2012 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


File Modified date misalignment in SharePoint, Explorer View and file shares/drives


Most of you have been using for ages now the Explorer View of a Document Library. It’s indeed one of the most controversial features SharePoint (sometimes painful for IT Pros) offered since early days but is arguably one of those feature that seduced the “normal” and non-IT users thanks to the easiness of move/copy drag and drop.

During a recent scenario we discovered a misalignment between a file’s “Modified SharePoint metadata field and the actual Date Modifiedof the file as displayed in the Explorer View (if one uses the Explorer View of a Document Library or if the Document Library is mapped as a network drive on the users computer – very common scenario for users) or if one checks the date of the file properties in Office applications (e,g Word, Excel, etc)

The complete scenario is as follows: the “Modified” column in SharePoint has been basically overwritten during a copy/move operation performed using the Document Library Explorer View and now reflects the “Modified” date in which the moving operation was done instead of the last modification date of the file itself.

Below the picture displays the Modified date as it appears in SharePoint (2/08/2012) which is indeed the date where the file was moved from the source to this Document Library:

Below the picture displays the Modified date as it appears if we use the Explorer View on the same Document Library (with the original date when the file was truly modified (27/7/2012):

When you upload a document to a document library SharePoint will use the last modified date as the date which the upload was done while the Explorer view (Windows) will display the modified date stored as property of the file itself!

This behavior can also be explained from another angle: “Modified” date in SharePoint is actually the Content Type modification date while “Modified” date in Windows (classical file shares or drives) is the date of the file itself.

Well, in our case this behavior creates big problems given the fact that many users continue to use the Explorer View in order to access and find their work files in their department or team site (most of them simply remember that the file they look for it was modified at a certain date in time so they will look for that file rather sorting on the modified date than on performing a search).

We looked than for a way of mapping these inner file properties reported above, carrying the last modification date of the file, onto a site column to be shown in a Document Library View. We know that this approach is very useful for search purposes: in Shared Services Administration -> Search Administration -> Metadata Property Mapping we can map the properties Basic:14(Date and Time), Basic:16(Date and Time), ows_Modified(Date and Time) onto a new property labelled, for instance, LastModifiedTime (see pic below).

Nevertheless, this mapping seems to be useful for search purposes only and unfortunately Microsoft confirmed that there is no out-of-the-box configuration for our purpose.

It seems that the only out-of-the-box solution would be to use Backup and Restore which will then preserve the original last modified dates…or custom development of course (event handlers, etc)

London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony Preview


Wednesday I had the enormous opportunity to participate at the technical rehearsal of the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony which is, now after seeing it, undoubtedly the biggest show of the humanity every four years.
I gladly share with you the facts that are anyway out in press (British especially) of the very near future 🙂 I can tell you it’s going to be very….British (not a scoop) 🙂 and at the same time absolutely fabulous. Under any circumstances. Do not miss it tonight!
No photos yet as we were all asked to #savethesurprise, but I’ll post plenty after.

The London 2012 Opening ceremony is a creation of the world famous “Slumdog Millionaire” director Mr Danny Boyle. The ceremony’s theme is “Isles of Wonder” inspired by William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.

First part of the Ceremony is Ancient Britain – “green and pleasant land”: the entire stadium is a huge farm with real animals (horses, sheeps, chickens, etc), windmills, peple sow or collect wheat, sheep grazing or playing. White clouds get around the farm continuously. There are ancient (1800 like) cricket players, football players (like the mobbing fashion: they all incredible stop like in a picture shot when the goalie gets the ball)

Yellow zorbs are rolling from top of the stadium on top of spectators hands and heads! Leds devices play unbelievable lightning show. The whole stadium is like a 3D led screen! Each seat has such a device!

At 20:12, the real things begin. Olympic Rings might be drawn on the sky by planes.

A young singer from Manchester plays nice ballads close to the life green tree.

World is coming in live through broadcasting (what you will all see on TV) with a modern flight over the entire UK and London’s symbols to end up in a countdown where else but in the Olympic Stadium. The entire world is now connected! The sound is just unbelievable…you just get chills up your spine and chicken skin. The stadium has probably the most remarkable sound structure in the world at this moment. The ceremony is fully broadcasted in 3D and with the top sound tech at our time! I can only say that real life is not any more real. This is truly surreal being there! Probably TV won’t be the same but being here in the stadium is rather like being in the movie 🙂

Next is the Industrial Britain! Everything just changes in a couple of minutes from the green and pleasant land to the “dark satanic mills” – including unemployed protesters from the Depression, miners and factory workers! There is a massive moment when 5 huge circles (they sit on top of the stadium at the beginning of the show and nobody think they can move..well they can!) which unite in a huge industrial steel operation and under masssssssive music. DO not miss this under any circumstances…seeing the entire show…this is definitely top three memorable! Follows a huge fire cascading.

H.M. Queen Elizabeth and Jacques Rogge are coming in for short speeches. This year it is Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (60 years since she became queen) and yesterday she’s just returned from a huge travel around the country to honor her people on this extraordinary achievement.

Then the tribute the health service (NHS) and ill children. This phase, I would say, it’s well known by Brits but less knows for the rest of us. The scenario is performed by the nurses from Great Ormond Street Hospital, the first pediatric hospital in UK which is today a huge charity project (this hospital is the recipient of authors rights for Peter Pan! – as offered by the author itself in 1929).

National anthem is performed by a choir of deaf children!!! This is highly emotional while the UK flag is carried and then raised by Royal Air Force, Marines and Navy.

There is a showdown of Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter) and plenty of Mary Poppins are falling from the sky. Beautiful music is performed live by Mike Oldfield (Tubular Bells and many other knows of his songs), Gotan Project with tambourines (reaaaally entertaining!) and London Symphonic orchestra with a classical version of “Chariots of fire”

Modern England here I am! Fourth part of the show is there.

What else but a Mini Cooper brings in a British TV well know star in a typical british contemporary house and family. Life as it is..bath of images and music, clips from famous movies and most famous british rock, pop or disco history. Songs blaring from the stadium range from The Beatles and the Sex
Pistols to Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah and the theme tunes of the Archers and Dr Who, Queen, Annie Lennox, etc Dancing and Happpinness all over the stage!

There is one minute of remembering of people who are not with us…memory of ancient tragic events especially during the Olympics…their faces are meanwhile running on the huge screens

World class modern dancers of Akram Khan (yes he was in Luxembourg almost once a year) perform mystical dance under celtic wonderful solo music. Another emotional moment just before the Athetes from all over the world commmmmmming in!

Muhammed Ali and David Beckham are also rumored to be taking part in the ceremony, having both flown into London this week.

Over ten thousands of volunteers (like me 🙂 yuppi!) take part into this show.

There will be plenty of other moments which are kept under a very very strict secret J like for the example the Olympic flame moment. There are for the moment 4 scenarios and THE one will only be chosen moments before the opening so that it preserves the secret as much as possible. Not event the LOCOG CEO (Sebastian Coe) does not know the way the flame will be lighted. Until now at least 🙂

Anyway, don’t miss it tomorrow on TV. It’s gonna be a massive, fabulous and gorgeous show of the entire humanity. I can really tell you I’m so happy to be born on this planet! Never appreciated it so much before!

Harshness of the Enterprise Search Solutions


Une très intéressante analyse de Stephen E Arnold suite aux grands acquisitions du marché en fin de l’année dernière (HP a acheté Autonomy et Oracle a acheté Endeca) que je vous invite tous à lire.

Main conclusions :

  • Whatever the search solution, the users never embraced trully one or truly satisfied..still don’t find what they look for.
  • Cost control is really inexistent. Open end costs for enterprise search solutions. Search and semantics are getting always more complicated and more costly…not what a manager or a user wishes.
  • Social behavior: it is easier to ask someone for information than search, browse, discover, or interpret jazzy charts to get it.”
  • Good thing is that innovation (in accessing and retrieving information) will continue: « innovation will continue because search, content processing, and the hot sectors like semantics run into the mercurial characteristics of language” 🙂

Read the entire analysis:


Thanks Stephen E Arnold!

If you have an Enteprise Architecture or a Portal project I fully advise you to read the RealStory group reports on Enterprise Architecture solutions: http://www.realstorygroup.com/Reports/Search/ and Portal Solutions:  http://www.realstorygroup.com/Reports/Portals/

They will cost you something like 2-3 days of consultance but they are really comprehensive. Very useful for SWOT, TCO or aquisition analysis.

Mobile applications vs Web Mobile


The corporate question often arise these days:  should I build a mobile web site or a mobile application? Well, there are already thousands or millions of pages on pro and cons but below, thanks to the feedback I got attending the Usability Week by NNGroup, I tried to summarise the essence of this discussion:

  1. MOBILE APPLICATIONS: For highly specialized services and/or very specific content with frequent recurrent users a mobile application makes sense. Nevertheless, marketing/service positioning can be a special and valid reason for building a mobile application for the organization. (e.g. I need to have an app because my concurrence has already or is planning one.
  2. MOBILE WEB: For all the rest(kinds & targets of users, the accessibility is the most important requirement so a mobile website is enough.There are nevertheless (at least) 2 main technical implementation options:
  • Keep your web site as it is but place a specialised proxy in front of it so it detects when a mobile is coming to your web site. You can easily outsource the detection and service of mobile web pages (reverse proxy or similar solutions to Adesso in Germany) as it will be impossible for you to maintain the caracteristics of each and every main mobile device out there.
  • Build a mobile version of a site using for instance adaptive layout (one size that fits all – average quality; see Lessframework exemple : http://www.lessframework.com/). Device detection layer (point above) can still be outsourced or insourced.

But ultimately DO NOT FORGET this: Building a Mobile Application or a Mobile Web Site…..this MUST BE a business decision and not an IT one!

My own Olympic Games – the beginning of a new journey


I’m a Games Maker…at least this is how volunteers to this edition of the Olympic Games are called. Today starts my journey to London2012 as a volunteer. I go to the first training for selected volunteers. It is called orientation training and it is the first one from a series of three preparations before the Olympic Games start.

From the sky, Luxembourg is all white and quiet. I land in London City and I must take the famous “London tube”. People rushing all directions, police cars sounds every minute…newspapers everywhere and “John Lennon” seems to be singing in the metro..well at least a big fun of him:-) the Grand Duchy tranquility seems already so far away behind: “Please mind the GAP”…the train “stays” to leave.

Getting off the train at Wembley Park tube station offers an impressive view of the mythical Wembley Stadium. It is very cold, a sunny winter morning,  8.30 AM, -10 degrees but sunny. Even London 2012 mascots are jumping all over while waiting for volunteers…freezing enthusiasm 🙂 I’m walking towards Wembley Arena, a big white building right next door to the world famous football stadium.


I have to find the North West entrance…oops..so many people already and I’ll need to queue. There’s is a line…no rather five parallel lines to get in. More than half a km of queuing on -10 degrees…only a small challenge for volunteer’s patience.

Anyway nothing seems to be like in any another sport event gathering: nobody complains about staff or organization..everybody looks extremely calm, smiling, joking..nobody shouts or tries to push. Nobody asks for any favor but simply walks slowly in line.

So many people…what am I in fact doing there in the middle of thousands of people I don’t know at all? I look at people faces.  Who are they? Do I know by any chance somebody? It’s an interesting feeling…you kinda’ try to understand the other people…why are all there? They must have something similar to you isn’t it? Otherwise they would not be there. Do they all think like you?  As human being it seems that we always look for a confirmation that we belong to something. We try to define mentally that something as soon as we can. We need landmarks. It’s somehow a first reaction in a new and unknown environment. We unconsciously look for landmarks and the fact that you realize you are amongst people ‘like you’ brings you somehow comfort. I see an old woman…she might be over 60 or even 70, in fact I see a lot of  white hair people, lots of adults, all of them serious looking people, mostly European faces but nevertheless a few Indians or Muslims. I haven’t spotted any Asian face and unfortunately not too many young people. Very few faces I could give less that 30 years old. It’s amazing! I ask myself: is it the recruitment process (organizers have said during the application that no previous experience is needed!) or the young generations stopped dreaming and having ideals??? I tell to myself that this is just the morning session as preliminary training so young people are still sleeping after a long Friday party 🙂 There will be more (I hope) for the afternoon session). I see further in the parallel line a big big tall and wide guy wearing a white cap with a Fijian flag: official rugby world cup 2011. He also looks at me. He smiles gently. I smile back. I was wearing the same kind of official rugby world cup 2011 cap but with the New Zealand flag. We both knew we were at the same event in New Zealand at the other side of the Earth last year. I felt like I know somebody already and it was an interesting feeling.

All of a sudden a taxi stops next to my line and the driver helps the client, a lady, to get off the car into her wheelchair. A 50 years old woman without the two legs, came to serve as a volunteer for Paralympics! And she was all happy coming out of that taxi in the freezing morning. She brilliantly and speechlessly reminded me why I stand in line at minus 10 to get in a building with 10000 other people I never met in my life. So I smile, this time only to myself, and calmly wait my turn to enter Wembley Arena hall.

More than 30 minutes in line but I am finally inside now. At the entrance I am checked the bar code paper but I am not asked for any ID!? (I could have sent somebody else on my behalf J) Bag is checked as well but very superficially and only for…drink cans!!! Just corporate marketing issue for not coming inside in with coca cola from home…a gun wouldn’t have been an issue 🙂 well…

Inside, as I expected everything is set for a big…show:  A big hexagonal scene with huge screens on top of it so that every one of the 10 000 invited people can see. (and that’s just the first small part of us)

Last 10 minutes to go countdown and the show begins with Jonathan Evans jumping in. Speakers coming one by one to motivate us and /or testify about the organization committee challenges, things which are done or have to be done: Jonathan Evans, Sebastian Coe, HR manager, Paul Deighton CEO of LOCOG (London 2012 Organizing Committee), POLICE chief inspector and many others. I find it interesting. I don’t perceive it anymore like a show but as a leadership coaching: all those important guys are coming to deliver a message clearly and inspire confidence. They speak in short and clear phrases. They keep using impressive words and the all talk about “you” (us the volunteers). They don’t praise anybody in the committee but the teamwork and the volunteers. They talk about Britain but not at all excessively…it’s a global event and somebody even says specifically that volunteers are from many countries not only Britain. All dialogs are built to inspire confidence and to show that everything is on track, safe and secure. They deliver these key concepts without actually giving away any details. At a glance, one feels having all questions answered…but actually practical answers will only come by email in the following weeks.

A bit of pure show is nevertheless present: There is even a taste of ‘Games maker live’ what is going to be the volunteers live TV broadcast showing volunteer stories during Olympics. They imagined a TV about volunteers and for volunteers…and it’s not a gag J

Opening ceremony is promised to be massive with traditional elements from ancient history and from today’s world. The opening ceremony budget will be under the budget of Beijing (not amazing one might think:-)).

Uniforms are presented as well. They distinguish themselves by very visible British traditional elements: epaulets and buttoned hand sleeves.

Image @ London2012, LOCOG

We’ll all be called for specific role training in the next weeks when roles will be definitively attributed. Those who are to be team leaders will have extra leadership training and finally a so called final session where one will effectively join his team. Not everybody knows its role yet. I know for instance that I’m going to be a member of the technology team but I don’t have a precise assignment yet.

Olympic Games are definitively the biggest show as well as the biggest enterprise on Earth: 200 000 people will be working for the Olympic games organization as payed stuff, contractors or volunteers.

There will be 70 000 volunteers in total. The LOCOG received quarter of a million of applications!!! (250 000) and more than 80 000 interviews were conducted up to now in order to select the first 40 000 of us.

As we talk numbers the Olympic Games mean 55 000 participating athletes in 27 venues in London and across UK, 11 million entry tickets available (most of them already sold). Finally 20 000 journalists will be accredited and over 10 millions of tourists awaited. Here are some figures regarding technology (I’ll be part of the technology team):

205 TV national providers

200 000 hours of testing

16 000 IP phones

14 000 mobile phones

14 000 TV cable outlets

12 000 PCs and laptops

900 intel and unix servers

100 high end switches

1800 wifi ports

80 000 connections in 94 venues

Enthusiasm and pride seems to be the common denominator for everybody around. You feel it…in each and every one. Everybody is happy to be there. Speakers say they expect reliability and teamwork from us but they say we must be proud in every single moment before, during and after the games. It is not a secret but absolutely clear for everybody that without the help of volunteers this biggest human enterprise which is Olympic Games could not be possible.  It might sound like a Hollywood Independence Day kind of movie but that’s finally the pure truth. Volunteers make this enormous event possible and more than that: their proud spirit makes the difference between good games and Great games.

And what’s in all this for my own? Well I think almost every little thing:

Professionally speaking, I’ll be part of the biggest enterprise on Earth (at least for three weeks). I have the chance to see with my own eyes what it takes to make such a huge structure work, what are the processes inside, resources and technology used, people management, training and leadership techniques in huge environments, manage stress and meeting extremely complex service and delivery needs in what is the biggest multilingual and multicultural organizational structure (for the Olympic village facilities, 200 different spoken languages are covered by the selected volunteers in this venue). That’s a priceless experience.

From the cultural and social perspective, I’ll see the biggest show in humanity from the inside.  There is much knowledge to take away from the social interactions. That’s not Facebook…that’s real life endeavor. Besides, for three weeks maybe, I’ll have my own experience as a “Londoner” with my dear wife and son in the British capital and see many places we’ve never seen in London as simple tourists. I always loved sports and traveling so this will be ‘abundantly’. I simply think it’s exciting to be part of such a big and important event and I put this as one of the 100 things one should do in his lifetime.

But the most important is the human factor. Many friends asked me “Why?” Well I answer simply: it’s the human factor. I believe the Olympic Games are the ultimate expression of humanity and everything humanity represents. I do think that Olympic Games show exactly why the mankind is so great. Games are the only exhibition where all possible expressions of human spirit can be seen: feelings, achievements, knowledge and performance in all imaginable efforts and forms. And all this is happening only once every four years. Up to now I sat on my couch and enjoyed it very much. Now, as a father, I try to give a tiny little helping hand to this humanity show so that my little bimbojimbo lovely son can have the opportunity to see with his own eyes the greatness of the mankind through the Olympic Games later on. I try to pay it forward. Do you?

Usability week 2011 – Application usability


Nielsen Norman Group Usability Week 2011,

“Application Usability one”
session on 4th of April 2011 by Garett Goldfield.


My notes and feedback from this session:

  • This session was mainly focused on individual components (controls) usability issues
  • “Easy to use” (frequent users target) vs easy to learn (new users target)
  • www.sharpbrains.com
  • What users WANT in applications
    • Control
    • Understanding
    • Recoverability
    • Consistency
    • Clutter Free (biggest problem in design now a days … everything is added nothing is removed / creates confusion)
    • Give satisfaction (is a differentiator)
    • Exceed Expectations (is a differentiator)
  • Primitives (widgets/controls/design patterns) that work the way the users expect will be “easy to use”. It is based on people habits. People always rely on their habits (Even for tackling a new type of problem they will use previous habits/experience/knowledge and try to apply it to the new one)
  • Gestalt principles (Sampling) : GROUPING – how human brain works to understand things
    • Proximity
    • Similarity
    • Closure
  • Recognition of things – easier then recall for a human – directly applicable to “browse by subject” where subjects/sub-subjects and terms are listed for the user instead of searching for a term
  • Big Icons/menus -> Fitt’s Law (military source: close and thus big targets are easier to hit than distant and thus small ones)
  • Main things influencing usability:
    • Order and flow (left-right & top- down for western world) influences usability
    • Chronology influences usability (don’t put options after the download button for example)
    • Consistency (confusing design influences usability)
  • Menus
    • Needs precise, accurate, meaningful and short labeling. Use the most important word(s)
    • Use less than 7 menus if possible
    • Respect a logical order for menu ordering and items in a menu ordering
    • For Windows/Apple: use their standard…don’t change the habit!
    • Avoid abbreviations & acronyms in menus (Drop down especially). Rather use a long version than “handicapping” the understanding of the user. Best is to test options.
    • Contextual menus
      • Very useful for experienced users
      • Most user are not aware of it
    • Avoid:
      • Cascading menus more than 2 levels (main and submenu)
      • Scrolling menus
    • Trends are at the moment for horizontal navigation
    • List menus show all options at once…user: see all, pick one.
    • Panel menus allow
      • Display of all options
      • Grouping
      • Sequencing (mini process implementation possible to “walk” the user to selecting more grouped options)
      • Very close to Web metaphor
      • eg. John Deer web site homepage.
  • TABS
    • ATTENTION: options remain hidden until tab is clicked
    • Can be used to ORGANIZE or to CATEGORIZE
    • Used as views or as process
    • Double tab is actually a menu on two levels
  • Toolbars
    • Always use tooltips
    • no toolbar without alternative menu
  • Most frequently used items in a list:
    • You can place 1 or 2 or 3 at the top of the list…then starting the alphabetical order.
  • Assistance to a page:
    • Instructional text: in-field prompts might do thinks less attractive (field already full)..sometimes also repetitive info…and attention with the text selection if the user tries to fill in that field…
    • Use anyway tooltips, embedded prompts and in text fields or example texts
    • Give controls explanations. Link out to more explanation if necessary
    • Write for eye scanning!
    • Assistance tone : friendly error handle – pay attention to words used
      • Describe the problem!
      • Don’t blame de user
      • Suggest ways to solve
  • Form filling:
    • Make fields choice as much as possible rather than free form
    • Accept any format (more work for computer not for the user – related to the placement of the complexity problem also evocated by Gerry McGovern so often)
    • Use Smart defaults (based on user knowledge) – pre fill fields
  • Dialog boxes…try to avoid using them as much as possible…
  • Word wheel/predictive search works way better than the key-search (repeatedly type a letter for instance to advance in a list of words)
  • Search design patterns
    • Search box long enough to suggest
    • Button labeled “search”
    • Group other similar functionality afterward (advanced search, index, sitemap)
    • Make sure the location is consistent on all pages
    • Include brief instructions or links to search tips.
    • Eye tracking for SEARCH:
      • 44% at top or left top
      • 56% at right top
  • use previews (for documents, images, templates)
  • UNDO gives use confidence…warn if actions are not undoable!!
  • Grouping: white spaces can group effectively without much noise on the page
  • MAPS: if you use maps on your site or related search, make sure the map is clickable!
  • Progress: if you drive the user through a process…communicate him the progress (Step x from n)
  • if you have a state related activity in your browser, foresee a specific SAVE button – it gives users confidence!!
  • When using controls and where to place them…think how the users will use them