling and "JIT Lag"

Mon, 30 Jan 2012 17:28:00 GMT

What are Application Pools?   Application Pools are a .NET construct, and each pool represents an instance of the Common Language Runtime (CLR) executing managed .NET code. Each application pool in IIS hosts one or more web applications, and the recommendation is to stay under 10 pools per server. This recommendation was made in 32-bit days, and other considerations like 32 vs. 64-bit, available RAM, and I/O (bandwidth and disk usage) really take over as you add application pools. With some planning and the right horsepower, usage characteristics, and a healthy dose of monitoring, this is a "soft" limit and it is possible to grow beyond 10.   What happens when an application pool recycles? Recycling is like rebooting. The process is stopped and started fresh. The CLR reloads, the assemblies in the GAC are re-read, and the application is ready to respond to requests. When the first request comes through the application takes a look at the page (aspx), web service (asmx), or whatever resource was requested, checks whether it was pre-compiled or needs to be JIT-compiled, reads the assemblies required to serve it (and does the same JIT-compilation checks on them). Why all the JITter? In a nutshell, when you compile an assembly in Visual Studio you're compiling to MSIL (which is processor-agnostic), and not to native machine code (which is processor-specific). This JIT compilation is why the first request to a page takes longer than subsequent requests - the first request has extra work to do. If you take the heavy-handed approach of resetting IIS (IISRESET) rather than recycling an individual application pool, there is much more to be torn down and restarted. Developers quickly learn the speed advantage of resetting single application pools, and administrators quickly learn the value of "warming up" pages so the JIT-compilation is done by the time users make their page requests.   Why do Application Pools need to recycle? For one, an application pool recycles whenever web.config changes; this immediately enforces whatever changes are made. When you update an assembly in the GAC you also need to recycle for your new version to be "seen" since the GAC is only read when the application pool starts up - it isn't "watched" for changes. So developers tend to recycle the pools often by hand whether by IIS, a script or Spence's Application Pool Recycle Utility. To understand the other reasons we need to do more digging. On 32-bit systems you could allocate up to 4 Gb including 2 Gb of user-addressable space per application pool, and the CLR would hit out-of-memory issues somewhere between 1.2 and 1.4 Gb of usage. This is because the CLR itself takes up a certain amount of space, let's say ~200Mb, the assemblies pre-loaded in the GAC take up space, and whatever is left is available to the application(s) in the pool. IIS lets you set recycling when memory load reaches a certain point, so ~800 Mb was a common setting for recycling MOSS applications if RAM was no issue (i.e. you had 4 Gb or more). Lower limits would be set to throttle individual pools so they might behave well together given physical memory constraints. In 32-bit days, the point of setting limits was generally to divide available memory among application pools so all could happily co-exist. On 64-bit systems like those hosting SPS 2010, the address space becomes huge, and you'd be tempted to think "well now I can just let SharePoint use as much memory as it needs, limited only by physical memory of the server." And like most other common sense thoughts with respect to SharePoint, you would be wrong. The correct answer is somewhere between 1.2 and 1.4 Gb. As pages are opened, object[...]

Toronto SharePoint Camp 2011 - Thank-you!

Wed, 16 Nov 2011 21:09:00 GMT

The 5th Annual Toronto SharePoint Camp was last Saturday and it was another terrific success. Thanks to the TSPUG executive committee and the small army of volunteers who made it happen, and to the smiling faces of this year's 200+ attendees for making it all worthwhile.

BIG Congratulations to the recipient of our first ever Toronto SharePoint Community Champion Award: Brian Lalancette.

Brian was nominated by members of TSPUG and selected from all nominees by the TSPUG Executive for his tireless work in creating, maintaining, and shepherding the fantastic AutoSPInstaller project. You can congratulate him over Twitter with a shout-out to @brianlala, or check out his latest musings in his Lala Land blog.

Also thanks to those who came to my session on Large-scale SharePoint Architecture. This is a brand new presentation and to improve it for future audiences I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments and suggestions. While I won't be sharing the sample documents shown during the session, for the first time I've posted the original deck rather than a slide-show version. This version contains all my own annotations, so even if you weren't there you will be able to read through the speaking points on each slide. As promised, the deck contains a second presentation on infrastructure considerations for large-scale deployments for those of you wanting an IT Pro / infrastructure session. Lareger-scale infrastructure is a session of its own and I'll look into scheduling it at either the Toronto or Hamilton SPUG.

My presentation deck: Large-scale SharePoint Architecture - Eli Robillard (PowerPoint deck) 


Windows Phone 7 and Canada

Wed, 09 Nov 2011 22:39:00 GMT

I love my Samsung Focus and I don't know why it isn't the most popular phone in Canada. WPCentral reported today on the lacklustre support of Canadian carriers for the WP7 platform. Basically, even if you've been sold on the platform or a particular phone by a friend, review or foreign marketing (because there's none here), you're likely to be stonewalled by sales people. People who see my Focus love its speed, its easy fast UI, the fact that you can get a second battery, and the fact that you can plug in a MicroSD chip to cheaply upgrade memory. I know two people who wanted my phone, took the name down and asked for one when they went to renew contracts or sign up for service. One was told her carrier didn't offer it (fair enough) but wasn't provided with any WP7 alternatives. Now she's in the market for the new iPhone (though Apple's website for "next-day pickup" is a joke of artifical demand; she's been on it at 9pm nightly for two weeks without success while she recently moved up to #300 on Fido's waiting list). The other was talked out of the Focus by a sales rep and steered towards Android. He still likes my phone better, and now he's not sure why he got an Android. The three problems afflicting all carriers here: staff ignorance of WP7 phones, weak or non-existent efforts at marketing, and limited selection. Staff ignorance of the WP7 platform extends to all the Canadian carriers, and the training, commissions, advertising dollars and/or outright kickbacks that retailers receive for selling other platforms apparently don't compete with WP7 or the field might be more level. Second, I've never seen one piece of WP7 marketing from any Canadian carrier. Not one. If Microsoft Canada is contributing marketing dollars to the carriers, they are being squandered by the most unimaginative and ineffective marketeers working in wireless today. Third, selection is limited to say the least. On the surface it would seem okay - trepidation in supporting more than one device per carrier is no surprise. WP7 devices do appear on carrier websites. However at the kiosks, WP7 simply does not exist, at least at Telus and Bell outlets (I haven't been near a Rogers outlet lately). Conclusion: it's hard to buy a phone you don't know about. If you're lucky enough to know about it, you still need to convince the sales people that you really, really want a WP7 phone. And then, just maybe, you can wait until they receive their next shipment x weeks from now and you haven't changed your mind in the meantime.   What's going well in Canada? Three things: #1 for me is that the Zune Pass is now available in Canada. "Unlimited music, wherever you are." After a few days my subscription became an addiction. If you ever dreamed of being able to hear a song seconds after thinking about it, it's basically here. Whether streamed or downloaded (which also synchs it to your other devices), the catalogue is "big enough" and I love it. It's the best invention since the first MP3 player big enough to hold a whole collection. And there is no competition. I tried to get my daughter a similar subscription for her Android (her Mom got it, not my choice), and it just doesn't exist here; not through Rhapsody, iTunes or any other host, and the Napster experience requires her to synch with a PC or Mac, not directly to her phone. The iStore lets you buy but not stream. Unless I'm mistaken here (and I'd love to be wrong, a music subscription is the best gift anyone could give), there is no competition. Every Canadian music lover could be sold on this in a heartbeat. Rogers, why not offer a plan with a Focus, a 32GB Micro-SD and one-year Zune Pass? [...]

SharePoint 2010 Workflow for Multiple Items (Architecture)

Wed, 16 Mar 2011 16:14:00 GMT

I had the question today of whether SharePoint 2010 supports  workflow on multiple items, since Groove's workflow apparently supported multiple items and that model disappeared when Groove Workspaces were amalgamated into SharePoint Sites and SharePoint Workspace (the client utility). It's a great question, the short answer is that yes, it's possible. You could brute-force it in 2007 and that strategy should still carry over to 2010, and 3 new features (that I can think of) support multi-item scenarios more easily in 2010.   First, the brute-force method in 2007: While each workflow is associated with a single list item, there is also a property bag available on the workflow where you could store references to additional items, or a reference to a second workflow running in parallel, depending on how the processes for each document need to interact. The caveat is that this strategy is both complex and code-intensive; in addition to the code necessary for the two workflows to work in synch and respond to events on the other, you should consider whether your scenario requires a housecleaning process to clean up orphaned processes or items, or any similar indirect "exception handling."   There are three new constructs in SharePoint 2010 I can think of that make it easier to build workflow for multiple documents: document sets, site workflow and list relationships. Document sets are a new way to associate documents with each other; for example a set of project deliverables (e.g. budget, requirements, project plan and design). Document Sets are a new content type (inheriting from folder), and any workflow associated with a Document Set will apply to all documents within each set. In this scenario a constraint is that the documents remain "near" each other since the sets do inherit from the folder type. Also note that Document Sets are a SharePoint Server (SPS) 2010 feature; they are unavailable in SharePoint Foundation (SPF).  Site workflow is similar to the List workflow available in 2007, but the Workflow History and Task lists are scoped to the site collection rather than an individual site, and the workflow itself doesn’t have properties to associate with or to "watch" specific items. The advantage is the wider scope that the workflow works at, and the trade-off is having to write your own monitoring for the lists and libraries. A site workflow can span libraries or sites within a collection, though you would use the workflow property bag to list associated items or documents, and would likely use event receivers to trigger workflow events from the libraries where those associated items are stored.    Then you have List Relationships. You can now create a foreign-key relationship between columns in two lists. It should then be simple for a workflow on any given item to get a reference to a related item and “do something” with it.  I suspect that any choice between these will be driven by how the workflow is to be initiated. With List Relationships the workflow is still associated with a single item and the relationships drive the reach into additional items. With Document Sets you first identify the items as a set and then launch the workflow on the set. With Site Workflows you would build a custom mechanism to launch the workflow and identify the items it should apply to. If there’s another scenario, or you've encountered issues with any of these strategies, I’d be interested in your story.   [...]

Drag and Drop for SharePoint

Thu, 02 Dec 2010 22:54:00 GMT

Fellow Infusionite Oguz Demirel just published a super-cool CodePlex feature that makes any SharePoint library drag-and-droppable, introducing: Drag & Drop for SharePoint.  

The Codeplex page has screen shots and all that, but I have to rave about the simple coolness of it all. Just like in Explorer you can draw a box around the files to pick. Then you can either drag them: onto a folder in the library, to another library in Quick Launch, or to a Parent folder by dragging them up to the breadcrumb. If there's a valid destination on the screen, you can drag 'em there. Now that's cool. It's all done with JQuery, and once you try it you'll wonder how you lived without it. Enjoy!


How to: Build a Server Core Domain Controller

Thu, 11 Nov 2010 00:00:00 GMT

When I started putting together my standard virtual machines for development and demonstrating SharePoint 2010, I wanted to have a domain controller that I could share and use for any new image. That way I don't need to continually recreate my service accounts and test users every time, which means the effort I put into creating AD groups and populating user properties is also re-used.   Why server core? Server core flavours of Windows Server don't provide a UI, and are usually used to build specialized, minimal servers to provide a specific capability. The domain controller described here runs fine with 512 MB RAM and though I've assigned it a 10 GB hard drive my own uses only about 5 GB of storage. They aren't used more because it's a pain to install and configure services; without a UI that means the action is at the command-line. By providing the steps here you can get past the pain, and AD thereafter is managed from any other Windows Server (like a SharePoint server) using the AD Management UI you're used to.   I intended to post this months ago and haven't had time to "flesh it out," but a few people have asked and I'd rather not delay it further. I did find a few references around the web on how to build a server core DC, but all seemed to skip something or other, so this is actually the most complete (or was when I wrote it). If you just want a regular (i.e. non-server core) DC then go check out this post from Kirk Evans:   Some steps are written like a pseudo-batch file with comments or instructions marked with "REM," while other parts are more step-like. I built mine on VMWare, but you could execute this on any virtualization platform or even bare metal. A few note: "Type this command, or replace the quotes and spaces after you paste it." If you don't do this, then I guarantee that some commands will fail. As near as I can figure, this is because of internal conversions between character sets when cutting and pasting.   Here we go! These steps build a server with: - Windows Server 2008 R2 Server Core - DNS Role - Active Directory Domain Controller (DC) Role - IP address: (you can use your own, just be consistent)- Gateway to the internet via host machine at IP: (ditto)   Create a new VM Install Windows Server 2008 R2 Server Core   REM Allow terminal servicescscript C:\Windows\System32\Scregedit.wsf /ar 0   REM Allow Remote DesktopNote: Type this command, or replace the quotes and spaces after you paste it. netsh advfirewall firewall set rule group=”Remote Desktop” new enable=yes   REM Allow Remote AdministrationNote: Type this command, or replace the quotes and spaces after you paste it. netsh advfirewall firewall set rule group=”Remote Administration” new enable=yes   REM Set newname in the next line to the preferred machine name:netdom renamecomputer %computername% /newname:CoreDC   REM Restartshutdown /r /f /t 0   REM Note the default gateway shown by this command, it should match your host machine's IPipconfig /allREM Note the interface name shown by this command, you will use it to set a static IPnetsh interface ipv4 show interface   REM Update this command with the connection name, preferred static IP, and gateway (host) IPREM Note: Type this command, or replace the quotes and spaces after you paste it. If not an error message is displayed.netsh interface ipv4 set address name=”Local Area Connect[...]

This weekend: SharePoint Saturday Toronto

Tue, 09 Nov 2010 16:07:00 GMT


Wow, this Saturday offers 21 sessions in 3 tracks, all for free. Given the billable rate of this speaker list, this has to be the best bargain you'll see for a while. And I'm going to go ahead and reveal a secret here - attendees at SharePoint Saturday will be eligible for a great discount on the SharePoint Summit, coming to Toronto this January 31 through February 2. The only catch? You need to attend to get the discount. But I'm sure you wnat to be there anyway, this is a world-class event and a great way to kick-start or build on your SharePoint knowledge.

I'll be there Saturday afternoon with a session I call "Strategies for building SharePoint capacity." This is for managers, sponsors, development and test leads, and perhaps the IT Ops leads who manage the pipeline. The focus is on building the team and pipeline - what the people in each role can expect from each other and what each is responsible for, in order to make the whole process work. Like many things this harkens back to the mantra of dog trainers: “Don’t train dogs, train owners.” This session is training for SharePoint owners. Learn what great SharePoint teams look like, understand the planning and capabilities that make it so, and how to build solid teams to manage both its hosting and your solution delivery pipeline. I'll also be providing examples and anecdotes from recent projects.

Thanks to Kanwal and his dedicated crew of volunteers for putting this together, and to all the sponsors for making the day possible. Afterwards I expect we'll head across the street from Microsoft Canada to the Firkin to decompress over a SharePint. Register today, space is limited and it's rapidly filling up. See you Saturday!

SharePoint Saturday Toronto Registration 

Fix available to protect SharePoint servers from ASP.NET vulnerability

Tue, 28 Sep 2010 18:04:00 GMT

Today the fix shipped to remedy a cryptographic ASP.NET vulnerability. The update is listed as Important, and it is strongly recommended that this security update be applied to all IIS servers including those hosting SharePoint and other ASP.NET applications. Though the greater risk is to public-facing servers, all servers should be protected.

The fix was announced as a Security Bulletin:

A webcast will be held this afternoon to describe the vulnerability and to field questions: 

The update can be downloaded here (dated Sept 27, 2010): 

Here's to a safe week! Big thanks to all product teams involved for staying on top of this, providing incredibly fast guidance to keep customers safe, and now a permanent solution.