Friday, February 27, 2009

SharePoint book review

I have completed a review of Mastering Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 by C.A. Callahan for those who are interested.

In summary, I liked it because it is one of the few books that is specifically focused on Windows SharePoint Services rather than SharePoint in general (which also includes MOSS). It covers a good deal of ground from installation to using to advanced configuration including things like network load balancing. Some of more advanced topics may not be relevant to those using WSS v3 with Small Business Server but none the less I feel this book is a worthwhile reference for those looking for information about WSS v3.

Twitter clients

I’ve been searching for a Twitter client that works the way I want to work. Here’s a run down of the process I’ve been through so far.

1. Web Client

When you start out using Twitter you simply post and monitor your updates via the Twitter web site. This has the advantage that you can achieve that from any Internet connected device but it also has a number of drawbacks in that the interface is pretty simple and to keep track of things can be difficult.

2. Twirl

Twirl is very much like Microsoft Live Messenger in that it keeps all your Twitter info inside a nice little application that can be minimized. It is easy to follow people and post using Twirl. The problem is that Twirl is another application I have to install, swap between when monitoring Twitter and has all the annoying interruptions that Messenger has (although it can be customized). The other issue I have with Twirl is that all the posts, including direct messages, simply appear in the same feed.

3. TweetDeck

TweetDeck is another very popular Twitter client application. The good think here is that it splits up replies and direct messages as well as other updates. It has a whole host of other features and is very pretty to look at. Problem was again it is a separate application that I needed to install and swap to when I wanted to monitor Twitter traffic. Annoyingly, by default, like most other “messenger” style clients it keeps interrupting me when a new post arrives.

4. OutTwit
By far the best client I have found is OutTwit which is an add one for Outlook. Once installed you can easily configure how often OutTwit checks for postings (yeah!). You can also select a folder in your mailbox for postings to be sent so you can review them at a later date. With the OutTwit toolbar in Outlook, you can post Twitter updates directly from Outlook. It even keeps track of Twitter statistics that are displayed in a graphical format.

To maintain productivity I really don’t want to be running another program to check Twitter. Given that I use Outlook for emails it makes so much sense to have Twitter postings also delivered here as well. I love the ability to schedule and automatically route incoming postings. Now with all my Twitter information inside Outlook I can use all the power of Outlook (searching, categorizing, archiving etc) to make better use of what come to me via Twitter. For me it just makes so much sense.

OutTwit wins hands in my books down because it integrates with the way I work now and means I don’t have to open and monitor a separate program. It would be nice if Microsoft could do this also for Messenger I reckon. Sure, I’ll still use the web interface now and then when I’m not in front of my Outlook, but these days how often is that?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Productivity costs

So, I was reading “Average weekly pay now $1166” in the business section of the Australian newspaper and thought I’d just run a quick calculation based on my favourite email productivity statistic which is:


In a study last year, Dr. Thomas Jackson of Loughborough University, England, found that it takes an average of 64 seconds to recover your train of thought after interruption by e-mail. So people who check their e-mail every five minutes waste 8 1/2 hours a week figuring out what they were doing moments before.


If we assume a 44 hour week (normal 40 hours + 4 extra hours i.e. 10% = 44 hours per week average, which I reckon is high on average anyway). That means the average earnings per hour are $26.50.


So, if 8.5 hours are lost per week to email interruption that’s worth $ 225.25 per week and $10,812 per annum (assuming 48 work weeks a year) PER EMPLOYEE. Now if the “average” number of employees is say 10, that’s $108,120 per annum lost in productivity simply due to email interruption. ON AVERAGE, per business!


That’s almost the cost of two people on the average wage (which comes out to $111,936 based on the same assumptions). It certainly indicates that by simply being more efficient with the ubiquitous technology like email and preventing interruptions, perhaps businesses could maybe save two full time jobs.


It might not sound like a lot when you look at lost productivity per person, per day but add it up over a year, over all employees and I think you’ll start to understand that poor email behaviour is money down the drain. Who can afford to throw away that sort of cash these days?


For more information about improving productivity don’t forget to visit

Paralysed by Twitter

I was reading “Politicians twitter throughout address to Congress like bored schoolchildren”, and liked the following observation:


It's bad enough that Americans are paralysed by economic jitters. Now the President has to deal with politicians paralysed by Twitter. At a time of national emergency, when America needs the focused attention of contemplative and reflective lawmakers, they are dispatching rapid-fire thoughts in 140 characters or fewer.


How can we expect our politicians to be any different from the general population when it comes to technology distraction? We can’t. Again from the article:


But to view the hodgepodge of messages sent from the House floor during the speech, it seemed as if Obama were presiding over a support group for adults with attention deficit disorder.


On many previous occasions I have wondered about the business benefits of Twitter. Used incorrectly, like email, it is simply another way that we are giving away our time and attention for free. It amazes me that anything gets done these days with all the distractions we have allowed to pollute our lives. Strangely enough people are complaining even more loudly that they don’t have enough time to do things. HELLO? Can’t you see the linkage here? if you spend all your time Twittering what you do every five minutes how the hell can you expect to get anything done?


Technology like email and Twitter have their place and can be used effectively but you have to know how to use them effectively. Most people simply do it because ‘everyone else is doing it’. They don’t take the time to learn and understand where the technology can be applied and where it provides the most leverage.


Unfortunately, it seems like the majority of our population is doomed to be constantly distracted by technology. If you don’t want to be one of those people and you want to have a real life then maybe you should look at some of the training that I offer to help you become more productive. Have a look at and for more information.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Delayed sends

So here’s another You Tube video that focuses on Outlook. In this case the video will show you how to configure Outlook so there is a delay when you send emails.

Why would you want a delay? By default, Outlook will send an email as quickly as possible when you hit the send button. What happens if you make a mistake or want to delete the email prior to it actually leaving your mailbox? What about if you realize that perhaps you shouldn’t have sent the email? If you do that after pressing the send button chances are you won’t have the opportunity to do anything since the email will probably be well on its way to its destination.


By inserting a delay for all sent emails you get an opportunity to recover from error or stupidity much easier. It doesn’t take much to configure this in Outlook as this video shows.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Outlook notifications

By default Outlook will notify you via a variety of means that a new email has arrived. This can be very distracting and greatly reduce your productivity as I have eluded to many time here before. As such I have created a new You Tube video that shows you how to disable these notifications.

Watch out for some more tips and tricks to increasing your productivity with Outlook. As usual I’d love to hear any feedback you may have or suggestions of what you’d like to see covered.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Death of dreams

I’ve just read “Shop owners shut doors on their dreams” which details how a small business of 21 years in the US shut up shop. It also highlights how this story is becoming more and more common. With every closure more pressure is placed on other business around that depend on that business for trade.


Now, we may all feel pretty smug that the same won’t happen here in Australia but are you will to take that risk if you have your own business? Most small businesses are establish as dreams and run as hobbies rather than as a business. When times get tough many do not have the structure or the resources to cope. This can put extreme pressure on those running the business that could mean they end up losing more than just the business.


No matter where you are the current economic issues are going to have an effect. You need to ensure that you are suitably prepared if you want to hang onto your dream. This means planning and discipline and perhaps facing up to tough decisions. That’s why in many circumstances it helps to tap an outsider to give you help, one who is not directly connected with the business, one who can give you an honest and objective opinion.


So if you need an objective and honest opinion about your business or assistance in any way please do not hesitate to contact me ( for further information on how I maybe able to help. Even if you just want someone to chat with about your situation please do not hesitate to drop me a line.

Friday, February 20, 2009


What’s a Serio? It’s an imaginary email currency that helps you prioritize the value of emails you send and receive. It is available from a company called Seriosity who provide a plug for Outlook that allocates you so many Serios which you apply to outbound emails. As the system learns about your contacts and they start using Serios as well you can establish costs for sending each other emails about certain topics. So, to prevent lots of trivial replies or CC’s you simply hike up the cost for people to send you email on that topic.


There’s a neat little video on the site that takes you through all the major aspects. The product is in beta so you can download it and try it out.


Personally, I’m a little sceptical because it really requires for your major contacts to opt in. I can see how it would work in a large corporate but on the general Internet, ummmmm, I kinda don’t think so because it seems to require extra effort and people aren’t into that are they? I also think that in some ways it really doesn’t change people’s bad email habits but it would certainly make them think more about sending emails if they only had a limited supply of Serio currency.


I applaud Serioisty for the idea and their development which has a very sound base. If every email you sent cost you 1 cent (like a postage stamp) then we’d certainly have a lot less spam for starters and perhaps less frivolous emails as well. Such an idea has always fallen down because it is firstly too hard to get all the software people to agree on how to implement it and second who collects all the money you pay for sending emails? Great concept, tough implementation.


Maybe Seriosity, their software and imaginary Serio currency can solve these issues. I wish them every luck because it would certainly help reduce the overload most people face.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The good

What most people conveniently overlook about the Internet (or any technology in general) for all the good there is also bad. However, here’s an example of where the good makes an impact.


I recently highlight the changes Facebook were planning to their Terms Of Service. It now seems that after a ‘backlash’ those terms have been rolled back as this story highlights. The global Internet is a very powerful thing and as a business you need to realize you can potentially have millions (if not billions in the case of Facebook) examining your every move online. Once the word gets out it moves at the speed of light so there isn’t too  much change of slipping one past all those people these days.


Would I still trust Facebook? No. Would I put all my personal stuff up there? No way. My privacy is worth far more than that I’m sorry. I realise that most people still don’t appreciate that but, hey that’s going to be their problem going forward isn’t it? Why? Because, simply, information wants to be free – once you realise it, chances are it’ll never come back!

Mobile security

Almost everyone these days has a mobile phone. A significant number know what a problem it is if you lose your mobile. Some of these people only now understand how expensive it can also be if someone gets hold of your mobile and starts placing calls to Tibet and Greenland. But consider this, with more and more of our personal information on our mobile devices what security do we have in place to protect that?


Do your emails get delivered to your mobile? Do you have other sensitive information on there (i.e. PIN numbers, passwords)? What about customer information? Stop and have a think about what information your mobile would divulge if it fell into someone else's hands. Now think about how much damage that information could do both personally and commercially.


Worried? Well you should be. Even the bosses at Telstra get their mobiles stolen and like this story highlights it can represent a huge commercial risk. Not only to you personally but also your customers. If you have a mobile device that holds data that you want to remain private then make sure you secure it. Make sure you know how to prevent it falling into the wrong hands. Many devices these days have the ability to be remotely wiped if needed but also look at things like encryption to protect sensitive data.


As more and more data ends up on mobile devices that get smaller and smaller (read easier to steal), then they become just like the PC on your desk. Now, you wouldn’t want that to fall into the wrong hands would you? So maybe it’s time to look at how secure that little computer you carry around with you everywhere is!

The Unknown Soldier

I’m happy to announce that the book “The Unknown Soldier” by Linda Granfield is now available. Why am I happy? Well if you look at page 26 under Australia you’ll find this photo from my WW1 Battlefields site.




The book is designed for children and features information about Tombs of Unknown Soldiers from countries around the world.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Live push

Interestingly, I’ve just come across this Live@edu site from Microsoft. IT appears to basically be the application of the Microsoft Live Services to the education market. Basically it is out sourcing a lot of the common IT components of education (emails, storage, etc) directly to Microsoft.


Can anyone else see where Microsoft is going with this? What’s to stop them offering Live for small business, medium business and even enterprise business? Nothing. I must say that I do use a lot of Live services and find they work really, really well so they get the thumbs up from me and I say bring on more Live services.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

WSSOPS March update

The March update for my Windows SharePoint Operations Guide (due out soon) will give subscribers information about how to install and use the new Microsoft SharePoint Administration Toolkit v3 that will assist in troubleshooting and optimization SharePoint performance. I’ve also included instructions on how you can embed Google maps into your SharePoint site (to see this in action go to the and scroll to the bottom of the screen).


The March update also has updated information for SharePoint Application Management about deleting SharePoint sites. As well, it includes how to vary the time that the !New icon is displayed (and even getting rid of it if you want!) and a whole lot more updated content.


The fact that my Guide is updated monthly is another benefit you get over other SharePoint sources. As the latest information and functionality becomes available I put it in the Guide. As a subscriber you receive these updates for a whole year.


For more information about the Windows SharePoint Guide see

Facebook worries

It seems that Facebook have changed their Terms of Agreement according to this report:


Now, anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later. Want to close your account? Good for you, but Facebook still has the right to do whatever it wants with your old content. They can even sublicense it if they want.

Now, most existing Facebook members probably won’t care but I believe it does illustrate the extent to which we have sold out our privacy. People blindly join Facebook and then upload every aspect of their lives not understanding that it is all going into one great database that Facebook is going to sell to make money.


People, companies like Facebook are commercial entities. They survive only by making money. Your information has value, otherwise why would they be selling it? Please think long and hard about the information (text, pictures, etc) you divulge on the Internet because once you do it becomes public domain and can never be made private again. Worse still, in this case, it actually ends up being owned by Facebook.


Remember that information about you has VALUE and should treated as such. We are giving away our privacy for effectively nothing in return. Don’t do it.

Email addiction

Here’s an interesting article about what people are actually doing when they attend conferences.


The survey found that three quarters (75%) of all participants ignored requests to switch off their mobile devices during sessions. Of this 75%, a further 40% admitted to checking PDAs, BlackBerrys, iPhones and mobile phones at least every 30 minutes; and 10% said that they check their phones every 10 minutes.



More worryingly, 91% of those who check their phones every 10 to 30 minutes said that they felt anxious when unable to access emails.

How unproductive is that if you are checking email every 10 minutes when you are supposed to listening to a conference that someone has paid good to attend? Imagine what the routine of these people must be like in the office. How would they get anything done? You have to ask yourself whether emails are that important that they need to be checked every 10 minutes!


It is interesting that we carry around mobile phones that allow anyone to interrupt us at any time. Now that they are also email-enable we are also allowing any email to interrupt us at any time. It is a wonder that anyone gets anything done these days.


Take control of your mobile device. Turn it off and get some work done.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Chatswood course

I forgot to let people know that I’ll also be running my networking basics course at Macquarie Community College Chatswood campus tomorrow (Tuesday 17th February). It will run over 3 consecutive Tuesday nights and give you the fundamentals of networking computers together including information about TCP/IP, routers, firewall and the like.


Information about the course, including enrolment (it is never too late) can be found here:


I look forward to seeing you there.


For many years Microsoft was a very successful business. It continued to experience stunning growth year on year. Then it reached middle age and discovered that it was under threat from all these new comers. So what was its response?


Firstly, it decided that it wanted to be like Sony so it brought out the Xbox in competition to the Playstation. Having not completely succeeded there it then decided that it wanted to be like Google by creating on line maps, Live Search, host applications and so on. Having even less success there it now decided that it wanted to be like Apple so it brought out the Zune as a competitor to the iPod. And this list goes on.


In its craze to be everything, except Microsoft, it has decided it will now open retail stores as this story highlights. Aside from the obvious Apple envy once again most people are scratching their heads and asking why? Especially in these economic times. Why?


Now I’m sure there is a really valid reason and it may or may not be successful but it certainly seems to me that Microsoft is spending far too much time trying to be things that it isn’t. That has led, I believe, to it falling down on things it should be (like making better desktop operating systems i.e. Vista). It’s hard enough to lead one life let along try and lead two!


There are things that Microsoft do real well. There are things that it can also do well that are extensions of these. However, diving into totally unrelated markets just because it can doesn’t mean it should. In the early day Microsoft could dominate the market and take the lion’s share but those days are gone. It doesn’t make sense to me spreading your resources as thinly as Microsoft must be doing to keep all these balls in the air.


The motto should be how to make things simpler, not how can I be like every other Tom, Dick and Harry in the business.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tim Ferris interview

Here’s a nice interview with Tim Ferris who is the author of the Four Hour Work Week. In short the book shows you how to ‘do more with less’ and design a life of your own desires. Sounds cliché but I can attest that it has some really mind blowing concepts, so if you haven’t read the book then you should.

It is interesting in the interview that Tim mentions how much more interest he is seeing around the concepts of the
Four Hour Work Week. The simple reason is that everyone is trying to get by on less and here’s a framework on how that can be achieved.


So watch out for the updated edition of the Four Hour Work Week that includes over 30 more pages of information and updates. If you are serious about enjoying life then this book is a must read.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More Twitter

Since I’m carrying on about Twitter a bit today, here’s another article from the New York Times that talks about some of the benefits that Twitter can provide from a recent convert.

Twitter comes down under

Well it finally seems that people down here in Australia are beginning to adopt Twitter as the following article highlights.
It appears the heightened awareness has come from people providing Victoria bush fire updates via Twitter as this article says. All of a “sudden” conventional media outlets have “discovered” Twitter and I expect to see them all flocking there shortly.

As I have said before I’m still undecided as to the business value of Twitter, yet I do see the benefits in certain circumstances. Because Twitter has mainly US based it really didn’t have a great deal of local value. However, I expect that start changing very fast as more people get on board. I think that Australians will take to Twitter pretty quickly given their love of SMS.

Any mainstream adoption of Twitter will also raise further questions about filtering in the workplace. Will Twitter be added to the black of sites such as Facebook, Myspace and so on? Or will employers embrace it as a way to do business better? Given the current economic climate I would tend to think most would probably simply block it without considering where it may actually be able to improve business.

Like it or not it seems that Twitter is going to be the next “big” thing on the Internet so if you get in now you’ll look like a star! If you feel so inclined please add me to you follow list via

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Labour vs work

Have you ever taken the time to examine how much time you spend doing tasks? Do you actually plan what you are going to do or do you just ‘do it’? The answer to these questions should be considered in light of whether you do labour or work.


Typically labour is low value with little control over the process. I think that most people spend most of their day doing ‘labour’. They get up, come into work and try and simply wade through everything. Conversely, work is about producing high value output by being discerning about what effort is expended to produce a result. The difference comes down to planning.


How much time do you take to plan what you actually do? Do you also take time to review what you have achieved and determine whether in fact it can be done more effectively or efficiently? Doing work is about thinking not merely about doing.


Once again a good example is the way that most people tackle their emails. It is simply a labour that they go through. They have no system to maximizing their return. They simply plough into their inbox each and everyday in a vain attempt to control the information overload. Rarely would they consider taking the time to learn how to use their email program better. This effectively limits their ability to be productive and can place a significant amount of stress on their workday.


We almost all have access to the most powerful technology available today, so why do most continue to struggle? Like everyone else your time is limited by a set number of hours per day. If you want to achieve more you need to stop doing the low value items and do more of the high value items. Technology can certainly assist you but it requires you ‘work’ rather than merely ‘labour’ to understand it.


To achieve more out of everyday stop doing labour and start working.

Monday, February 9, 2009

EasyJet video

Here’s a nice short video about how EasyJet are using SharePoint Server 2007 as their intranet.

Their model is not only for customers to serve themselves but also for employees to serve themselves and this is what SharePoint is great for.

Networking course

My Networking Basics course starts this Thursday at Macquarie Community College at Carlingford and runs over the next three weeks. This course will give you a understanding of things such as TCP, IP addressing, switches, wireless, routers, firewalls and more. It is aimed at those who little of no networking experience and want to better understand the technology of getting machines to talk to each other.


You can find more information, including enrolment details here:

The course will also give you hands on experience with the technology in a computer lab and comes with a comprehensive set of course notes.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


So Microsoft has made some changes to the Small Business Specialist requirements, including the need to recertify. Here’s the details from


Small Business Specialist partners must employ or contract with at least one person by location who has passed one of the five technical exams in the following list. 

70-653: TS: Windows Small Business Server 2008, Configuring

70-654: TS: Windows Essential Business Server 2008, Configuring

70-631: TS: Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Configuring

70-236 TS: Exchange Server 2007, Configuring

70-655 TS: Windows Vista and Server operating systems, Pre-Installing for OEMs

Note: If you passed either Exam 70-282: Designing, Deploying, and Managing a Network Solution for Small- and Medium-Sized Business or Exam 74-134: Preinstalling Microsoft Products and Technologies to receive your Small Business Specialist designation, your exam credentials must be updated by October 31, 2010.

If you are already a Small Business Specialist then you have plenty of time to recertify but if I were you I go out and do it as soon as you can. Why? because it will provide a definite point of differentiation for your business. And when you have recertified in SBS 2008 make sure that emphasize that fact in all your marketing. Make sure they understand that you have taken the trouble to recertify and that they should have confidence in the fact that you are keeping up to date.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

If it were me

The government here in Australia has recently announced:


“Small business gets a $2.7 billion package of tax breaks that includes an extra $600 tax deduction for any small business that buys and installs a $2000 computer before the end of June.” - SMH


Now if I was in the business of selling computers I would look at combining this with some internal offering. Thus, I would say something like “Did you realize that the government now provides an extra deduction for computer purchases before June? Did you also realize that we’ll also give you a free printer as well?”. Or even perhaps something along the lines of “The government if offering a $600 saving on computers to help the country avoid recession. We’ll give you a free copy of Office as our part in helping to boost the economy”.


I use these as examples, obviously you’ll have to work out the numbers for yourself but I think there is opportunity to piggy back off what the government is attempting to do with your own offering. It should appeal to customers in two ways. Most importantly, it should represent some saving or benefit to them. Secondly, it should show that you are trying to do your bit for the local economy as well. Thus, customers should buy from you and support your business.


Hopefully this illustrates that developing marketing concepts for your business isn’t that difficult no matter what the economic conditions. All it takes is a little creativity and the ability to look at the situation from the customers point of view. In this case the key is tying an offer to something the mainstream media is focused on and then going that little bit further so you stand out. You have to offer something extra to get people to buy from YOU and not the competition!

Monday, February 2, 2009


I look at politicians all over the World as they struggle to use the ‘R’ word (which is recession). Everyone else knows we are in a recession and maybe even headed for the ‘D’ word (which is depression). Another group of people that I’ve watching with interest are those who claim, they ‘are not participating in the recession’.


I think that is a very noble sentiment but it isn’t realistic. Why? Well if everyone else around you, your customers, peers, suppliers and so on are in the middle of a recession how can you choose not to participate? Unfortunately, in this day and age everything is so intertwined that we depend on those around us heavily. When they sneeze we catch cold.


A wise person once said that a smart person can’t control their situation only their reaction to it. Face it, we are in a recession. Face it, we are going to see reduced cashflow. Face it, times are going to be tough. Don’t try and fight something that you can’t change, look at your reaction to the situation facing you.


What steps have you taken to solidify your business? What actions have you taken to reassure your customers that you’ll continue to be there to help? What actions are you taking to grow your business? Hang on there. Did I say GROW?


Well, yes in fact I did. Again, the key again is how you react to the situation. What we are going through now will not last for ever. However, we may never see opportunities like these again. Consider the opportunities to purchase assets at historically low levels. Look at the opportunity to repay debt at the lowest interest rates seen. Look at the opportunity presented to you because your competitors are wobbling or falling.


Participation in the recession is mandatory. Once you understand and accept that you then need to consider how to use the recession to your advantage. I never said that it would be as easy as it was in the good times but there is still opportunity there for those who are prepared.


Tell me, where do you stand? Do you have your eyes closed hoping all this mess will disappear? Or do you have your eyes wide open, searching for every opportunity? The choice is yours. The grounds rules have changed. Participate or die.

Do email less


I thought that I’d let everyone know that I’ve registered the domain as a method of focusing attention on our productivity improvement training. The domain points to our normal email productivity page that includes the free document The problems with emails document as well as links to our Overcoming email frustrations books for Outlook 2003 and 2007. Finally, you’ll also find a brochure on our productivity seminars.

Our productivity seminars can be customized to suit any business environment and include your own internal policies and procedures. However, the main message still remains that most businesses are losing at least 1 hour per day, per employee to inefficient email use. When you start adding up the cost to business we believe our seminars more than pay for themselves.

Email is not the only part of the smarter productivity services we can offer. We can show you how to streamline your existing business practices, integrate low cost technologies such as OneNote and SharePoint to really save money and get things done. We even offer higher level training and mentoring to ensure that the critical components of your business are working most effectively.

For more information about our services simply contact me via