Well it’s happening, transformation. We’ve been used to looking at new versions with new gadgets of our products, but now we’re looking at a whole new suite called Office 365. And right now, they're showing us that they aren’t just adding new gadgets, but looking at the problem from a new angle.
The Office 365 team had announced a new blogging feature for a while through Delve and it’s finally starting to arrive to us, customers. It’s important to understand how this new personal experience works, because it’ll be a very similar concept for teams when Articles and Microsites start showing up as well.
Office 365 is introducing new knowledge management experiences
Quickly, more and more value is building up in our Office 365 tenants. What used to be a simple hosting of three different products (Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business - formerly Lync) is now growing into more, offering productivity enhancing experiences for users.
Alright I know, it sounds like I copy pasted that line from Microsoft's marketing material. But the point is, they're making changes and finally having these products work together to provide us with ready to use experiences or solutions in our organization.
Recently, the Office 365 team has decided to look at the Knowledge Management needs of organizations and set on a course to provide a new solution. In a previous post, I go on about how Office 365 is redefining Knowledge Management with newly announced Delve Boards, Story Pages (Blog), Articles, Microsites and the new Knowledge Management Portal.
In the article, I mention what each of those are, and how they'll work at a high level. And this further maintains my reflections from Ignite: Collaboration in a Modern Workplace Transformed.
But now that the new Blogging feature or “Story Pages” (I'm still not sure how to call this) has started to roll out to tenants, it’s time to take a closer look at it.
If you want to keep note of some of the details, I recorded a short video that's under 13min:
*Note: Images are not uploaded to your OneDrive for Business, see below for details.
An overview of the new Office 365 Blog in Delve
Friction-less user experience that also works on mobile devices and is always available, regardless of where you are.
No matter the customer; I’ve always seen a need that could be met with a blog. In many cases, it’s been from the CEO or the executive team that wanted to share thoughts with the organization.
Sometimes, it’s IT sharing tips and guides on how to use some of the deployed technology. And other times, it’s anyone sharing their expertise or simply putting down their thoughts to find it later on. It’s not just about a top down flow of information anymore, but allowing anyone to share and anyone to consume. But more importantly, for that knowledge to always stay and be both available and discoverable.
The new Office 365 Delve Blog feature doesn't replace the old SharePoint Blog, if for some unfortunate reason you're using those. In fact, the SharePoint Blog is the perfect example of why we can’t wait for the three-year cycle anymore. Every time the SharePoint Blog would be released, it would already be 2 years behind.
Office 365 has re-introduced the blog in a completely new perspective and just like the rest of Delve, it’s responsive and easy to use.
You’ll find it in your “About Me” by clicking on your name or by navigating to Delve from the App Launcher, clicking on “Me” and then selecting your Profile.
From there, you’ll either be able to view all of your previously created posts or start writing a new one directly. Let’s look at all our posts.
If you're on your profile, you’ll see the New Post tile as well as all unpublished, drafts and published posts. And obviously, if you visit someone else’s list of Office 365 Delve Blogs you’ll only see the published posts.
So far, it’s pretty straight forward, but how is new authoring experiences of these new posts?
Well, you begin by clicking on New Post or “Start Writing” straight from the Delve Profile page.
And if you’ve used the new “Sway” tool, it's very similar in its easiness to use and author content. The reality however, you’ve probably never used Sway and may have just recently heard of it. So how does it work?
Essentially, you scroll down the page and click on the buttons that allow you to do things. For example, you noticed the Add Image button and the “Title” and “Subtitle” text areas you can change. Let’s finish that unpublished post I had in my list earlier.
Then you can start writing easily into text boxes that automatically appear as you press Enter or get bigger if you press on Shift + Enter. Not unlike traditional text editors, except once you highlight text, you’ll get a simple formatting tool.
You can even turn text into a predefined format for quotes, so that it pops on the page but continues to work in this responsive page. Remember, all of these posts will automatically adjust based on the screen size.
It’s hard to express how easy it is to just add text, format it as well as add some pictures, videos or documents.
Then you click on Publish and you’ve got yourself a beautiful and responsible blog post in Office 365.
How does the Office 365 Delve Blog work behind the scenes on a technical level
I'm a geek and above all, a SharePoint geek. Since many of the new portal experiences leverage SharePoint for storage of the files we work with, I just had to figure out how it all works.
After exploring, I figured out that the very important Office 365 Site Collection under /portals/hub of your tenant is actually the place that hosts the Single Page Apps for our Portals. And right now, both the Office 365 Video Portal and the Delve Blogging App both use that same Site Collection to host their single page app.
What happens when you start working with Point Publishing (Delve Blogs)
/portals/hub is a Site Collection for single page apps to be stored for various experiences (portals)
A library there, called AppPages at the moment, contains 2 pages (PointPublishing.aspx and VideoEmbedHost.aspx). They're both single page apps that serve two different portals. PointPublishing is for the Delve Blogs and VideoEmbedHost is for the Video Portal.
The first time a user goes to the PointPublishing page by clicking on “All Posts” or “Start Writing” from their Delve Profile, Office 365 provisions a new Site Collection. Each user gets a Site Collection, not unlike My Sites, under the root of the /portals/ path and not /hub/ with /personal/useraccount as a managed path.
(in my case it was tenant.sharepoint.com/portals/personal/benjaminniaulin
In the Site Collection you’ll get: Images Library, Pages Library, Videos Library, Settings Library.
When the user goes to the single page app at the root of /hub/pointpublishing.aspx it looks at the current logged in user to put a friendly url and gets his Pages library to show all the posts in a nice format. This doesn't use Search to remove any possible latencies and directly pulls your posts found in that library
When a user creates a new "Blog" or "Story", it actually creates a file in the users Site Collection in under the "Pages" library using a Content Type named "Story Page". The file extension for each post is .pointpub and stores the JSON information that was created in the page. Essentially a text file that says Title=, Author=,ControlData1=, etc..
This is very similar to the Video Portal where each Channel is a Site Collection with a library for the videos that use a Content Type “Cloud Video”.
Any images used for the page or "Story Page" is uploaded to the library in that same user Site Collection called "Images", in a folder created with what seems to be the ID of the page in the library called "Pages".
In other words, if you create your 3rd blog post, images will be stored in a folder called "3" in the Images library.
Once again, the single page app at the root of “hub” does all the magic by pulling the information from the JSON file and populating the containers on the page.
This makes it look like you're always looking at a new post in your Office 365 Delve, but in fact, you're looking at the same page. It just goes in the Site Collection where the posts are located and uses the information stored there to populate the “Template” so to speak.
If you’ve worked with the Product Catalog, Content Search or simply built Search-Driven Sites with SharePoint before you’ll realize that it is pretty similar in its concept.
Behind the scenes of our Office 365 Delve Blog Posts
If I take my examples above, Alex Darrow has two posts. The first thing I'll do is navigate to my Office 365 Delve Profile and click on All Posts under Blogs or cheat and manually navigate to the point publishing page.
Where are these posts actually stored? For that, I’ll go to my new Personal Site Collection as Alex Darrow located under my /portals/ managed path.
There are my two posts and one of them is still unpublished so it’s checked out and that makes sense.
Note that these aren't HTML pages but .pointpub files that contain the JSON information for what you asked to put in through the interface.
But where are all the images stored? In the same Site Collection there's another library called Images.
The Videos used in your Delve Post can only come from the Office 365 Video Portal, that’s why you won’t see them in your personal Site Collection.
Office 365 Delve replacing our need for My Sites and new Sway integrations
If you have time, then visit the new Sway app to see how it works. Eventually, we're expecting to see a Publish to Delve Blog or the new “Articles” coming for “Microsites” in Office 365.
So what about My Sites? A Site Collection for each user in your tenant. Delve gives you that “people-centric” look on your work.
Relevant Activities on the Delve homepage
Your Activities on the “Me” tab
Visit your or other user’s Profiles on their Delve page, along with an organization chart and profile information
Clicking on About Me sends you to your Delve Profile
A blog experience
Responsive Design for a mobile experience
And likely, other things I'm forgetting to mention.
So why should I go to my “My Site”, well the only thing left is my OneDrive for Business library. I don’t hold a crystal ball and I won’t pretend to have any idea about what’s coming aside from what we've seen.
Rest assured the My Site is still there in SharePoint 2016 and will likely continue to be in Office 365. But, future users that have never heard of SharePoint before will click on “OneDrive” in their App Launcher and just experience the last piece of what used to be called My Sites.
If in the future, that library shows up through Delve however, I can’t say I’ll be surprised.
If you want to discover a little more on what’s coming or existing features in Office 365, here are a few posts that may help:
Office 365 Redefines Knowledge Management (Boards, Articles, Microsites, InfoPedia explained)
What is Office 365 – recording of an hour long grand tour