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Posts from the ‘Technology’ Category

SP 2013 / Office 365 Hybrid Crawling – Not Quite a Panacea (yet)

Microsoft has released an update for SharePoint Server 2013 that provides a new hybrid crawling feature for search.  One of the biggest challenges we face in a move towards the cloud is having a fragmented search experience.  Prior to this release, multiple searches had to be conducted across repositories, and there was no way to merge the relevancy rankings. Relevancy scores for on premises results did not merge with the scores from the cloud, so there was no single top-down view of search results.  With this release, that is now possible.

My take is that this is not all roses as it may appear.  This new feature will “index all your crawled content, including on-premises content, to your search index in Office 365.” This is certainly a step in the right direction from Microsoft, but I’m not sure I where I stand in regards to the approach. The question is in the details of indexing, and how much information gets passed up to Office 365. The potential downside – you may have now created a copy of your on premises content in the cloud, exposing the very legal risks that may have led you to refrain from moving that content to the cloud in the first place.

This functionality will enter the public preview phase in September, and we will get a better look at how this is implemented, and how it can be tuned. The end result may be a walled garden inside our firewall that does not get crawled and has to be searched separately.

Encouraging Innovation

I recently read Gartner’s report, “New CIO Responsibilities in a Digital Business World“, and was intrigued by their encouragement to nourish the “three subcultures within IT”. They defined these subcultures as:

  • Operator (linear IT) — focused on keeping things running and improving, based on defined requirements where the priority is stability and reliability
  • Innovator (nonlinear IT) — focused on creating new business value and capabilities where the need for speed, innovation and exploring fuzzy requirements are valued
  • Guardian (leadership) — focused on ensuring the long-term success of the business, staying industrial strength while being ready for the future, balancing innovation with risk, ensuring a strategic long-term focus and investing in the capabilities required for the future

The standout in this list is the call out of “innovator” as a group that is focused on exploring the areas where a lot of ambiguity exists and is valued.  Innovation is getting a lot of play in the IT field, but it is also getting stifled by the frameworks for risk reduction that IT values so much. Old school and new school companies alike including AT&T, Adobe, and LinkedIN are establishing new organizational models to encourage  innovation via both financial empowerment and political empowerment. This suggests that innovation is not possible at the rate desired within the other two subcultures, operations and leadership.

Like many problems in this space, I believe it is a problem of structure. I also believe there are many structures that would succeed that do not result in a completely external group being formed. Google and other companies made famous in the last decade their application of 20% time — that is, 1/5 of the work week is designated to personally identified projects and the other 4 are dedicated to the initiatives that have been assigned. The problem here is that if you are within an operations group, much of your time is dictated by external forces, not planned project work.  The line is further blurred when you look at DevOps groups that are responsible for new development as well as ongoing operational support.

There is not a one-size-fits-all response to encourage innovation. Organizations are going to have to look at their internal structures, their industry, and all the forces being placed on those walls to determine how best to respond. But they must not overlook their existing talent, and should find ways to include them in the innovation process (ideation, gate reviews, etc.) even if they cannot be dedicated full time. At the same time, the existing talent must be open to new ideas, products and methods that may run counter to “the way we’ve always done things.”

Outlook 2010 and 2013 Meeting Ribbon Missing

I recently experienced, for the second time, the case of the missing appointment actions ribbon in Microsoft Outlook.  I was running 2010 when it disappeared, and was greatly disturbed by it.  I found the article The Outlook ribbon disappears from Microsoft Outlook when you use the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Client for Microsoft Office Outlook on Microsoft Support. Sadly, I painstakingly fiddled with my registry as prescribed and found no relief.

It turns out that my problem was being caused by the iCloud plug-in.  How did I determine this? Process of elimination. I went to File – Options – Add Ins, clicked on the GO button next to “COM Add-ins”, and then unchecked the iCloud add-in.  Voila! All the meeting actions returned to view.

 

Shows that the meeting actions are once again visible.

My meeting actions have returned!

Mailbox iOS App – I Like It

Last year I looked at a new app called Mailbox that was promising to tame the beast that is your gmail inbox. At the time, I was turned off for a couple of reasons:

  1. There was a wait list within the application before I could use it. There were something like 500,000 people ahead of me.  This seemed bogus to me at first.
  2. They store my email on their servers.  I have my own system of rules setup within gmail, so this did not seem like an appealing approach to me.
  3. It was only available for gmail. I have an Exchange account for work and an iCloud account for personal communications. I was really looking for a more complete solution.

I finally gave in and began using the app a few weeks ago, and I really like it. I thought through my original list of complaints, and have come to grips with them in the following ways:

  1. Because they were storing messages, they needed disk and i/o capacity. The wait list approach allowed them to grow predictably rather than get flooded and be rated as a crappy app out of the gate. I think ratings probably did suffer a little bit by the wait list (e.g. it too me a long time to go back and give them a try), but in the end I haven’t heard anything negative about their service overall.
  2. Google stores my email on their servers. If I allowed them to, with all of their data mining and ad targeting capabilities, why wouldn’t I let someone else? How much worse could it really be?
  3. Mailbox added support for iCloud and Yahoo.  This made it so that all my personal mail (gmail and iCloud) could be processed by their app, and my work email could be entirely processed by the native iPhone email app.

What does mailbox provide that my own rules based approach not?  Reminders.  With Mailbox, I have the ability to tell it to remind me of a particular message later today, tonight, tomorrow, or at some future date and time. It then removes that message from my inbox so it does not clutter my thinking.  At the appropriate time, I get a notification on my phone and the message re-appears for me to act on.  The service also works with gmail rules – I just have to go back in and change my rules that route to my old “_Read” label to the one within Mailbox.  This will make it so that newsletters and other general information sources automatically go in a “to read” list that I can process when I have free time to catch up on stuff.

So far, so good. I am happy with the application as is, but also looking forward to seeing what these guys do next.

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I Wish I Had Written Better Test Cases

I’m wrapping up my short career at Hewlett-Packard, looking forward to the opportunity that I am headed to next. At this point I don’t have any work assigned to me and I have the opportunity to review some of my past work and do some refactoring. The only problem is, that in the course of work, either tests cases for certain things were not written, or a change took place that broke a test case, and fixing the test case took the back seat. So here I am with a few changes I’d like to make, no nice way to prove that they’ll be ok, and not enough time left to safely make changes to either place.

Ok. I get it. Lesson learned.

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