Holiday Gift SharePoint to help others during the holidays

Using SharePoint to help others during the holidays

For the past several years, our employees have helped make the holidays very happy for many local children.  Because of thier thoughtfulness and generosity, these children woke up to presents and a wonderful Holiday Season.   Last year you helped a homeless family of six move into an apartment for the holidays – and if that wasn’t enough, fulfilled the kid’s wish lists! 

Again, this year we have a wonderful family who is going through some hard times.  A single mom with four children who works full time but struggles to make ends meet.  Last year, she was only able to get a few gifts for the youngest child.  We thought it be great if we could make this holiday a good one for all of them and knew this family would appreciate any help we can offer.  

This year we have a Holiday Gift SharePoint!

How SharePoint can help:
In previous years we sent out an email similiar to the above.  Thanks to the generousity of our employees many of the gifts came in time for the holidays, some even 2 or 3 times! 

Preventing duplicate gifts:
This year we wondered if we could provide the holidays wish list that could work much like a wedding registry preventing duplicated gifts.  When employees purhase a gift, they could go to the list and mark off that it is fulfilled. 
 
In SharePoint this turned out to be easy and fast to implement: 
  1. Create a custom list to store the holiday gift wish list items.
  2. Add fields for a picture of the gift, title, family member, and check-off field.
  3. Populate list with gift items.
  4. Create a new site page and add the gift list as a web-part to the page.
  5. Configure the list view to enable inline editing.
  6. Add content explaining how to view and select items from the list.
  7. Optional: Create a SharePoint Designer Workflow to automatically send out a thank you email.

Increasing Participation:

To increase participation we made the SharePoint accessible to more employees and also partners by enabling claims-based authentication and providing access through the firewall. 

Happy Holidays!

Using SharePoint Designer and Silverlight to embed Silverlight applications directly into your SharePoint blog posts

We have been looking at ways to increase the discoverability of internally produced video content and rich user experiences developed on Silverlight currently stored in various document libraries throughout our SharePoint intranet/extranet.  One area of particular interest is finding a way to easily incorporate rich user experiences and streaming video directly into individual blog posts taking advantage of the the built-in commenting form provided in the SharePoint blog template. 

One challenge has been finding a "start small" approach to providing the benefits of streaming the video content vs. downloading from document libraries without the need to provision large media servers and associate infrastructure in the short-term.   Another challenge as been finding an approach to surface our rich user experiences developed on Silverlight on our internet-facing site as well as our intranet/extranet environment. 

To address these efforts we recently customized a standard SharePoint blog template using SharePoint Designer to display both streaming video content and Silverlight 2 applications we currently have stored on the Silverlight Streaming Service

The only technical requirements for this solution are that you have access to edit the blog in SharePoint Designer, a free Silverlight Streaming account set-up with your Windows Live Id, and upload at least one video or Silverlight application to the service for use in your blog post. 

 

Blog Home Page

Features: Modified layout, video and/or Silverlight application plays inline, blog title linked to full post page, caption linked to full screen play.

defaultblogpagedetails

Full Post Page

Features: Video or Silverlight application plays inline, full screen link.

bloghomebig

Example short video:

 

Features:

  • Modified layout.
  • Continued ability to post regular blog posts. 
  • Ability to embed videos stored on Silverlight Streaming Service directly into blog posts.
  • Ability to embed your own custom Silverlight applications directly into blog posts.
  • Ability to categorize video posts.
  • Ability to comment on video posts.
  • Makes use of XSLT and CSS for customizations-no custom javascript to deploy or maintain.
  • Ability to add functionality to existing blogs.
  • Ability to further customize via centralized custom XSLT files and custom CSS.
  • Silverlight streaming provides metrics/reporting on downloads, streaming data, etc.  

What is the Silverlight Streaming Service?

Microsoft® Silverlight™ Streaming by Windows Live™ is a companion service for Silverlight that makes it easier for developers and designers to deliver and scale rich media as part of their Silverlight applications. The service offers web designers and developers a free (*) and convenient solution for hosting and streaming cross-platform, cross-browser media experiences and rich interactive applications that run on Windows™ and Mac. Combined with the ability to create content with Microsoft® Expression and other 3rd party tools, web designers and content publishers wishing to integrate Silverlight applications into their online properties can enjoy complete control of the end user experience. 

More details and sign-up free here

Can I use my existing .wmv video files? 

Yes, there are some exceptions and size restrictions but providing you have a valid Windows Live ID account you can upload your .wmv video files directly to the Silverlight Streaming Service using the Manage Videos, Upload Videos feature.  For added features check out Expression Encoder 2 for encoding your videos to specific needs.

Can I use my existing Silverlight 2 .xap files?

Yes, there are some exceptions and size restrictions but providing you have a valid Windows Live ID account you can upload your Silverlight .xap files directly to the Silverlight Streaming Service using the Manage Applications, Upload Applications feature.  For added features check out Expression Blend 2 for designing Silverlight applications without code. 

What SharePoint Designer Customizations  do I need to make to add this functionality to my existing SharePoint blogs?

We added three new site columns on our blog’s post list to allow users to add their own Silverlight Streaming videos and applications and a caption when creating a new post.

    • SilverlightStreamingServiceApplicationUrl (Text Field: Multiple Lines of Text, Plain Text)
    • PostImageCaption (Text Field: Muliple Lines of Text, Rich Text)
    • PostImageUrl (Text Field: Single Line of Text, Plain Text)

 

Download source custom XSLT files and CSS file here

We modified the default.aspx and post.aspx pages to use a customized version of each XSLT that both reformats the layout and incorporates an iframe to display the user-provided SilverlightStreamingApplicationUrl since the default SharePoint editing controls strip out any iframe, embed, or script references.   To accomplish this we first saved back-up versions of our default.aspx and post.aspx pages the opened each in SharePoint Designer in design mode and converted the appropriate dataview web-parts to XSLT (right click, convert to XSLT option)

    • Modifications to Default.aspx
      • Upload the provided default.xsl to the blog’s root folder
      • Convert the post dataview web-part to XSLT
      • Apply the custom XSLT: From the dataview web-part’s Common Data View Properties pane choose DataView Properties, then select the XSLT Source tab and browse to the default.xsl file.
    • Modification to Post.aspx
      • Upload the provided post.xsl to the blog’s root folder
      • Convert the post dataview web-part to XSLT (Ignore @Author error message)
      • Apply the custom XSLT: From the dataview web-part’s Common Data View Properties pane choose DataView Properties, then select the XSLT Source tab and browse to the post.xsl file.
      • Create a filter and parameter to filter the post DVWP by id : From the dataview web-part’s Common Data View Properties pane choose Filter, if not displayed create a new URL parameter for ID and set the value to [id]

We also created a custom version of the blog templates core.css and referenced from the default.aspx and post.aspx pages as a link:

Add custom style sheet reference in default.aspx:

<asp:Content ContentPlaceHolderId="PlaceHolderAdditionalPageHead" runat="server">

<SharePoint:RssLink runat="server"/>

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="customblog.css">

</asp:Content>

Add custom style sheet reference in post.aspx:

<asp:Content ContentPlaceHolderId="PlaceHolderAdditionalPageHead" runat="server">

<SharePoint:RssLink runat="server"/>

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="../../customblog.css">

</asp:Content>

Once my blog is configured how do I create new blog posts that include this new functionaility? 

Simply create you blog post as normal including your post title and post body. 

Then fill in the SilverlightStreamingApplicationUrl and PostImageCaption fields and save your post as normal.  (*see Obtaining the SilverlightStreamingApplicationUrl for details on the URL to use)

 

*Obtaining the SilverlightStreamingApplicationUrl:

From Silverlight Administration Home Upload your .wmv video or Silverlight 2 application to the Silverlight Streaming Service

From Silverlight Administration Home select the link to the video or application.

From Method 1: Embed the video into a web page obtain the embed link for the video or application

SLmanagevideos

 

Important: Copy only the URL inside the iframe (example in red) . 

<iframe src="http://silverlight.services.live.com/invoke/37066/Butterfly%20Sample%20Video/iframe.html" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width:500px; height:375px"></iframe>

 

What’s next?

  • Investigate how to add YouTube and MSN videos into the posts.
  • Simplify deployment for new blogs via site template (.stp file)
  • Create custom site definition with custom columns included.
  • Create SharePoint application page to allow users to upload videos/display in blog post in one step. 
  • Investigate using Silverlight Streaming Services API and existing solutions to provide reporting on #downloads, video streaming data, etc.

 

Thanks,

Rod.

Use SharePoint and Silverlight to display a summary of SharePoint blog posts on any site page

Overview:

We have been investigating ways on our intranet at Allyis to surface information via a more automatic and less manual process through various features and also to Implement multiple ways for discovering data/information across the site.  One area in particular we have been looking for improvement has been to increase the discoverability of our leadership blogs and encourage employees throughout our organization to blog as as way to increase collaboration and information sharing. 

As a way to address these efforts we recently developed and deployed a suite of web-parts (one of which we call the BlogRollUp web-part) which displays details on the most recent post made to any of our SharePoint blogs.  The web-part can be added to any site page, configured to point to a specific blog, and uploaded into the web-part gallery for others to use as well. 

 

Screenshot (Single Post Version): Screenshot (Multi-Post Version)
blogrollup

Features:

  • Displays blog title as a hyperlink to the original full post.
  • Displays the first 215 characters of the post body as an excerpt.
  • Displays an image for the blogger or blog.
  • Displays the post’s category as a hyperlink to view all similiar posts.
  • Displays the number of comments as a hyperlink to the comments page.
  • Displays an alert icon hyperlinked to the blog’s alert page.
  • Highlights background on mouseover.
  • Users can configure the web-part settings. 
blogrollupmulti

 

Technical Approach:

  • The user-interface was designed and developed entirely using Microsoft Expression Blend, Silverlight, and Visual Studio 2008. 
  • Custom SharePoint web-part to host the Silverlight application which allow users to configure which blog, blogger image, and alerts link from the web-part properties pane directly. 
  • The Silverlight application code uses the initParams provided from the webpart or HTML test page and the URL protocol to access the blog’s post list directly.
  • The web-part can be configured once and easily exported from and imported to the webpart gallery and added to any site page on any site collection.  
  • The Silverlight application was deployed into a SharePoint document library for ease of future updates. 

Advantages of using Silverlight:
Rich support for animation, rich set of controls, good development tools, i.e. Microsoft Expression Blend and Visual Studio 2008, and all the advantages of coding in C# with a simple deployment process. You can even copy the Silverlight XAP files (essentially a compressed zip file with all your code) into a SharePoint document library and run from there along with a simple HTML page.

Deployment Methods

Deployment using only a document library and a content editor web-part without the need to install server-side code and as such administrative access typically not required.

  1. Download the Visual Studio solution .zip and extract the files.
  2. Download

  3. Create a folder named ClientBin in a SharePoint document library to store the Silverlight application. 
  4. Locate the BlogRollUp_Web\ClientBin\BlogRollUp.xap file and copy into your new ClientBin folder
  5. Locate the BlogRollUpTestPage.html, update the initParams to use the settings for your particular blog including siteurl, imagepath, listid, and alerturl. 
  6. Copy the updated BlogRollUpTestPage.html file to the root of your new document library.
  7. On a site page add a content editor web-part and reference the BlogRollUpTestPage.html file inside an iframe. 
  8. Export the now pre-configured web-part to your desktop and upload back into the webpart gallery with an appropriate name identifying the BlogRollUp webpart so other users can add to their site pages without having to configure themselves. 

Deployment using the custom web-part where server-side code is installed via the .wsp solution file for the webpart and typically requiring administrative access

  1. Download the Visual Studio solution .zip and extract the files.
  2. Download

  3. Create a folder named ClientBin in a SharePoint document library to store the Silverlight application. 
  4. Locate the BlogRollUp_Web\ClientBin\BlogRollUp.xap file and copy into your new ClientBin folder.
  5. Download the .wsp solution file
  6. DownLoad

  7. Install the provided .wsp solution file via stsadm -addsolution
  8. Activate the solution from SharePoint Central Administration or stsadm -activatefeature
  9. Upload the provided webpart .dwp file into your web-part gallery via site setting, web parts. 
  10. Add the web-part to a site page, update the Silverlight web-part settings section with the appropriate .XAP fullpath, siteurl, imagepath, listid, and alerturl for your particular blog
  11. Export the now pre-configured web-part to your desktop and upload back into the webpart gallery with an appropriate name identifying the blogrollup webpart so other users can add to thier site pages without having to configure themselves. 

Summary:

This is just one way of displaying some pertinent details on recent posts from the blogs dispersed throughout the intranet while also making it easy for users to add to any site page.  Using Silverlight allows .NET developers to develop rich UI in Expression and Visual Studio and store the .xap files in SharePoint document libraries for future updates. 

 

-Rod

Windows Live Writer is great for SharePoint Blogs

Sample training video hosted in Silverlight Streaming Service and can be embedded directly into your Blog easily using Windows Live Writer Insert Silverlight Streaming feature.

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

Currently compatible with Windows Live Spaces, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, WordPress, Community_Server, PBlogs.gr, JournalHome, the MetaWeblog API, the Moveable Type API, and all blogs that support RSD (Really Simple Discoverability).

Windows Live Writer introduces the Provider Customization API that enables both rich customization of Windows Live Writer’s behavior as well as the opportunity to add new functionality to the product. Currently Windows Live Spaces, WordPress, and TypePad have all taken advantage of this API to expose additional service-specific features within Windows Live Writer.

Windows Live Writer is currently available in 6 different languages.

Here is a training video I did using Windows Media Encoder for screen capture, Microsoft Media Encoder to encode and post directly to the Silverlight Streaming Service. From Windows Live Writer I can insert a video from my Silverlight Streaming Service directly-even get a preview mode of the video-nice.  I use WLW to post to my Spaces Blog and then syndicate to my notes in Facebook, my blog on OfficeLive, and my blog page on our company intranet  all via categorized RSS Feeds provided by Spaces.  I also use here on my blog to display recent posts.  WLW really simplifies inserting pictures, videos, maps, etc. plus you can develop your own add-ins which is cool.