Day 1 of the SharePoint European Best Practices Conference


Ok, so the first day didn’t get off to the best of starts as I somehow managed to spray water all over my trousers and shirt in the toilet and had to wait until they dried out before I could come out…but after that it got a whole lot better!

I arrived nice and early and was pleased to receive my SharePoint rucksack and a free copy of the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Best Practices book(that i received for being an early booker). The book gets some good reviews so I’ll forward to giving it a look at some point.

The keynote was by Joel Olesonwho seems to have been involved with SharePoint since the dawn of time. He came out with a Union Jack hat and some pictures of himself in a London phone box wearing an Arsenal shirt and then proceeded to compare SharePoint to the killer rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail which got a few laughs. His basic premise being that SharePoint can lull you into thinking its nice and soft and cuddly but treat it the wrong way and it can tear your throat out… Harsh but probably fair. He then went on to talk about 10 key steps to a successful SharePoint deployment which was interesting but he started to run out of time and became a bit rushed towards the end which was a shame.

I then went to Todd Bleeker’ssession which was all about the best practices for developing web parts. The main thing I took away from his talk was that I would love to go on one of his training courses. He is a very articulate, (and gesticulate-if that’s a word) presenter whose obvious enthusiasm for all things .Net really shines through. He provided some very solid guidelines on developing web parts, and the thing was that a lot of what he was talking about was validating the way that I go about developing web parts myself (something I owe a lot to Riaz Ahmed from my time at Lbi). One thing I do want to look more into that he mentioned (and I will blog my findings with this at some point!) was using the ICallbackinterface for updating web parts on a page in isolation. Sounded really good. He also mentioned a handy registry ‘hack’ to allow for right-clicking a .wsp to add the solution to the solution store, you can find that here.

For some reason I then decided to stray from the developer track (the next session there was on InfoPath Forms Services) and attend a session on the Business Adoption track on Governance. This was presented by Natalya Voskresenskayaand was a case study on Governance from one of her past projects. To be honest, it wasn’t as interesting as I was hoping so not really much more to say there. A few people there seemed to like but it just wasn’t my thing.

Back onto the developer track with a session by Andrew Connellon understanding the differences between using field controls and and web parts. Another brilliant speaker, very natural on stage and I thoroughly enjoyed his talk. Didn’t learn a tremendous amount of new stuff (I have his bookwhich I can’t recommend enough) and this does go into some of this. But a very worthwhile session none-the-less. A big part of his talk was describing when to use field controls (and what you gain/lose) and when to use web parts (and what you gain/lose). This is an important topic as it can often come back to bite you (like the killer rabbit…) if you get it wrong. Key points to remember, web parts have no history, values are stored in the personalisation store. Field controls give you that history but no personalisation is available etc.

The last session of the day was from an old colleague of mine Daniel McPhersonfrom back in my Barclays days when he used to work for Microsoft. His talk was about using SharePoint as a social computing platform, and the things that SharePoint can do incorporate the various ‘social’ platform ideas into the intranet space. He demoed the ability to have tagged links (which is a free download on his site) within your intranet. What this gives your employees is the ability to add an interesting link very quickly and easily to a tagged links list within your site collection that can be shared with your colleagues. This automatically gives you figures on most viewed etc and the most popular links bubble to the top. He also demoed a cool concept that he is currently working on, of providing twitter-like functionality to your intranet, this builds on the Colleagues functionality that you get out of the box, but gives the ability of posting updates and tracking other peoples updates in an aggregated way. Daniel also came across very well in his talk and provided enough of a different style of presenting that very much detracted from the ‘graveyard’ slot that he had. Glad I went.

So that wraps up Day 1. Looking forward to tomorrow. Apparently we get a DVD sent out with the content of all the sessions so I may follow up with some more details on the ones I attended or on the ones that I couldn’t make. And at least I have now worked out the best angle to put your hands under the taps but I’m going to wear my waterproofs just in case…

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