Since last summer, when I’d somehow won the Computer Weekly “Public Sector IT Blog of the Year” award for 2008 (for the UK Schools blog), I’d been asked to run a series of internal, and then external, workshops, and been invited to speak at others’ events on my approach to blogging. To be honest, I don’t think I’m an expert (after all, there are plenty of professional bloggers out there that make a full-time living doing it) but on my journey of personal and business blogging over the last six years, I’ve picked up some hints.
In June 2009, following on from a blogging workshop I gave in London, I sat down and turned all of my slides and information on good practice in blogging into a series of blog posts. Bear in mind, these are all personal opinions - you may find that some of the things I outline don't work for you, or you disagree with their intent, so feel free to take the bits you think are useful, and ignore the bits that aren't!
Although much of the Guide focuses on the link between blogging and education, it is also useful if you are not actually working in education – I’ve had positive comments from Microsoft education partners about it’s value for them.
I hope you find it useful:
I’ve subsequently produced a PDF version of the Good Blogging Guide, which is an edited version of the blog posts.
If you prefer to read the online version, and catch any updates since this document, then read on…
Chapter One: Write for the audience How to select an audience and focus on it. To help I share the profile of the person I’m writing for when I sit down to write the UK Schools blog.
Chapter Two: Have an objective Two simple rules which help you to stay focused on what you want each blog post to achieve, and to know what to write.
Chapter Three: Getting onto page one of Google Also known as SEO in plain english, or ‘search engine optimisation for blogs’, this gives you four simple rules to get your blog noticed, and found by people searching for your subject. NB: Chapter 3 1/2 shows what happened when I used the rules on Chapter 3
Chapter Four: A blogging Code of Practice Advice on how to construct your own blogging guidelines, if you’re part of an organisation. With examples from the Civil Service, Microsoft, my own team’s guidelines, and a council code of practice for education bloggers. See also a bonus post on Twitter in the Public Sector
Chapter Five: No lawyers please I have a personal dislike for people that write in language the rest of us can’t understand. Hence “No lawyers please”, with quick rules on writing style and some tools to help you to understand your own.
Chapter Six: When things go wrong Not the use of ‘when’ not ‘if’. Some advice about how to deal with tricky situations, and how to get your organisation on your side when things don’t quite go to plan!
Many partners have been asking about Office Web Applications. Here’s some information on the design and engineering principles.
Tenet #1: Trustworthy
First and foremost we want to build web applications that users can trust. Many elements regarding trust are quite common amongst web applications. For example, most web applications need to be reliable, available, responsive, respect user's privacy, backup data, etc. For the purpose of this blog post I will not spend time talking about these aspects of 'trust' as most web applications share these principles. What I do want to discuss is how our team views 'trust' in the context of web productivity applications and some specifics about what we are doing to earn trust.
Round-tripping (or preservation) of documents:
When a user works with a document in an Office Web App, the Web app will preserve the data in the document, even if the Web app doesn't support a specific feature. For example, the Word Web App will not support editing 'Watermarks' in the initial version. However if a user opens a document with a 'Watermark' in the Word Web App, makes some changes and saves, the 'Watermark' will remain in the document. It is very important that when customers use the Web apps they can do so trusting that they will not lose data or 'mess up' the document.
Another example is that I may create a spreadsheet in the Excel desktop app and then share it with a friend. My friend may want to add data or change numbers, even though she doesn't have Office installed on her machine. Using the Excel Web App, she can make changes knowing that the integrity of the spreadsheet will be preserved. The formulas, charts, worksheets, pivot tables will all continue to be intact in the spreadsheet (unless changed by my friend).
While this may seem obvious, it’s harder than it seems. Others use an 'import/export' model and convert the documents to a simpler form for editing on the web. This approach works adequately for some scenarios, but it takes just one or two instances of content being 'lost in translation' for users to lose trust in the Web Apps. With Office Web Apps, we want people to use them with confidence and knowing that their content will be safe.
Tenet #2: Familiar Office User Experience
We want Office Web Apps to be easy and fun to use. We know that the 'Office' brand comes with high expectations and we aim for the Web apps to have a high quality look, feel, and level of usability. We use the word 'Familiar' in this tenet as there are hundreds of millions of Office users today and that consistency with existing experiences will make it easier for customers to work with the Web apps' interface.
It is important to note that the tenet is not called "Replicate the Office desktop apps' interface exactly in the browser". We recognize that the web platform has different conventions and we want to ensure that the Web apps utilize the best of the web and take advantage of the web platform's strengths. An analogy is Mac Office and Windows Office. While much of the UI/behaviour is consistent, the interfaces are not identical as each is optimized for the underlying platform.
Perhaps the most obvious place where customers will recognize our efforts towards this tenet is in the look and feel of the application. The icons will be familiar, the text of commands will match the desktop apps, all the apps use the 'Ribbon' interface, etc. In the individual apps you can expect to see sheet 'tabs' at the bottom of Excel, a view of the slides on the left in PowerPoint, or the familiar formatting commands in Word.
We’ve also made a big investment in consistent behaviours. This includes some of the basics that Office users have come to expect like AutoCorrect and background spellchecking. I'll provide a more detailed example to illustrate the level of thought that goes into building a productivity application. Try the following in the text editor of your choice:
1. Create a new document
2. Insert a table at the very top of the document
3. Add text above the table
In Word (both the desktop app and the Web app), if you simply hit 'enter' while your IP (insertion pointer) is in the upper-left of the table it will create a new paragraph above the table. This makes sense but requires special logic, as normally hitting 'enter' in a cell creates a new line in that cell. Most users likely never notice this, but without this type of subtle logic editing can be frustrating. This attention to detail is part of what separates basic editors (or spreadsheets/presentations) from applications designed to provide an 'Office quality experience'.
Below is a visual showing this behavioural difference between Microsoft Word (top) and Microsoft Writer (bottom).
Tenet #3: High Fidelity
For many people, Office documents are their 'work product'. Most people take pride in their work and their documents. With Office Web Apps, we want to ensure that users can view and share content with the confidence that others will see their work as intended. We've even seen a major product category (Adobe PDF/Acrobat) designed for this express goal.
With the Web apps, we use the term 'fidelity' to span a broad spectrum from visual fidelity (e.g. formatting and layout) to data fidelity (e.g. calculations and formulas) to behavioural fidelity (e.g. builds/animations in presentations). Office customers will expect that their content will look and act the same on the web as it does on their PC. For a scientist, this could mean that a design document has the correct layout, diagrams, pictures, and pagination when shared. For an administrator they want to be sure that the formulas always compute the same way and that their charts or tables accurately represent the data. A teacher or student will want his/her slide deck to look professional and as designed, builds/animations to work, and for the notes to be available.
Do you have customers working on programmes which extend access to learning through ICT at home? You might be interested in inviting them to nominate themselves for the Home Access Awards, being run by the e-learning foundation. The criteria for the awards doesn’t necessarily assume that schools are running a widespread programme to provide ICT for students at home, but does focus on identifying good practice. For example, in the Most Successful Parental Partnership category, it looks for effective parental communications and use of a VLE/Learning Platform to improve partnership with parents.
The categories are:
Schools can nominate themselves, or could be nominated by you. The exception is the ‘Most Supportive Supplier’ category, which must be school nominated. The deadline is 9th October, with the awards themselves in November.
Find out more on the e-learning foundation website
Drawing on recent research, Paul Kelley – Headteacher - argues that it is time to challenge long-held assumptions and use more productive scientific processes to improve education. Kelley places special importance on gathering detailed real-time information about children’s abilities, performance, attitudes, skills, and health in order to personalize learning for individual students. He wants students, teachers, administrators, and parents to have better access to the technologies they need. Part of the mission of the Innovation Trust is to develop new approaches that can be applied in other schools, and Kelley has made Monkseaton a national proving ground for extraordinary innovations in education.
Monkseaton uses an array of information and communication technologies to gather and analyze data about students, apply personalized learning strategies in and out of school, and administer school operations.
While Kelley believes that just applying technology to ineffective educational techniques is unlikely to improve student outcomes, he appreciates how technology helps make innovation possible.
“We can use technology to collect data quickly and intervene early to personalize education for students,” says Kelley. “Then we can actually bring the technology into the learning environment, the administration, and the business of running the school, and bring it all together to support the whole student, the whole child.”
This is a great example of using SQL Server, SharePoint, Office 2007 and Identity Lifecycle Manager to drive school improvement and educational outcomes. The full case study can be found at: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Case_Study_Detail.aspx?CaseStudyID=4000004944
1. Role-based training at https://partner.microsoft.com/40110019 and readiness resources at https://partner.microsoft.com/40091612
2. Gold Certified, Certified, and MAPS partners can start using the new version of Windows 7 with their Windows 7 internal-use licenses. Also, please be aware that we announced at WPC that we doubled the internal use rights licenses for Windows 7 for Gold Certified and Certified partners. Internal-use license availability is coming out soon so watch for additional announcements.
3. We also have great Windows 7 offers for VL and SA.
4. Increase Windows 7 sales by leveraging the Upgrade the Desktop (https://partner.microsoft.com/upgradedesktopcampaign) or Optimized Desktop (https://partner.microsoft.com/optimizeddesktop) campaigns and planning launch events.
5. For ISVs get the Green Light for Application Compatibility Tools at https://www.isvappcompat.com/ to ensure applications will run well on Windows 7 and to get access to marketing resources.
Windows 7 Partner-Ready Assets
These have been customised for different partners and can be found via the Windows 7 page at http://partner.microsoft.com/windows7 on the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) Portal. Be sure to click on the links for the Online Readiness Kit at https://partner.microsoft.com/40091612 and the various resource pages by partner-type to see the latest tools, presentations, and campaigns. Here are the specific links for each:
· ISVs: https://partner.microsoft.com/40103819
· Services Partners: https://partner.microsoft.com/40103797
· VARs & Solution Providers: https://partner.microsoft.com/40103868
· Distis: https://partner.microsoft.com/40109544
· LARs: https://partner.microsoft.com/40103860
· System Builders: https://partner.microsoft.com/40103867
Run the predefined Partner Learning Center Windows 7 Search at https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/search_adv.aspx?ssid=A2D96EED6B5E46509ACE12270B2C6349 to find training for you and for your partners.
1. Take advantage of all readiness resources available through the Partner Learning Center at: https://trainings.partner.microsoft.com/plc/search_adv.aspx?ssid=4597D62AF2834BEBA269EC1743794A3A as well as the new Windows Server Solution Accelerators at https://partner.microsoft.com/saserver, including the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 Beta.
2. Deploy the new version of Windows Server 2008 R2 using internal-use rights. This will help to appreciate many of the great new features together with Windows 7 such as DirectAccess and Branch Cache. Internal-use license availability is coming out soon so keep an eye out for it.
3. We want partners to create launch events that leverage our low-cost, high-impact marketing and sales resources to drive home the message of how Windows Server 2008 R2 can save customers money. The Business Server (https://partner.microsoft.com/businessserverscampaign)and Virtualization & Management (https://partner.microsoft.com/virtualmgmtcampaign) mini-campaigns offer sales resources geared toward small- and mid-size business customers; and the Optimized Datacenter Campaign (https://partner.microsoft.com/optimizeddatacenter) helps partners capture new opportunities and the interest of enterprise customers.
4. For ISVs get the Green Light for Application Compatibility Tools at https://www.isvappcompat.com/ to ensure applications will run well on this latest release and to get access to marketing resources.
Windows Server 2008 R2 Partner-Ready Assets
1. Learn the latest about this launch from the Windows Server 2008 R2 Microsoft.com page (http://www.microsoft.com/WindowsServer2008R2) and the Windows Server 2008 R2 MPN Portal page (https://partner.microsoft.com/productssolutions/servers/windowserver/serverwindowsserver2008). Access and use the Infrastructure Planning and Design (IPD) Guides (http://partner.microsoft.com/IPDGuides) for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V to help Microsoft Partners more quickly and profitably deploy this new technology.
2. Visit the Partner Learning Center at https://trainings.partner.microsoft.com/plc/search_adv.aspx?ssid=4597D62AF2834BEBA269EC1743794A3A to see what training is available for Windows Server 2008 R2.
There have been many questions about Azure, what the pricing is likely to be and how the business model will work. The Partner Live Academy team have a forthcoming web cast that will answer many of these questions:
CSD09PAL: Windows Azure - Business Model for Partners
Presented by Eric Morse
Thursday, July 30, 2009
8:00-9:00am Pacific Time
PLC Registration Link for Partners
Partner Type: Independent Software Vendor, Regional Solution Partner, Systems Integrator, Value Added Reseller, Value Added Provider
Partner Role: Exec/Owner, Marketing, Sales
Join us for an overview of how Windows Azure can help drive new business. Windows Azure offers a simple, reliable, and powerful platform for the creation of new web applications and services, as well as extending or migrating existing applications to the cloud. In this session we explain how partners can go to market with Microsoft and expand their reach with Windows Azure. Find out more about cost advantages, pricing, partner offers, and how you can be successful with Microsoft for your cloud based offerings.
For Partners & OEMs:
ISV (Independent software vendor) and IHV (Independent hardware vendor) Partners will be able to download Windows 7 RTM from Microsoft Connect or MSDN on August 6th. There is already a lot of momentum from ISVs and IHVs in the ecosystem today for Windows 7 as Mike Nash blogged last week. If you are a partner who has been working on Windows 7 for a while, now is the time to complete your testing with final version of Windows 7. For partners that haven’t gotten started yet with Windows 7, now is the time to get involved. You can also visit www.readyset7.com to learn more about getting ready for Windows 7.
Microsoft Partner Program Gold/Certified Members will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English through the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) Portal on August 16th. By October 1st, the remaining languages will become available to download.
Microsoft Action Pack Subscribers will be about to download Windows 7 RTM in English starting August 23rd. By October 1st, the remaining languages will become available to download.
OEMs will receive Windows 7 RTM software images beginning approximately 2 days after we officially RTM, as a little time is required to release and distribute these images. This will allow them to begin preparing images for new PCs to ship with Windows 7 on them. We know our OEMs are excited for Windows 7 and we can’t wait to hand them the final RTM bits!
For Business Customers:
Volume License (VL) customers with an existing Software Assurance (SA) license will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English starting August 7th via the Volume License Service Center (VLSC). The rest of the languages for Windows 7 RTM should be available within a couple of weeks after that.
Volume License customers without a SA license will be able to purchase Windows 7 through Volume Licensing on September 1st as we announced last week at WPC09. Mark these dates on your calendar and start making your deployment plans!
For IT Professionals:
There are a few ways you can get Windows 7 RTM. IT Professionals with TechNet Subscriptions will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English on August 6th and remaining languages by October 1st.
IT Professionals at companies with Volume Licensing see above on how you can get Windows 7 RTM.
We have quite a bit of resources for IT Professionals to use to become experts on Windows 7 and to aid in their deployments. Those resources can be found at the Springboard Series.
Developers with MSDN Subscriptions will be able to download Windows 7 RTM in English on August 6th and remaining languages by October 1st.
To help developers who are developing applications for Windows 7 or updating existing applications to take advantage of new Windows 7 features, check out the Windows 7 for Developers Blog. Also, be sure to check out the Windows 7 Developers Guide on MSDN. Oh and there are also some fantastic videos on Channel 9 too!
Yesterday (July 21) we announced a Microsoft Live Services plug-in for Moodle. This is a free download that provides integrated access to Live@edu services such as email, calendar, IM and search from within the Moodle environment.
We’re releasing the code on www.educationlabs.com as an Open Source project under the GPL v2 licence, keeping the licensing for this code in line with the licensing that customers who use Moodle are familiar with and want to stay with.
Why is this cool?
You can find the project directly here.
The original blog post from Michael Golden announcing the release is here.
The Microsoft Live Services Plug-in for Moodle is the first in a growing collection of free, easy-to-deploy solutions – some completely turnkey, others requiring some level of customization –available on www.educationlabs.com that showcase our latest work on new and exciting learning scenarios. On this site, you can learn more about the plug-in and access the download today. I also encourage you to read what Moodle creator, Martin Dougiamas, has to say about the Live Services Plug-in on his blog. Lastly, watch this video demonstration on Moodle and see how Windows Live services are incorporated into the environment.
We’ve been working hard to finalize all the material to help our Live@edu ISV partners and developers. We will be updating this material as new APIs become relevant for Live@edu partners. The kit can be downloaded here.
In this Kit you will find the components to help Partners to start to develop using the most common Live@edu related services APIs and SDKs. In a nutshell the Kit has 4 Components:
1. ISV Guidebook: One stop shop for ISV / Developers. It is organized in a way to encapsulates: development guidelines, coding best practices, sample code and also quick start guidelines. From one page Partners can access all the information relevant to that service:
We cover 5 APIs/SDK in this Guidebook:
a. Live Admin Center SDK b. Live Messenger (Web Toolkit) c. Exchange Web Services and Outlook Live d. Virtual Earth e. Live ID
a. Live Admin Center SDK
b. Live Messenger (Web Toolkit)
c. Exchange Web Services and Outlook Live
d. Virtual Earth
e. Live ID
3. Helpers: are solutions for ISVs that are currently not addressed or easily discoverable using Live Services. Probably all the ISVs would have to resolve some issues that exist using the APIs / SDKs, so we decide to create a “Helpers” that includes source code and documentation on how to implement the solution. Here are the 4 helpers we created:
a. Cross Web Domain Communication: Enable usage of Channel framework APIs for ISVs to build solutions across domains
b. Single Sign Out: When user is signed into a site using Live ID, site allows automatic access to other live-id enabled sites which can be accessed from this site within a single browser session.
c. SharePoint Web Part: A step by step guidance with code (source code included) on how to build web parts for Outlook Live. Helper helps to integrate Outlook Live to SharePoint portal
d. Unified Sign In Control: Avoid two sign in or sign out buttons on webpage with Live Messenger Library by unifying the control within the same browser session
4. Scenarios: to help ISV understand what is possible using the APIs we developed 3 different complete scenarios. We have 1 IT Pro scenario and 2 Students scenarios:
a. Scenario 1 - (Reports and Unique IDs): Admin Control Panel with self service portal– Uses: Admin Center SDK, PowerShell (Intermediate Level) b. Scenario 2 - (“Meet me at the Library”): Student checks conference room availability to set up meeting on Calendar – Uses: EWS Unified Messaging, Web Messenger (Intermediate Level) c. Scenario 3 - (“How do I get there?”): Student using calendar, can search for venue (Bing) and invite with map information as a link – Uses: Virtual Earth, EWS Unified Messaging, Web Messenger (Advanced Level)
a. Scenario 1 - (Reports and Unique IDs): Admin Control Panel with self service portal– Uses: Admin Center SDK, PowerShell (Intermediate Level)
b. Scenario 2 - (“Meet me at the Library”): Student checks conference room availability to set up meeting on Calendar – Uses: EWS Unified Messaging, Web Messenger (Intermediate Level)
c. Scenario 3 - (“How do I get there?”): Student using calendar, can search for venue (Bing) and invite with map information as a link – Uses: Virtual Earth, EWS Unified Messaging, Web Messenger (Advanced Level)
All this material will be available in the Partner Community Website (in FY10 will be known as Microsoft Education Partner Network): www.mseducommunity.com
To say thanks to its loyal customers and enthusiasts, especially those who have taken part in the Beta and Release Candidate (RC) programmes, Microsoft is making pre-order copies of Windows 7 available through selected retail partners at one-off promotional prices* of around £49.99 for Home Premium and £99.99 for Professional. This is a great opportunity to get your hands on the best Windows operating system of all time and save plenty of money in the process.
The Windows 7 Beta and RC versions have been very well received by consumers and media alike. Pre-order copies of the final version of Windows 7 have already been selling fast in Japan, Canada and the US. To pre-order a discounted copy of the final version of Windows 7 you need to contact Microsoft’s retail partners or go to www.microsoft.com/uk/win7preorder.
Retail partners in the UK taking part in the promotion are Amazon.co.uk, Argos, Comet, Currys, Dixons, Ebuyer.com, John Lewis Partnership, Littlewoods, Micro Anvika, PC World, Play.com, Staples and Tesco. Links to pre-order offer webpages are listed below.
Finally, a quick reminder for Microsoft’s UK customers: if you are replacing an older version of Windows with Windows 7 once it arrives on 22 October, a clean install of the operating system and the installation of an internet browser will be required. For more information on how to do this, and for general information on other aspects of Windows 7, please visit www.microsoft.com/windows/.
* Estimated retail prices, actual retail prices may vary by retailer.
Retailer website links: