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Automating MennoNerds Vlogs with Flow and SharePoint

Sample of some of the services in Microsoft FlowA few months ago, Microsoft released a tool for connecting together various web services, called Flow. More recently, it has been linked into SharePoint lists and will soon be available from SharePoint libraries, which is where it starts being very exciting to me.

It can do a lot of interesting things already. Check out the full list of supported services here, and note that it is slowly but steadily growing to include more services.

Flow does have some big holes that can be handled better by SharePoint workflows, however, particularly anything that requires a local variable. That means that for now we need to use a combination of the two to maximize functionality, but hopefully Flow will steadily replace what SharePoint workflows offer.

Below I’ve provided a use cases from my work managing the podcasts for MennoNerds. I’ve noted the entire flow of information of our vlogging process, including some things that still need to be done manually, at least for now. I write this cautiously since I have not actually implemented every piece, but I have tested enough that I am 98% confident that everything should work as I’ve described. In my next post, I’ll share what I’ve done with the interviews and panels, which gets even more complicated.Continue Reading Automating MennoNerds Vlogs with Flow and SharePoint

MainWP WordPress Dashboard

MainWP showing updates available for all sitesIf you manage multiple WordPress sites, it can be a bit of a pain to take care of maintenance for them all, at least not unless you’re already signing in to them regularly.

MainWP looks to solve that problem by allowing you to manage multiple sites from within another site’s dashboard. The two major functions it offers are updating and backup. Updating includes WordPress core, plugins, and themes. It even points out plugins which haven’t been updated in a long time meaning they may not be actively maintained anymore. Those aren’t necessarily a problem – sometimes particularly if its a simple plugin, there’s no update necessary – but other times you could be leaving open vulnerabilities with abandoned plugins.

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Non-profits: Try Office365

A lot of non-profits are missing out on a great opportunity: Microsoft will offer you much of Office365 for free or deeply discounted, depending on which edition you need. Office365 is always a bit of a moving target with different features in different packages changing on a regular basis, but as of this writing, here’s some of what you could be using completely for free:

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Favourite WordPress Plugins

I suspect most WordPress designers have a default set of plugins they like to install on pretty much every site. Here are mine:

Example of MainWP dashboard widget on available updates

An example of updating functionality in MainWP

MainWP

I plan to give more of an overview for this in a future post, but for now the quick version: this is a great tool if you manage lots of sites in order to maintain them all from one place instead of needing to log in to each one separately. You can manage backups, update WordPress core as well as themes and modules, and it is expandable so you can add even more functions.

UpdraftPlus

UpdraftPlus gives lots of options for backing up both the file system and the database into various cloud services, other FTP sites, a file for local download, and more. Some services are held back to only being in the Pro version, but a lot of the most common ones are free.

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OneDrive for Business Sync Preview

OneDrive for Business with cloud logoOneDrive for Business has received a large update for people who are willing to experiment with a preview version.

New Features

There are a few huge improvements:

  • There is no more 5,000 item limit. 5,000 might sound like plenty, but at least twice I’ve run up against it and had to take some other measures for how to get around it, like zipping a bunch of files together so it only counted as 1 against the limit… but then it’s harder to open if you need those files, and you can only do that zip before you upload.
  • Selective folder sync means you don’t have to sync the entire library, much like is available for OneDrive consumer and OneDrive for Business.
  • On a related point, if you press sync on the web from within a folder, it defaults to only selecting that folder to sync, so you’re less likely to accidentally sync half a terabyte.
  • Sync can be paused for 4 hrs, 8 hrs, or 24 hrs. They explained that this was because people usually just wanted to pause for a bit due to something like a bad Internet connection, but then spent hours working with tech support before realizing they forgot to unpause.
  • The folder name limit is gone, or at least a lot longer. It got very confusing in some of my use cases with the same long site name that used up 2/3 of the limit, then the rest of the limit was used up with the libraries starting with similar names, too, e.g. “My Favourite Site’s Member Portal – Podcasts (Unedited)” and “My Favourite Site’s Member Portal – Podcasts (Edited)” would be cut off to be identical except that it would add a 1 to the end of whichever was added later.

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Drupal vs WordPress

DrupalWhen it comes to content management systems for building websites, two options stand out to me as the best among open source solutions: WordPress and Drupal. If you have any other favourites, please feel free to comment below. For now, I’ll speak from my experience on the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Note that I have yet to try Drupal 8 – the newest version – so some comments may be a little out of date. I am hoping to get some time experimenting with that version soon, but from everything I’ve heard so far, a lot of valuable plugins are not updated to be Drupal 8-friendly yet and it might be better to stick with 7 for a little bit longer anyway.

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Some Simple Blogging Tips

WordPress (logo)If you’re looking at creating a blog, here are a few simple things to keep in mind.

Post Length

An ideal post length is something between 400 and 1000 words. This helps your search engine ranking as well as being more friendly to the average visitor who does not want to scroll through very long posts. If you’re pushing longer than 1000 words and you really don’t feel like you can leave anything out, it might be worth considering breaking it into 2 posts instead. WordPress shows the word count in the bottom left of the main content box, so it’s easy to keep track of if you’re going too long or too short.

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Work / Life Balance with Tech

BlackBerry Passport photo

BlackBerry Passport, my primary always-connected device.

The always-connected nature of a lot of modern technology has changed the way we work. It’s also changed the way we live our lives outside of work hours. Often for many of us, the two blend together.

Living in that reality, here are a few ways that I try to keep some separation between work and home life. The obligatory caveat is that these ideas work for me. They might not work for everyone. They might be more hassle than they are worth or they might not fit within your workflow. Technology is rarely one-size-fits-all. If you have other ideas, let me know in the comments.

Evaluating Urgency

If I am awake, I will probably see your email within a few minutes. There are exceptions, like when I’m at church or on a date night, but I do generally see messages quickly. For me, working with technology that sometimes needs quick action, that’s important. Seeing messages does not need to take up a lot of time, though. Rarely are these messages truly urgent. I can read it and judge whether I need to stop what I’m doing to respond right now. Most of the time, I can comfortably say there is no rush and I can deal with in normal work time.

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The Life Tour Site Launched

The Life Tour - Home middle

For more images, visit the site live or the portfolio page

This week saw the launch of thelifetour.ca, a speaking and musical tour associated with Hour of Power Canada. The tour features Pastor Bobby Schuller of Shepherd’s Grove church and weekly televised Hour of Power, and will visit 5 cities across Canada in September and October.

The website was a fairly simple and quick design. The homepage contains a large banner and the most important static information, including photos of musical guests, links to locations, and details about the early bird deal. The ticket purchase page gives more information about each location on the tour, with links to buy from Picatic. Both pages are mobile-responsive and look great on any device.

 

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