QnA Maker

Bots and AI are all the rage these days as the next technologies promising to improve productivity, build efficiencies and capabilities that don’t exist today, change how humans engage with technology, and change the world.

You can see these technologies in play today in Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana.  These technologies have been integrated into laptops, tablets, and phones.  These same technologies have also spawned whole new families of consumer devices such as the Amazon Echo and other personal assistant devices.  These Bots and AI will eventually be deeply integrated in every device, application, and service.

The most basic and common use of bots has been developing Question and Answer solutions, such as Knowledge Base information and FAQs.  You often see this in adds for the new class of personal assistant devices…”Alexa, what’s the weather tomorrow?”, “Google, who won the Super Bowl?”, “Siri, how far is the north pole?”.  In these cases, the knowledge bases are Search Engine results, which are queried, indexed based on relevance, and read/written back to the user.

The thing about bots is that they can outperform a search engine. Search engines don’t generally give you answers to questions. They give you the source of the answer to your question. You still have to read through the sources to find the answer.  A bot, on the other hand, can actually answer the question directly, providing a link to the source for reference.

As for Office 365 and other Microsoft applications and services, they released the Bot Framework for developers to integrate into their applications.  The first service that Microsoft natively integrated bots into was Microsoft Teams (using a variation of the Bot Framework). Rest assured that it wouldn’t be long before they are integrated into all of Office 365 and other Microsoft products (including SharePoint on premises) for basic application and service based questions.

What’s most important to businesses (i.e. Office 365 customers) however is that bots will allow employees to add frequently used, business relevant and critical knowledge bases to Office 365 (including Teams, SharePoint, Outlook, etc.).  This can all but solve the age-old findability problems for most of their business-critical content, resources, and other assets without employees taking the time to search and identifying relevant results.  This is a game changer for most businesses as they can see huge productivity gains!

Up to now, implementing the Bot Framework or bots into Office 365 requires a developer to implement a bot.  This is why most organizational bot development examples thus far have been FAQs.  Although developing bots allow for big capabilities and potential for business beyond Question and Answer problem, it is a too common use case to need development efforts at each organization.  Microsoft has recognized that re-inventing the wheel here for every organization isn’t wise and has come out with the “QnA Maker” (in preview) to address this common need.  It also allows organizations to start building bots without needing development projects.

With the QnA Maker, the time-consuming part is populating the list of questions and answers to start. Once it’s set up, it’ll be smooth sailing. And you’ll save massive amounts of combined searching time within your organization.

QnA Maker

I first learned about the ‘QnA Maker’ from the good people at BIZZY.  They have SPFx solutions to integrate bots into SharePoint Online, take a look…

Microsoft Writing Style Guide Released

The goal of the Microsoft Writing Style Guide is to help editors, technical writers, developers, marketers, and anyone else in IT write better content.

Since 1995, Microsoft has provided writing guidelines to editors and developers. The new Microsoft Writing Style Guide brings the guidance up-to-date for 2018 and is an evolution of the Microsoft Manual of Style from 2012. The principles and guidelines in the guide are the same as those used by internal Microsoft writers, which allows consistent quality and style across all apps and content.

Microsoft Writing Style Guide Released

What you get with an Azure free account

☑ 750 Hours of #VMs
☑ 250 GB of #SQL db
☑ 5GB of #CosmosDB with 400 RIU
☑ 1 million requests and 400K GBs of resource consumption with @AzureFunctions

More…Azure Free Account FAQ

Other References:

SharePoint & OneDrive round-up from #msignite

When Ignite 2017 closed, like many others, I’m was blown away with all the updates…Its like they actually listened to most of my customers’ asks for the past 5 years and finally got around to implementing them.  The shear amount of updates is what is mind blowing!  SharePoint and OneDrive are almost a complete revamp after they finish with pushing out all these updates.  This isn’t to mention all the integration improvements with all the other O365 products, services, and apps.

Nick Brattoli from Collab365 has written a great round-up of all the updates.

Andrew Connell also wrote a great round-up of all the SharePoint Dev specific updates.

Below are some of the things that I found worth noting as major announcements:

  1. Greatly improved analytics (including file view)
  2. SharePoint Framework (SPFx) Web APIs & Permission Scope access
  3. SharePoint Framework (SPFx) ALM APIs & Permission Scopes
  4. Files on demand for OneDrive & SharePoint
  5. SharePoint HUB Sites
  6. Self-service OneDrive restore
  7. Universal Sharing interface, no matter which application you are in
  8. No Microsoft account needed for sharing securely
  9. Group enabled site collections will finally be listed in SharePoint Admin center
  10. SharePoint Framework (SPFx) tenant wide deployments
  11. SharePoint Site Collection App Catalog
  12. New SharePoint Admin center
  13. File preview for 270+ content types
  14. Page embedded Microsoft Forms & custom forms via PowerApps
  15. Microsoft built migration tool
  16. SharePoint Server 2019 – on premise (along with Office, Exchange, and SfB 2019)
    • Note that the SfB client is planned to be integrated with the Teams client…I therefore expect the branding of SfB Server 2019 will change before release
  17. General improvements and improved integration to many of the other O365 apps and capabilities (SPFx, Search, Groups, Teams, Planner, PowerApps/Flow, PowerBI, Reporting, Security/Privacy/Compliance, etc.)
  18. SharePoint Conference NA

Others have been voting on their favorite features.

New Guidance from Microsoft for Packaging and Deploying SharePoint Solutions

Microsoft is recommending that developers stop using SharePoint’s Feature framework and list, web, and site templates in their solutions.  Now, instead of defining SharePoint content in CAML, Microsoft wants everyone to start creating content programmatically using the remote provisioning pattern.

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/bobgerman/archive/2015/01/31/new-guidance-from-microsoft-for-packaging-and-deploying-sharepoint-solutions.aspx