How to recover from stupidly over-coating your first FlexCoat.

First let’s look at my first coat of FlexCoat, which started off really quite nice, then got thick too soon & too fast… but I just HAD ot try to slobber it on and hope for the best.
Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid.
The result? As I worked from the rod’s butt to the tip, my coatings got progressively lumpy-er… and no amount of spinning on a dryer could fix it:
[cincopa AoIASe6p7YJf]

In the following pictures I’ll show you how I carefully used a common paint, varnish & epoxy stripping agent called Strip Fast, made by Zinsser. It can be found in any Menards or Home Depot or other hardware/construction store.

SlideShow 2

Strip Fast comes in an aerosol can, and is referred to as a “semi-paste”. This means that it sprays out of the can as a fluffy bubble-filled foam, not unlike gel-type shaving cream. However, what I found was that if I sprayed this gel-foam onto a sheet of aluminum foil, it would foam up quite alright. An amount equal to half of a golf-ball is more than sufficient for a first application to all the guides on a 9 ft rod. The great thing about stripping agents is there’s NO time crunch; one spray will stay wet and be useable for easily a full hour, so take your time….

After a minute or two the gel-foam settles, the bubbles pop, and it all turns into a marmalade-like gel. This is the best time to apply it. I found that the very one-use brushes everyone uses to apply FlexCoat are impervious to Strip Fast – you can use a single brush again & again & again, so just fold the brush’s tip into a small piece of aluminum foil to store it.

Carefully apply thin, precise coats on each of the epoxy wrapping you wish to remove. Almost immediately the gel will begin to react with the FlexCoat, causing lots of bubbles to pop up while the Strip Fast softens & loosens the FlexCoat. Wait about 5 minutes per wrapping, then take a small clean paper towel folded into quarters, wrap it ’round the wrapping and with a twisting motion wipe off the gel. There’s no magic method here; just wipe & wipe & wipe, and brush and get the gel off. Then apply another thin, careful coat right afterward. The FlexCoat will begin to wipe off easily – that’s the COOLEST aspect of this method: it’s PAINLESS. The thing you have to be CERTAIN of is to ONLY PUT THE GEL ON THE FLEXCOAT. Now that doesn’t mean the gelcoat will burn away your rod’s color coating, or soak in and damage the graphite in the blank… but being logical, why take the chance? It’s simply not necessary.

SlideShow 3

Anyway, a few applications of gel, and almost anti-climatically, the wraps become exposed, and easily loosened and unwound from the rod.

At this point any remaining FlexCoat can be scratched off with a fingernail or plastic knife. Don’t add any more StripFast gel unless absolutely necessary.

The last step is the cleaning. StripFast cleans with soap & water. Neither causes harm to your rod, so used both liberally to fully clean all the areas where the gel was applied. This is critical. You have to get ALL the Strip Fast off, or it will remain – hidden in places you can’t see – and slowly & irreparably EAT your rod. You don’t want that – it means at some point your rod is going to blow up, likely when you most need it to be strong.

Once you’ve cleaned & dried the rod, it’s time to simply re-wrap the guides, which goes pretty fast.

After wrapping & re-aligning, it’s time to try refinishing. In my case I realized that what I was seeking was a thinner, more traditional finish, so I used regular spar varnish. The remaining pictures what how the varnish looked – wonderful.

Thanks to everyone for their encouragement & suggestions. For those of you who haven’t tried stripping agents, I can tell you this: It’s been 2 full weeks now since I completely my final coats of varnish, and I’ve take the rod outside for test-casting with a much heavier line than normally. The rod’s strength appears to be completely preserved, so lucky me. It I had to relate any final advice I would only say this: stripping agent is blind & stupid; it eats whatever you put it on, for as long as you let it. Keep that in mind, have lots of sponges, warm water & soap handy, and if you ever find yourself needing to recover (even repeated times like me) from a bad FlexCoat, stripping agents like Strip Fast can be used very effectively.



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SECRET! SharePoint fastest, largest ROI can be done RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX

2011 01 20 MV to All: Yeah.. THAT got your attention.

The amazing thing is, it’s a completely true, defensible statement.

The greatest ROI SharePoint can offer comes when you accept the out-of-the-box functionality as-is, and simply GET BUSY USING it in the manner originally envisioned by Microsoft – FOR COLLABORATING.

Let me repeat myself clearly & unambiguously:


What the heck am I talking about?

Here’s what 10+ YEARS  of working almost exclusively with SharePoint NOT for its OWN sake, but to CHANGE the very manner in which ALL employees in ANY business actually INTERACT with each other:
1. ROI is RETURN on INVESTMENT; the more money/time/effort you put into something, the harder it is to reap a return on your investment. Duh. Therefore the converse is also true – the less time/money/effort you put into something, the easier it is to reap a return on your investment. Duh.

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MUST TRY: Camtasia video capture & editing software for SharePoint & other training videos

2011 01 13 MV to All: Just recently I was asked to prepare a set of SharePoint 2010 training materials, and recognized it was an excellent time to blog about one of my favorite tools in recent history – Techsmith’s Camtasia Studio.

Even after using it now for several years, I still find myself impressed at how useful it can be. I own only v5.01, and the current version is v7, but I tell you – I’ve never felt limited yet, and with a street price of $400 new, it’s actually easy to find a used LEGAL copy of v5.01 for under $100…

What does it do, and what does it look like?
Camtasia is a live screen-capture-to-video tool & editing suite. This makes it an amazingly simply yet powerful tool for doing live demos of ANY kind of software running on a computer – be it traditional “windows” or “winforms” appplications, or web applications, or simply slide presentations-as-video.

Here’s a sample from my current gig. Total prep time – about 45 minutes total, even after being rusty for over a year:

After I upgrade my WordPress account to accept/enable embedded video, I’ll provide a sample of a finished video…


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BEST PRACTICE/HOW TO: Quickly Configure SharePoint 2010 publishing features with approval workflow only on SOME sites…

2011 01 18 MV to All: My current client has a brand-new corporate portal (root site + dozens of hierarchical subsites) done in SharePoint 2010, and wants publishing features enabled, but only a single easy-to-manage approval workflow used across all sites…

This looks great & easy – but it only looks that way. Eventually the Approvers in the workflow who expected to only be getting a few email messages for approvals required on the ROOT (corporate content) site were now getting TONS of email messages for approval on pages in all of the department (e.g. HR, Finance, Engineering, IT, etc) sites, and all of their subsites as well.


The challenge was this: it was decided that the department & below sites did NOT actually require “approvals” per se on their content – just the publishing features like check-in/check-out, page layouts and what have you.

We TRIED DE-activating the publishing feature for each of the department sites…
… but this turned out to BREAK certain functionality! For example, after de-activating the publishing feature on our IT dept site, we could still see the “Edit” button on a given page’s ribbon bar – it just didn’t work when you clicked it 😦

The fix turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. 🙂

In a nutshell here’s what you do:
1. ACTIVATE publishing features on all your sites;
2. RETAIN only a single simple approval workflow;
    – for us it was based on the OOTB approval workflow, with several named users all getting emails
3. ADD this approval workflow to the PAGES library of all (publishing) sites where you WANT the “publish” step to trigger the approval workflow;
4. REMOVE this approval workflow from the PAGES library of all (publishing) sites where you WANT publishing functions (see above), but NOT approval workflows.

Here are some screenshots of the steps I went through:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hope this helps some of you who – like even myself – are still devising best practices for all of SP2010’s new features…


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HOW TO: Decide when it’s time to leave your current gig…

2011 01 04 MV to All: Every once in a while in a person’s career the job begins to wear them down rather than build them up. The hard part is somehow deciding when enough is enough, and it’s time to move on. I’ve recently been contacted by a younger friend named John Pongo who is going through this very ordeal. Having changed careers and companies at least a few times in my career, I had some genuine insights which helped him.

For those of you looking for some sort of tool to help you with your decision-making process, I offer the following – a tool which has worked for me across 25 years and 11 companies. And before you label me a “job shopper” (which I’m not), know this – I’m a professional IT consultant whose career includes 2 long, fixed-term contracts and 3 massive layoffs in my career thus far, so it’s more accurate to say my ratio is more like 6 decisions-to-move over 25 years.

When those occurred, here’s how I arrived at them – by using a simple set of 6 metrics and a positive/negative scale to gauge my feelings (yes “feelings”) along those metrics.

METRIC                                                                             RATING
                                                                   unhappy                            happy
                                                      <————————— 0 —————————->
Leadership/Responsibilities       x
Technical Challenges                                             x              x
Comfort                                                                                                 x
Colleagues                                                                                                x
Compensation                                                                          x

One interesting thing you’ll note is that this approach and scale allow you to feel ambivalent – you can have TWO conflicting emotions – and they still get accounted for. Note that under Technical Challenges I am BOTH unhappy and happy – happy about one technology with which I work, but Unhappy (bored in fact) by another. This approach allows me to account for this two-fold feeling, which I think is critical in the decision-making process…

Now all you have to do is add up the positive & negative scores for all metrics (all weighted equally in this example, but not required), and if you’re decidedly negative (as I am in this example), then, well… it’s time to move on. Especially if this is how you feel day in and day out…

Don’t just up & QUIT for heaven’s sake, but start looking, and use that combination of apprehension AND hope as a salve for helping you to get out of bed in the morning.

You’ll see this tool can be sketched out quite quickly on a piece of paper. Start with my suggested metrics, then add some of your own which make sense for you.

Hopefully just seeing your current situation on paper will be of some value to you.

It’s a brand-spanking new year. If it’s time for a change, then – like for John – I wish you best of luck.             


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UNDERSTAFFED? That’s when SharePoint matters MOST…

2011 01 02 MV to All: An interesting & ironic phenomenah I witness regularly is companies initially deploying SharePoint, then all-but-abandoning it “because they’re under-staffed, and need the resources elsewhere.”…


The irony is this: if your organization is under-staffed, that is when you need SharePoint MORE THAN EVER, because it is the only technology you have available to help your organize & synergize the staff you DO have.

LESSON: DON’T deploy SharePoint and then NEGLECT IT.
LESSON: DON’T deploy SharePoint and then OVER-CONTROL IT.  
LESSON: DON’T deploy SharePoint and then NOT ACTUALLY USE IT.

SharePoint is NOT magic.
SharePoint is NOT self-aware.
SharePoint IS a TOOL – a powerful swiss-army-knife of website-building technology.

If you’re under-staffed, y0u need to at least provide for 1 or 2 SharePoint evangelists to almost exclusively devote ALL of their time (not merely a few hours a week) to educating, promoting, problem-solving, educating, supporting, educating, organizing, educating, designing and educating the rest of your staff on SharePoint.

And did I mention educating?

Then you have to let those evangelists not only educate but EMPOWER all other users in your organization to USE SharePoint, with governance only by exception, not tyranny.

You need to let those evangelists educate all users – NOT merely IT users – in how SharePoint can help them – be it in engineering, sales & marketing, HR, manufacturing (yes – MANUFACTURING) – any department in your organization.

SharePoint is NOT for IT… it’s for EVERYONE.

MORE importantly – SharePoint really only works if and only if EVERYONE uses it.

Just thinking out loud as I look forward to the coming year.



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BEST PRACTICE: include “Session Purpose”, “Session Goals” and “Preparations” clauses to your meeting invites!

2010 12 09 MV: Ambiguity is the hidden serial killer of productivity in any organization. In organizations which hold lots of meetings with lots of attendees, much time is wasted with poorly-worded invites. Obscure titles, no clear purpose or goals… the result is all too often a bunch of people getting together, mindlessly discussing whatever comes to mind… and accomplishing nothing. Because nothing is precisely what was set as the goal.

Mission Accomplished?

How to battle this more-common-than-uncommon phenomena?

Simple: no matter your technology (Outlook, GMail, Yahoo, Novell, whatever) for creating & sending invites, simply make it a best practice of including the following sections in all your invites…

A single sentence clearly describing the overall purpose of the “session”; Usually starts with “To [fill in the rest of this sentence with an “action verb” followed by a little text as possible which explains the purpose]”…
Example: “To review SharePoint’s out-of-the-box image upload functionality,and devise possible improvements.”

   1. Attendees understand Concept A;
   2. Attendees understand Point B;
   3. This sub-group understands Concept C;
   4. This other sub-group understands Point D;

Goals should be stated as if they’d already been achieved – NEVER using any words like “try”…

   Attendee 1 – read this doc;
   Attendee 2 – prepare this slide deck;
   Attendee 3 – none;

Preparations should name a specific person or groups, start with an”action” verb, and be worded so that each task is measureable as having been completed.

IMPORTANT CONCEPT – merely adding an “Agenda” does NOT improve your ability to achieve anything productive other than covering the agenda. An agenda can be useful, but ultimately it is nothing more than a roadmap, but it is neither the purpose nor the goals of the session. Don’t fool yourself into thinking an agenda without goals will lead to a truly productive session – merely an organized-but-UN-productive one. Think about it…

That’s it – pretty simple, yet ambiguity is all but eliminated, and the result is an organization-wide surge in productivity due to genuinely useful meetings.


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