Re-Thinking mail – Attachment storage in the cloud

2015-05-06_23-42-40This week Microsoft is hosting its big Ignite conference in Chicago and based on comments from some people in my network I was alerted to an intriguing announcement about Microsoft releasing a new integration between outlook and OneDrive by the end of 2015 that would allow attachments to reside in OneDrive and shared and co-authored across recipients both internal as well as external without the need to actually ‘attach’ the actual file in the mail itself.

“Why is this relevant?”

  •  If attachments are stored and referenced from globally accessible cloud storage it saves on data being transfered across networks and cluttering our mail servers.
  • More importantly, it allows for central storage and versioning instead of people blindly sending each other copy upon copy with all the risks of lost changes and incorrect versions
  • Furthermore…. Single point of data means that other great options like online simultaneous co-authoring are possible!

It is in fact the basis of true collaboration and it is something many customers have asked for.

Most enterprise social networking tools and some mail providers already offer or are working on similar features but the main problem has always been “what to do with external recipients?”

This is where Microsoft is trying to make a difference apparently. The idea being that you don’t have to ask yourself whether someone has access to the central storage depository (OneDrive) or not. Based on the recipients email address the system will simply check whether the recipient is a known user, prompt the user to create an account so he or she can then authenticate and open and edit the file.

“Nice, but what if my org doesn’t use OneDrive?”

This is where I actually got a bit excited while watching the recorded session as they recognize this scenario and are actively working on including other cloud storage systems like Dropbox to work with this feature as well. So no vendor lock-in on OneDrive… nice!

I am curious though as to what the larger implications are going to be with this. The main one being data consistency….

Like how do I, as a recipient, ensure that the attachments I receive in this way remain unchanged and available? With attachments received in the old fashioned way the sender would not be able to change my copy of the mail/attachments as it would physically be located in my mail box. With this new way the attachment on the OneDrive location can easily be changed or even removed by the author and/or other recipients. This could cause questions in regards to legal implications and E-Discovery needs.

Overall I think Microsoft has just throw down a serious challenge to the other major players in this market and I look forward to seeing what they are going to do!

Tidbits about this feature from watching the session recording:

  • Automatically suggests to upload large attachments to OneDrive instead of sending as attachments
  • Easy ‘share from OneDrive’ options that will upload and set the correct accessibility settings
  • Previews without downloading (cloud only)
  • Support for non-Office files
  • Real time online co-authoring for MS Office files through O365
  • User can control whether attachments are send as a ‘cloud attachment’ or authentic attachment
  • Works both for on-prem as well as for O365 environments
  • Allows users to connect to multiple cloud storage platforms & accounts
  • Is planned to work with different cloud storage providers. Talks are already underway with DropBox

The session “Rethinking attachments: Collaborating in Outlook with OneDrive” is available online.Watch the session here yourself  (I’m not sure how long this will be up) or check out the sessions detail sheet. – bringing SharePoint into IBM Notes

hormonie1As Silverside has recently become a partner for I've been testing their plugin for IBM Notes. A plugin that allows organizations running SharePoint as well as IBM Notes to have access to their SharePoint content from within their mail environment. I must say I’m enthusiastic!

Originally developed to allow access from within Outlook it was also adapted to run in IBM Notes. Making it possible to seamlessly use most of the SharePoint features without having to leave the collaboration/mail environment.

“…More than a file navigator…”

What does is to show you your SharePoint sites and site contents in the widget bar of your IBM Notes environment. Allowing you access to your sites, files and profiles and giving you the option of easily ‘dragging & dropping’ files, emails or individual attachments to or from your SharePoint site. A great way to collaborate with your colleagues and share information if SharePoint is your chosen platform for team work or document storage.

Dragging & dropping files between your mail and SharePoint environment enables your users to collaborate by sending either links (internal users) or the actual files (for external recipients) by simply selecting the [ALT] button on the keyboard. is however much more than just a ‘file navigator’ for SharePoint. It also allows you to surface and edit your SharePoint team calendars in your IBM Notes agenda, browse and access profile information from the SharePoint MySites and integrates with Sametime instant messaging.

“…Bringing together both worlds…”

harmonie2Seeing as more and more IBM Notes organizations have SharePoint running too, bringing together the two worlds really makes for a better and more connected way of working. Leveraging both the power of SharePoint as well as the capabilities of the IBM Notes environment. And as it supports both Outlook as well as IBM Notes it offers benefits to mixed environments as well.

  • Gives you access to one or more SharePoint sites from within your IBM Notes environment
  • Allows you to ‘drag & drop’ files from your mail to SharePoint & vice versa
  • Brings content types, meta-data, version history, workflow and check-in/check-out from SharePoint into your IBM Notes environment
  • Allows the attachment of links to files in SharePoint or actual files themselves
  • Leverages Sametime awareness and IM
  • Allows incorporation of SharePoint team calendars in your IBM Notes agenda
  • Enables access to MySite profiles for searching, updating and interaction
  • Shows recent SharePoint activity for profiles and files

But the reason I think I like it most is that offers organizations and users a practical way to use the platforms their organization requires and prefers without being forced into a vendor lock-in or costly migrations. Bridging the gap and at the same time expanding the way users can work with their SharePoint data. So if your organization is using SharePoint then check out this video for a more detailed overview and download a trial version. It's definitely worth trying out.

Images courtesy of

Google Apps & advertising

Stumbled upon a blogs on Google Apps today that mentioned ads in Google Mail even for payed business accounts. Now this got me wondering as I always figured the adds would automatically be turned off once you bought a licensed account but apparently this is not the case. The domain admin can disable it but by default it is on, even for payed accounts.

Reading this help description on how to disable this I couldn’t help but notice the little text about Web Clips that won’t be disabled with that setting and that can apparently still contain sponsored links…

Ok, yes you can individually disable the Web Clips on a mailbox but I can’t seem to find anything about disabling this for a full domain so if that is the case Google Ads are sneaking their way into their corporate clients domains anyway.

Interesting! Especially as the (paying) customer doesn’t seem to get the revenue for the ads being shown in their corporate environment as far as I can see. Seems like Google is making money off their corporate accounts twice. Once for the licenses they sell them and once for the ads & sponsored links they show them…. smart cookies.

Or am I missing the point here?

"Hello?!? I understand you are not there but where do I go now?"

It’s that time of year again! The holidays are here and most of the companies I work with are closed for the week or working on half power. Nothing wrong there. Heck, I’m officially ‘off’ myself at this moment!
Sending out messages right now is knowing you’ll receive lots of Out-Of-Office notices back. I know, and I expect it. There is one thing though that can really irritate me: The inconsiderate OoO.

Some people seem to think that if they’re gone that all work around them stops too. So messages like “I am out of the office” without any further details can really baffle me. Surely there will be someone that I can reach in case of an emergency?!? Some co-worker or central helpdesk… surely?

So I plead for ran Out of Office etiquette:
1. Put your return date in the message so that I know when to expect you back
2. Put in contact information for a co-worker or central desk that I can reach in case of an emergency
3. Put in any Office closure details so I know the whole company is closed if that is the case

But most importantly…. Don’t forget to activate it. Because the thing that irritates me even more then getting an inconsiderate OoO while you’re on holiday is not getting an OoO message at all…

Happy holidays!

No email day – The conclusion

Today was ‘No Email Day’ and I decided I had to put it to the test. So last night I activated my Out of Office with the following text:

‘Global no email day’ Go Social!

Today (11/11/2011) is ‘Global No Email Day’

A day to see if we can live outside our mailbox…. I think it is possible so I’m giving it a try for a day!What does this mean? Well that I will try not to use my email today. Will that mean I’m not available? No, I’ll be available, just on alternative communication channels like Sametime, Skype, Twitter, LinkedIn and ofcourse through my phone number or texting (SMS).
So if you want to connect to me today then try using one of the channels I’m listing below. Give it a try, you’ll see it’s an experience! Or if you don’t want to, then don’t worry. I’ll try to at least scan my messages once during the day for urgent matters and otherwise I will be back to my mailbox on Monday.

Up for a try? These are the channels where you can find me:!/FemkeGoedhart
Skype: search for my email adress
Mobile phone/Texting (SMS): +31 (0)6 xxxxxxxxx
Sametime: Search for me on Greenhouse, LotusLive, Bluextend or Bleedyellow Sametime communities

Hope to connect to you!

For more information about ‘Global no email day’ and about living ‘Outside the inbox’ check out the following sites: ‘outsidetheinbox’  & ‘No email day’Or contact me, I’d be happy to tell you all about it!Femke

Broadcasted my intentions to the world and started the day with all the right intentions of not using mail.

To be honost, it was hard at first as it just is second nature to me to react to each #PLING# from my mailbox. But after realizing this, I simply muted the sound and from then on it was more or less plain sailing. Being at a customer location, in my car and at a dinner with friends helped keep my mind of it and as I kept other channels like my Skype and Sametime open as much as possible I kept connected to the world.

The only real hickup I had was when I found I didn’t have access to Sametime/Skype. Which I solved by activating them on my iPad through a Mobile connection. In itself not a problem were it not for the fact that I’ve got a dual SIM with a single number that I use for my BB & iPad. I conveniently forgot that only one can be activated at a time…

So what was the conclusion at the end? 
I recieved 37 emails of which I only read 2 (urgents). I did not send any email myself. I used Skype & Sametime as well as Facebook. I send out some tweets but less then other days (simply to busy). I couldn’t use my phone most of the day due to my own stupidity but still managed to have some valuable calls done after I figured out my mistake.
Most importantly though I had some great discussions on using the Social Business strategies and on Document Management.

I now have 35 unread messages in my inboxes…. It’s tempting to read them (it’s past Midnight) but will leave them for tomorrow. I know, It’s weekend, I should actually leave them for Monday but lets take this one step at a time…

I totally love social but I’m also still hooked on my email #PLING#!

Living outside the Inbox

IBM Benelux launched its “Outside the Inbox” campaign today with an inspirational video by Luis Suarez about working & living without being consumed by email. Must see for everyone!

Link to the official site here

Bye bye email?!?

The Social Business revolution is here. We are living in a new world and one of the ‘old’ relics being under attack is email. Email a relic?? Yes in the eyes of some, it is outdated and in need of retirement. Nowadays it’s all about new forms of communication. more direct, more interactive, less static…and all kinds of initiatives like ‘Global No Email Day‘ and IBM’s ‘OutsideTheInbox‘ are started to get people to realize this.
I can totally relate to this idea. Mainly because it seems that lately it isn’t us that is consuming mail but the mail that is consuming us. More importantly: consuming our time.

Ok, so I agree, but then I started thinking. How many mails do I actually get in a day…..? 
I’ve got 5 email addresses. One for work, one for friends, one for non-work-non-friend related stuff I deem important and 2 for spam. I use those last two when I need to register on some obscure site and I never check those two unless I’m looking for something specific. So those don’t really count towards my email consumption. The other three gave me a total of 12 messages today, 7 of which were notifications from other systems.
Now that isn’t extreme! That is actually pretty low if you consider I work in IT and was working at home today. I know people that get hundreds of messages, especially while working at home. So why don’t I? Does this mean I don’t work, don’t communicate…..?? No, I actually communicated with several of my colleagues and customers today as well as had interactions with several people around the globe. So lets analyze this….

I started the day with an email notification from Quickr about a document I’d put up for review. It was reviewed by a customer in the USA and she’d updated the document in the Quickr environment and used the notification option to let me know. As I noticed the customers project leader was online on Greenhouse Sametime I used this to have a short discussion about the review.

I then proceeded with opening our new IBM Connections test environment that we set up specifically for demonstrations to customers. To get some filling all employees were asked to fill out their own fictional profile as well as provide some fake content. While doing this I noticed some problems with the test installation. Instead of using mail I put a message on the Administrators notice board, telling him about the problem.

He responded back on the board which was promptly shown in my Status Update widget in my Lotus Notes client.

Now I could just as easily have used our internal Tweet application as well but as it was Connection related it seemed logical to respond within the environment itself. Using mail didn’t cross my mind once.

Roughly at the same time I was invited into a Skype call by another customer. During this call I had to verify something with a co-worker and with a Partner of us. So I used LotusLive Sametime to connect to my co-worker and set up a second Skype chat to ask my partner contact. He wasn’t up yet (Canadian) so I just left him a message in his chat to pick up when he returned.

While all this was going on I was also setting up a test environment for a migration project. It was not exactly going as planned and I used Twitter and Facebook to vent some of the frustrations with getting the thing to work. Apart from the fact this helped me to vent some of my frustration it also delivered a handy tip from a guy that responded to my tweet and sent me a helpful link.
Through the social media app I use I also noticed a new invitation request on LinkedIn that turned out to be a business relation that wanted to connect. As I’d been wanting to talk to this person for a while I used the opportunity to send him a direct message in LinkedIn and set up a phone call.

For the rest of the day I made several phone calls to customers & relations, used text messaging to make an appointment with a good friend, had a lengthy call with a co-worker on the server I was trying to set up and congratulated my niece with her birthday on Facebook.

So looking back on my day and talking about the ‘Less mail’ initiatives, I can honestly say I’m actually doing pretty well already. I’m not email-free yet (nor do I want to be, there’s always something that is better done through mail) but in general I can definitely say I’m not being consumed by my inbox.

There is however another side to this. Remember that Skype chat I started with the Canadian guy that wasn’t online yet? He did get back to me but by that time it was evening here. And that is the whole crux in this story….

Because one of the downsides of using more interactive forms of communications like Social Media, Skype and Sametime is that it is stretching my day. Timezone differences mean I have to adept to other peoples day regimes if I want to speak, chat, Sametime or Skype with them and that means I tend to spend a lot more time at night behind my laptop, sometimes stretching well into the night.

So are these forms of social communications the future? Yes, definitely! It allows you to not just  communicate  but to really build a relation with the other person, something that email just didn’t do. But I don’t think it will put email out of business yet. If not for the fact that lots of people still are hooked on mail then for the sanity of those that need to sleep….

Recent Contacts – blessing in disguise or admin headache?

In Lotus Notes version 8 the Recent Contacts functionality was added. Users love it but for administrators it can be a bit of headache.

The problem is that it adds all recipient and sender addresses to the Recent Contacts list. Not just external contacts but also internal contacts; those that are in the central organizations Directory (NAB). Now for years I’ve been hammering my users NOT to add those internal contacts to their personal address book (PAB). Why? Well because deletions, renames and changes to the person documents in the central NAB are not automatically updated into their PAB as well. Causing the risk of addressing outdated addresses.
Anyone that did add names from the NAB into their PAB was fittingly chastised for doing so and got the “I told you so!” response when problems arose.

Not anymore…. Because with the addition of the Recent Contacts users don’t have to do anything anymore to get those internal contacts into their PAB. The Recent Contacts is part of the PAB and as soon as you address or receive a message the sender / recipient addresses are automatically added to the list. Causing a major headache for the administrator when he has to do a rename or remove a name from the NAB.

There are some options in the Preferences – Contacts section for the Recent Contacts functionality that influence what is put into it but nothing to exclude names from the NAB or any other central directory (secondary address books, Directory Assistance….).

Another problem is the totally nontransparent way in which Lotus Notes seems to resolve addressing. I’ve been doing some tests with different scenario’s and different settings and I’m still not sure I understand all the nooks and crannies that it has. Documentation on how it all works is scarce, especially when you throw things like secondary address books, directory Assistance and off-line laptop configurations into the mix.

So how to limit the downfall?
For now the best option seems to be to set the  “Recipient name lookup” option in the location document of the client to “Exhaustively check all addressbooks” and the “Mail addressing” option to “Local then Server”. This won’t eliminate the problem of having wrong addresses in your Recent Contacts list but will make sure the system throws an error indicating it is finding more then one match and giving the user the opportunity to select the correct address.

Secondly it is worth while explaining to users what the Recent contact list is and how they can clean it up.
Luckily the new 8.5.2 version allows users to right click names in their Type ahead list and select ‘Delete’ right in the list to clean up wrong addresses but this still is far from ideal.

I’m not alone in being frustrated with this new functionality. Check out these suggestions on IdeaJam (idea1, idea2, idea3), Darren Duke’s blog and a Wiki on the Recent Contacts functionality for more information and let’s hope IBM comes up with some solution to make this function more admin-friendly soon.