SharePoint Nick

writings about SharePoint and running a software business
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SharePoint Weekly

Hi everybody - damm it's been a long time since I posted anything on here! Main reason for that is most of the stuff I write now gets posted on the Lightning Tools blog but this place still needs to get a little attention every now and again!

Just wanted to let you know about a new project I've started called SharePoint Weekly. I've always had trouble keeping up with all the great SharePoint content people are writing - and so this is my attempt to solve that for others. A once weekly newsletter that will contain links and snippets of the best articles written about SharePoint over the last 7 days. Sign up for it here...

posted @ Wednesday, July 27, 2011 12:10 PM | Feedback (0) |

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Discussion Tools for SharePoint

I've been interested in forums and building communities on web sites for years. While I was at University I worked on my brothers business web site for Remanufactured Car Parts. I suggested setting up a forum for his web site for visitors and mechanics to discuss faults with their cars - although initially doubtful Chris gave the green light and the BBA reman forums were born. The forums have been a huge success in terms of attracting more visitors to the site, giving customers a public place to air problems and giving the site a community feel. We organized offline meetings and go-karting for the forum regulars which was great fun.

As soon as I got involved with SharePoint I looked for a community within the UK. Upon finding there was nothing already running I setup the SharePoint User Group UK. Shortly joined by Steve Smith the community and forums grew very quickly due to the huge increase in SharePoint with the 2007 release.

With all this interest in forums it seemed only right that Lightning Tools built a forum web part for SharePoint. Check out our page on the Lightning Tools web site that covers the two forum/community tools we now have available for SharePoint:

SharePoint Forum Web Parts

posted @ Tuesday, June 01, 2010 11:07 AM | Feedback (0) |

Monday, February 08, 2010

If I was Prime Minister - Job Seekers Allowance

I'm sitting here before dinner and am thinking about the world. What are the things I'd change if I was Prime Minister? OK maybe the British Prime Minister can't affect the world anymore in the way they used to be able to (although perhaps Gordon Brown hasn't realised this) - so I'll probably just pick on a few things that could change the UK

Job Seekers Allowance

This idea came to me today as I was sitting waiting to give blood. There is never enough blood being donated - how can we get more?
Well people who are on job seeker allowance - or more commonly called the dole, only get their money if they give blood every 2 months and are signed up for the Organ Donor Register.

If they don't give blood, or sign up on the register - no dole money.

What else should people have to do before getting Job Seekers Allowance?

Tomorrow I'm going to tackle fat people!

posted @ Monday, February 08, 2010 7:15 PM | Feedback (5) |

Friday, December 04, 2009

BCS Meta Man and the Business Connectivity Services

I’m in Seattle now for 10 days. Last trip this year – probably. I had thought San Francisco in November was to be the last but that wasn’t to be true. Seattle though is one place I don’t mind having to travel to. Always an interesting reason for the visit plus everybody is friendly and the place generally has a good vibe to it.

Everything has been really crazy over at Lightning Tools since June. The SharePoint Conference took place in October and we had been working like crazy to get ready for it. Finally we were able to talk about the Business Connectivity Services, the new version of the Business Data Catalog, and our plans for it with regards BDC Meta Man. Well BDC Meta Man has now become BCS Meta Man – you can tell it took us a while to come up with that name! :-)

A week or so ago we released an initial Alpha of BCS Meta Man. You can get that download from here:

BCS Meta Man is now a Visual Studio 2010 Extension. With the Business Connectivity Services now able to use a Dot Net Assembly as a data source we are using the power of Visual Studio 2010 to generate all the BCS model and C# code you’ll need to get going quickly with the BCS. Please feel free to download it and give it a try – we’d really appreciate any feedback and ideas you have for the tool – email them over to

I’ve also been writing up a lot of BCS content over on the Lightning Tools blog. If you’re reading this blog, then make sure you subscribe to the RSS feed for the LT blog as the LT team will be writing tons of great SharePoint 2010 content over the coming months.

Finally, if you are in Seattle over the next 7 days – ping me a message and we’ll try and meet up!

posted @ Friday, December 04, 2009 10:41 PM | Feedback (0) |

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

BDC and SalesForce

We’ve recently published a free article on how to connect SalesForce to SharePoint via the BDC. You can download the article, the code, and also try out the dummy web service we are hosting. Take a read to learn some more:

BDC and SalesForce.

posted @ Tuesday, July 21, 2009 11:09 AM | Feedback (2) |

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Connect Via Books Relaunched

Before getting into the SharePoint world a friend and I started a web site around 2004 called Connect Via Books. The aim of the site was simple – a social networking site for people who loved books. The original site was developed on ASP.NET 1.1 and although the original launch was quite promising after a little while we got distracted by other work (SharePoint for me!) and the site remained as it was.

Well I’m very happy to announce that the site has recently been relaunched after a large redevelopment! We learnt an awful lot from developing the first version both on a technical basis and also how people want to use a social networking site. Things have certainly changed since 2004 as well with Facebook coming along and peoples attitudes to sharing personal details on the web being a lot different.

As you’ll know from reading this blog I absolutely love reading books, so combining a development project and books was the thing that first attracted me back in 2004 and still excites me to work on it again now. Being able to connect with people who’ve read the same types of books find new recommendations is something I find really valuable and fun.

We’ve completely rebuilt the site on ASP.NET MVC which was good as it was a new thing to learn. I’m a programmer at heart and it was great fun learning this new framework. Next project perhaps I’ll try Ruby on Rails! :-)

Please register and try it out – we have a UserVoice feedback tab on the site so please leave any feedback or ideas you may have:

posted @ Saturday, July 11, 2009 5:23 PM | Feedback (0) |

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

See BDC Meta Man Web Edition in action

Phill Duffy will be taking two web casts tomorrow that show how you can configure the Business Data Catalog application definition files from within the browser using BDC Meta Man Web Edition. If nothing else it’s an amazing demo of how you can use jQuery within SharePoint to build very powerful applications.

The sessions are

Wednesday 17th June 3pm GMT
Wednesday 17th June 8pm GMT

If you’d like to attend either of these please drop an email to and indicate which session you want to attend.

posted @ Tuesday, June 16, 2009 2:57 PM | Feedback (2) |

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Outstanding customer service

We often spend so much time complaining on blogs I think it’s right that when someone does something good we mention it too. I was having dinner tonight at the restaurant that is part of the Marriott hotel in Redmond. As I sat down a large group of people were just ordering so I knew that I may have to wait a while but I had a book to read so no issue.

It did take may be 15 mins longer for the starter to turn up – but I wasn’t fussed and the manager was nice enough to bring over a free drink. When my main meal arrive just after I finished the starter I had an invitation for breakfast ‘on the executive chef’ as a thanks for being so patient. I didn’t have to complain or anything – it was all done without a mention on my part.

Needless to say what was a great experience in the restaurant due to great food became exceptional due to leaving with a nice happy feeling – and I know where I’ll be coming back to stay in Redmond next time.

posted @ Saturday, June 06, 2009 7:35 AM | Feedback (0) |

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Life without caffeine

For the past 4-5 months I’ve been caffeine free having given up tea, coffee and diet coke. I never used to drink any coffee but could quite easily get through about 6-8 cups of tea each day and 2 diet cokes. Of course the caffeine rushes were great but then the lull afterwards always meant the need for another coffee. I also found it quite hard to get off to sleep each night.

At the end of the day caffeine is a drug and I’d rather my body not have anything going around it that it does not really need. My fiancé Sophie has given up caffeine for a long time now (I guess approx 5 years), but my previous attempts only lasted about 14 hours due to bad headaches!

Back at the start of the year I developed a very bad case of man flu and didn’t really feel like anything to eat or drink. 24 hours went past and without even realizing I’d not had any caffeine. I didn’t suffer from any headaches apart from the general lousy feeling that man flu brings. Halfway through the second day I realized that’d I’d not been drinking any of the evil stuff and so committed myself to continuing! The third day was the only time I had a bit of a caffeine withdrawal headache and to tell the truth it wasn’t that bad. 5 months later – and I’m still going! Some of the benefits of giving it up

- no highs and lows of energy, just a good constant flow

- sleeping much better at night now, which helps with the above point

- really enjoying some different teas that don’t have caffeine in such as Jasmine tea and Rooibos tea.

One small caveat to this is that I’ve not given up chocolate (although I have cut down) – so I sometimes get a little caffeine from that now and again.

I saw an interview with Gary Player a while ago talking about first tee nerves when playing golf. He commented how funny it was that 99% of club golfers always have a coffee or tea in the club house before playing. This pre round drink with caffeine in will raise your heart rate, thus making you more nervous on the first tea and more likely to swing too fast and hit a duff shot. So remember golfers – a glass of water or orange juice before tee off!

posted @ Wednesday, June 03, 2009 7:21 PM | Feedback (6) |

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Taking pride in your work

I’ve started taking the time to read a few blogs again. One of the blogs I’ve started reading is the famous Uncle Bob who I’m ashamed to admit I only really found out about relatively recently after his interview on Hanselminutes. Listening to that show and recent readings of his books and Crystal Clear by Alistair Cockborn have really put us in the right direction at Lightning Tools and also been incredibly motivating. Currently we do a lot of our development work remotely rather than all sitting in the same location but this is soon to change with the opening of Lightning Tools HQ – very exciting stuff!

Uncle Bobs recent post called ‘Why the sea is boiling hot’ struck a real cord with me - ‘I want developers to take pride in their work.’

Some people I used to work with may laugh at me finding that important – and I’m not sure if it is because I have got older and wiser or now run a software company – but it’s really a great question to ask some one – ‘are you proud of that bit of code’ when you’ve found an issue that really should have been picked up. Putting more processes in place when we get into the new office such as pair programming and maybe even TDD(!) will help developers become more professional and proud of the work they complete. David Heinermeier Hansson posted a response to Uncle Bob saying that as well as engineers we need artists – but I’ve got to agree with Uncle Bob in that these processes and systems that take care of the professional development process actually will allow developers to free their mind and come up with great new ideas and features.

This again brings me round to thinking about Getting Things Done – as many things seem to these days. One of the barriers people put up to David Allens GTD processes are that they are of an artistic nature and do not want to be boxed in by the processes of GTD. The reply that is always given by GTD’ers is that by letting GTD manage your projects, tasks, inbox etc – your brain is free from having to keep track of these things and actually gives you more of an opportunity to use it how it should be – in an artistic way thinking up new ideas, product features, writing songs, painting pictures or whatever you think being artistic is!

posted @ Tuesday, May 12, 2009 12:22 AM | Feedback (0) |

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