I hope team Office give Delve a second chance

Photo by  Jay Wennington  on  Unsplash

Office Delve was the first product to use the Office Graph – an attempt to surface the nodes and edges of documents and people to build some intelligence.

Office Graph became Microsoft Graph and found lots of developer love.

Delve had to choose how to continue to exist – I suspect the team looked at the usage of how people that actually used Delve and studied how they used Delve.

Disclaimer

Please note - I have no particular inside knowledge of what Team Office is working on regarding Delve. I just wanted to write this, in 2019, because a good friend asked me - hey do you use Delve, do you like it? I am also NOT implying team Office is cutting Delve - as far as I know, they are maintaining it as it currently is. In fact, if I had known what they are working on - I wouldn’t have been able to write this post.

I do know from SharePoint uservoice - that there seems to be some work happening on taxonomy and metadata. So I figure I should write this blog post now.

So how does Delve work?

So a few years ago, I suspect they settled on what they thought was the killer idea – Delve shows you “people around you” and “documents around you” 

They found that if they could show YOU the documents that PEOPLE AROUND YOU are working on – that must be documents you want to see.

Today, that’s pretty much the only scenario that Delve works really well for - if I am looking for the document that I know my colleague was working on last Friday but I don’t know where it was saved.  Delve will tell me.

There was a second feature of delve - Boards and favourites. But as the product evolved around how it is being used - the boards idea takes a dramatic backseat.

How I think Delve should have worked

it should have been the cross Office 365 #tags management system, powered by Search and Graph. Providing a one-stop definition for folksonomy and taxonomy as both a destination, but also the interface where a process librarian owns and curates their tag collection.

 

There was a secondary idea – Delve gave us “Boards” where people can add documents to a board – think Pinterest, but for documents, and people, and office objects. 

So now imagine #usergroup tag shows you emails, documents and people involved with running the monthly company usergroup.

That’s damn useful. Surface it in SPFx search webpart. Use it to show a most recently added documents list or appear in a mega menu. 

What I think what team Office should have built, is to improve and combine

 

  • Improve Delve Boards and combine

  • SP Document Metadata taxonomy tags

  • SP Folksonomy tags

  • Yammer hashtags

  • Teams hashtags

  • Exchange/Outlook hashtags and categories

  • Tags across Todo, Planner

  • Tags across Stream

 

This way – we can surface a collection of documents explicitly labelled with tags – across the entire company. 

Say, if you tag #induction and this article will automatically appear in an #induction board in Delve.  That would have been more magical. 

Or if an OHS #worksafety email was sent and tagged - it would appear in the Delve Board. 

Appoint specific users to own the boards – so they are the tag librarian making sure unsuitable links is hidden from that tag. They own the boards - so they are the curators. They can decide if objects are automatically included, how the objects are sorted, and which objects should be pinned to the top.

I think this isn’t a simple goal - this is the longer path – requiring Team Office to work on some sort of inter-office tag/hashtag/metadata system.   I don’t believe it is possible to implement this across every product and force everyone to use the same list - but I do believe it is possible to aggregate them at the Search results stage and control collections via Delve Boards.

I think it would give Delve a strong reason and a decent second chance at being a unique Office 365 go to destination.  And tie up a lot of loose ends at the same time.

It’s 2019, my hope with Delve Next

is that we will see Me, then Tags (then People) - and the tags are curated boards of content collected across all of Office 365 via every tag and hashtag system we have.

Two free tickets to great Office 365 and SharePoint events in Sydney in the next month

Photo by  Fancycrave  on  Unsplash

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

I wanted to write about two free upcoming events regarding Office 365 and SharePoint happening very soon in Sydney Australia, both events are free, but you’ll need to register.



First: Office 365 Saturday Sydney is this Saturday October 13!

on October 13 - that is this upcoming Saturday! We will be gathering at the Microsoft Sydney Reactor which is located above Wynyard station in the city. This would be… the 8th Saturday event we have ran since the earliest SharePoint Saturday.

This is happening this Saturday! Register here.
https://www.meetup.com/en-AU/O365-Saturday/events/255042254/

O365 Saturday Sydney 2018

Sat., 13 Oct. 2018, 9:00 am: Welcome to the 2018 edition of SharePoint & Office 365 Saturday Sydney! This is a free event where we learn and celebrate Office 365. We have a dozen local, national and international speakers...


Second: Office Developer Bootcamp is Friday November 2

This was an oversubscribed event in 2017 - join Microsoft evangelists and Office 365 Development MVPs for a day of catching up to the latest state of Office APIs and wizardry. We are on the ground covering your questions from Azure Functions, Flow, Microsoft Graph, SPFx, new SharePoint and Teams APIs to obscure API webhooks and cheapest ways to make Office 365 work for you and light up like a Christmas tree.

This is a full day Friday event held at Microsoft North Ryde, so you need to talk to your manager to get the day off and bring your laptop for a day of hacking.


https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/global-office-365-developer-bootcamp-sydney-2018-tickets-48062636640

Global Office 365 Developer Bootcamp - Sydney 2018

The Global Office 365 Developer Bootcamp is a free, one-day training event led by Microsoft MVPs with support from Microsoft and local community leaders. The bootcamps will provide hands-on labs for deep learning, and a comprehensive view of all key technologies and products on the Office 365 platform.

Whether we see you on the Saturday or the Friday, come visit and drop in and say hello. This is absolutely the best time to meet most of the Office 365 experts in Sydney and wrap up 2018.

I want to end this announcement with a lit Christmas tree. Hope to see you very soon.

Photo by  Brigitte Tohm  on  Unsplash

From Office 365 to Azure Event Grid, the events must Flow

Photo by  Archana More  on  Unsplash

In this blog post, we capture all the events across an Office 365 Tenant from multiple event sources, gather them, and send them through an Azure Event Grid.

We then listen, filter and handle our events in a central, unified way.

The events must Flow.


This is also the full write up of this microblog posted to Twitter #FlowNinja earlier this month.


Plan

  1. What benefit do we get from this?

  2. Listen to every event across an Office 365 Tenant

  3. Construct a uniform event message

  4. Send them into a Serverless Event Solution - Azure Event Grid

  5. Filter and catch our events

We want to build 3 Flows

flow-event-grid-1.jpg

What benefit do we get from this?

First, we see the increasing availability of event hooks - we have subscriptions, delta queries, or webhooks, across various different products in Office 365. Some products like SharePoint is getting a SocketIO webhook. There will be more events, and our event handling design must evolve.

Second, we see the cost-effective solutions to handle these ever increasing flood of events in the form of Serverless compute. This is true with Azure Functions, Microsoft Flow or Azure Logic Apps.

We end up with a lot of individual event sources and a lot of individual event receivers. This is a common event handling problem. As number of events we handle increases, the worse the event management problem becomes.

Consider you have a “handle a document uploaded to a library” event - a very typical SharePoint Workflow. Now consider this library is cloned to a hundred project sites.

If we clone the event handler a hundred times, we have a problem.


If you have already done this with Flow, then try https://FlowStudio.app to help you manage them.
Ooh inline product placement!


If you are a developer, then consider this scenario.
Consider a typical event handling in the browser. A decade ago we used jQuery like this:

// 2008
$('button').click(handler);

// 2018
$(global).on('click', 'button', handler);

And gradually we find that unacceptable, because we have buttons, events everywhere, and managing individual event hooks was tedious and error prone. Eventually, we moved to a global handler model, and we filter just prior to event being raised.

The headache-less way to handle events is to set the hooks all at the global root level, and then filter by the event source and event type.

That is the exact reason we need Azure Event Grid.

  • Centrally manage our events

  • Decouple the event source from event handlers

  • Stay sane, with a hard problem

Listen to every event across an Office 365 Tenant

I had previously wrote about listening to Office 365 Management API via the HTTP action and app-only permissions. What I did not realize was that the Office 365 Management API also have fantastic webhooks.

I read about the webhooks from Kent Weare’s post, where he uses this event to get a trigger when Flows are created in the tenant.

https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/automate-flow-governance/

These are grouped into several categories: AzureAD, Exchange, SharePoint and General (other).

This is the subscriber. One picture of 4 blocks. I’m subscribing to three webhooks at once.



The Office 365 Management API is a fantastic general event source. The downside is that it’s not instant - event handler is called between 10-20minutes after the actual event. So it is great as an audit webhook, or for scheduling files or search or to signal for a bot to re-scan a document. But it’s not an instant webhook.

Of course, if our goal is to send events into an Event Grid - we can work with multiple event sources at the same time. We can add Microsoft Graph events or subscribe to SharePoint list webhooks directly.

This is the top of the Listener

Construct a uniform event message

The event grid has a event JSON structure, it also supports a CloudEvent structure.

When I built my implementation, the Event Grid connector is still in preview and I had troubles publishing a Cloud Event structure. I assume this wouldn’t be a problem anymore as the connector evolves.

This is the final loop design - all done.

Remember, we are running Serverless so abuse/utilize every opportunity to use as many Azure Servers as you can - if you can fan-out to parallelism you must.

Don’t talk to each individual HTTP action one at a time. Do (up to 50) all at the same time.


Send them into a Serverless Event solution - Azure Event Grid

The Azure Event Grid is a serverless event processing pipeline. It decouples our event source(s) from our event handlers.

Here is our first handler.

This catches every event on the Event Grid - in Event Grid, we see we have our first webhook attached - it appears as a LogicApps webhook.

Here are three examples of what it caught:

  • Flow created Event

  • Site Collection created Event

  • File uploaded Event

flow-event-grid-3.jpg

Filter and catch our events

We see the very specific webhook now registered on the event grid - and the filters are also listed

PPTX filter only runs when the file I’ve uploaded is a PowerPoint file.


Summary

I have been talking a lot about Serverless and how our tools and design must evolve. Having a unique Office 365 to Event Grid solution is something I talked about as far back as 2017. I’m glad a year later I’ve finally got a great prototype going.

  • Office 365 Management API is a great webhook source that catches all sorts of events. The downside is that it is an audit webhook, so the delay may not be acceptable to your needs.

  • Using Azure Event Grid to perform filtering and subscription gives us the unique ability to see EVERYTHING that’s going on in our tenant. That has tremendous value.

  • Because event source and event handling is now decoupled - we can add new event sources to push to the same Azure Event Grid. We can do this from Microsoft Graph, we can do this from SharePoint, or we can do this from a whole myriad of triggers available in Microsoft Flow

  • We can write Azure Functions to trigger off the Event Grid, and it would be visible as well.

  • I was reading and appreciating sending events to the new Azure SignalR service from Azure Functions - that would be pretty amazing to convert an event grid message into a websocket event.
    https://twitter.com/nthonyChu/status/1044427579460145152

The possibilities are endless. Our tools and our design must evolve.

Office 365 Saturday Adelaide - 2018 September 15

sps-adelaide.png

So it is said - there's always a SharePoint or Office 365 Saturday every Saturday around the world.

 


O365 Saturday Adelaide / SPS Saturday Adelaide

In less than two weeks, we'll converge in Adelaide Australia for September 15 2018 SharePoint and Office 365 Saturday.

This is a free event (held at Microsoft Adelaide this year) for Office 365 and SharePoint experts, developers, admin and powerusers to converge and talk about Office 365.

https://www.meetup.com/O365-Saturday/events/254139366/

This year I'm presenting an ever evolving talk around Microsoft Flow and what it can (and SharePoint's old Workflow platform can't do).

Hope to see you in Adelaide!

A small favour - share this with two people

Every year we reach out and people that come to the event tells us it's a great event but they wish they know about it earlier.  So here's our small ask:

If you are in Adelaide, please come, and please tell two other colleagues about this.
If you aren't in Adelaide - but you have colleagues in Adelaide, please tell them about this event.

 

 

 

The simplest No-Code Solution to Save Picture Files from PowerApps to Flow

pexels-photo-1028624.jpg

Today, we are going to talk about a new technique (hack) to send any pictures from PowerApps to Flow.

We will do this with a modified Flow Button trigger.


Update 2019-01 - I did a YouTube recording of this blog post

Why John, what is the problem? 

Why do you repeatedly write the same post?

The problem is that we want to use PowerApps to collect binary files (mainly images, but also documents, video, anything) and send them to Flow - Flow can then decide where to send the pictures.  To SharePoint, to Email, to Cognitive Services etc.

This is a problem that isn't out of box, and has several good workarounds - some choices more difficult (or limited) than others.

 

What have we got so far?

This is the first method - we can send PowerApps' Camera to Flow via a built in dataUriToBinary() expression.  But it doesn't work for Add Picture from device gallery.  We also can't use this method for sending files - documents, zip, sound, movie clips.

This method lets us use Add Picture from gallery and we can send any binary file formats.  But the input parameter is specialized multipart formdata bytes, so this method needs a Custom Connection (need a Swagger definition file) to work with PowerApps.

 

What is this new method?

We are going to take a Flow Button and hack it into a PowerApps trigger to send Files from PowerApps to Flow.

It will be magical.  Because there will be no Swagger.

 

1. Build a Button-triggered Flow

We start with a Flow Button trigger - which lets us specify which parameters we want as part of the button click.  Flow Button let us select File.

Create FileName and FileContent compose actions to extract the value from the File trigger parameter.  Then use SharePoint's create file to create this file.

Test this Flow - upload a picture of LEGO 10234 - success.

 

2. Examine this Flow Button trigger and switch it to a PowerApps trigger.

Next, we need to check the Flow button trigger and convert it to a PowerApps trigger.

This can be done via Exporting the Flow, open up the export in ZIP file, and change the JSON definition of the trigger.manual.kind from "Button" to "PowerApp".  But here I'm using a simpler way by opening the Flow using Flow Studio's Edit Flow JSON capability.

Try it: https://flow-studio.azurewebsites.net/welcome

Save the changed definition and this is now a PowerApp trigger.

Note: Have a look at the JSON schema generated for the Flow Button's file trigger parameter.  We'll need to know this later.

 

3. Build our PowerApp

Note - this is the Add Picture control.  Not the camera control.

Because our Flow is now a PowerApps trigger - it appears in the available list without us having to build a Swagger file.

The parameters needed is { file: { name: "x", contentBytes: ... }} 
This matches what Flow Button wants for a file upload.

 

4. That's it.  Done.

Run the PowerApps to test.

And the result - LEGO 851400 cup is uploaded to SharePoint via Binary.  No Swagger.

 

Future thoughts

Eventually, I hope we have a way to officially define the input parameters we want to use in a PowerApps trigger.  The way it currently works is awkward.  It should just use the same way that the Flow Button trigger works.

Until that day - this method is possibly the simplest way to send any binary files from PowerApps to Flow.  Because this method doesn't need custom connections - you might find this useful in not hitting your Flow plan limit of 1 custom connection.

Underneath the hood though, a Flow Button trigger is the same as a PowerApps trigger (they are both HTTP Request Triggers).

 

Download File:

https://github.com/johnnliu/flow/blob/master/FlowNinja-SendFileToFlow_20180728000358.zip

 

Bonus Exercises:

  • Create multiple files first in Flow Button before converting to PowerApps trigger.

  • In the definition, made some (but not all) of the file parameters required

 

Update: adding additional arguments

The converted PowerApps trigger works, but you may find it troublesome to edit the Flow after it was changed.  And attempts to use Ask Parameter in PowerApp Trigger within the Flow Designer will cause the PowerApp trigger to be regenerated, potentially breaking the file argument.

Instead, do this.  First make sure it is a Button trigger again.  

Then, create multiple arguments with the Flow Button

Note the two new arguments have very boring names text and text_1

Note the two new string arguments in addition to the file JSON record object.
Result: