Today we announced that our DotNetNuke Module for syncing to outlook was updated to DNN 6. Check out the details here.
“is there anyone who is not trying to sell me their product, that has done something interesting with CRM and Silverlight?”
Well yes there is…
InteractiveWebs have done several interesting projects with Silverlight as an interface to Microsoft CRM.
One of the most interesting of these is a Silverlight membership login system for a grain trading company based in Australia. The business is an organisation that trades produce in a similar way to how shares are traded in the stock market. The difference being that the commodity being traded has been grown by “growers” (farmers) and represents the produce that their farm has for sale in the open grain trade market.
Interestingly, Microsoft CRM is being used entirely for the backend management of this trading. This is quite complex in it’s design as you can imagine would be the case if you were running a stock exchange using CRM.
Entities are being used to track the bidding for sales and purchasing of hundreds of different qualities of different grains, at different locations over an entire country.
Of note to the Silverlight interface, is the fact that there are an ever increasing number of records within this system in the order of 65,000,000 records of some CRM Entities.
About the Silverlight Interface
In it’s simplest function, the Silverlight interface is a membership system.
Allowing users to login and manage the buying and selling of commodities. Very similar to how users of a Stockbroking system would login and buy and sell their shares. But of course the user data is all being driven from a CRM backend running CRM 2011 with IFD.
The membership login is using custom attributes within CRM Contacts to authenticate and allow login.
Once logged in the user can modify personal details that are saved back to the CRM Contact entity.
Data is retrieved live using XRM to interface with CRM on the fly. Silverlight gives a clean and robust interface for users.
Other Types of Data Retrieval
Just like with the sale of share, there is some paperwork generated with the buying and selling of commodities. Broker Notes, Freight Invoices, and Monthly trade Statements are example of just a few. Originally the thought was to interface with a Microsoft SharePoint server to store the related .PDF documents generated for these items. Instead we took the simpler approach of attaching the .PDF documents to the relevant records in the custom entities that are used to track each trade.
This data is simply stored as CRM Notes with Attached Files (.pdf) to the custom Entities.
Then in the Silverlight interface we allow users to open (on the fly) these notes and attached .pdf files to view the “paperwork” associated with each sale.
Summary data is presented that is referencing custom attribute data, and able to be exported live from Silverlight to Excel.
Or clicking on the PDF icon, will open the associated attached note from CRM and open the .pdf record live.
Creating CRM Records from Silverlight with XRM
Growers of commodities can create new stock records, listing the gran they have, quality, quantity, location etc in a simple user interface.
Listing too the price they wish to achieve in order to sell the produce.
Doing this creates a new record in a custom Entity in CRM directly, and this data is used in the bidding and selling process.
The data is available to Silverlight users in their record of stock.
Where is Gets Cool
So far, these are reasonably simple interfaces using XRM to CRM. Reading, writing, opening attached files etc. Where it gets interesting is in some real time graphing that we do to show bids on stocks / commodities.
For this we are needing to access tens of thousands of records that represent different bids for different commodities and work out on the fly the best or highest bid, and show that to the client in a fast loading graph.
This is where Silverlight and some cleaver XRM calls to some cleaver processes in CRM delivers a great result.
With the great graphing tools in Silverlight, the graph draws in real time and animates the loading of data. It has a full screen mode:
And is really a great use of Silverlight for this particular task.
Best of All it Runs Out of Browser
One of the features we built on this interface is the ability to “Run Out of Browser”. So the client can right click the interface and select to “Install to this computer”.
This adds the project to an Out of Browser Silverlight experience that can be launched as any other application or program from your computer.
This feature of Silverlight can run on a Mac or PC, and delivers an experience for end users that is very similar to having a membership program installed on your computer.
The project will auto update if we modify the web based source version with a new release automatically. The client is promoted with a messaging saying the program will close to update, then opens with the new version automatically. Truly using the best experience that Silverlight has to offer.
Uninstalling the out of browser app is as simple as a right click in the app, and selecting from a dropdown “Remove this application”.
Kind of like a windows 8 experience with any pc.
Thoughts on this and Silverlight for Microsoft CRM.
Silverlight… ahhh what to say about Silverlight….. where to start.
1. We drank the Kool Aid. Microsoft told us how great Silverlight would be, how it would segregate the design team from the development team and deliver the benefits of keeping people within their specializations.
2. We spend years of time investing in Silverlight development. We get it, we can work with it and we can do amazing things with it. This and other cool projects including a MS Pivot interface to DotNetNuke and Microsoft CRM data.
MS Pivot and CRM
3. We kicked it’s butt. We were able to deliver anything we wanted using Silverlight and made it interface with a multitude of data sources at multiple times using XRM and other web services to pull data from both CRM and other data sources.
And after all that… I can say with some authority. Silverlight is dead!
We get it, we can do it, we hate it and we regret the time we wasted after Microsoft mislead us into their Silverlight sphere.
Silverlight never came close to delivering on any of the promises that Microsoft made about it.
It is tricky to develop in, it is poorly supported by even Microsoft, design tools are definitely lacking greatly, the development experience was a mine field of poorly documents bugs and broken features that required time and commitment to untangle the crap that Microsoft produced.
It was amazing to us how many things we were doing and solving that literally no one else was talking about. We felt like the first team walking on the Silverlight moon at every step of the way.
The end result is something that we are proud of. There are some cool features that we think make the project example above shine. But for all the time, and trouble invested to deliver it, it is just not worth it!
If looking at this and other similar projects again, we would use other technology to more quickly develop a very similar experience. There quite simply is nothing in Silverlight in interfacing with CRM that we can do easier other ways.
So there you have it. A good example of Silverlight with CRM, and the reason why we would suggest you use other technology yourself.
And check out that Silverlight Pivot link above. It is actually very cool too in what it does and how it does it. We have rigged this to work against any internet facing CRM environment including the Microsoft Hosted CRM.
Contact Us for CRM Development
We wrote this to help someone asking for a non commercial plug for a Silverlight in CRM example. We hope the above meets the requirement of that… but we are a development and CRM business, so we need to mention that if you need some cleaver interfacing with CRM. Then please contact us here http://www.interactivewebs.com/ContactUs.aspx.
We have other examples to show too.
Of particular interest on the site is a new module or ours soon to be released to the DotNetNuke Community called Mushroom Video Module.
The module will feed Youtube Play Lists from youtube.com directly into your site in an easy to manage and easy to use video feed.
The end result of the feeds looks like this:
With the video feeds being selected directly from a play list selector button that referenced a YouTube account name.
The module also uses the template system developed by InteractiveWebs for the display system that allows simple to load templates to be customized to the users requirements.
An example of the module with multiple feeds onto a single page is this one: http://www.networkyou.org/Network/Professionals/VideoTopics.aspx
We will be releasing the module to the public in the next few weeks. We would love to hear any comments!
Steps to add an Attachment Field to Feedback Designer Module for DotNetNuke.
- Select Configure Module
- Select Add Edit Form Items
- Enter a Name for the Field (Like Upload File, or Attachment etc.)
- Select Add – To add the filed to the Existing Form Items
- Use the up or down arrows to position the filed where you would like it.
- Back and back
The result is a form with file upload ability. The attachment is sent as an email attachment.
Please contact us for additional DotNetNuke Support requirements.
The Bulk Email module for DotNetNuke has a feature known as Bounce Email Monitoring, and it is probably a good idea to understand what it does and how it does it so we can explain how best to configure it.
Sending a Bulk Email Message
When an email message is generated using the DotNetNuke Bulk Email Module, a list of all the email addresses that you have selected from multiple sources is generated into a database.
The lists that you select can include.
- Website Users
- Custom Lists that you import
- Microsoft CRM Marketing Lists
- Imported contacts from email programs
- Custom typed email address
Once the list is complied, email addresses are removed.
- Email addresses on the unsubscribed list
- Email addresses on the bounce email list (that meet the requirements set)
Then the email messages are sent out and ticked off as being sent.
You can see that bounced email addresses will only be removed if they are on the bounced email list, and have bounced to a count matched the settings configured.
How the Bounce Email List is Generated and Counted
Periodically, the module will use the setting for the POP 3 account to look for email messages that it can add as a bounce. To do this, it will download all messages in the mailbox and look using some complex searching tools for email messages that appear to have bounced back from a failed send attempt.
Unfortunately email servers report bounce messages in different ways, so the code that reads the email messages and looks for bounce backs is long and complex. For this reason, the process of finding bounce messages should be kept to a minimum to reduce the load on the server.
The best way to reduce load is to minimise the number of mail messages that the process needs to check.
The best way to do this is three fold.
- Send email from a unique email address that suggests no normal communication should run through that account. firstname.lastname@example.org is my suggestion. That way the only email messages in that mailbox should only ever be bounced messages.
- Delete processes messages. The module can do this for you, but if the mailbox is a normal account, then ensure it is basically kept empty.
- Manually delete messages that are not bounce messages. If you intent to use a general account, then you should keep it as free as possible from general communications.
What happens if you don’t do this?
The process of downloading thousands of email messages, checking them all and processing them all can take hours. It will put a huge load on both the web server and your email server. It will increase your data transfer costs both on your web and email server.
So follow the suggestions and the result should be clean and fast.
Want to know more about email messaging in DotNetNuke.
Today we updated some code in our Contact Details module for DotNetNuke.
The module makes it easy to add your contact details to a page in DNN.
There is a map control function that uses Bing Maps that can be seen in the demo here: http://www.interactivewebs.com/contactdetails/Demo.aspx
We have updated the module today to support the use of SSL or https connections to the page that contains the module.
How we did this
So here are the two ways to add the Bing Ajax control to your page in HTTP or HTTPS:
Now on the HTTPS version notice I changed the URL to start with HTTPS, this is what pulls from the secure site over at the good Bing folks. Also notice I added the “s” parameter and set it to 1, default is 0, this tells the Bing API to get the image tiles for the map from HTTPS.
Why? you ask.
Today we have added support to the DotNetNuke Bulk Emailer module for WebFarms.
We have identified a feature of Bulk Emailer for DotNetNuke that has caused some issues with the running of the module on a WebFarm.
There is an automatic enable feature that checks when you start a bulk email message that the scheduler for the module in the Host / Scheduler is enabled. If it is not enabled, the module will enable it.
With WebFarms there are two processes that run at the same time.
This will cause duplication of sending email messages.
The solution is easy… just disable one of the schedule processes. However this will be automatically re-enabled by the module.
To solve this we have added an option to the Bulk Emailer Settings. This option enables you to tick that you are using a WebFarm, stopping the automatic enabling of iWebs BulkEmailer EmailSchedule process.
Additional Steps Required
After you enable WebFarm mode, you will need to go into the Host Scheduler processes and disable all but one of the multiple processes for the iWebs BulkEmailer EmailSchedule.
The result will be that only one of the schedulers run and only one email message will be sent.
The steps in setting up the Outlook Social Connector for DotNetNuke on your local computer.
The steps assume that you have installed the DNN website module by InteractiveWebs called the Outlook Social Connector.
1. Close Outlook
2. Start the MSI installer “Setup_DNNSocialConnector”
3. Select Next
4. Use the default path, or select one, then select – Next
5. Select Next when ready to proceed
6. Wait a bit
7. Select Close
8. Open Outlook and in the Mail view, find an email message and expand the view for the Social Connector.
9. Select the + symbol under the contact image, and select “on another social network” from the available list.
10. Select “iWebs – DNN Social Connector” from the available social connector plugins.
11. Fill in the connection settings for your DotNetNuke Website that has the iWebs – DNN Social Connector module installed. And admin or host account is needed. Click Connect
When you browse an email message from a user who is registered on your website, you will see the activity that they have taken on your site. This includes activity on security roles, DNN Forums Module, and if you have updated to our modified Documents Module, activity on that module too.
One of the most asked for features of the DotNetNuke user registration process is to allow users to register without the need for a user name.
Today we have added this feature to the DotNetNuke Advanced Login Module.
User Name Omission
Normally DotNetNuke requires a user name to be entered at registration. The Advanced Login Module will automatically create a DNN user name at registration time, even if the token for User Name is not included in the registration form. This way you can allow users to register with an email address and no user name, while in the background the Advanced Login Module handles the user name for you.
How It Works
If omitted from the registration form, the user name will be taken from the email address.
email@example.com for example will generate a user name using all data from before the @ symbol.
firstname.lastname@example.org = david as the user name.
If david is already taken as a user name, then david-01 or david-02 etc. will be used automatically.
This keeps the username familiar to users should it ever be provided to them, yet keeps the registration process as simple as possible.
The module is available as a Free DNN Module trial on our site.
We have found an issue that would prevent the Google Analytics report module from rendering in certain websites under certain conditions.
The symptoms of the issue are that the module reports “invalid data” when you have configured the module settings.
If you experience this error messages, then the solution is easy…
Ensure you have a version of the module that is later than 45.06.02 – Available from our website as a download here: http://www.interactivewebs.com/DotNetNukeModules/ModuleDownloads.aspx
Then after updating, you need to check the option that says: “Render Chart from Control”
This should allow the chart to report past the Invalid data error.
The error relates to the DotNetNuke Alias redirection settings in the DNN Site Admin settings, and appears to be when a redirection has been defined in the settings.
If the redirection is turned to none, this should also fix the error.
Alternatively it appears to have been fixed in DotNeTNuke release 06.01.01. But who is to day that the issue will not creep into later releases of the module.