Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Pendulum Is Swinging Away from the Big City

For a really long time, we've had lots of incentives to put lots of people together into very large, cramped, cities. There were a lot of advantages to having so many people together and it has made some large cities very powerful in the global marketplace.

I believe we are in the middle of a transformation where businesses and people are realizing that the big city doesn't have the advantages like it used to. 

Covid-19 has for a lot of reasons changed our lives. Whether you believe it is a valid threat or not, it is unquestionable that the response governments from around the world has forced EVERYONE to reevaluate their life and how they interact with others. What are acceptable risks for a pandemic that no one can really agree on what it exactly is. How do we protect our loved ones, friends, coworkers while still trying to earn an income and not go completely crazy from having so many restrictions on what we can and can't do with our lives. 

I could go on and on... My point with all this is that never have we experienced such a dramatic instantaneous forced shift in our daily habits... on a global basis. Never have we put such a demand on technology to help us adapt in such a short amount of time. Overnight, remote workers at businesses doubled their load for communications systems that now had to replace face to face meetings. Schools went from in classroom learning to streaming several Mb of video to try to recreate their classroom experiences. Cloud communications systems struggled to ramp up capacity for the onslaught of all the new users trying to find ways to keep performing their duties.

Through all this we have learned as a human race that we don't have to be in close proximity to each other to perform all the jobs out there. Yes, there are jobs that still require workers to be in a particular location, but there are an enormous amount of information workers that don't. The whole notion of going to an office so you can collaborate with others has completely been blown up to pieces. Large swaths of corporations are learning they don't need to invest in real estate for people to work. Instead they are heavily investing in technology to help their workers communicate and collaborate instead. 

I've been living in this reality since 1999. At first it was just a couple of phone lines with a modem connected to one, but at least for the last decade the technology has existed for people to communicate and collaborate from anywhere. Way back in 1999 my boss had the foresight to realize that I just needed to be close to an airport (I traveled to install physical phone systems at the time for Nortel). Ever since 1999, all the jobs I've had, never had a location tied to them. In fact, I've traveled across multiple states and the customers I was working for didn't even notice I was working from a different location. 

What I'm seeing now is that big cities that used to thrive on having a large number of people in a small compact area are now struggling. Here are some examples in the news:


USA Today:



Not only were big cities really bad for spreading Covid-19, but as soon as people realized they don't have to live in the big city to earn their income and instead can literally live anywhere that has a good internet connection, they are leaving in droves. Housing and rent prices that used to be sky high are taking a nose dive. People are re-locating their lives to places that are less stressful and more affordable. 

It will take a while, but I expect some smaller communities that have been dying for a long time, might get a serious economic boost from people looking for a simpler life and don't have to rely on a local employer. 

I also expect to see that businesses will catch on that they can now seek out employees from anywhere. While I'm not sure we are going to be hoping borders between countries to find talent because tax wise that gets complicated, I do expect that we will see businesses looking for employees outside of the actual hiring location with no intention of relocating those workers. 

Put simply, I believe we are witnessing a new economic revolution like none other than before. Jobs will go to the best qualified, instead of to someone that kind of fits the role but was closer in proximity to a particular location. It's going to completely turn the whole notion of compensation on it's head, because now you are paying for skills without having to adjust for location. It's gonna take some time to sort through all this... maybe a decade or longer... but it's going to happen. I suggest you pay attention and figure out how you are going to thrive in this new world.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Microsoft IC/UC Water Cooler

Not many know this... but the main reason I actually started to pursue being an Office Servers and Services MVP was because the Microsoft Masters program and subsequent Lync Masters discussion/mailing list, was not going to be maintained anymore. Having access to that many knowledgeable people was a huge benefit when I came across something that I didn't have an answer to... and now that source of information was being threatened. 

Fast forward a few months later, I was successfully nominated and then awarded as an MVP. Once again, I had access to a discussion list of peers that if they didn't know the answer... it was real problem that needed a case to be opened. 

Anyway the point of this blog is not a history lesson about me. It is that I've come across this new Microsoft tool called Kaizala and it seems to be a great low barrier method to get like-minded people together to communicate.

So I've decided to take the Discussion List experience I've had access to for years... and bring it to the Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams masses. 

First things first, Kaizala is a mobile only app. So, you'll need to download it first. Next you'll want to click on the join link
( from your mobile device.

The rest is easy... say Hi and join in the conversation. Unfortunately Kaizala doesn't have chat history so you will only see the conversation point from when you joined. All the more reason to not delay joining! 

See you there!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Tips and Tricks / Unofficial Party and Sweepstakes list for Microsoft Ignite 2018


Every year there has been a Microsoft Ignite, it has sold out. Don't delay registration.

At the time of writing this blog, there are no hotels available for the entire week through the Microsoft Ignite website If you find that those hotels don't work for you, you might take a look at Airbnb, there are still a number of options around the Orange County Convention Center.

Choosing Sessions

Microsoft has yet to release the Schedule Builder for Microsoft Ignite 2018. When they do, you will want to choose "Personalize Schedules" and start to filter and select sessions that interest you. I didn't bother with trying to determine which sessions conflicted with others on my first pass, I just simply selected anything that looked interesting to me. Then later I went by into "My Conference -> My Schedule" and whittled things down. It's actually a good idea to pick more than one session for a given time so that if plans change last moment you know what your options are.

Taking Notes and Recording during Sessions

Microsoft does provide a video with the slide deck for most of the sessions that can then be later referenced, if you can't quite remember that one little detail.

If you are really bent on recording sessions, I'd suggest using a Jabra Speak 410/510 (or similar devce) with OneNote. If you have the Bluetooth version you might even get permission to put it up near where the speaker is speaking. Using OneNote in this manner, you can take notes and they will be tied to the audio so you can go back and listen to the audio at that moment you made the entry in OneNote. I cover this technique in my Lync Masters report.


I'm no style expert... so don't expect any style tips from me. The expected temp in Orlando for September is around 90 Fahrenheit (32C). To me... being from Colorado that is rather hot. Some people from further down south will likely disagree. My point is you know yourself better than I do. Bring appropriate clothes and be prepared for rain.

Shoes are really, really, really important. Did I mention REALLY important? Even if you have a car, you will do an enormous amount of walking just in the convention center. If you plan to visit any theme parks like Disney/Universal while you are there (Microsoft Attendee party is at Universal) they can be quite large as well. Please bring your best walking shoes... you'll thank me later. If you want to really be prepared, take a look at what some die hard Disney fans prepare for.

Dress code... In all the searches I did, the only places you'll encounter a dress code are Night Clubs and upscale restaurants.


Not the wired kind of networking... but the people kind of networking. You know... like LinkedIn... but in person. For me, networking with others is by far the most important part of going to a conference. There always seems to be a way to get the "information" shared at a conference before or after, but you can't replace that face to face interaction, especially with people that understand your tech language.

Use the time wisely to meet people and make connections. Many of the connections I made at conferences like this have come in handy when I have questions I can't answer on my own.

If you are looking for me... just ping me on Twitter @ucomsgeek . Last year I cooked up a way using Microsoft Flow to share my location when I pressed a button on my phone.

It's always a good idea to bring your Business Cards to hand out and there are usually a number of drawings that you'll probably want to enter (some right on the spot during a session). If I come across any really good ones, I'll post them here.


Most people will be flying in, and I'm sure a great number will be new to Orlando. If you plan to just stick to the Agenda and not do anything extra, you can likely get away with not having a rental car. But if you plan on exploring Orlando, or going to any Vendor parties, you might want to have one available or at least be prepared to do a Taxi/Uber. To use Uber, you'll want to download their app to your device.

Getting from the Airport to the Hotel without a rental car is as simple as getting a Taxi, Super Shuttle, or use Uber.

Super Shuttle will cost about $18 each way (I used the Orange County Convention Center as reference). I've used Super Shuttle in many cities and they are very efficient and professional. You can usually find them close to the rental car counters... but I highly recommend having a reservation ahead of time with so many people traveling to Orlando the same time you are.

The Uber method from the Airport to your Hotel, you should be aware that there are specific instructions you need to follow in order to find your ride successfully. Cost will probably be in the $23-28 range but you won't be sharing with others (I used the Orange County Convention Center as reference).

The Taxi method from the Airport is the most common. There should be signs for Ground Transportation at the airport that takes you to the Taxi area. Cost will be in the $40-65 range depending on traffic (I used the Orange County Convention Center as reference).

How to use Microsoft Teams for Ignite

For Microsoft Ignite 2017, I published a blog with some ideas on how to use Microsoft Teams for a Team attending the conference. Hopefully it will give you some ideas on how you can use it to maximize your time while at Microsoft Ignite


@tidjani_b sent me his checklist and I think it is a great way to make sure you make the most of Microsoft Ignite, even before he added some things from this blog ;-)   Check it out and share with others that are going!

CommsvNext Organizer Hunt

I'm one of four organizers for CommsvNext and we've decided to have a little fun at Microsoft Ignite to help get the CommsvNext brand out there a bit more. The basic idea is that you need to find either Adam Ball, Josh Blalock, Pat Richard or Jonathan McKinney (myself)... Take a selfie with us and then post on twitter and tag @CommsvNext and include the #msignite hashtag! Doing so will enter you into a drawing to be done after all four of us have left Orlando that the winner will get a free pass to CommsvNext 2019 targeted for June 2019 in Denver, CO. This does not include hotel or airfare those are on you. This is just the conference pass.

The rules:

  • If we are in a session, wait til we are out in the hallway. We don't want to affect the ability of people to get in and out of sessions.
  • If we are working a booth, wait til we are done. It's perfectly fine to ask us when that is.
  • Parties are off limits
  • No Photoshop... looking at you Richard (see #NotPatRichard)
  • These rules may be modified at any time.
Here are the pictures of us so you know who you are hunting for...

Sweepstakes / Awards /Giveaways

@NigelFrank is doing a coffee, cab, food and fun giveaway! It's a standard follow and RT type of entry. From the looks of it... it is $50 for Starbucks, $50 for Uber, $100 for Ruth's Chris Steak House, and $50 for Windows Store! Not too shabby for less than a minute of work :-)

@Thycotic is giving away t-shirts, socks, amazon and Starbuck's gift cards, $100, magnets, and a ton of other swag! All you have to do is spin their massive Price is Right wheel!! Come on... you know you want to... Make your way to Booth #2801!

@1E_Global is going to be hiding GOLDEN TICKETS daily throughout the exhibit hall! If you are lucky enough to find one take it back to their booth for a prize!

@IxiaCom We are going to raffle off an Amazon TAP in the booth and will also be handing out an assortment of smaller giveaways to all booth visitors – pens, USB chargers, and mints.


There are a always a number of parties being thrown during Microsoft Ignite. Some by Microsoft you can find easily in the agenda on the Microsoft Ignite 2017 site. There are other extra-curricular parties that are put on by different vendors and groups. When public parties are announced I will only list the ones I know are public so far. If you are a vendor and would like to be listed on this blog, please reach out to me via @ucomsgeek

One thing new this year is the use of Kaizala. There is a Kaizala group that discusses parties along with lots of other Microsoft Ignite topics. If you have the stomach for hundreds of messages a day it is probably the best way to keep track of the pulse of what is going on at Ignite. To join download Kaizala on your mobile device then click the join URL


No Parties announced yet


The Krewe Meet and Greet 2018: For a number of years, The Krewe has gotten together the night before TechEd to meet new faces and renew old friendships. This year is no different. This year, we have Tin Roof to ourselves with food and beverages for all from 7:00-10:00pm thanks to our awesome sponsors!

Ignite SharePint: SharePint is a tradition starting from the early days of SharePoint. Friends would gather for a pint at conferences to celebrate being together.

SharePoint doesn’t exist on its own anymore, and we’d like to celebrate our connections with people from all Microsoft technologies. Please join us to say hello to old friends and maybe make some new ones! People from all backgrounds and technology areas ware welcome.

  • Where: Hyatt Regency Rocks Bar
  • When: September 23, 2018 - 8:00 to 1:30am
  • Access: Just Come


SYNCOPATH PARTY: This is the first annual SyncoPath Party sponsored by KnowledgeLake and SkySync. Get in touch with your inner Syncopath at Microsoft Ignite’s hottest afterparty. Come chill out after the conference with killer cocktails, fiery entertainment, and – yes – a full, roasted pig. The first annual Syncopath Party, co-sponsored by our friends at KnowledgeLake, is going down at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24.

Get your name on our waiting list and we’ll follow up with your official invite and all of the important details later. Tickets to the Syncopath Party are extremely limited.

Please note that this event is intended for registered Microsoft Ignite attendees only – you’ll need your conference badge and party confirmation to get in.
  • Where: Not Announced Yet
  • When: September 24, 2018 starting at 8pm
  • Access: Limited Pass


Omada Ignite Party: Join us on September 25 for our exclusive Microsoft Ignite party. Enjoy food and drinks while meeting our identity governance and administration experts and connect with peers while hearing more about news in enterprise business applications.
  • Where: The Pharmacy – 8060 Via Dellagio Way, #106, Orlando, FL 32819
  • When: September 25, 2018 starting at 6:30pm
  • Access: Register

US Intelligent Cloud Developer Party: Please join Microsoft’s US Intelligent Cloud team members and other developers for a one-of-a-kind event on September 25th at Orlando’s IceBar! Come and enjoy great music, food and beverages while making new connection and networking with your peers and your Microsoft contacts. You won’t want to miss this ‘chill’ evening of adventure and fun!

  • Where: Icebar - 8967 International Dr., Orlando, Florida 32819
  • When: September 25, 2018 from 7:00 to 9:00pm
  • Access: Register (targeted at developers)

Ixia Cocktails and Conversations: Attending Microsoft Ignite? Make sure to add Ixia Solutions Group’s exclusive networking event to your conference agenda! Join us for cocktails, hor d’oeuvres, and networking with your fellow conference attendees.

  • Where: Charley's Steakhouse - 8255 International Dr. #100 Orlando, FL  32819
  • When: September 25, 2018 from 5:30 to 7:30pm
  • Access: Register (space is limited)


>_scheduledMaintenance: Tired of your servers receiving all the attention? Need your own Scheduled Maintenance? ENow has thrown legendary parties usually at venues with killer views. Register to request a pass. For extra consideration follow the instructions at the bottom of their page.
  • Where: Icebar
  • When: September 26, 2018 - 9:00pm to 12:00am
  • Access: Limited Pass

1E Party: Join us for an evening of food, drinks, networking and entertainment!

Stop by Booth #127 to pick up your wristband. Wristbands are required for entry.


Microsoft Ignite Attendee Celebration
Venue: Universal Studios
Time: 7:30pm

Keep checking back... this blog post will be updated as more information comes out!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Thoughts on Impact to Communications with Disasters like Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey has been on my mind lately. The devastation is simply unimaginable. Peoples lives have been thrown into chaos and its going to be a very long time to get some normalcy. One of the things that I dwell on is something near and dear to me... Communications.

I've been thinking about all the businesses that have been flooded. All the buildings that won't be fit to have people in them until they get cleaned up. Even once those buildings are cleaned up, all those PBXs and phones that have been rendered useless will make communications impossible. Even when the local telco restores service, there won't be anything that can communicate at the end of the wire.

There is a big problem that I don't think has been realized yet. Some of these phone systems can't be repaired. The manufacturer may not exist anymore or has been merged with another company and the products have been discontinued. Even if there is the ability to repair the equipment, it won't be available for a long time because of such high demand. What if the business decides to replace the equipment with a new PBX, same problem, it won't be available.

This is one of those instances where cloud communications can really save the day. No this isn't about giving lip service to the latest trend in computing. The cloud can really be beneficial in helping businesses get back on their feet.

One of cloud based communications hallmarks is that it isn't dependent on location like a traditional PBX is. How are businesses supposed to communicate when they can't get physical access to buildings? Many, quite possibly, might be condemned and have to be torn down. What happens when the business needs to physically move? How long will it take to re-establish in the new location and how long before communications can be restored. Cloud based communications can help during that time period where access to physical location is impossible, users can work from anywhere and at anytime. 

Let me tell you about some Kudos that Time2Market has been getting with people impacted by Hurricane Harvey. I'm excited about this because we have been hard at work building out a Cloud offering and now we are starting to see the fruits of our labor. 

I just read about where one of Time2Market's Cloud Complete customers in Houston sent in kudos for how one of our engineers went above and beyond in helping them change their call handling several times this week based on all the calls they were getting from clients in the Houston area. Not only did our cloud give them the flexibility to adjust to their business needs in a very short amount of time, we had the engineering talent that understood their needs and helped them achieve it. 

But wait, that's not all... Earlier this week I was also told a story from our VP of Sales about a customer with many offices Nationwide that was already using Time2Market Cloud Complete for their business communications when Hurricane Harvey hit. Short story is that their office in Houston had water in it, but all the employees simply started working from home and the business didn't skip a beat.

Just take a moment and let that sink in.

This is the promise of Unified Communications actually realized. The ability to work anytime and from anywhere. How powerful is that?

These are two examples of how Time2Market Cloud Complete is helping make a difference to businesses day in and day out through providing full Skype for Business functionality with Enterprise Voice and having the Engineers behind it to help make a difference in our customers communications when they need it most.

Time2Market Cloud Complete is prepared to help Hurricane Harvey victims with special pricing and methodology to help you best get your communications back up and running. If your business is in desperate need of help, please do not hesitate to reach out. We have a number of engineers in the Houston area ready to help.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

How to use Microsoft Teams for Microsoft Ignite

As soon as I found out I was headed to Microsoft Ignite, I went into prep mode. I started my usual blog post on tips and tricks. Then I started to think about how I could coordinate two other engineers, while at the conference and share information with others back at Time2Market. Then it dawned on me that Microsoft Teams is the perfect tool for the job.

This blog post is a combination of all the things I thought would be useful. As I find more things to do with Teams, I'll try to update the blog. Some of it is pulling together lots of different resources into one interface, but I also thought of some ways that it could be used that will be really beneficial for covering the conference and sharing of information. All of it, I have tested with the mobile client and it works well.

To get started, I highly recommend creating a dedicated Team for Microsoft Ignite. This way you can control who has access and who doesn't have access just for this tasks. If your team goes to conferences on a regular basis, you might consider making the name more generic.

Down in the lower left of the Teams client, Click "Add team"

You'll see an option to "Create a team" appear. Click "Create a team"

Give your team a name, I used "Microsoft Ignite" and set the Privacy appropriately. Then Click "Next"

 If you want you can add members to the Team immediately. But if you want to take some time to setup the area before inviting people, Click "Skip"

 That's it... You've created your Team! Now on to how to make it really work for you...

The Easy Stuff

You'll notice that when you create your team there will be a Conversation, Files and Wiki area already created for you. I suggest deleting the Wiki area, because it doesn't work well with Mobile clients and Mobile clients are crucial for Microsoft Ignite. 

For the files area, I decided to use it to organize whatever files we needed for reference. The other Engineers and I are all staying at the same Airbnb. So, I put all the reservation info in PDF form and placed in the Airbnb directory. I also downloaded the floor plans document from Orange County Convention Center and placed those in the Convention Center info directory. Lastly, any interesting Ignite photos any of us take, they can be uploaded into the photo directory. You can of course create any directories that make sense for you and your team.

Next, I suggest you add a OneNote tab. To do so, click the "+" at the end of the tabs area. An add tab dialog will appear. Select OneNote,

Give the OneNote a name and then Click "Save"

You can see in my example below, I've created several pages in the OneNote. The page displayed is something I dreamed up because I always get requests to ask vendors certain questions and track down information while at the conference. I thought this would be a great way to capture that and have it handy when I'm talking to someone from that vendor. The next page is a general To Do page. Teams does have a separate To Do tab you can add, but alas it doesn't work well in Mobile clients.Finally, the last page, is an example of a page that can be created to take notes for a specific session.

The Website Tabs

Twitter PowerBI

Next, we are going to add a really awesome PowerBI app created by tyGraph for viewing the twitter-verse through the #MSIgnite hashtag. I plan to use this to keep track of how much more I need to do to catch Matt Landis on sharing info on Twitter:-) . Anyway... Click on the "+" at the end again to create a tab and this time select "Website"

Give the tab a name, I suggest "Ignite Twitter PowerBI". Next you'll need to provide this URL and then Click "Save"

When created this is what the tab will look like. Take special note that the bottom there are several pages that display twitter information in different ways.

#MSIgnite Twitter Search

Now, let's add a tab that does a Twitter search for the #MSIgnite  hashtag. Click on the "+" again and click "Website"

Again, you'll need to name the tab. I suggest "#msignite Twitter". Then provide this URL and then Click "Save"

When the tab is created it will look like this. The URL will default to "Latest" tweets. But as you can see there are other options for how to view the #msignite hashtag from the twitter search.

Session Browser PowerBI

Again, tyGraph really outdid themselves and they created a PowerBI app that makes browsing sessions so much easier. There are so many different ways to slice and dice the sessions it isn't funny. To add this tab, once again click the "+" at the end of the tab area and Select Website.

I think you are a pro at this by now, but give it a cool name like "Session Browser PowerBI". Next use this URL and click Save

When the tab is created it should look like this. Again please note the multiple pages at the bottom.

Convention Center Floor Plans

I'm not sure if we will get great maps of the Convention Center in the Microsoft Ignite mobile app, so I decided to add a tab that points to the Orange County Concvention Center Floor plans in PDF format. This is the same file that I put into the "Files" area, but the website has a nice web viewer for the PDF that works well in Microsoft Teams and as an added benefit I can reference a specific page. To add this tab, once again click the "+" at the end of the tab area and Select Website.

Give the tab a name like "Convention Center Floor Plans". Then provide this URL and Click "Save"

When the tab is created it should look like this. Please note the navigation arrows to the side to change pages.

The Advanced Stuff

I've been playing with Microsoft Flow and how to use it with Microsoft Teams while at Ignite. I've done a couple other blog posts that cover how to put the Weather into the Conversation tab every morning and another one that searches for new news stories that match the terms "Microsoft Ignite 2017" or "Skype for Business" or "Microsoft Teams".

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Using Microsoft Flow to Search Bing News and Post to Microsoft Teams

So continuing the theme of finding ways to use Microsoft Flow with Microsoft Teams for Microsoft Ignite, I've cooked up a flow that uses Azure Cognitive Services to Search Bing News for news related to Microsoft Ignite, Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams and then posts articles that match that criteria to a Microsoft Teams Channel.

One of the problems I had to solve is that by default, Microsoft Flow Bing News trigger for new news, triggers Azure Cognitive Services way too often! The plan I configured for Cognitive Services allowed 1000 hits a month and my original flow burned through that in less than a week. If I had a different plan that allowed overages, I quite possibly would have had quite a big bill. So, I set out to see if I could control how often my flow would look for new news. The secret was in using a somewhat hidden feature of timeout for a trigger.

Anyway... let me show you how to put all this together!

So before we do the flow, we need to create the Azure Cognitive Service for Bing Search.
Start by accessing the Azure Portal and click the "+" to create a new service. Then select AI + Cognitive Services and the click "Create" under Bing Search APIs

Give the service a name. I used "BingSearch" and then select the appropriate Subscription that you want to bill the service to. Under the Pricing Tier, I suggest that you select the $1 tier that limits you to 1000 calls per month. The other Tiers allow for overages, which if not planned for correctly could get costly. 

Next, I suggest creating a new Resource Group. As a rule I name my resource groups something similar to the service they are used with, in this case I named it "BingSearch-RG". Make sure the Resource Group is created in the data center you want and then Check the box for the confirmation of the notice. Lastly, Click the "Create" at the bottom.

 After the service is created, the Overview is displayed. From here you will want to click "Show access keys"

Two access keys will be displayed. Copy the first one into the clipboard and put it into notepad or somewhere else where you can reference it later.

So, now we start to build the Flow. Much like my first blog using Microsoft Flow, you'll need to access "My Flows" and then click "Create from blank"

Next click on "Search hundreds of connectors and triggers"

Click on "Schedule"

Then Click "Schedule - Recurrence" under Triggers

Configure the Recurrence trigger for every 4 hours. Then Click "New Step" and choose "Add an action"

Search for "bing" and select "Bing News"

Switch to Triggers and select "Bing Search - On new news article"

If you haven't setup Bing News before, Microsoft Flow will prompt you to setup a connection to Azure Cognitive Services for Bing Search. 

This is where that Access keys come into play. Give the connection a name. In my example below, I used the name "BingNews". Next provide that Access key you saved earlier and click "Create".

Specify the Search Query. In my example below, I use the Logical OR between specific search terms encapsulated in quotes. The result is that any new news article that contains "Microsoft Ignite 2017" or "Skype for Business" or "Microsoft Teams". 

To keep the Bing News search from going nuts making queries to Azure Cognitive Services, click the ellipses menu in the upper right of the Bing News step. Select "Settings"

In the dialog box that appears, configure the Time Duration to be PT10M. This will configure Bing News to timeout after 10 minutes of not finding new news. Combined with the Recurrence of every 4 hours, this means we will have 2 queries to Azure Cognitive Service every 4 hours. 

Click "Done" and then "New Step" and "Add an action"

Search for "teams" and select "Microsoft Teams"

Click on "Microsoft Teams - Post message"

Select the appropriate Team ID and Channel ID. Then specify the message. As you can see below I used a combination of HTML markups and dynamic content in the message. Click "Save Flow" when done

Your flow will run immediately. Since it will run for awhile, feel free to go to "My Flows" and check on it later.

When you click on the flow later you can see the run history. The only thing I don't like with how Microsoft Flow is with the Timeout feature is that when it isn't successful before the Timeout, the flow looks like it failed, when in fact it did exactly like it was configured. So before you freak out and start changing things, let it run for a day or two and see if it is successful.

That's it! Hopefully this inspires you to experiment with some other uses for Microsoft Flow, Azure Cognitive Services and/or Microsoft Teams.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Microsoft Ignite Weather to Microsoft Teams using Microsoft Flow

So I'm headed down to Microsoft Ignite along with a couple other guys from Time2Market. I've decided to setup a Microsoft Team to help us keep recorded, take notes, and share information with others at Time2Market that couldn't go to the conference.

So I decided to see what interesting things I could cook up in our use of Teams. I recently noticed that Microsoft Flow has had quite an update. One of those updates that I really like is that there is now a connector for Microsoft Teams. The connector is pretty basic right now, but it does allow you to post a message. So to start to play with Flow and Teams I decided to cook up a flow that posts the Weather forcast in our Microsoft Ignite Teams General channel.

First off, you need to gain access to Microsoft Flow. There is a free version, but it is limited in some of its features. Beyond that, it appears it is part of every Office 365 and Dynamics 365 plans.

Anyway, now that we got getting access to Microsoft Flow out of the way. Login and Navigate to "My Flows"

This is where you can see all the flows you've created. For the weather flow, there isn't a template that matches what we want to do, so we will need to "Create from Blank".

Microsoft provides some commonly used connectors, but for this flow we need to hit the link for 'Search hundreds of connectors and triggers"

On the search screen click on "Recurrence" and click Advanced Options. Then set the Frequency to "Day", the Interval to "1", Time Zone to "Eastern" and then "2017-08-19T08:00:00" for the Start time. Make sure you change the date to the current day.

Next click on "New Step"

Click "Add an Action" and then search for "Weather". Click on "Get Weather for today".

Set the Location to be "9800 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819" for the Orange County Convention Center and set the Units to be appropriate for whether you are used to Imperial (US) or Metric (Practically everyone else)

Click "New Step"

Click "Add an Action"

Search for "Teams". Then click "Post Message". At this point you could select a number of places to send this message. You could send it to email, or a mobile notification. A great way to discover is to just scroll through the list of Actions available. 

Select your "Team" from your Microsoft Teams in your tenant. Then select the Channel, the default one created is "General". Finally format the message. You can see in my example I mixed in text along with the dynamic content tags. You can really go nuts and HTML tags to format things how you want.

When done click "Save Flow"

To test it out immediately click "Run Flow". Otherwise you'll have to wait til 8:00am Eastern for the flow to run. You can see in the Teams client behind flow what the message looks like

There you have it... hope this inspires you to explore what else you can do with Microsoft Flow and Microsoft Teams. Stay tuned to this blog for more flows as I dream them up.