I was recently tasked with installing an update to a live SharePoint 2013 extranet site that is actively used by staff as well as external clients. Since the update caused our extranet site to be unavailable for several hours, I found myself wishing for a simple but effective way to alert all SharePoint 2013 site users about upcoming scheduled maintenance. I could send e-mails, but prefer not to do so since we have quite a few people who have access to the SharePoint site, but very few active users. Instead of sending out alerts to more than one hundred employees letting them know that a service they may or may not use will be unavailable, I wanted to publish a notice to the SharePoint site itself.
I need to find a way to publish a notice of anticipated service interruptions on every page of my SharePoint 2013 site. This seemed simple enough at first, until I began to consider the fact that I have multiple site collections, each with multiple sites in my extranet Web Application. Users access the site from a wide variety of links, so publishing a notice on the home page would not be effective. Every site has unique permissions, depending on which users need access to the site’s contents, so publishing announcements on a site-by-site basis would be a real chore.
I am using a pretty generic out-of-the-box SharePoint 2013 installation, so my site is using the default Seattle master pages. I thought about customizing the master pages to include a message, but I would have to do the same for every site collection in my Web Application, which seems to be more trouble than it’s probably worth.
Meeting Workspaces are a great way to collaborate with team members. They provide a place to store all of the documents, agenda items, attendee information, and other important meeting notes across multiple meetings. Microsoft Outlook can be used to generate new meeting instances for new dates, and all attendees can be given a quick link directly to the site to review pertinent information before and after the meeting is over.
Unfortunately, both Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint have a common problem: There are usually many different ways to achieve a task, but only one way is the “right” way that actually works as anticipated. Meeting Workspaces have the same problem.
Several times now I’ve been asked to help resolve a problem a colleague was having with Meeting Workspaces. In each case, my colleague had set up a Meeting Workspace and created multiple meeting instances (dates) and sent out the invitations to attendees. All appeared to be working correctly. But as my colleague went in to try to update specific information related to a certain meeting instance (such as the agenda items), we discovered that the meeting-specific information was not being displayed on the correct meeting dates. If my colleague added an item to the agenda for the second, third, fourth, etc. meeting, it wouldn’t show up. But when we went back to the first meeting in the series, we found the new agenda item to be listed there with all agenda items for all instances of the meeting.
All of the Meeting Workspaces settings were correct, and there was nothing to indicate what the problem might be. My colleague had successfully created other Meeting Workspaces following the same procedures, and each of those Meeting Workspaces was working correctly.
It took some time, but eventually I discovered the apparent cause of the error. In each of the Meeting Workspaces that was working properly, the URL had no spaces in it (Keep in mind that a space in a URL may be displayed in your address bar by the character string “%20”). In each of the Meeting Workspaces that did not work, the URL had spaces (%20) in it. So, for example, a Meeting Workspace with the URL of http://sharepointserver/team/MeetingWorkspace would work correctly, while a Meeting Workspace with the URL of http://sharepointserver/team/Meeting%20Workspace would not list the meeting-specific information on the correct meeting date.
NOTE: The two hyperlinks used above are examples only and do not point to real sites.
I just stumbled across a very interesting site that I thought I should share with my readers. It’s a site called Cafe Press. This site offers a wide variety of print-on-demand products from clothing to housewares and other gifts. You can add your own images to the products to create your very own styles, logos, catch-phrases, etc., which you can sell online in your very own Cafe Press store. The best part about Cafe Press is that you don’t have to spend any money to get started. Because Cafe Press doesn’t produce any products until someone orders them, there are no setup fees or minimum purchases required. Without spending any money, you can create as many custom products as you want, and sell them in your own, personalized online shops.
Each product has a “base price” that covers all of the costs of manufacture and production. To make money, simply set a “markup” price that you will earn as commission on sales of your product(s) (Just a word to the wise…be reasonable: I saw a thong for sale for $200 while I was browsing the site!). That’s all there is to it. It was so easy to get started that I’ve already created my own online shop with a few products that are available for immediate purchase, which I’ve included below as an example of what you can do. Of course, you can also buy your own products directly for the base price, without paying the markup. Read more»
In my last post, I explained how you could use del.icio.us to add a simple RSS feed to your site. The benefits of this method mainly lie in your ability to quickly and easily add any Web page to your feed, particularly if you make use of the browser buttons available from del.icio.us. Just navigate to the page you want to include in your feed, click the button, and enter a title, description, and tags. This method also allows you to easily create many feeds, and add items to as many of the feeds as you need all at the same time.
While this method should work well for the average Web site owner looking to create an RSS feed, it might not be suitable for every purpose. The two primary limitations to using del.icio.us to create and publish your RSS feed are the lack of rich text editing, and the 255 character limit to the description field. Many users may want to include more information in their RSS feed, or include graphics, links, and other information. For these users, del.icio.us may not be the best solution.
In my last article, Search Engine Optimization: What it is, and why you shouldn’t care, I suggested that Search Engine Optimization (The practice of designing your Web page in such a way that it appears as high as possible in a list of search results) was not only misleading to both users and Web designers, but that it opened the door to malicious practices. To make matters worse, current SEO “rules” are suppressing many great innovations even while they allow deceitful Web sites to gain high rankings.
In a comment on my last article, Frank summarized what I expect are pretty general feelings about Search Engine Optimization. Essentially, Frank suggests that Search Engine Optimization helps provide “good no-nonsense copy that helps a searcher get their question answered.” Frank suggests that “search engines are not something to be fought but rather embraced.” In general terms, I agree completely. As I said, who could imagine life without search engines? And isn’t it obvious that Web designers should consider how their Web site will be placed in search engine results pages (SERPs) when they build their site? Of course it is. The basic ideas behind SEO are very valid, and are not to be fought.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): It’s a term any Web developer is intimately familiar with, and even the most novice Web site owner/developer/writer has heard of. But if you’re just getting started with building your own Web presence, you may not really understand what this term is all about, or how important it is to you.
In simple terms, search engine optimization refers to the practice of designing Web pages to show up as high as possible in the list of results shown when a person searches the Web. Most Web developers spend considerable amounts of time studying exactly what the major search engines use to determine placement in the list of results. Although search engines design the results page to make it seem that they have scoured the entire Internet and returned the page with the results most relevant to your search terms, this is not entirely true (Actually, it’s just short of a bald-faced lie). In truth, search engines look at a wide variety of factors to determine placement, not just how closely the text on the destination Web page matches the text you are searching for. There are many other factors being considered, including hidden HTML codes inside your page called META tags. These tags were initially designed to allow Web designers to give search engines a brief description of your Web site/page’s contents and some suggested keywords that apply to your page without displaying this to the visitor, but that are often misused and abused today. Search engines also display sites that are updated frequently higher in their results than sites with more static information. Although this sounds like a good idea, keep in mind that not all content needs to be regularly updated. A good source of information on the life and death of Socrates probably doesn’t need to be updated on a weekly basis. But by far the most common measure of your site’s quality, according to most search engines, is the number of other Web pages which link to your site. And links to your site from sites that are ranked higher in the search results page count more than sites that the search engines have ranked lower. The number of visitors to your site also plays a vital role in the placement the search engines give to your Web site.