My #SPC14 treasure map – mapping out the Expo hall!

So I have an early draft of my expo hall treasure map mapped out! Do you have yours?

#SPC14 expo hall treasure map
#SPC14 expo hall treasure map

One tip I’ve read repeatedly is to know how to navigate between the various session rooms and the expo hall efficiently. While I’m not aware of any map that’s available for the session rooms yet I’ve taken the time to map out the expo hall and contact some vendors to arrange meetings with them.

I’ve made use of the expo floor map that’s available through the MySPC website and used OneNote on my Surface Pro to map out particular stands as a starting point as to where I will try to visit. I want to say hi to the folks who are partners with ClearPeople and those who I have worked with before as well as other vendors that interest me.

#SPC14 sessions spreadsheet updated, preparation tips and holiday advice wanted!

Update: 23/02/2014 I’ve updated the #SPC14 sessions spreadsheet one last time to include some missed sessions and a request to have sortable start and end dates.

With just under two weeks left to go until #SPC14 I would imagine a lot of you are running out of time fast trying to finalise your plans for the conference.

Updated sessions spreadsheet

To help I have updated my #SPC14 session spreadsheet again – it now includes time and room information for all the available sessions (as of 17/02/2014).

Spreadsheet containing all the SharePoint Conference 2013 sessions
Spreadsheet containing all the SharePoint Conference 2014 sessions

The spreadsheet of all the SPC14 sessions can be downloaded with this link.

Preparation tips

Since this is my first conference I’ve done plenty of reading about what to expect and how to prepare etc. There are some really great posts on Yammer and LinkedIn as well as guides such as Mark Freeman’s survival and readiness guide. Rather than rewrite what is already on the web I thought I would share a summary of the tips I keep seeing repeatedly.

Firstly I’ve filled my Outlook calendar with all the sessions I want to attend (including alternatives incase a session is not what I had thought it would be), meetings with partners and peers, agenda information such as #SPC14 organised events, social events I’m attending and breakfast and lunch times.

Participate in the community – join the #SPC14 Yammer network, LinkedIn network, follow the #SPC14 hashtag on Twitter and Facebook group. Reach out to your peers or those people’s blogs you regularly visit and see if you can meet-up to say hello and thanks for the help! Your welcome to ping me an email ( or a tweet (@jamescallaghan).

Make use of the MySPC App that has just been launched to organise your schedule beyond the capabilities of the spreadsheet I have produced.

Have your information cached or printed so that you can use it offline – I have read that the internet was extremely bad at previous conferences however it seems that Microsoft is not going to allow previous problems to be repeated this year.

Make sure you visit the exhibition hall – you never know who you might see not forgetting the #SPC14 swag you might find!

Post-conference holiday advice wanted!

Can you offer us any advice?

Travel guides

Travel guides

My partner and 6-month-old girl are joining me – we’re flying in from the UK and having a short holiday after the conference. We’re going to drive over to the Grand Canyon before heading across to Los Angeles and then San Francisco before flying home.

I’m looking for any great tips or suggestions for things we should do that we might have missed from the travel guides we are reading.

PS. Thanks for the traffic

I’ve been astonished at how popular my spreadsheet has been – I’ve had over 2,500 unique visitors since publishing it…that’s approximately 25% of the conference attendees!

Please do drop me a line or a tweet (@jamescallaghan) if you want to say hello! I look forward to seeing some of you at the conference.

I’m attending the SharePoint Conference 2014 #SPC14 in Las Vegas!

It is a very special day for me today – ClearPeople has just approved my trip to attend the SharePoint Conference 2014 (#SPC14). Thank you thank you thank you!


Each time the conference comes around I’d try to make a business case or as in recent weeks, plead to attend but for various reasons, it has never been possible. This year however the answer was yes!

It’s been a long wait but I think this is for the better – I have now far more experience with SharePoint than ever and feel that the company and I will gain more by attending this time around. My focus has shifted and I will no longer be attending the conference with just SharePoint in mind but instead with SharePoint, Cloud & Windows Azure, Office 365 & SharePoint Online and Yammer to think about!

A few highlights I am looking forward to:-

  • Meeting some of my peers who I have followed online for so long (Todd Klindt, Bill Baer, Wictor Wilén and Spencer Harbar to name a few)
  • Attending some of the outstanding sessions I’m sure the following speakers will be delivering such as Shane Young, Laura Rogers, Fabian Williams, Jennifer Mason, Andrew Connell and Joel Oleson
  • Sessions such as Office 365 identity federation using Windows Azure and Windows Azure Active Directory; Best practices for Information Architecture and Enterprise Search and Real-world SharePoint architecture decisions
  • Networking with other like-minded people
  • Obtaining the invaluable material that I will have access to through attending the conference
  • Learning more about what is or will become available to those who were wanting to pursue this certification now that the Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) programme is no more
  • Discovering what the next big thing for SharePoint might be?

I will be blogging about the conference no doubt before, during and after the event – you can follow all of this content with this tag #SPC14. The fun of organising this trip now begins!

One Canon in, one Canon out

Last week for my birthday I treated myself to a new Canon PowerShot SX280 HS digital camera and shelved my rather old and tied Canon IXUS 220 HS. This was in part because I could no longer look at blurred and distorted images. Before anyone comments this was not due to my shaky hands but instead because the camera has been a gem and put up with a battering over the last three years – in fact, I’m surprised it lasted this long!

Canon PowerShot SX280 HS
Canon PowerShot SX280 HS

By no means is this post going meant to be an in-depth feature-by-feature review – I read what felt like a million of these before deciding on this camera instead I’ve shared some of these review with you below. I wanted to use this post to share with you my first thoughts on this camera, how it immediately delivered on my surprise trip to Berlin for my Birthday and generally how excellent I think the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS is.

Berlin Christmas market

A lot of the reviews I read highlighted an issue with the firmware whereby the battery becomes flat after only a few seconds of video recording. With this in mind, I managed to update the firmware which fixed the issue and touch wood I’ve not had any problems thus far.

The reviews also advised purchasing a spare battery if you want to use the GPS logging feature due to how much battery the uses. As I quite liked the idea of using the GPS logger especially while on the trip to Berlin I brought a couple of spares!
Even with this feature enabled I was still getting pretty much two-thirds of a day of rather intensive use out of the camera but it was reassuring knowing I had a spare battery in my pocket. One thing to remember is to disable the GPS logger feature when you’re not using it as I forgot and after a few days of not using the Camera, I went to use it only to find the battery was flat.

GPS logger track
GPS logger track

Using the built-in WiFi you can share pictures and video to various services such as Facebook and Flickr. You have to configure these services on the camera via your computer which I found quite tedious even for me but after a little patience and perseverance, 30 minutes later I managed to set up all my sharing accounts. It’s really neat being able to sync pictures straight to my phone using the Canon CameraWindow iPhone app or send them straight to my Flickr account.

My favourite feature on the camera is the Hybrid Auto mode that records a small four-second video clip prior to every picture you take and these are then merged to form a movie of your day known as Movie Digest. I found that if you take lots of Hybrid Auto pictures it causes the camera to slow down while it saves and merges the movie and by using a high-speed SD card I was able to resolve this.

The 20x optical zoom on the camera is incredible but at this level of zoom, I found my best photos were those that I have taken with support from a Gorilla Grip tripod or similar.

One thing I would suggest is to play around with all the modes of the camera as there are a number of effects that you can apply to images along with some great functions that unfortunately are not so obvious until you navigate through the various menus.

Here are a few review sites for the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS that I found most useful – Photography BlogTechRadarGeekanoids.

I just love this camera, it has enough manual controls to keep me happy and the Hybrid mode is just perfect for instantly creating a fantastic video memory of pictures you’ve taken throughout the day. Changing from my old Canon to my new one was almost seamless with the way Canon has kept the user interface and controls very similar. The camera really lived up to all the reviews I read and even my expectations from Canon. Overall the camera was competitively priced against similar models on the market and with Canon throwing in £30 cashback, it’s a bargain.

Five out of five stars ***** from me!

Sloe Gin, 2013

The first batch of our sloe gin has been prepared and laid down until at least Christmas or should that be for as long as I can keep my hands off it!!!

The method I decided to use was to prick the sloes multiple times by hand with a fork and divide them between some lovely 1L Kilner bottles. I then filled the bottles up to one-third of there size with sloes and with two-thirds of Gordan’s gin.

The sloes
The sloes

The Method

I decided not to add any sugar at this stage as I wanted to allow the sugar from the sloes to be extracted first (I always find sloe gin to be on the sweet side and I have a very sweet tooth). That’s not to say I won’t be adding any sugar, but not for a few weeks at least and when I do I have been advised to either use honey or to heat the sugar in a small amount of water to allow the sugar to dissolve more easily before adding it to the gin. The bottles will be given the occasional shake and swirl to ensure that all that lovely flavour from the sloes mixes in properly.

Bottled sloe gin
Bottled sloe gin

I intend to leave the gin flavouring until Christmas (that’s almost three months!) and may even hold back one bottle longer to see how it changes even more time…but hopefully, I will be able to make a few more bottles over the coming weeks.

Beautiful red flavouring gin
Beautiful red flavouring Gin

I will report back later with how it tastes!!!