European Collaboration Summit 2018

Speaking at ECS, May 2018

This week I was in Mainz, Germany for the European Collaboration Summit (ECS). This was a community rather than a commercial event, the difference being that the event is run on a non-profit basis by members of the Office 365 community instead of a for-profit company. However, given that 1,600 people attended (with over 300 on the waiting list), I think ECS is in the category of a super-community event.

ECS Summary

The quality of most of the conference sessions stood up to comparison with any other event in this space, including Microsoft’s headline Ignite conference. Like any conference, some speakers were weaker than others, and some struggled to deliver sessions in English. It’s also true that some better coordination could have happened to avoid content duplication, but generally, you couldn’t complain about the content-rich nature of the sessions.

Because ECS has grown out of the SharePoint community, it’s unsurprising that much of the content focuses on SharePoint. SharePoint is important to Office 365, but it’s only one of the basic workloads and there’s lots more to talk about in an Office 365 context, including Azure Active Directory and the many Azure services that surround and enhance Office 365 applications. I hope that future ECS events will embrace the opportunity to create a more holistic and expansive agenda that covers the whole of Office 365.

But these are minor observations that don’t take away from an extremely well-run and enjoyable conference. Sessions ran to time, the Wi-Fi was generally very good, the audio-visual support worked very well, and the rooms were generally large enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend a session. The conference food disappointed some, but I thought it was well up to the expected standard (and there was plenty of it).

All-in-all, if you’re based in Europe, you could do worse than plan to be at the 2019 event, which will also be held in Mainz (June 3-5). You’ll spend far less on your ticket (less than a hundred Euros), Mainz is easy to reach (25 minutes by train from Frankfurt airport), and you’ll enjoy meeting the great and the good of Office 365 at ECS.

Personal Sessions

I gave two sessions at the conference. First, I spoke about the opportunities that exist after a tenant completes their initial migration to Office 365 (usually moving mailboxes) and described some of the areas that tenant administrators might want to investigate. After all, they have to do something to replace the hours previously occupied patching servers and installing hardware. Here’s a download for the session deck.


Sketchnote of Office 365 session (credit: @LuiseFreese)

My second session explored how to use PowerShell to work with Office 365 Groups and Microsoft Teams. Given that the ECS sessions are only 55 minutes long, I guess it was inevitable that a topic like this would run long, and that’s exactly what happened. In any case, I had some fun with the audience, who tolerated my amateur attempts at coding.


Explaining why server-side filtering is such a good idea when dealing with hundreds of Office 365 Groups (photo: @meetdux)

Like any experienced presenter, I put in some effort to make sure that all the code examples worked when executed in live time. In other words, I had a Word document full of examples that I cut and pasted into the PowerShell command window. I’m not going to publish my cheat sheet here because all the examples and much more are described in Office 365 for IT Pros and some have been used as the basis for my regular column about Office 365 on Go to either place to get the latest version of the code.

In addition, I also moderated a panel session covering all aspects of on-premises and cloud Exchange. No one managed to stump the panelists, so that’s always a good thing… and there were many good questions asked.

Now back to the day job…

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros”, the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.

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Galapagos Photo Experiences

Galapagos iguana

My wife and I recently had the privilege of travelling to the Galapagos islands to spend seven days looking around. The Galapagos is a very special place where the vast majority of the land area is preserved by Ecuador as a national park. Humans are confined to small settlements near the coasts. Because so little territory is available to tourists (more is available to scientists and researchers), many people who go to the Galapagos follow a well-worn track between the different places that they are allowed to visit. This doesn’t take away from the joy of the trip; it’s just something you have to accept must exist for good reasons.

In any case, this blog post is my attempt to capture some of the interesting animals and sights that visitors can experience in the Galapagos. I hope you enjoy it.

The Big 15

Anyone going to the Galapagos will probably want to see the wildlife. After all, the islands are a protected ecosystem full of plants, animals, and birds that have remained pretty undisturbed by human activity, so it’s a special place. Some of the touring companies talk about seeing the “Big 15,” which include iguanas, tortoises, boobies, sea lions, and penguins. Because some of the species are only present on certain islands, your ability to see all of the Big 15 is dictated by your tour itinerary. Being an avid photographer, I wanted to photograph as many species as I could during our week in the Galapagos. We didn’t get to see them all(my count is 8 of 15), but we enjoyed what we saw. Here’s some shots to show what I mean.

Marine Iguanas

Marine iguanas are very common. Whether it’s strolling around beaches like Tortuga Bay (Figure 1), just hanging out on rocks (Figure 2), or baby iguanas relaxing on rocks as they shed their old skins (Figure 3), you’ll meet iguanas everywhere.

Marine Iguanas Tortuga Bay

Figure 1: Marine Iguanas strolling at Tortuga Bay

Galapagos marine iguanas

Figure 2: Marine iguanas chilling on rocks

Galapagos baby iguanas

Figure 3: Baby marine iguanas close to Puerto Villamil (Isabella)

Best of all, the iguanas care very little about human presence, meaning that it is possible to get very close. The authorities would like you to stay at least three feet away from the animals, but sometimes they come nearer. Or you can stay away and use a telephoto lens to capture the colors and texture of the iguanas (Figure 4). In whatever case, the excitement of seeing your first iguana soon reduces to a blasé nod when someone says “oh look, there’s an iguana…”  They are really that common.

Galapagos marine iguana

Figure 4: Close-up of marine iguana

Land Iguanas

Land iguanas are rarer than marine iguanas, but you’ll still see plenty of them in places like South Plaza island, which is commonly used for tours. Land iguanas are more colorful than their marine cousins and are often found sitting under cactii, waiting for flowers to drop to eat (Figure 5).

Galapagos land iguanas

Figure 5: Land iguanas under a cactus on South Plaza island

Sometimes you see hybrid iguanas, the product of mating between marine and land iguanas. In Figure 6, a regular land iguana is to the left and a hybrid iguana to the right. You recognize the hybrid by its coloring and lack of the dorsal fin seen on marine iguanas.

Galapagos hybrid iguana

Figure 6: Land iguana (left) and a hybrid cousin (right)

Giant Tortoises

The giant tortoises are another “must-see” Galapagos species. We visited a tortoise reserve near Puerto Villamil, where a breeding program is in place to help repopulate areas where tortoises have been wiped out due to human-introduced pests like rats, donkeys, and cattle. There are plenty of tortoises to be seen (Figure 7), including tons of young tortoises at different stages of development, but you always know that the animals are in captivity.

Galapagos giant tortoise

Figure 7: Giant tortoise at the breeding center

Obviously, it is much better to see an animal in its natural habit. Our first glimpse came on a walk to the “Wall of Tears” (Muro de las Lágrimas) on Isabella. The walk is about a 10 km round-trip trek and it’s not something to do without having good shoes, sun cream, and lots of water. Our guide said that we might see one or two tortoises en route, but we were lucky to see twelve, including some deep in the undergrowth. The easiest to see where those on the roadway (Figure 8).

Giant tortoise Galapagos

Figure 8: Giant tortoise on the road to Muro de las Lágrimas

Some of the tortoises were under impressed at meeting walkers and others were nonplussed and got on with the job of finding the next meal (Figure 9). According to our guide, after a careful examination of tortoise poop, the tortoises in this location liked eating cactii.

Galapagos giant tortoise

Figure 9: Galapagos traffic

Even better was a visit to the Rancho Manzanillo Tortoise Preserve on Santa Cruz. Apart from having a pretty good restaurant on site, the Ranch has lots of tortoises roaming free across fields and ponds. This is a great place to stroll (avoiding all the poop and other mucky places) and have a tortoise encounter (Figure 10), including the chance to see how tortoises use pond water to cool down and remove parasites (Figure 11).

Giant Tortoise Galapagos

Figure 10: Giant tortoise at Rancho El Manzanillo

Galapagos giant tortoises pond

Figure 11: Giant tortoises around a pond

Sea Lions

The Galapagos sea lions are related to the Californian sea lions, only smaller. Again, after a while you stop noticing sea lions because they are everywhere, including on park benches (Figure 12).

Galapagos sea lion

Figure 12: Sea lion takes a nap on a part bench

A trip to South Plaza island provided a more natural encounter with sea lions, including the chance to watch a shark patrol offshore waiting for one of the sea lions to make a mistake (none did while we watched). Many of the animals we saw were pups, as their mothers were off fishing for food (Figure 13), while the bulls that were present patrolled their territories to warn off any potential invaders.

Figure 13: Sea lion pup on South Plaza island

Being young, the pups were playful and the local crabs served as available toys. It was interesting to watch the pups pick up the crabs and toss them between each other (Figure 14). Things weren’t so good for the crabs because invariably the sharp teeth of the sea lions cracked their shells.

Galapagos sea lion pups

Figure 14: Sea lion pups playing with red crabs

But mostly the sea lion pups wanted to rest and did so without taking much notice of nearby humans. Figure 15 shows a typical pose and also shows the kind of lava rocks that are so common in the Galapagos.

Galapagos sea lion pup

Figure 15: Sea lion pup relaxing on South Plaza


Many of the activities in the Galapagos involve transits from one island to another. If the trip is short, it will probably be in a “panga” (dinghy). If long, you’ll probably end up in a motor yacht, which turned out to be a nice place to spend the two hours or so needed to get from the Ibabaca Channel (between the islands of Baltra and Santa Cruz) to Bartolemé, an islet off Santiago island. En route, a pod of dolphins turned up to play at the bow of the boat. The pod put on quite a show (Figure 16) and were a highlight of the visit, even if dolphins aren’t in the Big 15.

Dophins Galapagos

Figure 16: Dolphins playing off the bow of a boat

Blue Footed Boobies

Blue footed boobies are definitely part of the Big 15 and also feature extensively on souvenir t-shirts sold throughout the islands (you can probably guess some of the slogans). We saw boobies on South Plaza and Bartolemé, but never saw a Nazca or red-footed boobie. Apparently, the bluer the feet, the more food the bird has consumed. If this is true, the boobie in Figure 17 has fed pretty well.

Galapagos Blue Footed Boobies

Figure 17: Blue Footed Boobie

On Bartolemé, the boobies were at the famous Pinnacle rock, which we approached in a panga, so it wasn’t quite so easy to see (Figure 18).

Galapagos boobie Pinnacle Rock

Figure 18: Blue footed boobie at Pinnacle Rock, Bartolemé island

Galapagos Penguin

The Galapagos penguin is a small breed that is the only species of penguin found north of the equator. We saw individual penguins on Isabella and Bartolemé. In most cases, the birds were sitting peacefully on rocks (Figure 19), but some were swimming (Figure 20).

Galapagos penguin on rock

Figure 19: Galapagos Penguin surveys the world going by

Galapagos penguin swimming

Figure 20: Galapagos Penguin swimming

Frigate Birds

Frigate Birds are part of the Big 15 because of the large red pouch displayed by male birds during the mating season. It wasn’t the right time or the birds were too busy flying to display pouches, but they were certainly present everywhere in the islands. Apparently, frigate birds like to cruise on air currents (Figure 21) looking for other birds who have food, in which case they swoop down to steal whatever’s going.

Galapagos Frigate Bird

Figure 21: Frigate Bird rides the air currents

American Flamingo

Near the tortoise reserve on Isabella, there are a series of briny lagoons where you see American Flamingos (and the compulsory iguanas). The deep pink color of the flamingos (Figure 22) is determined by their diet of carotene-rich shrimps, which they sieve through their large beaks. The pinker the bird, the older it is… or so we were told.

Galapagos American Flamingo

Figure 22: American Flamingo

Finches and Other Birds

Finches were the sources of many of Darwin’s observations about the origin of the species. There are many different types of finches, some of which are still evolving. Figure 23 shows a cactus finch photographed in a cactus forest close to Tortuga Bay, while Figure 24 shows a sharp-beaked ground finch found in a scalesia forest near the Los Gamelos sink holes on Santa Cruz.

Galapagos cactus finch

Figure 23: Cactus finch

Galapagos ground finch

Figure 24: Sharp-beaked ground finch

As you’d expect, there are many other species of birds to be seen. Not being a bird-watcher, I wasn’t very professional at recognizing and capturing the various types, but I liked the plumage of the Yellow Warber, photographed at the tortoise reserve at Santa Cruz (Figure 25) and the stance of the Mocking Bird, photographed on the edge of the caldera of the Sierra Negra volcano (Figure 26).

Galapagos Yellow Warbler

Figure 24: Yellow Warbler

Galapagos Mocking Bird

Figure 26: Mocking Bird

Moving closer to the sea, there were lots of brown pelicans to see. I like this shot (Figure 27) of a pelican sitting on top of a mangrove tree.

Galapagos Pelican mangrove

Figure 27: Pelican resting in a mangrove tree


Crabs seemed to be much more obvious and brightly colored than they are in Ireland. Young crabs are dark to camouflage themselves against the black lava rocks, but the mature “Sally Lightfoot” crabs are bright red, which is thought to serve as a warning to would-be predators to avoid them. Not that it did much good when sea lion pups were around. The crabs are very agile and move across lava rocks with speed. They are also capable of jumping from rock to rock to find food to eat or escape from predators.

Galapagos red crab

Figure 28: Red crab

The Galapagos has lots of hermit crabs too. This one (Figure 29) was scurrying along the sand at Tortuga Bay looking for a new shell to call home.

Galapagos Hermit Crab

Figure 29: Hermit Crab

Flora and Fauna

The animals attracted most of our attention, but some walks through different areas of the Galapagos generated some nice shots of mosses (Figure 30 and 31) growing on trees. I don’t normally pay much attention to this kind of stuff, but I was attracted to the shapes and profusion of growth covering the trees.

Galapagos mosses

Figure 30: Different mosses growing on a tree

Galapagos mosses

Figure 31: Mosses


The Galapagos landscape changes from place to place and depends on whether you’re in the highlands (for example, on the side of a volcano), down by the shore, on a lava field, or elsewhere. One of the nicest landscapes we saw was looking down from the climb to the viewing platform on Bartolemé island towards Pinnacle Rock and the beaches that we later snorkeled around (Figure 32). The red appearance of the land is due to the relatively recent (in millions of years) age of the lava that created the island and the erosion and rust (of the iron in the lava) that generated the sand-like soil.

Pinnacle Rock Bartoleme Galapagos

Figure 32: Looking towards Pinnacle Rock from a high point on Bartolemé

You can’t avoid lava in the Galapagos because that’s how all the islands came into being. The last major flow on Isabella was in 2005 and the lava is now settling down in the caldera of the Sierra Negra volcano (Figure 33). Getting to the caldera involves a reasonable walk and the view is often disappointing because of cloud and mist. As you can see, the cloud cleared briefly to give a view. Recent volcanic activity has made the park authorities close off part of the walk, so this is about as close as you can get to the caldera.

Sierre Negra volcano Galapagos

Figure 33: Caldera of Sierra Negra volcano

Another recent outflow (in lava terms) is on Santiago island, where the lava forms some amazing shapes (Figure 34).

Galapagos Lava Santiago

Figure 34: Lava on Santiago Island

Yet another type of lava is on the small islet of Tintoreras, just off  Puerto Villamil (Figure 35). This lava is jagged rather than smooth and has razor-sharp edges that make it very unpleasant to fall against. The iguanas don’t seem to mind.

Lava fields Galapagos

Figure 35: Lava fields

The Wall of Tears on Isabella (Figure 36) offers another type of landscape. Built by political prisoners from lava rocks in the years after World War II, the wall sits in the middle of the countryside with nothing else around it.

Galapagos Wall of Tears

Figure 36: Wall of Tears

On the way back to Puerto Villamil from the Wall of Tears, you can climb a viewing platform (Cerro Orchilla) to get a nice view of the town, its beach, and Tintoreras (Figure 37).

Puerto Villamil Galapagos

Figure 37: Looking back to Puerto Villamil from close to the Wall of Tears

Technical Details

For those interested, I used a Nikon D5 with a Nikkor 28-300mm zoom to take all the photographs. No flash was used because this is forbidden when photographing animals in the Galapagos. Interestingly, some of the shots taken on my iPhone 8S were nearly as good, even if they never approached the quality of the optical zoom.

Figure 38: Galapagos map showing locations that we visited

Things I Wish We Had Brought

Many of the activities were water-based. I wish I had brought a waterproof camera suitable for snorkeling (waterproof to 10 feet or so) so that I could have taken photos of the sea turtles, reef sharks, and various forms of rays that we were able to swim with. I also wish I had brought a swim vest. The sea is a lot warmer than it is in Europe, but cold currents have a nasty habit of coming along to spoil the party. A swim vest would also help with sun protection. The Galapagos are close to the equator and it’s all too easy to get sun burned, even with factor 50. The rear of the knees are particularly sensitive if you snorkel. If I had been intelligent, I would have brought along a mask with a lens adjusted for my sight. The tour people give out masks with normal lens, which are fine if a fish comes up close, but rapidly become useless when the fish are more than a few feet away.

Like a fool, we left our excellent Tilley hats behind in Ireland. You need hats in the Galapagos, so if you make the same mistake, buy a hat (they are available in stores in Quito and Baltra airports).

If you do go to the Galapagos, enjoy the experience and go with the flow. The animals will do the rest.

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

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Office 365 Exposed, Episode 11

Last week, I chatted with MVPs Paul Robichaux, Alan Byrne, and Vasil Michev in the palatial surroundings of the Continental Hotel in Budapest, and Paul taped the conversation as episode #11 in our “Office 365 Exposed” series. You can listen to the recording on Paul’s website or iTunes (sometimes it takes a day or so before iTunes picks up new episodes).

Paul and I do the podcast when we manage to carve out time in our diaries – or when we are in close geographic proximity. In this case, we were very happy to have Alan and Vasil join us to add their views to the mix.

Episode 11 covers some interesting topics (at least in my mind), including the impact of the Meltdown/Spectre vulnerability on on-premises Windows servers running Exchange and SharePoint (see Paul Cunningham’s excellent write-up on this topic), the nature of SharePoint Online and why Microsoft’s newly released free migration tool might be all you need, given the much simpler form SharePoint takes in the cloud, and the experiences in Quadrotech as the company moved from Slack to Microsoft Teams.  And yes, Teams didn’t replace email.


Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros”, the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.


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Tracking Change in Office 365 Book Content

The Dead Fish Syndrome

I am amused with the notion that technical information presented in a blog, book, article, or any other form can remain relatively current long past its publication date. This certainly was the case when I started writing books in the early 1990s, but cloud services have changed things utterly. In particular, the text of many technical blog posts (especially about Office 365) are now like dead fish or visitors: they begin to age and smell after three days.

Reactivating an Old Blog Post

Take a blog post I published on the web site in August 2016 (ITUnity is currently undergoing a transformation, hence no link). The topic was how to use PowerShell to find obsolete Office 365 Groups by looking for evidence of little or no activity in the groups. Basically, the code checks the group mailbox to find the date of the last conversation item, the group document library to see if it exists (i..e. someone has caused SharePoint Online to create the library), and if the library exists, to look for evidence of recent activity. I combined the checks together into a script which generates a nice HTML report and published the script in the TechNet gallery. All was well.

Then someone asked about the Office 365 Group expiration policy in the Microsoft technical community. The expiration policy works on the basis that a group expires after a certain period and then needs to be renewed by its owner (see this write-up for details). Various notification messages are generated for this purpose, and the feeling expressed was that these messages look like spam and should be customizable by tenants. I agree. It would be much better if tenants could apply their own look-and-feel to any notification going to users.

In any case, my bright idea was to use the script I had written in August 2016 as the basis for a solution. It would be easy to add some code to generate email to the owners of the groups found to be obsolete, so that’s what I suggested. But then I found that is currently offline.

The Growing Realization of How Much Work is Neeed

No problem, because I have copies of all articles in a SharePoint document library. Then I realized that the text written some sixteen months ago had aged horribly and needed to be refreshed – and the script needed some updates too. The availability of the group expiration policy is one factor (warning, the policy is a premium feature that creates the need for Azure Active Directory premium licenses), but the general availability of Microsoft Teams from March 2017 was the biggest influence. Every team has an Office 365 Group, but the activity of the team might be entirely based on personal and channel-based chats, and the checks for obsolescence that I created did not handle Teams.

So I am rewriting the article and script to take account of the relevant changes that have happened inside Office 365. Expect to see the new text appear on soon. That is, after I finish up some other articles that are occupying my attention at present.

Change Inside Office 365 Drives Book Updates

All of which brings me to the amount of change that we continue to see inside Office 365 (according to Microsoft speakers at the Ignite conference, they make between 300 and 400 changes in a calendar year). This rate of change is a challenge for tenant administrators, who need to understand what is changing and how it affects their users. It’s also a huge challenge for anyone who writes about Office 365. Take the Office 365 for IT Pros (4th edition) eBook. We published this edition on 1 June 2017. Since then, we have released 28 updates on a roughly weekly basis (see our change log for details). Even so, we barely keep pace with change.

Table 1 is helpful because it shows where a lot of change has happened. Some of our updates are corrections, some occur because we learn more about a topic or gain an insight from various sources, but most are because Microsoft has changed something.

Chapter Number (bold) and number of changes
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 9 14 4 9 4 4 8 1 2
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
3 3 2 17 19 24   13 8 9
21 22 23 24 25 26
5 5 3 6 1

Table 1: Distribution of chapter updates

From the table, we see lots of changes in Chapter 1 (introduction), dealing with things like new Office 365 datacenters, multi-geo support, new numbers for active users, new apps available to Office 365 plans, and so on. We also see lots of changes in Chapter 3 reflecting the transformation that is ongoing for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. But the really big areas of change are around Office 365 Groups (Chapters 14 and 15), Teams (16), and compliance (18 and 19).

Teams changes weekly (or so it seems). We constantly refresh text and graphics to reflect changes in the UI that are pushed out to users through automatic updates. Ignite 2017 was the first time that Microsoft spoke about Teams at a major conference, so lots of information was gathered there, digested, and then incorporated. We have added over 50% more material about Teams since the 4th edition appeared.

Microsoft is also changing the Office 365 data governance framework with classification labels, event-driven retention, manual disposition, and so on. We see lots of changes in the Security and Compliance center that drives book updates.

More Change Coming

Change won’t stop and we won’t stop updating the book. The transition from Skype for Business Online to Teams is an example of change that is happening now that we need to document as it happens. More will happen inside Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Groups, Yammer, Planner, etc. etc. Some changes will be deep and detailed; some will be minor and involve just a few words. In all cases, we need to track, understand, and deal with the changes. Doing so keeps the writing team busy. But hey, what else would we do?

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros”, the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.

Posted in Exchange Online, Microsoft Teams, Office 365, Office 365 Groups, SharePoint, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Office 365 book from Microsoft Press

Despite what people might think, I welcome the release of the new edition of “Microsoft Office 365 Administration Inside Out.” There is nothing like competition to drive an increase in standards, and even though I think the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook (also available from Amazon Kindle) is pretty decent already, we can always do better.

The Need for Updates

The Microsoft Press current book service aims to provide content that stays current with rapidly changing software. Given the number of changes appearing in all its applications, Office 365 is certainly in the “rapidly changing” category. Microsoft Press issues updates for 12 to 18 months after publication in web editions of their books, which is the only feasible way to handle the problem.

What’s not clear is how often updates appear. Microsoft Press says updates will be available “depending on the frequency of significant updates to the software.” I guess it all depends on your definition of significant updates. If you look at the Office 365 for IT Pros change log, you get some idea of the kind of changes we have tracked in the 4th edition of the book since its publication on June 1, 2017. So far, we have generated 25 updates (almost once a week) for the book. Given my experience as a Microsoft Press author, I suspect that’s more than Microsoft Press will do. We shall see.

Tracking Change

One of the problems we have with Office 365 is tracking the number of changes. A flood of blogs appears from Microsoft to announce changes in applications. Even more appear to cover updates in related technologies like Azure Active Directory or Azure Information Protection. Many changes slip into Office 365 without an announcement. Teams, for instance, makes many updates to client user interfaces. The Teams release notes are an excellent resource for tracking changes, even if some small updates don’t show up there.

The Office 365 Roadmap is helpful for giving a heads-up as to what should show up in Office 365 in the future, especially now that Microsoft has updated the roadmap with dates for when a feature is added, last modified, and when it is scheduled to appear. However, the problem for roadmap items is that they cover all Office 365 plans and are not specific to a tenant – or more precisely, to the mix of licenses bought and used by a tenant.

The fact that Microsoft is gradually introducing new features for the high-end Office 365 E5 plan is also a complication. Although features are often available as an add-on (MyAnalytics and Advanced Threat Protection are examples), sometimes they are not (like Alert Policies in the Security and Compliance Center). This creates the problem of what to describe in a book. It’s a quandary, and not one that we solve as well as we might because invariably our interest is attracted to new and interesting technology of the type often included in E5.

Grist to the Mill

For all our complaints about the difficulty of tracking change inside Office 365, it’s still an enjoyable and worthwhile activity. We hope that the Microsoft Press team has as much fun updating their book as we have had with ours.

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros”, the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.

Posted in Cloud, Email, Office 365 | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Podcasts and Flights at Ignite 2017

Podcast at Ignite

Ignite Wind-down

After a busy week in Orlando, I am in full wind-down mode and recovering from the Ignite 2017 conference. The event itself was excellent, but there were many complaints about how far attendees had to walk between the West and South halls of the Orange County Conference Center. Some reported Fitbit step counts of over 40,000 for a day, which is a lot. Moving from the West hall, where many of the Office 365 sessions were located, to the expo area in the South hall, was a humid and hot trek, especially when the moving walkways and escalators broke (regretfully, a common occurrence).

The expo area was what you’d expect. Lots of ISV stands (Figure 1) and a massive Microsoft area, which was a good place to catch up with program managers and engineers.

Quadrotech booth Ignite 2017

Figure 1: Quadrotech booth at Ignite 2017

My Ignite Sessions

In any case, my week was busy as I spoke at one breakout session (75 minutes – a recording is available online), two theater sessions in the expo hall (20 minutes each), and moderated a panel of Exchange MVPs for a question and answer session (here’s the recording). Moderate is possibly a bad word. Control might be better. In any case, it was fun.

Microsoft posts recordings of many sessions online to allow attendees who miss sessions and those who don’t attend Ignite to catch up with events (hint: use Michel de Rooij’s Ignite download PowerShell script to copy the sessions you want to review).

Making Connections

As always with conferences like Ignite, the best part of the event was the opportunity to meet people, including many of my MVP colleagues. Microsoft erected a wall listing the names of all the current MVPs and obviously this was a natural photo opportunity (Figure 1).  Alan Byrne looks happier here than he did when interviewed by Brad Sams for the “Petri Dish.”


Figure 1: Standing in front of the MVP wall with Vasil Michev and Alan Byrne

News from Ignite

However good a conference agenda is, there is no substitution for real-life conversations with industry contacts to get the pulse of what’s happening and what might happen. For those who are interested, I published 7 articles based on what I learned at Ignite on

From a news perspective, the most interesting are possibly the ones about Microsoft dropping plans to charge for inactive mailboxes and the transition of Skype for Business Online to Microsoft Teams. However, the news about how hybrid deployments of Exchange will soon be easier and the release of multi-geo support are strategic steps forward in the move to the cloud. And for those who want to stay on-premises, the news that Exchange 2019, SharePoint 2019, and Skype for Business 2019 are coming is welcome.

Podcasting at Ignite

Moving to the main topic of this post, Ignite features a really nicely-kitted out podcast center, overseen by Ally Reckerman with Julius Evans leading the production team. Paul Robichaux and I managed to book a slot for our “Office 365 Exposed” podcast and recorded the episode on Wednesday evening.

Christophe Fiessinger, a program manager for Office 365 Groups, came along to join the debate (Figure 2). He was a good sport, even if some of his answers marked him as having high potential for political office. I think the information that we shared was valuable and the in-studio audience seemed to appreciate it. The highlight for me was Paul’s analogy comparing mailboxes to children. You’ll have to listen to the recording to understand what I mean.

Podcast Ignite 2017

Figure 2: A heated debate during the podcast (image credit: Nicolas Blank)

Video and audio recordings of the podcast are now available for your viewing and listening pleasure. The video is here and the audio is available through Paul’s “Down Home Page” or from iTunes, where you can find previous episodes. You’ll notice that the quality of this episode is much better , which is what happens when recording is in the hands of experts.

Flying with Paul

After finishing the “Ask the Exchange MVPs” session late on Thursday afternoon, I headed to Kissimmee Airport to fly with Paul Robichaux. We have wanted to fly together ever since Paul bought his plane and never quite managed to be together in the same place at the same time with the plane in easy reach. Paul took a number of other guests for a quick flight in the Orlando area before I got there.

Unfortunately, I arrived close to sunset (Figure 3). This wasn’t a problem for flying because Paul’s license allows him to fly for an hour past sunset, but it meant that photos from the plane were impossible, even with a Nikon D5 (think of 1/40 second exposure at f3.5 at ASA 8000 from a moving object). Despite flying over Walt Disney World, all I have are some memories and blurred photos.

Paul Robichaux plane

Figure 3: Standing in front of Paul’s plane at KISM

Ignite 2018

Ignite 2018 will be in Orlando from September 24-28, 2018. If you are interested in attending the event, you might want to book hotel rooms or Airbnb now. You can also pre-register for the event now. There were 23,000 attendees at this year’s event and probably more will be in Orlando next September.

Home to Ireland

After the hectic week, it’s a pleasure to anticipate a leisurely return home to Ireland on the direct Aer Lingus flight to Dublin tonight. Next week will be hectic too because the Office 365 for IT Pros team will be working hard to generate an updated book including the news from Ignite.

Like after every conference, we have to be careful to separate information about features that will (or might) appear in a few months from the practical tips about what you can do today with Exchange Online, Teams, Groups, SharePoint Online, and the rest of the Office 365 ecosystem. The joy of working on an always-evolving eBook is that we can deal with change in a way that printed publications cannot. It’s a good place to be in.

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros”, the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.


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