How do you bring your content to your readers?

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Hi, today’s post isn’t a technical post, this is probably more of a “I need your help post”. So this is something I find really difficult to write about, because I really don't see myself doing well at this.  But it's something that I have given quite a bit of thought, and perhaps, by writing and seeing it all written down, I can streamline my thoughts and enlist You to tell me better ideas of your perspectives and how you managed to do all these things.


My Problem (May be also Your Problem?)

I am a curious person, and I’m a community person. I explore and share what I find. As a result - I create useful content with Microsoft Flow, Power Platform, Office 365, SharePoint, JavaScript, Angular and more.

The content is created on different platforms.

Not all my users are on that one platform - so I need a way to bring the content to them.

From Blog, Twitter, LinkedIn to newsletters and YouTube channels.  The simple goal is to make use of the content as much as I can - so how do we amplify that goal and bring our content to more channels, and thus, a wider reach?

Blog

I started blogging a while ago, first blogs I wrote were basically for myself.  I love blogging, because blogging gives me a place to write down the complex solution we ended up with, the journey and justifications to get here, and ultimately, like every blogger could testify - we end up searching online for a solution, and arrive back on our own blogs.  This is a sign of success.  The past me, invested in knowledge management, for the future me. Thank you so so much, past me.

In the dawn of the Internet - owning a blog was a way everyone could express ourselves.  Highly searchable, and not blocked by paywalls, registration, or even a subscription or promotion model (looking at you Medium) that required everyone to pay before you could get your content promoted, or others can get access to your content.

Microsoft's many community forums, other bloggers and Stack Overflow continues to be a direct source of incoming traffic sending new readers to your blog. In conversations, people will say John, I saw that in your blog. Sometimes years later, someone sends you an email out of nowhere - I saw something in your blog about this problem I have today, and I thought, thanks John, and I send you this email to check on how you are doing these days.

Wonderful wonderful fuzzy feelings. Blogs are the best. 

My scorecard: 8
(This is a score card of realistically how much effort I should put into this content platform)

Blogging works - as the backbone of your content distribution.  Keep blogging.  Blog more regularly.  Perhaps, even write a blog for everything you do elsewhere.

If you have not started a blog, or blogs infrequently, then blog but focus on more timeless content.  Content that makes sense today in 2019 just as it did last year or 2009.  And configure your blog URL and title not to show dates.

Blog syndication?  I think they should have access to a summary, but ultimately, the extended value of the blog is the conversations with you.  If the conversations were happening outside of your view, then they are talking about you, not with you. Try avoid that. 

Twitter

I started Twitter as a way to reach more people, have that conversation - and some of the best conversations (and some of the not so great ones) were had on Twitter.

In the era of Microsoft Flow, as a low code and very visual platform - I started doing essentially micro-blogging of Flow lifehacks on Twitter - these are highly shared and easily promoted by Microsoft community managers, product accounts and even key Microsoft engineers working on that product.

My scorecard: 7

Micro-blogging is fun, but Twitter has one of the worst search experiences, and practically no guarantee of content delivery - you are at the whim of Twitter's relevant content algorithm which artificially decides what should appear or disappear on your follower's timeline.

When I crossed 100 Flow lifehacks, I decided that I need to re-invest those content into proper blog posts - some have pretty serious expressions and formulas behind them.  Others needs a further introduction to why this was a problem in the first place and why this formula solves that problem.

Ultimately, Twitter remains one of the best places to meet and have conversations and see what others are sharing.  Very easy to ask a question and be directed to an answer (hopefully a good answer!)

Use a automated content distribution scheduler - Buffer, Tweetdeck, or something else.  Schedule retweets of your own content in an opposite timezone.

LinkedIn

I come to LinkedIn quite late in the game - there is a specific reason why - see, for the longest time I thought people visit LinkedIn when they are about to change jobs - they go and update their CV. 

I've come to realize this is not the case.  LinkedIn has a mini-community of its own, similar to Twitter, but in which everyone is operating on their own personal accounts and brands.  That means conversations are generally more civilized, and the motive of each person in the community is apparent in the profile they present.  Are they a product vendor?  Are they a consultant?  Are they an outsource company?

Conversations are also generally work related - so even though it feels like social banter - it’s targetted banter related to work topics. Social like Twitter, but without all the random noise related to everything “not work”.

People tend to put on a more polite face when they use that face to sell their services.

My scorecard: 7

Use an automated content distribution tool like Buffer - but make sure you engage and connect with people to extend your circle, and answer messages.

Live Coding / Live Stream

Live coding is something I REALLY wanted to do - because of the Flow lifehacks that I do are basically hour-ish quick hacks with Flow and we can see some immediate results.  I always wanted to record that and turn that into a stream-able content. 

I actually tried live coding / live streaming Flow lifehacks several times, each time with very few attendees. 

If you do this well, I want to know! 

My thoughts on this - to build a following for live streaming, you must advertise, advertise, advertise that you are going to do this at a specific time, so people can plan and join you in that time.  Make it regular is good, but it must be advertised.  Have a set plan of how long you will go on air, what problem you want to solve, and what outcome you want to have.  This may be easy or hard, really depends on what you do.

My personal scorecard: 4

Podcasts

Podcasts are an interesting thing - see in Sydney, we have a problem.  The rest of the world likes to run livestreams and community calls during our sleep time - the optimal time that these live events run is a time that covers America and Europe, this is basically between 1am and 4am Sydney time.

So many Sydney based MVPs face the same problem - we can't join product community calls, as that will destroy our next day and we'd be completely hopeless in our day jobs the day after. 

And if you stay up to present at these community calls, we salute you and think you are a machine.  In reality, your hair is white from lack of sleep, and you require the assistance of a barber that knows how to dye your hair back to black so you look like you went back through a time machine and lost 20 years. True story.

So instead, we often say well, we should start our own podcasts - Office Devs Down Under.  Do you know what happens when your Office Dev MVPs have a lot of time because Support is asleep during your work hours and you have to fix something for your customers because Vendor is unavailable?

We became extremely good at trouble shooting Vendor's problems, and have an extremely versatile perspective. Get stuff fixed with or without support

May be that's still going to be a thing.  Gosh, I want this to be a thing.  I really do.

My personal scorecard: 2

YouTube channel

As I progress in my thoughts - I wondered, OK, perhaps rather than making a scheduled effort to produce a regular live stream or podcast, I should make a series of videos and post them to YouTube but release them over time. 

Subscribe to John Liu, Flow Ninja channel

The tricky part here is not so much the recording, but the editing.  Producing content gets easier the more we record and practice, but it always takes extra time, sometimes a lot more time, to edit the video content to be consumable.

Sometimes, it might be easier to work with another MVP that's got a big following in this area and record something with them, and perhaps cross post that to your own channel. 

Dedicate your own channel, or partner with existing publishers? Hard questions - may be both, and add the shared videos to your play list so they appear on your own channel too.

My personal scorecard:

Newsletters

Ultimately, this is not something I realized until much later, as I'm expanding my reach to people that follow my work - an regular email newsletter is still the best way to reach your entire potential community, everywhere.

Whether you introduce them to your new YouTube channel.  Draw their attention to the latest Microsoft update and what that means for them.  A super new technique that they can use to really get the best outcome from their PowerApps or Flow investments on your blog post. 

An upcoming free event or paid conference.
A newsletter is the most basic form of content, and still the best way to reach your audience.

Make it genuine.  Make it you.  Be authentic.  Don't put a bunch of random advertising in it.  Especially don't let Meetup own your mailing list so now you can't reach your own audience that you sweated so hard to earn their trust to come to your user groups every month. 

My scorecard: 9

Subscribe to Flow Studio Newsletter! (sorry I can’t resist)

Summary

This, and more is what I really think about each of these platforms and what I really want to do with every one of them, (if I have all the time in the world).  But I think if there's anything you should take as the one thing from me, it is this - build up a mailing list for newsletters.  That's always useful.  Publish a digest of your own blog posts or YouTube and mail it out to your followers once a month. Add a subscribe to your newsletter link somewhere on your blog, and YouTube channel. 

Make it genuine, and make it you.

There's a few things I want you to help me:  first - fill in this survey to let me know how you consume content, and how you'd like to produce content. 

 

Second, please leave any comments below - especially if you really disagree with my assessment of how certain platform should be utilized.  I really want to know your perspective.  Because this is something that I think is bigger than all of us.

Thank You

Several people directly and indirectly helped me to write and review this blog post

  • Shiva Ford asked me to write something two months ago and I basically have this blog post in mind for two month, brooding how to write this. Some parts are really hard. But once you brooded over an article for two months, you can’t let it go to waste, all that brain cells given to this writing.

  • Marc Anderson - read Sympraxis Blogs - I asked Marc to review the blog post and you will not believe how fast Marc was able to correctly identify my “real” problem. He suggested that I look for a part time product / marketing manager to handle Flow Studio app. Marc is an ultra Gandalf-Yoda.

  • George Doubinski - we have a lot of chats over content platforms and extending our content several months back, and then again last week. Read CRM Tip of the Day and thinking about how do we bring that amount of content to our readers.

  • Reza and Leila - similar discussions for Power BI and AI related content over last week, which went into my thinking and writing.

Sadly, I can't make it to MVP Summit 2019

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I’ve been holding onto some slimmer of hope, may be I could still make the trip. Alas, it’s time to face reality and write down this blog post. I’m apologizing - I’m sorry.

I can’t make it to MVP Summit 2019, I’ll need to start cancelling my various plans - flight is cancelled, there’s some hotel bookings to cancel.

I have an immediate family member who wasn’t well through 2018, we fought it, and we thought we got over it, but the problem has returned in 2019. That means more treatments and wait, and hope.

The Silver Lining

I guess I could say at least there’s a silver lining that the Australian public health cover is fully covering the treatments, if I was in America I would be on Go Fund Me already, last year.

Reach out

I will be feeling a bit sad and lonely. If you’d like to say hi - we are only separated by a Twitter DM, a Facebook message or just a Skype call.

I know I was looking forward to catching up with many of you, and may be you wanted to say hello to me, well we can totally still do that, via Skype. P.S. Call me, okay?

P.S.S remember your NDA - no streaming summit content. I want to talk to you, I don’t need to know about the latest secrets I’m sure they’ll be announced fairly soon anyway. We don’t live in a 3-year cadence world anymore.

Please Remember the new MVPs

I remember my first MVP Summit and I have no idea where to go or where to be. Please remember MVPs from your country that’s their first time, make sure they aren’t left out, and make sure please, that they get back to their hotel safely.

Flow Studio

I had hoped to use the two weeks in Seattle to really catch up with many fellow MVP friends from across the globe, and perhaps some might want to see the next iteration (or the current iteration) of Flow Studio. That will have to be done remotely. Let me know if you want to help me perfect my pitch deck. I promise you’ll get the honest truth of where we are - and why Flow Studio exists. I can’t promise I can deliver the pitch deck in 5 minutes - still working on it.

I will totally and utterly miss

  • Randomly bumping into you at the LEGO store.

  • Enjoying American steak with you at a steak house.

  • Sipping long island ice tea unawares with you at a bar.

  • Walk long trek at night across empty streets with you because the hotel is so far away.

  • Getting kicked out of a karaoke bar because I’m not even drunk. But also it’s the 4th bar of the evening so perhaps it’s time to go back to hotel.

  • Enjoying hot wings, oh damn the hot wings are just so nice, with you.

  • The wonderful conversations I have with you.

  • You Microsoftie, putting up with this horde of barbarians that call themselves MVP - most vocal professionals. You are the best and so, so brave.

  • Did we just randomly wander across Seattle to the Space Needle at night and take a group selfie?

  • Bellevue is actually really cold, I’m glad you gave me a really warm Fellowship jacket.

  • Taking selfie photo and making them into stickers with you.

  • Talking selfie photo with you using maximum Samsung beautify mode because I really need it. You don’t, but now you look really pale Sorry!

  • Eating Wendy’s because the meat is square and it sticks out in the corners, and because we totally don’t have Wendy’s in Australia. Also the double dripping cheese is American heart society certified cause of death right?

  • Smuggling Tim Tams for you from Australia

  • Spinning around with you on the top of Space Needle

  • Seeing all your happy faces

  • The big giant hugs you give when you see me

  • Using up all my MS store voucher, and then take your voucher because you don’t know what to do with it, so I bought another bunch of Xbox controllers. You can never have enough Xbox Controllers.

  • Catching up with you about the Serverless Rag-Tag-Gang, next time it really is my shout

  • I was really looking forward to a redbowl selfie this time

  • I wanted to meet Mr Purple

  • Go hunting for a nice steak with you at 10pm and cursing why we didn’t leave the party earlier so we can go find a greater steak

  • Plotting with you over how we’d distract the Bellevue MS Store employee and run off with the first Microsoft Studio we saw there.

  • Accidentally yelling my introduction into the middle of a PnP monthly podcast recording because really I’m just a walking disaster waiting to make a fool of myself. And it turns out you all knew me anyway so there was no need to yell like that.

  • Impersonating a vendor employee while taking a group photo with you.

  • Discussing merits of bacon with you, and how we can always add more bacon salt to bacon.

  • Not knowing how to use a mic to ask a question in a full room full of people.

  • Sneaking out the back to get a thickshake with you.

You are one of a kind. You came from all over the world. We don’t even have the same native languages, but we are the same. The same kindred spirit. There’s dozens and hundreds of us. It is such a peculiar sight.

I hope to see you all instead in 2020.

How to automatically enter MVP timesheets with Microsoft Flow

The Microsoft MVP Summit is next week.  I'm here at 6AM slaving away cracking on this Swagger API file so that we can all have the awesomeness of automatically submitting MVP timesheets with Microsoft Flow.

But really, who doesn't want automatic?! 

Flow, Make It So

Flow, Make It So

Plan

  • The MVP Contributions "timesheet"
  • MVP Production API
  • Custom Connection via Swagger
  • Set up the Flow
  • Future ideas

The MVP Contributions "timesheet"

The Microsoft MVP award is a recognition of our various activities throughout the previous year, and it is measured with both "reach" and "impact".  So, at a minimum, we have to do timesheets.  I really really don't like doing timesheets.

We really should be able to do this automatically.

Write a blog?  Made a podcast?  RSS -> Automatic.
Wrote a tweet?  Automatic.  (your MVP lead will probably have a chat with you about this)
IoT senses temperature change?  What better time to log an entry!
 

MVP Production API and the MVP PowerShell module

The MVP program with contribution from several MVPs created a set of APIs for querying and posting our profiles, contributions and details.  The starting point is here:

https://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/Opportunities/my-opportunities-api-getting-started

To call this API, we need two pieces of authentication - we need OAuth to Windows Live Account, and we need an API key from the MVP API.  Follow the steps in the post and you'll end up with:

  • an MVP Production API subscription, which gives you a primary and secondary Api-Key
  • a MSA application with ClientID and ClientSecret

I want to note that there are existing work in a MVP PowerShell module

https://github.com/lazywinadmin/MVP

It works the same way, but because it doesn't remember your tokens, every time you run the PowerShell you need to login via a Live, get a token, then make the submissions and then when the PowerShell session finishes you lose everything.  So while this helps with entering the details, but doesn't help you manage your OAuth token, it certainly isn't "hands free / automatic".

So we will do this, automatically, with Flow

Custom Connection via Swagger

I frequently sing praises for Jan Vidar Elven's blog post on custom connector.

https://gotoguy.blog/2017/12/17/access-microsoft-graph-api-using-custom-connector-in-powerapps-and-flows/

I'm connecting a Custom Connection to Flow to help me manage the MSA account.  This is an extension of his detailed blog post.

To be able to call the MVP API we will need a Swagger (OpenAPI file) to create a custom connection.  After some struggling - I've got a working version of the swagger file here:

https://github.com/johnnliu/flow/blob/master/MVP%20Production.swagger.json

You can read this, but to use it - you need to replace line 35: 

"default": "ae2edf7-YOURKEYHERE",

With your real subscription key from the API.  You can use either the primary or the secondary.
Save the swagger file.  We go into Flow.

Set up the Flow

Start in Flow - create a custom connector by Importing an OpenAPI file

flow-security-1.png

For OAuth to work - the redirect URL from Flow must be allowed by this App

Return back to Flow Custom Connection

Create a connection

Setup the Flow to make your MVP Lead happy because now all your contributions are going to be automatically entered.

Results

I'm triggering this but clicking a button - you can hook this up to HTTP Request, Schedule Timer, RSS Feed... etc etc

The entry in the MVP tool.

Disclaimer

Running this Flow does not guarantee an MVP award.  But it will keep your lead happy.

 

Future Ideas

1. The Swagger File is generated from the MVP API tool, but underwent heavy modification.  For the curious you can compare the original vs my modified version.

2. As far as I can tell, the Swagger file defines two security definitions (for MSA and ApiKey), but Flow's Custom Connection UI can only handle 1 security setup.

Which is why I moved the ApiKey into an internal parameter within the Swagger File.

If Flow Custom Connection can handle multiple Authentication settings, then we can improve this part of the Swagger.

3. In Posting new Contributions - there are several settings are are ref objects.  ContributionType, ContributionTechnology (ContributionArea), and Visibility.  These should be connected to a dynamic lookup value, so within Flow UI, we will see a friendly dropdown menu that allows us to select one of the friendly names.

There's always more to do, but there's also a time to stop, and publish this blog post.

 

Thank you MS for MVP 2016

As I still see myself a newcomer in the SharePoint community compared to our many elders, I still hold my breath every year come Jan 02 when my MVP gets renewed.  I'm told "if they weren't going to renew you they'll break it to you early" I hope so.  I'm still holding my breath anyways.

I received my Microsoft MVP award for the 3rd year on the morning of the 2nd.  I wanted to say a big thank you to the community and Microsoft.  Cheers for Team Office and Friends!

2016 is the year where Microsoft tweaks the MVP award system - for IT Pros and Developer MVPs, it is no longer based directly on specific product, but on the product group.  Instead of SharePoint, I am now Office Servers and Services.  I think this is a good thing, in that I was already contributing in different areas - I love Sway, and love love Power BI, at the same time I want to see SharePoint's Sites even more embedded within Office Add-Ins.  Where will SharePoint go in 2016?  Will it end up on HoloLens?  Wow who knows.

But know this, SharePoint is not going away not by a long shot.  This is the year where I think we will see that MS is serious about SharePoint, and not just a service, but also a platform.  Trust me, I'm a dev...  A hopeful dev.

And as Microsoft moves forward with single purpose: unifying Azure, Windows, Office and Bing engine, as well as advancing the devices with IOT, Xbox, Surface and Band, I have this uncanny grin as I imagine what we could build, not in 5 years' time, but this year, in 2016!

Loving the ecosystem, loving the possibilities and loving the community.

/omg2016gonnabeawesome

The Microsoft MVP Community Camp is happening next Saturday March 22. What is it?

 

Microsoft APAC is hosting a simultaneous event in multiple cities around Asia and Oceania. 

It is named the Microsoft MVP Community Camp.

http://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/ComCamp2014.aspx

 

There are two parts to this event.  All the events are free.  But you need to register.

Firstly it is a week of streaming sessions from March 17~21

 

The various sessions are in different languages targeting the different markets in Asia Pacific.  There's usually one English session in every time slot.

Different regions have a specific 'theme' to the streaming sessions, in Australia (and New Zealand), the focus is on

Running Small and Mid-Business with Microsoft technologies

This includes lots of discussions on SharePoint, Office 365, One Drive (for Business) and Azure. 

Some sessions are very timely.  A number of sessions in Japan focuses on Azure - since they got their Azure datacenter earlier this month.

 

Concluding on a Saturday of local "in person" sessions on March 22

 

Now this one is important.  Because even though this is free, you need to register.  Also, there's not much time left.  So you really need to register now.

For Sydney, our schedule and registration link is here.

For other cities in Australia

 

There are several sessions on Azure, Web Development, OneDrive as well as other related technologies such as Dynamics CRM.

Links for other cities - not just the ones in Australia, but also around Asia are available from the main event link at the top of this post.

 

I am not presenting at the event, but I'll be attending and attempting to field any SharePoint or Office 365 related questions.

I hope to see you guys there.