SharePoint Connections 2010 Review

SPC2010b The last 2 days there was a great event in Amsterdam: SharePoint Connections 2010. If you missed Las Vegas in October (like I did), this event was the place to be with more than 40 sessions for IT Pros, developers and end users. Besides seeing SharePoint 2010 in action it was also a good moment to meet colleagues, friends and those I speak on Twitter. My company Ordina was Gold Sponsor, so we had a booth and we delivered a speaker for the Solutions track: Michiel Hazen. You can read more about his session on his blog.

On Monday I attended the following sessions:

  • KeynoteMike Fitzmaurice

Everybody started with the keynote hosted by Mike Fitzmaurice (Nintex). He took us all down memory lane and reviewed the SharePoint versions over the years and why they we’re not enough. After some metaphors with the cheetah, shark and the eagle, the main message was out: we have reached the center of the universe and wow, what great product (or was is platform?) SharePoint 2010 is!

  • SharePoint 2010 overview and what’s new for the End User by Matthijs Hoekstra.

As a developer/consultant I decided to start easily and getting the point of view by an end user how to explore the new stuff in SharePoint. Matthijs was a little bit nervous at the beginning but he delivered a pretty good session. He talked about new interface, the ribbon, how create and edit pages, using rich media content, Access services, external lists, Office integration, Social Networking and so on… So, the conference has my attention! I was ready get more input, input, input… 🙂

  • Understanding the Service Application Architecture of SharePoint 2010 by Richard Taylor

Time to take a deep dive. We had Shared Service Providers in MOSS2007 and now we have Service Applications. I didn’t know Richard Taylor, but.. man! can he do a presentation! Although he is more a IT Pro, he kept my attention and explained this subject very well. Main point of this sessions was: SSP had one database serving all services (Search, Excel Services, Profiles, …) and in SP2010 all services are split up into Service Applications each having it own database. In total there will be 21 databases. Keep that in mind when architecting your solution!

Ow.. and if you ask him about preparations for upgrading from MOSS2007 to SharePoint 2010, he’ll answer with: NUKE IT ALL AND START OVER FROM SCRATCH! (@JoostSmit, comprendes? woehahaha). Without kidding, Richard strongly believes you have two problems with upgrading: time and money. Fixing will cost as least the same as starting over, so you’d better nuke it all and start over with a clean environment.

  • ECM for the Masses – How SharePoint 2010 Delivers on the Promise by Erica Toelle

Erica was also new to me, but during our Twitter contact I got curious about her session. What’s her story about Enterprise Content Management? She was nervous since this was the first time doing this presentation and on top of that: her machine with the demo’s crashed the day before. Luckily she had done some recordings before, so she was not all that empty handed. Not a great start for her. Back to the content: she pointed out that user’s store their content everywhere: in portals, in file shares, etc… and how to manage that? She demonstrated how SharePoint 2010 can help on this matter. Even Windows Server 2008 can help with the File Share Manager feature. Good story!

Client-Side Technologies in SharePoint 2010 by Jan Tielens

Last session of the day was a developer session with lots of code. Yeah! I know Jan and I’ve seen his work before. A lot has changed with creating solutions outside the SharePoint environment. With MOSS2007 we only had WebServices for connection to SharePoint data, now SharePoint 2010 introduces the Client Object Model that comes in 3 flavors: .NET object model, JavaScript object model and Silverlight object model. No matter what flavor you use, the approach is all the same:

  • Get a ClientContext reference
  • Setup your SharePoint objects (like Web, List or ListItem)
  • Load these objects into the ClientContext
  • Execute the query, which fills up the loaded objects with the data.

Code sample (.NET flavor):

ClientContext ctx = new ClientContext(siteUrl);
Web myWeb = ctx.Web;

In this example, all the properties are loaded and filled with data. It’s possible to be more efficient and load only the properties you need:

ctx.Load(myWeb, w => w.Title);

Of course, Jan showed all the flavors. It was a good session and very understandable.

At the end of the day there was a SharePint meeting. It was sponsored by U2U and they had Belgian beer coming over! Good moment to catch up with (ex) colleagues and new friends!

On Tuesday I attended the following sessions:

  • Web Content Management in SharePoint 2010 by Donald Hessing

Maybe it’s me, maybe I drank too little coffee for starters, but this session was a little bit boring. Not the content, that was interesting, but I guess Donald was a bit nervous and talked a bit slow and too calm. He couldn’t break the ice, sort of speak. He demonstrated how the new pages and interfaces work in SharePoint 2010. And also how the new web parts, such as Content By Query Web Part and List Web part, have improved. Add some great rich media and using styles and you end up with a pretty looking demo.

  • SharePoint 2010 Search by Richard Taylor

After his session from Monday I had to go to this one. And I was not the only one thinking this. The room was loaded. Therefore this session as held again later that day.

The session was not about implementing Search or customizing search. No it was all about Findability. Basically, you need to have a good information architecture. User’s must know what to find using Search. If they do not know what they want to find, Search won’t help you. You will only get lots of data and you will end up with clicking each result item and saying “No, that’s not it.”, “No, that’s not it too.”

  • Growing SharePoint from Small Libraries to Large Scale Repositories and Massive Archives by Mirjam van Olst

One of the most discussed subject is managing large lists. In this session Mirjam very well showed how to manage all kinds of lists in size. Using the metadata navigation is one thing and setting the List Throttling property is another. List Throttling is per web application and it prevents executing queries that returns more items than set by List Throttling property. The
user will then get a message “Sorry, your query returned too many items”.

Another nice feature is to use Drop Off locations. Based on rules, the document can be moved to another list. The session lasted an hour because she talks fast! So, plenty of time to ask questions. 🙂

  • Sandboxed and Client-Only Solutions with SharePoint by Daniel McPherson

Since I skipped a session about Sandboxed Solutions before, I chose to attend this one. I am following Daniel on Twitter for some time now and he got my attention. While people were filling up the room, he was still very busy setting up his demo environment. Unfortunately, some wireless connection between the two machine left him empty handed. Too bad, because he had great things in mind. Well, if Mirjam talks fast, Daniel talks with the speed of light. Woehahaha But with the slides he was good to follow. The client-only part was already familiar to me because I attended a session about it the day before. Sandboxed Solutions however, I knew only from articles. So I was hoping to see it in action. Better next time. (or even better: do it myself!)

  • Advanced Web Part Development in SharePoint 2010 by Jan Tielens

The final session of the SPC event. Jan gave this presentation already for MOSS2007, but I never saw that one. As it turned out, I knew all the content except for what changed in SP2010.

In SharePoint 2010 the WebPart class is now directly derived from System.Web.UI.WebControls.WebParts.WebPart. For MOSS2007 Jan built a SmartPart, so you could design your web part. Now, a standard project item in Visual Studio 2010 is called the Visual Web Part. You can use the designer to drag and drop the controls for the web part. You’ll end up with a user control and a web part wrapper class (loading the user control). Because of this approach and the fact that user controls are stored in the 14-hive, you cannot use this in Sandboxed Solutions. (But you can check out Wouter van Vugt’s SharePoint DevTools on CodePlex).

So, this was the SharePoint Connections 2010 for me. I really enjoyed it. Spoke to lots of people and inspired me to go and explore SharePoint 2010 myself. I was triggered to checked out metadata navigation and taxonomy. Let’s do research on that for starters.

Edit: All the sessions at the SharePoint Connections are recorded, you can watch them over here (thanks to Matthijs Hoekstra!)

Final word: thanks to everyone who made this event possible and successful!