10 things to know as a SharePoint News reader

spnewsreader-headerIn earlier posts we have looked at SharePoint News and the News digest from the sender’s perspective. It is time to look at it from a reader’s point of view!

1. You can find SharePoint News in the following places:

  1. The site where it has been published
  2. The site overview (click “See all” on the web part after publishing 5 articles)
  3. News digests (Newsletters), consisting of the above, gathered with previews in an email
  4. The SharePoint app
  5. “News from sites” on the SharePoint landing page
  6.  All “News from sites” if you click the “See all” on the SharePoint landing page

To avoid a very long post, I have compiled some screenshots in this deck. You may want to watch it full-screen:

2. You will only see News articles to which you have access.

The News digest is an exception – it can be sent to you and you may not have access to one or more of the articles.

3. The SharePoint web part on the landing page can not be configured or removed.

So if anyone is posting News articles and you have access, you will see them there, whether you want it or not.

Our project was a first and we did not want to show the News to everyone just yet. That is why we made the News site and the News digest available to a limited group of people only, even thought the content was not confidential. We simply did not want to confront people with something new which may be there only once. (In theory 🙂 )

We received some comments of people in the target audience because it “obscured their view of the Frequent Sites”.

4. You can like a page and/or comment on it.

You will find the options at the bottom of the page. The author will receive an email now and then with the likes and comments. If you @mention someone, they will receive an email immediately. This is great for urgent remarks to the author, and also to inform a colleague about this article.

SPNewsreader-comment
Likes and comments are available. If you @mention someone, they will get an email.

5. You can save a news article for later.

This will come in useful when you do not have time to read it now, or in case you will want to keep it. There are 3 ways to do that:

  1. At the bottom of the post you will see an option to “Save for later”.

    SPNewsreader-savefrompost
    You can save an article for later by clicking the label at the bottom of the page.
  2. You can also click the label of any News article that you see on the “News from sites” overviews.
  3. In the SharePoint app you can click the … at the right of each article and select “Save for later”

    SPNewsreader-how to save
    From the Newsfeed in the app you can also save for later. Sorry – in Dutch 🙂

There are 3 places to see your saved articles:

  1. On the News cards in “News from sites”, saved articles will show with a “filled” label as opposed to have the outline only (Is this proper English? 🙂 )

    SPNewsreader-savedfromSPPage
    The highlighted label show that this News article is “saved for later”. You can (un)save on this page by clicking the label.
  2. On your SharePoint landing page, in the left-hand menu under “Saved”

    SPNewsreader-savedSPpage
    You will see “Saved” News articles in the left-hand column on the SharePoint landing page.
  3. In the SharePoint app News, under Filter (on top) you can select the “Saved Items”.

    SPNewsreader-appfilter
    Click the Filter and select “Saved Items”. Sorry for the Dutch! 🙂

I would have expected this to be on Delve, together with bookmarks. But no.

6 a. The SharePoint app (iOS and Android) is excellent for reading News.

The Newsfeed (in order of First Published Date) looks great and your saved items are available in a separate place. (Click the filter on top to see only the “Saved Items”)
You can easily read the News in public transport or in the evening on the sofa!

I often hear that people “do not have time to read the news during the day”.

I also heard a story from a bank that made the News available on smartphones (this was pre-SharePoint News and app) and they saw a massive spike in views around 8 pm, when people were ready to settle in for the evening. Apparently employees do not mind spending private time on work-related News, as long as they can consume it at a time that suits them.

6 b. The Android app is very sticky when it comes to post-publication changes.

Both iOS and Android are fast to show freshly published News articles. But while the iOS app is fast to respond to post-publication changes (e.g. items being renamed, edited, depublished or removed) the Android app is very slow and can take several hours to change. Some unpublished or deleted items never even go away, providing you with a 404 (not found) message when you click them.
Android phones and fast-moving news such as IT outages and their fixes are therefore not a good combination.

7. Make it a habit to click on the title to open a News article.

Clicking on the image in the News Digest will only show you the image. Everywhere else you can also click on the image. Weird.

8. You will get notifications of new News articles in the app.

This happens when someone you work with frequently posts a new article. This is determined by the Microsoft Graph (the machine that also provides you with suggestions of documents, sites and people) based on your interactions, so there is not much you can do about it 🙂

SPNewsreader-mobile (2)
Someone I work with has posted one (1) News article.

9. Alerts suck big time.

If you do not like to wait until you get a News digest or an app notification, you may think about setting an Alert. Please don’t – Alerts do not work.

Here’s what happens:

  • If you set an Alert based on “All changes” you will get two Alerts – one with the raw URL and one with the title, content and metadata. After that, you will get notified of all changes, of course.
SPNewsReader-alert1
First Alert you will get – yikes!

 

SPNewsreader-alert2
You get this one minutes later.
  • If you set an Alert for “When new items are added” you get…nothing!
  • I also tried a Flow but the “Send email when new file is added” did not work (404 error) as it links to that “raw” URL which gets overwritten. Only once did I receive the correct URL and I have no clue why.
    If someone has found a Flow that works for this scenario, please share!
  • Using a filtered view (Published items, “version contains .0”) did not solve the issue with Alerts or Flow. Besides, would any reader know that?

10. Let me know!

You can guess: I am saving this place for a quirk that I will learn about later. 🙂

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

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10 things to know about the SharePoint News digest

After my massive list of things-to-be-aware-of when creating and managing SharePoint News, I though it would be good to share some lessons about the News digest (Newsletter) separately.

The News digest is a Newsletter created from News articles. It looks very nice in all browser and systems:

SPNewsDigest-Newsletteremail
The News digest as an email

This is what it looks like as a page:

SPNewsDigest-Newsletterpage
The News digest page or the “web version”.

So, here’s a few things that are not in the official support article but may be relevant.

1. You need 5 published News articles before you can send a News digest.

Frankly, this one drove me nuts. I knew I had seen Jasper Oosterveld and other people demo this functionality, so why did I not see the “See all” link on the homepage? Well, because I had only posted 4 items. Duh!

SPNEwsDigest-See all
The elusive “See all” link that allows you to send a News digest

2. The order is by selecting – the first article you select is on top.

This is independent of the creating or publishing order.  You can change the order of items after selecting them and clicking “Next”. Using the arrows you can then drag and drop the items into the desired order. The “x” will remove the item from the selection.

SPNewsDigest-moveitems
The yellow-marked icon shows “Move” and allows you to change the order.

3. You can only send this to an Office Group, Distribution List or individuals.

It looks like you can send this only to items which appear in the Global Address List.

I would have expected you could also use a SharePoint site user group (from this site) or a personal Group of Contact Persons from your Outlook, but no. In this case, it meant that our project manager had to add all people to a Distribution List. (We are not using Office Groups yet)

4. It is unclear (to me) what determines the logo.

  • If you do nothing the logo displayed will be the new SharePoint logo
  • If you replace the site icon by another image, the logo displayed will be the old SharePoint logo
  • Your organizational logo (the one in the Office365 top bar) does not show in the News digest
  • Both the support info and this blog by Juan Carlos Gonzalez Martin show that the site icon is displayed in the News digest.

I would like to know how this works, as I would prefer to distinguish the various News digests from one another by using a custom image. On suggestion of Juan Carlos I tested this with a modern team site (instead of a Communication site), but it did not work there either. That said, if there is one site template I would expect to allow more branding, it would be the Communication site!

There is already a number of User Voice requests out there for more options to manage the News digest look-and-feel.

At this moment Microsoft says in their support article that “It is not yet possible to make changes to the appearance of images, header area, or summary area of the email.” That gives hope for the future!

5. Your News digest will display the site’s name.

So make sure your site has a meaningful name.
This is of course another good way to tell the difference between this digest and another, but I still would like to have an image, too!

SPNewsdigest-logoandname
The logo (that I would like to be customizable), and the site name.

6. Access requests will be sent for the News article, not for the site.

If someone has been forwarded the News digest, clicks on the first item and then finds out they need access, they will send an access request to the News article.
You can click “Approve”, but

  • You will only give access to this specific article, so they will have to request access for the next article and the next, etc.
  • You will break the permission inheritance in the pages library, so every page will have its own permissions.
  • They will not see the header image because that lives in the Site Assets library, to which they do not have access.

I would suggest to treat the access requests as a general request for access to the complete SITE.
In our case, I have added a link to the Visitors group on the top of the site, so the project manager can quickly open the list and add new people.

SPNewsdigest-linkontop
Easy to reach for giving access.

He grumbled a bit but is IS a sign of success when people forward the News digest 🙂

By the way, the access request email looks really nice these days. Sadly you can only Approve from the email if you are an Owner (not if you use a custom role, like we do) AND you can not give permissions for the complete site from this mail, only to the link requested.

SPNewsDigest-access
The new access request mail allows you to select role (but not Group) and Approve/Decline, for this specific News article.

7. Access requests will go to the original name of the article.

Have you changed the title of your News article after publishing? When you get an access request, the original name will be shown. If you have forgotten what it was, never mind – another reason to give access to the complete site! 🙂

SPNewsDigest-accessrenamed
I renamed that article into “Share your best holiday pix” but the request goes to the old name 😦

8. You can send this to external users.

The email and the articles will look just as nice for your external partners as for your internal colleagues, including all logos and pictures. Of course your external partners can only read the full articles when your site allows external sharing AND they have access.

9. Your News digest may end up in the Spam box.

I have had to dig my beautiful News digest out of several spam boxes, for different email addresses 😦
So if your first News digests do not get the attention they deserve, you may want to ask around if people have received the emails. (and help them mark it as Not Spam)

10. Place-holder for something that I do not know yet.

I am quite positive that something will turn up. If you have found something, please let me know!

Next steps?

Overall, our audience was positive about the News digest and we have already received inquiries from another team. 

My next post will be about experiencing SharePoint News as a reader. Stay tuned!

15 things to know about creating SharePoint News

SPNews-headerLast week we distributed our first SharePoint News digest!  One of our project teams wants to keep their audience informed with a Newsletter, and we decided to give the standard SharePoint News option a try.

The process of creating and publishing a News article is pretty straightforward, but my Communications colleague had a ton of questions which were not always readily documented.

So here are a few real-life things that your Communications colleague may want to know:

1. You can add max. 110 characters in the title, but will they all be shown?

A different number of characters will be displayed in any of the other places where the article is shown:

  • SharePoint homepage and News overview: 48
  • SharePoint site, 2 side-by-side: 43
  • SharePoint app: 59
  • News Digest email: 110

Please note this is based on my screen with my test text. The “i” is a very thin letter and you will get more in the same space if you only use that one (for instance 100 on the SharePoint homepage and overview)  the “m” and “w” are wide letters and you will get fewer in that space (for instance 27 on the SharePoint homepage and overview.) So…it all depends…on your title!
And then I am not even talking about the body text!
These things can drive you nuts if you are trying to provide guidance! 🙂

SPNews-sphomepage
27 m’s, 100 i’s and 48 letters of my test text on the SharePoint landing page.
SpNews-homepagesidebyside
25 m’s, enough i’s to give you a headache 🙂 , en 43 test letters on the News web part.
SPNews-Mobile
37 m’s, 110 i’s and 59 letters of test text in the SharePoint app (iOS)

2. When you have no background image, the title is black. With a background image, even a light one, the title goes white.

Seriously, I would never notice these things but my colleague did! It is a tad annoying as I think black would provide more contrast in many cases.

SPNews-Blackletterswhennoimage
The regular header has black letters
SPNews-whitelettersiwhtpicture
I have selected the whitest background I could find, but it still appears greyish and with white letters…

3 a. Every News article is a site page and lives in the Site Pages library.

In my organization we use SharePoint sites mainly for document management (well, until I came along 🙂 ).  Every site has a homepage and that’s it. So working with the Site Pages library was a new thing for my colleagues.
Unfortunately all News article pages live in the same Site Pages library, including your site’s homepage and any other page not related to News. Make sure you do not accidentally delete those while cleaning up old News articles.

3 b. A News digest (Newsletter) is another page in that Site Pages library.

If you create a News digest, you create another page in that library. That makes it easy to make it available for everyone who is not in the distribution list for your News digest, but it can make it difficult to know what is what.
Microsoft suggests to add the date to the title, to identify it better, but…

4. There IS a way to know if a certain page is a News article or another page.

A big applause to Elio Struyf who figured this out first, as far as I know.
In your Site Pages library, click on “Add Column” and then “Show/hide columns” at the bottom of the popup.

SPNews-PromotedState1
How to add the column that shows whether something is a News Article or not.

Then select the “Promoted State” column to add to the view. Be aware that this column is only available on the page itself; NOT via the Library Settings. (trust me, I tried 🙂 ) And also remember to click “Apply”!

SPNews=Promotedstate2
It is the “Promoted State” column that enables you to see the difference between News Article and another page.
SPNews-PromotedState3
“Promoted State” can be 0, 1 or 2

Promoted State: (Thanks to Susan Hanley)

  • 0 = News digest or regular page
  • 1 = News article page, not yet published
  • 2 = News article page, published or unpublished

Please note that the default view (Grouped by Author) does not keep the column, so if you edit the view or log out it disappears. If you really want to make it “stick”, use it in a non-grouped view. Here’s an interesting thread about this topic.

5. You can unpublish an article.

This will keep the article in the Site Pages library, but will remove it from any views. Deleting the page has the same effect, but the article will be gone, of course.

You can unpublish as follows: Go to the Site Pages library, hover over the article and click the 3 vertical dots. Click “More” from the popup and then “Unpublish”. You can publish it again.

Please note this is not available everywhere – it may have to do with the site/web part type. I could not find it in some older posts in different site types, for instance.

SPNews-Unpublish

6. The Version tells you whether a News article is published or unpublished.

I have been looking all over the place to find how to see the difference between a published and an unpublished News article, and guess what? It is the Version, which has a x.0 for a published article and a x.1 for an unpublished article.
Thank you, Susan Hanley!

7. The author mentioned is the person mentioned in Author Byline or Created By (if Author Byline is empty).

My Communications colleague helped the project team out with their first efforts, but she did not want to appear as the author. We tried to leave the header empty, the project manager edited the item, but everywhere her name showed up.

However, Marc Anderson came to the rescue here. If we replace the name of my colleague in the article header (this is called the Author Byline) by the project manager’s name, HIS name will appear in all places. As I have only one user in my tenant I can not show it in a screenshot, but I have tested it at work and yes, that is the solution.

SPNews-authorbyline
The Author Byline (yellow mark) is the author name that will be displayed.

8. News articles are shown sorted on First Published date.

This can be different from the Created date! Thanks to Christopher Webb for pointing that out. As we published the articles as soon as they were written, we had not noticed.
It makes therefore no difference for the order of appearance if you change the article after a few days. It does not suddenly show on top.

The order of appearance/moving for the side-by-side webpart is top left > top right > bottom left > bottom right > off page.
(WordPress, I would appreciate an “insert table” option!)

9. You can change the order of appearance on the News web part manually.

This will be useful if you want to keep one (or more) important News article visible for some time, without it being pushed off the page by more recent articles.
Edit the page and click “Edit webpart” next to the News web part. Scroll down in the menu on the right-hand side and click on “Select news to organize”.

SPNews-changeorder
By default this webpart (side-by-side) orders automatically, but you can change that.

Drag and drop the News Article(s) you want to keep in the same place, to the desired  place(s) and click the x top right. Remember to remove it when it has outlived its purpose, as it will stay there otherwise. And please note that this order goes for this web part only!

SPNews-reorder webpart
You can drag and drop any item you want to “pin” in a fixed position to the right and move it up or down there. You see that the 3rd item is already appearing in 1st place.
SPNews-afterreorder
After pinning the 3rd item into the 1st position, new articles appear in 2nd place. This item will be in place until you remove it manually.

10. All images that you upload will be added to the Site Assets library.

You will get a folder for Site Pages and then one folder per page.
In most cases you will end up with one folder per page with one image. What a waste of folders and clicks!

SPNews-site assets
Your Site Pages library has a dedicated folder in the Site Assets

SPNews-siteassets2
Every News article has a dedicated folder, often with only one image 😦

11. Images should ideally be 16:9 with a good focal point that is not too close to the edges.

Another “vague” specification that is a big change from the “images should be square, in .jpg or .gif format, max. 1600 pixels wide and max. 2 GB in size” spec that we used to work with before Modern SharePoint came along.  In real life it means that you generally get a decent result without being able to predict it. Keep in mind that the header image is wide and low, but in other places the images are displayed as a “normal landscape image”‘.

A deep bow for two ladies who have figured out picture behaviour extensively, so you do not have to:

Beth Hall: How SharePoint handles images.
It is a long and thorough post, and a little bit beyond me at times, but my Communications colleague, who is an expert photographer and editor, understood it very well.

Tracy van der Schyff: Creating banners for your online SharePoint pages.

12. If you delete a News article, the associated folder and images will stay in the Site Assets library.

Not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, but just so you are aware!

13. Changing the title of the News article after publication will not change the URL, the name of the Site page or the name of the image folder.

So this means links will keep working, which is good. On the other hand, you will lose track of that new title once the item has disappeared from the overviews and from the mind.

14. The News web part is not very stable.

When I was creating screenshots for item 7, I kept getting an empty web part when returning from the web part menu. Reverting to an earlier version helped now and then, but as soon as I hit the “Edit” or “Select news to organize” buttons, an empty page glared at me. I removed the web part and added it again, which helped, but it may be wise to not touch it too often! Microsoft help for the News web part.
John Sanders of Microsoft has kindly offered to look into that!

15. Edits take some time to update.

When you edit and republish an article after publication, the changes will be immediately visible in the article, the News web part and the overview in the site that the News lives in.
On the SharePoint landing page, the all-News overview page and the mobile app the changes take some time (in my test about an hour) to show up. This is probably due to the lag time in Search indexing.

What’s next?

I really enjoyed this project with my Communications colleague and the project manager. I appreciated their inquisitiveness and it was fun to research all their questions, find new blogs and support pages, see User Voice items, etc.

And…creating the News digest also generated some questions and insights. That will be my next blog as this one is quite long already!

Image by kconcha at pixabay.com

7 ways to re-use texts in Office 365

Template headerDo you have to write the same text time and time again? For instance, an email confirming an appointment, a work instruction or an in-company invoice?

There are a few ways to do that.

1. Re-use and existing mail or document

I guess this feels as the easiest way. But how often have you forgotten to remove the “FW” when you forwarded that email, or forgot to change the salutation? And have you ever overwritten and saved a document that you wanted to keep intact?

Yeah, thought so 🙂

2. Store the text in Word or OneNote and copy-paste

You will have fewer accidents with this option, but now you may suffer from extensive but invisible make-up. This may cause your texts to have weird indents or line spacing when you have pasted them. The best way to strip off the code is to copy-paste to Notepad and then into the final message, but this is often forgotten and also not 100% guaranteed.
Besides, you will have to store that document or note and look for it whenever you need it.

3. Email template – text only

An easy way to manage your email texts is with an email template. That lives in Outlook so it is easily available when you need it – no need to search!
You can create as many templates as you want. You can store about 2100 characters in a template.

Outlook Client/Desktop:

  1. Open new email
  2. In the ribbon, top right, click the … and select “View Templates” from the popup

    Templates-OfficeClient
    Find your email templates in the Outlook Client
  3. You will see a few standard templates

    Templates-MyTemplates
    Standard email templates in the Outlook Client and the place to add a new one
  4. To create a new template, click on +Template
  5. Give your template a title (e.g. “Appointment confirmation”), add text and/or images and click “Save”

    Template-newtemplate
    Give your template a good name and add the text (and any embellishments)
  6. To use a template, click on the title and the text will be added to the email.

    Templates-Applied
    Adding the text to your email is very easy! 

Outlook Online – Current Outlook

  1. Open new email
  2. Bottom right, click the Templates icon
  3. Proceed with 3 as above

    Templates-OnlineOld
    The Templates icon is bottom right in Outlook Online – it’s highlighted in yellow! 

Outlook Online – The new Outlook

  1. Open new email
  2. Click the … at the bottom of the mail and select “My Templates” from the popup
  3. Proceed with 3 as above

    Templates-OnlineNew
    When you are using the New Outlook Online, you will need to click the …

4. Email template – text and make-up (Outlook Client)

If you need to use a template that contains both text and make-up, for instance for an email newsletter or other format, you can do this in Outlook Client/Desktop. It is a much more complicated process, so I would suggest to use this only if the look-and-feel is important and needs to be consistent.
BTW, you get a free email Newsletter when you use SharePoint News, of course, but for all those other occasions this option will be useful.

Microsoft has good instructions on how to create and save a template. It includes sending an email using the template as well.

5. Email signature

Before I discovered the templates, I used to store repetitive texts in an email signature. I have shared dial-in information for my personal Live Meeting (I think that was what web conferencing was called in those days 🙂 ), and shared help and support information in that way. Although I only use templates now, there may be cases where you prefer an email signature.

Outlook Client/Desktop

Microsoft has good instructions for creating signatures.  However the screenshots are a tad outdated. Now, you either use “Tell me what you want to do” or open a new email and click the Insert tab > Signature” to get to the signatures location.

You can have multiple signatures in the Outlook Client, but please be aware you can only add one per email, so always make sure your name and other information is included.

Templates-Clientsignature
How to add a signature in the Outlook Client

Outlook Online – current Outlook

  1. To add a signature, click the Gear Wheel in Outlook
  2. On the bottom of the popup, under “Your app settings” click “Mail”
  3. Under “Mail > Layout” on the left of the screen, click “Email signature”
  4. Add text and optional image, check the desired box if applicable, and click “Save”

    Template-signatureoldoutlook
    In current Outlook Online, this is where you add your signature
  5. To add a signature manually, open a new email, click … on top of the message and select “Insert signature”

Outlook Online – the New Outlook

  1. To add a signature, click the Gear Wheel in Outlook
  2. Click “View all Outlook Settings” on the bottom of the popup
  3. Select “Compose and Reply”

    Templates-NewOutlook-Signature
    In the new Outlook Online, this is where you add your signature 
  4. Add text and optional image, check the desired box if applicable, and click “Save”

Please note you can only have one signature in Outlook Online.

6.  Document template in SharePoint – general

You can add a template to a SharePoint document library for your team’s recurring documents. Think about reports or work instructions. You can do this for all Microsoft documents and you can have multiple templates in one library.
Anyone who can manage the document library can do this, so you will need at least Edit permissions.

I use and suggest this very often right now and wish it was also available in OneDrive!

  1. Create the document you want to use as a template and save it with a meaningful name – it may help to add “template” to the name
  2. Open the document library in question, click “New” and then “Add Template”

    template-SPNew
    Where to add the template
  3. Upload the template
  4. Check that it displays correctly.

    Templates-SPAdded
    Giving a good name is important – you will want to notice the template easily
  5. To create a new document in the template, click “New” in the Document Library and select the template. A new instance of the template will open.
  6. To move position of the template, or to make changes to the template itself, click “New” > “Edit New menu”. A popup will appear on the right-hand side of the page.
    Hover over the document to be removed, repositioned or edited, click the three dots that appear to the right of the name and you will get a popup with options.

    Template-SPeditmenu
    Editing, deleting or changing the position of the template is very easily done 

7. Document template in SharePoint – custom

It is also possible to add a custom template document as the default document. I can imagine this may have its uses when you want to use it for very formal documents, such as contracts or financial reporting. Those documents will have a strict format that needs to be adhered to.
In that case you can do that via the Library Settings > Advanced Settings. Microsoft describes the steps here. Although they mention SharePoint Online, they talk about “email-enabling” the library, which has been deprecated for several years by now, so I wonder when this has been last reviewed. (Of course I gave feedback to this article)

This needs Site Owner permissions but may also be done by an admin or IT.

Have I forgotten an option? Please let me know!

Image by Cohdra on Morguefile.com

 

SharePoint Holmes and the Online Only

sh-onlineonlyThe case

“ I can not open the embedded document” the user told me.
“Ah”, I thought, “I have once solved a case for that”.
“Please ask the site owner to make sure the library opens in the client application” I told the user. “Because embedded documents do not open in the online version“.
I thought that was the end of it, but some time later the site owner contacted me, telling me that the document library always opened in client so he did not understand what I meant.
To be honest, I did not understand it either anymore, so I needed to put on my sleuthing hat.

The investigation

  1. I checked the library and the settings. Yes, the library was set to open in the client.
  2. I selected the document and opened it with Word. No problem.
  3. I asked the user which version of Word he had. A recent client version.
  4. Then I checked his permissions to the site. Somehow or other I always end up checking permissions. The user had Read permissions, as expected.

    sh-onlineonly-sitesettings
    The user was in the Visitors group with Read permissions to the site (In Dutch it is “Lezen”)
  5. I looked at the items with different permissions and noticed that the document library had different permissions from the site. There I saw that the user had been added with View Only, which according to the description means: View pages, items, and documents. Any document that has a server-side file handler can be viewed in the browser but not downloaded. File types that do not have a server-side file handler (cannot be opened in the browser), such as video files, .pdf files, and .png files, can still be downloaded. 

    sh-onlineonly-librarypermissions
    In the Document Library this group has “View Only” permissions.

6.  I gave my colleague the same permissions to the site and checked what happened. Indeed, she could only open documents in the online version with that role.

sh-onlineonly-opening
The user could only open documents in Word Online. No option to use Word Client.

The solution

The site owner had inherited the site and did not know why this permissions set had been given. To be honest, I have never used it so I wonder what people use it for.
I explained the situation and told him that the determining factor was the need to see the embedded document.

  1. If the user had no need for the embedded document, he could leave the permissions as they were.
  2. If the user needed to see the embedded document, he still had two choices:
    – Make the document available in the document library, instead of embedding it, and leave the permissions as they were
    – Give the user Read permissions

Tips:

  • Be aware that people with View Only can also not Copy or Move.

    sh-onlineonly-nocopyormove
    There are no Copy To or Move To options when you have View Only
  • @Site Owners: stick to the standard roles as much as possible
  • @Site Owners: always ask your predecessor for the why if you see any strange things when the old site owner hands over the site to you. (Yes, I know this will not happen, but a support girl can dream 🙂 )
  • @Support people: You will have noticed by now that you should always check
    – Client/Online opening behaviour
    – Classic/Modern settings (they are not an issue here, but have been unexpected causes of issues in other cases)
    – AND permissions


About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role is solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I have a standard response, but sometimes I need to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it.
As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.

Image courtesy of OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay.

Using Yammer data export to manage conversations

YammerExportBlogImageThe team I mentioned in my blog “Using Yammer for a business process” had difficulty tracking all conversations and actions in their Yammer groups. Their groups knew heavy traffic, and conversations went up and down on the page, depending on latest posts. It was easy to miss a reported issue when it had been open for a few days.

So the team asked if it was possible to give them a report of the data, so they could better

  • track questions, issues and especially resolutions
  • keep track of the people who had joined the conversation (posting in the groups was an objective for all sales people)

I do not know if any of you will ever need this, but as I am also keeping this blog as a reminder to myself, let me share it – you never know 🙂

What is available?

As far as I know, there are four options for reporting:

Group Insights
You can find this on the right-hand column of the group. This gives you some data about the number of people, messages and views. However, this does not give any information about the content, so this was not of interest to them.

Yammerconvexpgroupinsights
You can find the “Group Insights” on the right-hand side of the group.
Yammer-groupinisghts
This is what you see in “View Group Insights”: the numbers of messages and people.

Power BI
I am not an expert on PowerBI, but I have seen some reports for Yammer which look pretty good. It is also possible to show the content of each message. However, as we did not have this available for end users, (for reasons of licence costs + the preference for other BI tooling) it was not a suitable option for this purpose at that time.

Flow
“When a message is posted in a group on Yammer” is a trigger on Flow. You can send data to a SharePoint list, although I do not know if you can sort or group on conversation. Flow could have been an option, but  with their post volumes, they might have needed a premium plan and we did not want to risk that.
BTW, an interesting use of Flow and Yammer is this “Sentiment analysis of Yammer posts” by Chris Bortlik.

Exporting the network data
This option allows a Yammer Network Admin to make an extract of all conversations, dates, people and what not between two dates. This was a suitable answer to their question so we set about to make this happen.
It is not possible to export the conversations of one group only, so it took some figuring out if and how we could do this in a responsible way:

  • Data security concerns in general – as this option exports all conversations from all groups, the Network Admin could also see conversations from private groups. Of course any network admin is supposed to be a responsible and trustworthy person and has likely signed an NDA when joining the organization. Besides, they can give themselves access to private groups anyway, so after some discussion this was approved.
  • Privacy concerns for the members of the groups in scope – but everyone had agreed to this way of doing their business and was aware of and OK with the export and the data – in fact, the report was shared with all concerned.
  • Cleansing and presenting data – how could the substantial amount of data be processed quickly as this was going to be a weekly task for the Yammer Network Admin.

So, let me share how to work with the data.

How to export the data

A Yammer network Admin can make an export of data, as described here.

Following the instructions, you will get a zip file with several data sheets, of which you need the one called Messages.

Yammerexportzipfile
This is the zip file. Open “Messages” to view the raw data export.

Example, please!

Here’s some group conversations I made earlier 🙂. There are some updates, replies, replies to replies, and an announcement, in a random post order. I have numbered them to make it easier to see how things are displayed in the export.

Yammerconv1

Yammerconv2
These are all conversations in this Group

When exporting the data and opening the “Messages” file I get a file looking like this:

YammerconvExportRaw
The raw data export

I have created an Excel in which I go from the raw data to the final sorted data in several steps / tabs. You can view or download it here

Cleansing the data

The raw file contains many columns which are not relevant for this purpose. The following ARE important:

  • id
  • replied_to_id
  • thread_id
  • group_name (if you have multiple groups to manage)
  • sender_name (and/or sender_email)
  • title
  • body
  • created_at

Please remove the other columns to make your file a bit more manageable.
The result is shown in tab “Correct columns” in the Excel sample.

As I said you will export all conversations in the network in the given time interval. You will now need to sort on “group_name” and then remove every line item that is not in one of the groups in scope.
There is little activity in my one-person Yammer tenant so there was only one group and one person in my export. I have removed those columns to make the file less cluttered. This is the “Work data” tab.

Interpreting the data

Now, let’s see how they belong together:

  1. Every message gets a number, the “id”. A higher “id” means that the message has been posted later than a lower “id”.
  2. The raw export sorts the messages by “id”, ascending (earliest message on top).
  3. Every thread (conversation / series of messages) has a number, the “thread_id”.  It is the “id” of the first message of the thread.  For the first thread (Message 1) this is 1197762641. So, all messages that have 1197762641 under “thread_id”  belong to Message 1. In the tab “Colour-coded work data” each number has its own colour, providing they are/have a reply or a thread_id.
  4. Every reply has the “id” they replied to, in the “replied_to_id” column.
  5. Every new thread has an empty box in “replied_to_id”
    It looks like this:

    Yammerconvexportnewmessage
    Every new thread is NOT a reply to another message, so the “replied_to_id” is empty.

Presenting the data

This team wanted to be able to quickly scan through all conversations, to see if they had been addressed. They were looking for messages in the “body” that said something like “This complaint has been registered in CRM with number 123” or “We have discussed this with management and added this to our wish list for 2020” or similar. These messages would typically be at the end of a conversation. Anything that showed that the message had been read, processed and entered into the appropriate system.

So, we sorted the messages on “thread_id” first and then on “id”. This gave them the info they needed. You can see that in the “Sorted data” tab.

Yammerconvexpsorteddata
The “sorted data” that the team could work with. Please note the colouring is only for demonstration purposes!

Additionally, they sorted on “sender_email” to count the number of entries for each Sales person.

Additional suggestions

  • We all sometimes reply to the original and sometimes to a reply. You can sort that out in the data export if you want, but in this case all threads needed to end with a resolution. So in general, the last updates in time were the most relevant.
  • Please select your date range carefully or you will end up with an unworkably large file, not only in number of line items, but also in GB’s. And remember to turn off the attachment downloads!
  • The “title” field is useful only when you want to make a distinction between normal updates and Announcements. Every reply to an announcement is treated as a normal update.
  • Please make sure your users do not use paragraphs or hard returns in their messages as only text before the hard return is exported into the “body” field.
    Yammerhardreturnmessage
    This message has hard returns in the text. See below for the export.

    Yammer-hardreturnexport
    The export breaks after the first hard return. How annoying!

Have you ever used the data export option for Yammer? Please let me know!

Why not use Teams?

If they were to start this project now, I would probably advise Teams rather than Yammer. But I have not been able to find any way to export the data, nor is a new Teams post a trigger for Flow at this moment. So I am not sure if Teams would have met their reporting requirements.

My personal gems from IntranetNow

GemsOn October 5 I participated in IntranetNow, and a wonderful conference it was!

There were plenty of interesting and enjoyable presentations but below are the ones that resonated most with me:

1. An excellent Yammer use case

Baxter Willis of WM Reply shared a great Yammer use case from one of his clients, drinks business Diageo.
Apparently they have an archive of all bottle types, advertising materials, recipes etc. Nobody was really aware of that department, until recently. They are digitizing their content and the archivist posts something interesting on Yammer every day, e.g.
“Did you know that Pimm’s has been associated with Wimbledon from the 1930’s?” accompanying a picture of a nice old newspaper ad proving her point.
This lady is now the toast of the company and her Yammer group is very popular.

I like this because it is another easy way to share knowledge, which would otherwise be hidden in the archive. Posting it on Yammer costs nothing more than 5 or 10 mins a day. It helps the Marketing and Social Media people in their current work by giving them new insights to the company and its history.

The new Smirnoff label is now based on earlier labels throughout time, and this is also caused by this work!

2. How to get feedback from your employees

Emma Morrison and Usman Hasan of Hyde discussed the their intranet redesign, based on feedback sessions with their employees.

What I liked about this is that they used a simple but effective approach of lunch sessions, and shared their learnings.

The “let them rant” or “whine and dine” idea resonated with me, as I have also found that sometimes people just want to vent, sometimes not about the intranet itself, but about related things.
In my situation I have heard from several annoyed people who had been handed over a team site due to reorganizations – either because they had a new role and the team site came with it, or because the previous owner had moved on. Someone else’s team site can be quite hard to handle as the setup and especially the permissions are not always documented or intuitive.
I have learned that the best way to help them is to go through their site together, trying to make sense of it (looking at site contents, checking permissions), rather than trying to defend something or taking it personally. 🙂

3. Improving an intranet with no budget

Janet White shared her approach to improve an intranet with very simple means and no budget. Anyone who can get good results with creativity and elbow grease, rather than money, is my hero!

Using simple tools like card sorting, tree testing and talking to users helped her to improve the navigation of the intranet (better labels and better structure) and some of the content.

Note

I have linked to the Slideshare versions of the presentations as I expect the information on the IntranetNow website will be replaced next year.

Image courtesy of Aasimshaz