May 272013

As last year, I attended (most of) this years Digital Workplace 24 hours long webinars. Here are a couple of notes…

For those of you who don’t know what this is about, The Digital Workplace 24 (#DW24) is an on-line event for companies’ intranet managers, designers and other interested parties where in the form of hourly web sessions companies intranets are showcased and talks are held around applications and methodologies around the intranet topic.

For people like me, managing, planning and designing a company intranet this is a very interesting event, because it is a chance to have a look in the kitchen of companies that have some very innovative and well adopted among the staff.

This year, the line-up was quite impressive, with intranets from IKEA, Virgin Media, Barclay’s and Coca-Cola among many others.

digital workplace 24 banner This year, there was a clear focus on the “The Social Intranet” Something that was already quite present last year, but now it has come out of the buzzword phase and most of the intranets that where showcased had some very heavy social elements.

The new Buzzword this year is gamification. A few of the Intranets already had some elements of gamification implemented, others where starting to. Personally I find this an interesting topic, as Gamification (is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context in order to engage users and solve problems source: Wikipedia) used in intranets is directly linked to adoption.

An example of Gamification that stood out was around the use of Badges (a badge for reaching an X amount of comments, Completing your profile, …) This very much in the same way a site like Foursquare.

Another thing that stood out was the openness of a few intranets. Most companies had no (or hardly any) content filtering wile having an outfacing intranet. This is a daring step for a company to take as you can not predict how your employees behave, but the trust shown in the employee this way is a very motivational factor and in most cases works as a commercial as this steers the employees in giving positive feedback of their jobs and employer.

I am surprised with the speed companies are adopting these things. Mainly because working for a large company on their intranet, I am suffering the reluctance to moving forward on a daily basis. This is also budget related. The amount of money spent on licencing etc. is quite large and a lot of large companies are not having the best economic panorama to spend enormous amounts on a “Social version of the companies main information management tool”.

This brings me to the next point. It was not mentioned, but I did see a few non-SharePoint based intranets. I believe this to be due to the licencing and operational costs of the later Microsoft SharePoint versions and also because there are some quite complete and well working competitors on the market now. Jive, Cisco, SAP and IBM are introducing some really interesting players to the game. I am looking forward how this develops as this will force the Microsoft being the current market leader to move a bit faster and respond to trends like gamification faster that it used to do.

If you also joined the #ib24 or have a question around any of the things mentioned here, feel free to comment below. I have to admit I dozed off during a couple of sessions but did watch most of it so I might have to refer to the collection of recorded videos the Digital Workplace Group posted here:

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Apr 152013
Worldwide Intranet Challenge Logo

Worldwide Intranet Challenge LogoHere is a list with the questions asked in the survey for the most valuable intranets for 2012 as identified by the Worldwide Intranet Challenge (WIC). Tips from the top 3 organisations of the 50 highly ranked ones are also provided through the survey and I have added some where I felt I safely could.

To be fair, most of these items are common sense. Also, I’d like to think that although lately there is a large movement to more social intranets (this can be seen in the points below) many large organisations have a slow and painful decision making process which delays these changes and “revolutionary” ideas from appearing in the real world in a larger scale.

Also, you should keep in mind that some of these points are based on an ideal-world environment. One where there is no need for the intranet to sit behind strict corporate firewalls and licensing costs don’t block technological advance.

I like the intranet home page

  • Provide a continuous stream of fresh and relevant content
  • Provide personalised content. For example: news, work tasks, calendar entries
  • Make sure there is some fun and/or non-work related on the home page

 I can personalise the intranet

  • Make the personalisation automatic (for example: deliver news updates based on a person’s profile)
  • Give people the ability to add their own links to the home page

 I can find the information I need on the intranet

  • Provide access to the most important content from the intranet home page
  • Do not confuse collaboration content with ‘approved’ and qualified content – ensure the two content types are clearly demarcated
  • Be fanatical about archiving and removing redundant content and content that doesn’t get used

 Publish content

  • Make it easy for everyone in the organisation to publish content
  • Make sure the published content ends in the right place (everyone would like to be on the front page)

 Discuss work topics

  • Online discussion and collaboration is more cultural than technical
  • Senior leadership MUST set the example
  • Discussion tools need to be easy to use, preferably integrated with email

 Collaborate with other staff online

  • Complete online forms
  • Implement the most popular forms first to obtain buy-in
  • Integrate forms with job tasks

Find instructions for completing work tasks

  • Help employees on their “1st Day” or job transfer
  • Make knowledge easily available

 Staff details

  • Complete as many profile details as possible from existing HR systems
  • Allow staff to update their own details
  • Run a competition where the winner only gets a prize if their staff details are up-to-date
  • Include photos of staff (if possible and making sure legal requirements are met)
  • Integrate ‘linkable’ staff names with other content types (for example: links to intranet pages, documents)

 News about our organisation & industry

  • Most important is to have a regular supply of quality news stories
  • Analyse effectiveness of news stories – which stories are popular, who are the popular authors,
  • News items need to have clear objectives (for example: to improve employee engagement, to make staff aware of process changes)

A repository of re-usable documents

  • Don’t just simply provide a huge list of un-indexed documents – ensure there is appropriate meta data assigned so staff can locate the documents they need to meet their specific requirements
  • Archive old documents
  • Index documents by the roles and activities they support. For example: sales proposals should be indexed by Sales Team

Information about our products/services

  • Ensure front line staff have easy access to this information
  • Ensure that if product or service information is updated, there is a way for staff to acknowledge that they are aware of the change and can ask for additional help if needed
  • Maintain not only your own product/service information but also an overview of your competitors. This way your staff will know how your product/service is superior.

Information about our customers

  • People need to know who they work with/for
  • Generate consciousness  around customers activities, pains and worries

Information for new starters

  • Created a page specifically for new starters
  • Create an electronic checklist of tasks to be completed within the first few days and make it available from the intranet

Content on the intranet is accurate

  • Use automated reminders to ensure content authors acknowledge that their content is still relevant
  • Conduct regular content audits – review usage reports
  • Provide a feedback mechanism for staff to report out-of-date content
  • Ensure collaborative and ‘work-in-progress’ type content is clearly separated from the ‘official’ quality intranet content. Use the analogy of the factory and a retail outlet to explain these different content types

I can see what’s new or what’s changed on the intranet

  • Provide weekly email updates about what’s new or updated on the intranet – do not send more than one a week as staff will get sick of them
  • Provide a dedicated page on the intranet where staff can see not only what items have been added or changed but also a brief description of the change

The intranet is always available (the following questions are out of 2)

  • People start relying on the information in the intranet very quickly. Make sure that it is always available to prevent staff to go back to storing locally or looking for things on network drives.

Pages on the intranet load quickly

  • Buy the IT team a cappuccino every Friday morning
  • Buy the best hardware available
  • Ensure the intranet has its own dedicated server

 I can access the intranet off-site

  • Organisational culture needs to support flexible working and have trust in staff – more important than the technology

Access the intranet using a mobile device

  • Implement just a few simple mobile intranet applications – don’t expect staff to troll through 1000’s of intranet pages on their mobile phone

Overall value (out of 4)

  • Focus on helping staff complete business tasks more effectively
  • Engage and interact with staff through discussion forums, activity streams and other interactive methods
  • Have solid intranet governance processes in place that are embedded in the organisational roles and responsibilities
  • Have visible support from senior management and the CEO


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Apr 152013
Intranet Tower Defense

Intranet Tower DefenseMy whole job is to manage our intranet. I am a desktop Tower Defense Master!

I just realised today that our intranet (WSS 3.0 on a virtual server, used by approx 700 employees) is up and running without any problems since January 2010! I’ll be looking for some wood to touch now 😉


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May 182011


I have to admit I dozed off for a bit and missed a few presentations… Shame! I did record them and will listen to them soon.

The Organisation of the whole event was great, the ease of participating, and the feedback by Q&A all very informative. There were several intranet sites of different levels, a few of them I already had the “pleasure” of working with:

British American Tobacco. I worked for BAT as a 2nd Line support analyst and also ran a few projects for their support services. That was around the time, new designs where implemented and the intranet started to get the professional look it has now.

Also as a Domino applications developer an intranet site running on Lotus Domino v7 is a real challenge as building web enabled and dynamic applications on that platform is close to Chinese torture. Therefore, I really liked how far they managed to stretch the capabilities.

British Telecom. As one of our customers I had seen some parts of the intranet site, but the complete overview was quite good. I liked their focus on micro-blogging and the use of RSS to push news out. Also their BTpedia knowledge wiki was an impressive demonstration of corporation without too much control in a corporate environment that gives a clear advantage to the business.

Aside from those, I liked the overview of Aviva, the first presented, which had an impressive presence of their forum, which, aside from a set of guidelines was a clearly open interaction between all employees.

The Yammer overview was good and gave us all a lot of arguments to convince company management for the implementation of any social elements to the intranet we work on.

News feeds where also very well demonstrated by Reynolds Porter Chamberlain who had a very nice embedded newsreader that was customised for each employee when joining the organisation. Aside from that the focus was more on the social aspect than on the news.

The social element was the core of the presentation by the National Field team. They demonstrated a site that resembled facebook/Yammer a lot! I believe that this would cause a huge drop in productivity in a business environment, but doe fit the culture and situation very well. The positive side of this is that the adoption by staff is easy as the environment is recognisable.

In the talk about Open Leadership from Charlene Li, one of the phrases that caught my attention was “CEO’s are terrified of losing control… But they don’t have control anyway!” She also gave a lot of arguments for a more social environment where control is loosened and cooperation is made easier.

Google showed lots of slides, and a bit of MOMA, their intranet based mainly (could not be different) based on search. Understandable when you hear about the amount of Data that they manage, but disappointing as most of us where hoping for a look in the kitchen.

Lovemachine and oDesk, both where very aligned to what they believe the intranet should be in the future, I liked that. Social and Open and this way removing any remains of Silos that could be limiting employees’ productivity and creativity.

That’s what I made notes of, I followed quite a few more, but I could not write anymore and eventually dosed off… hopefully the recordings will be online soon and we can have a look at the ones we missed and review the ones that really caught our attention.

General Highlights:

– Everyone was talking about the business need while maintaining:

– Accent on Social media implementations

– Accent on Openness and removing strict control

– In general Intranets are starting to look better and are more adapted to the company image while maintaining functionality and easy adoption.

Some Downsides

  • 24 hours is a Long run!
  • Enormous Sharepoint presence, I feel a bit of fear that Microsoft will soon dominate this market soon too, if not already. A lack of Google to give a compelling presentation did not help. BAT showed quality resistance though with their Lotus Domino based intranet.
  • Would have loved to record sound and image locally. I can imagine that the amount of participation and the value of the event would have dropped though.

Overall this was a great experience which I hope to repeat next year.

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May 132011


I’ve signed up for this years’ IBF-24 Event.

IBF 24 is a FREE 24 hour online interactive broadcast from the Intranet Benchmarking Forum, showcasing live intranet tours and the latest from industry thought leaders.

I believe this to be a unique peak in to the kitchens of the bigger companies’ intranets, their communication strategies and tools and the implementation of social tools.

The latter is especially something I’m interested in as there is some resistance within a lot of bigger companies to many of these tools because they put the emphasis on the word “Social” while the core functionality allows easier and more fluid communication among staff.

The sit is quite long, as it goes around the world and around the clock. For people in the same time zone as me, it’s running from 12.00 noon on the 17th of May to 12 the next day!

I have made a selection of the ones I am most interested in and would like to follow. Because of the schedule posted on the site, contains the times in the different time zones, I’ve added the GMT+2 Local time (where I’m currently at). This can help you to convert them all to your own a bit easier.

More information here:

My Schedule:

IBS-24 2011
12.00 – 13.00 Welcome to IBF 24
Co-anchors: Paul Miller & Paul Levy

Guest hosts: Amy Kornbluth, Rebecca Richmond & Sharon
13.00 – 14.00 BT live intranet tour
Richard Dennison showcases the BT intranet, consistently
one of the world's best. As well as covering some
of the main features, Richard will talk about the
roll-out of SharePoint 2010 My Profile pages, and
also cover the take-up of Office Talk, Microsoft's
enterprise micro-blogging product
14.00 – 15.00 "What CEOs Want", Rebecca Richmond from Melcrum
Rebecca Richmond, Group Director of Research & Content
at Melcrum, talks about what CEOs want from internal
communications and relevant channels such as intranets.
Melcrum have interviewed CEOs from around the world
and Rebecca will reveal what internal comms functions
are doing and need to do to meet their expectations.
British American Tobacco live intranet tour
Richard Hare takes us on a tour of Interact, British
American Tobacco's intranet. Built entirely in-house
using Notes Domino, Richard will show how Connect,
a social networking tool, has evolved to be the
platform's centerpiece. Richard will also talk about
how personalisation and a recent project to standardise
design have helped Interact to balance both central
and end market expectations.
17.00 – 18.00 National Field / Organizing for America
Organizing for America and National Field tell the
fascinating story of how they built a social collaboration
platform during the Obama presidential campaign,
providing an essential communication tool to coordinate
the efforts of millions of volunteers. We'll get
a demo of the OFA social network, hear about its
unique hierarchical structure and how National Field
is now bringing that approach to the enterprise.
19.00 – 20.00 Google
Google opens their doors for an hour to give us
an in-depth look on how they innovate and collaborate
day in and day out. We'll hear about the culture
of innovation at Google and how this manifests itself
in different programs. We'll have live demos of
some of the Apps they use, and a live tour of Google's
intranet, MOMA. We'll learn about Google's internal
mobile app store and hear about how Google's powerful
search underpins their collaboration efforts.
20.00 – 21.00 Booz Allen Hamilton live intranet tour
Walton Smith takes us on a tour of Booz Allen Hamilton's
award-winning intranet "Hello." Walton will show
us how they have successfully integrated a number
of best-of-breed collaborative tools built in Open
Source into their SharePoint environment, an achievement
recognized in their Enterprise 2.0 award.
21.00 – 22.00 Duke Energy live intranet tour
Martha Brown and James Bowen present a live tour
of Duke Energy's intranet, named one of Jakob Nielsen's
top ten intranets of 2011. Martha and James will
show how a combination of clever homepage formatting,
people-centric features, good search, task oriented
navigation and a robust content management model
has resulted in a highly successful intranet.
23.00 – 00.00 Megan Berry, KLOUT
Megan Berry is the Affiliate Marketing Manager at
Klout, a US-based company which measures influence
of social media channels including Twitter and Facebook. 
Megan will demonstrate how Klout calculates its
scores and how this is being used by businesses.
01.00 – 02.00 Tibbr
Tibbr claims to be "the first social computing tool
specifically built for the workplace that allows
the right information to find you."  Rather
than follow people you can follow activity streams
by subject, event, and even internal-facing applications. 
We'll get a live demo of Tibbr and hear how it is
being used in different organizations, including
Tibco itself
04.00 – 05.00 Google live intranet tour
We're going to take a second tour around Google's
intranet MOMA and some of their related workplace
technologies, with a benefit of any input and questions
which arose from the first tour
06.00 – 07.00 Michael Sampson

Michael Sampson is a New Zealand-based Collaboration
Strategist who advises end-user organizations all
over the world.  He is also the author of several
works including "User Adoption Strategies." 
Michael will talk to us about how to drive user
adoption in social tools and intranets.
NPS live tour
Jess Wong, SharePoint Developer / Administrator
at NPS will show us their intranet, freshly upgraded
to SharePoint 2010.  NPS has more than doubled
in size over the past few years, so Jess has built
in a number of features to help welcome new employees
to NPS and help people in their different office
locations feel connected to each other and to the
organization.  This tour is a must-see for
anyone involved with SharePoint.
07.00-08.00 European Space Agency live intranet tour
Chloe Chavardes (based in Paris) and Sarah Muirhead
(based in Holland) take us on a tour of the European
Space Agency intranet.  A previous winner of
IBF 24's own "My Beautiful Intranet" contest, Chloe
and Sarah will show us how a combination of content,
useful apps and community tools helps bring an organization
spread over several countries together.
Dirk W. Bijl
Dutch consultant and author, Dirk Bijl, talks about
the "Het Nieuwe Werken" movement and the themes
of his new book, "Journey towards the New World
of Work".  HNW is a big theme in the Netherlands
– a holistic view of the future of work which encompasses
improved office design, technology, remote working,
HR policy and management philosophy.  Dirk
will tell us why the Netherlands leads the world
in this area and how it is being applied by many
09.00 – 10.00 IKEA live intranet tour
Susanne Rolf will take us on a tour of the IKEA
intranet. Susanne will show how the company managed
to establish a common navigation across all its
countries and divisions for one true intranet, and
how translation tools and accurate employee profiling
helped achieve this. Susanne will also highlight
some recent improvements and planned changes.
10.00 – 11.00 Oxfam International live intranet tour
Pilar Barroso
from Oxfam International shares a live tour of their
new intranet and global platform "Sumus" which has
been built in Drupal, a potential Open Source alternative
to SharePoint. Pilar will take us through some of
Sumus' key features and talk about the challenges
of implementing a platform across a federation of
member organizations.
11.00 – 12.00 Elegant tweeting contest results
Who's produced the most elegant tweet over the past
24 hours?  We'll be announcing the winner.
My Beautiful Intranet results
The announcement of the winner and a review of the
best entries into our regular beauty contest. 
Who has the most beautiful intranet home page?
Final reflections and wrap-up
The past 24 hours in review and a final word from
IBF's CEO and founder, Paul Miller.

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Mar 162011

It’s been a while since I posted about the evolution of the corporate intranet I am working on for the last 2 years. Because these posts cover only a few things that happened over time and are spread across these 2 years, I’ll try re-cap the most important steps of the evolution here:


0 – Start

We started building our first Sharepoint services server 2 years ago. We are an office that is part of a major IT Services Company and the Global Intranet did not serve it’s purpose in many way’s:

  • Site was too head-office centred, Most of the available information was not applicable to oversees users.
  • Site was too corporate. Staff does not want to log on every morning, open their browser and read the same story from the director. Staff needs information that is applicable to them.
  • Centralised Ownership. This cause a small team of administrators to have too much work to be able to maintain the site. the result was that a lot of information was out of date and updates took too long to be published.

With the above points as the main ones, we took the decision we needed an intranet tool to manage our information. Since the company decided around that time to stop using Lotus Notes and Domino servers for our Email and switch to exchange, we had the opportunity to have a look at Microsoft’s options.(The original Idea was to build the intranet on a Lotus Domino 7 server).

A very convenient side-effect was, that while I was working as a technical Lead and was not really line-managed by anyone, after 2 weeks in this situation,  I started looking into this out of boredom. This to my managers’ credit :)

Since this was not something coming from the main organisation, there was a very limited budget available. After investigation of the different flavours we could go for, we found that we could get most of the required functionality or value for money from the Microsoft Windows Sharepoint Services, that is included for free with a Windows Server licence.


1 – First Intranet server launched

Shortly after making the decision, we drafted a layout, checked in with the different teams and departments for their requirements and started building.

We had a virtual Windows 2003 server set-up, completely standard. Then we ran the manage this server wizard and turned it in to a Application server running Windows Services. Bang!, we had an Intranet.

The site grew very fast. Mainly (I Like to believe) due to the empowerment we implemented on site-ownership and the lack of a communication platform for the last years.


2 – First Crash

And Bang! 2 months after we lost the intranet. Our Networking team pushed a set of updates causing the server to reboot. This happened right in the middle of a backup I scheduled.

Result: Server Unreachable, Backup Corrupted. “Of course, resilience!” There was a lot to learn and improve here.


3 – Second Server

From the previous lesson, we’ve learnt a lot:

  • Confirm Successful Backups frequently and store them away.
  • Save Custom lists as Personal Web Packages.
  • For minimal resilience, you need a failover server.

These are the core lessons we learned from this exercise. When we started re-building we actually had no map or plan whatsoever. This made this lesson even more valuable.


It took me about a month to have the site rebuilt. More or less as it was before. We ordered a second server to work as a failover and made sure our backups are copied to a remote location.


4 – Site will go Global

We are now almost 2 years away from all the previous. In the meantime we did quite some spectacular things with our Intranet. Especially if you take in account that we did not have anything in place before.

Most of these things are things that help us as employees on a daily basis or workflows that automate manual tasks for us. We started looking into the processes and managed to make most of them quite a bit. Because we used WSS out of the box on a small VM Server, we decided that document storage should not be used yet. Basically because of lacking processes and policies and the 4GB size limitations on the SQL express database.

As a result from this, more and more people from other parts of the company started to take interest in our site. Communication, Cooperation , Automation where things that was quite new to them.

I was approached by different business units from within the company to set-up similar sites to ours for their teams and eventually link them through in a main portal sites.


In the meantime, somewhere else in the company a new intranet environment was being developed….

Continue reading »

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Oct 272009

As I mentioned in one of the last posts, we released the first build of our Intranet site, built on Windows Sharepoint Services.

The release went very well. Mainly because of the preparation and planning on forehand. I am now (2 months down the line) seeing some things that could have gone a bit faster or differently.

We built and configured the server first, set up the outgoing mail settings, and the main structure of the site. After that we started setting up all the standard content for the sub sites, such as the calendars, some templates and so on.

When the main structure was set-up, we moved to the front page. We made a static block in which we added a lot of links to pages we believed would be either difficult to find or needed more attention. Also we created templates for the announcements from different departments.

When we where ready, we organised small sessions in which the team leaders could go, or send people from their teams to. Since we are mainly a call-center, it si hard to get people off the phone, so these sessions took about 30 minutes and spanned the whole day during 4 day’s. This, we believed, would give everybody interested the chance to have a look.

To remove administrative overhead, and also make sure the intranet will be used by the staff (of all levels) we decided to ask for volunteers in each team to administrate their account sites. This generated some quite positive feedback, and within a week, I had the team of administrators complete.

This created a small gap. I did not expect to have the team of admins ready that soon. Therefore, had no training material ready yet. The problem here is, that as soon as the site went online, the last think I want to think about now is writing How-To documents!  Therefore, be advised, make sure all documentation is ready before!

For the launch we started 3 competitions:

  • The Naming competition, to get a name for our intranet, untill now we where still using the server name to access.
  • The Logo or Template Design competition and a
  • Bug Hunt. I hid images of little bugs in the site, and people had to find one, and accompany it’s location with a real Bug in the site.

The Bug hunt, really helped me a lot in the first day’s to get a list of all the little things I still had to work on/fix. To be honest I can really recommend something alike.

These competitions really helped to get most of the people online. That together with the Site-Admins, coming from all levels in the organisation and from all teams.

Aside from the standard set-up, I have also been creating some List templates, for things we know will be used in several Sites, and can be easily set-up this way. Examples are FAQ, Policies & Procedure Libraries, etc.

Resuming the first two months, I am very impressed by the capabilities of WSS, out of the box. Also about the manageability and ease with you can set up basic lists forms and such. Well, the fact of me, Solo, running an intranet for 350 employees divided in 25 teams while developing applications speaks for itself.

I am sure that my enthusiasm for this platform will diminish, as soon as I will try to customise a bit further than the help-file likes… after all, this is a Microsoft product 😉

At the moment, I am looking into two different things. I am trying to find out how (if..?)  the custom workflows work, and trying to publish a .Net application I built in the sharepoint site as a webpart.

To be continued…!

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May 062009

This morning I finished building the WSS Webserver we will use to build our intranet on. To be fair, it was very straight forward and did not gave me any issues aside form the speed, as I was working on a VM copy of the real server.

I made a virtual copy of the live server, to do a test run of the set-up. I used the VMware converter which is simple to use, and gives me an exact copy of the live server. I used this to complete the setup and configuration. This way, if any problems appear, I am aware of them and can prevent them from occurring on the live machine.

I did however encounter one small issue, which is completely my “fault”. I did not check in advance how to set up the email configuration for outgoing and incoming mail. The server is a standalone installation, not part of a farm, and I believe the WSS server, although standalone, should be able to benefit from the UK exchange environment for the mailing purposes.

Another thing I now have to have a look at is the way we will “upload” the custom applications we will be building. My best guess is that we will set up a site in IIS for each which we will link to from within the WSS site. However, I would have to have a look on how this can be done. Shared folder, Frontpage extensions, don’t know yet. We will be developing in wither visual studio, or on the VS Web developer express edition, and I’m not 100% sure what is the best way to publish the applications we build in there.

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