SharePoint’s Role in Bringing the Games to the Web
So, did you get any sleep this weekend? Did you get any work done? If not, I apologize if we played a role in distracting you with the dramatic weekend of events from Beijing. It has been a phenomenal first week, marked with incredible triumphs of spirit and athleticism and a couple of gorgeous days here at the Olympics. I’ve been very busy at work but have managed to stick my head into a couple of events, so it’s been a fantastic week for me.
And have you checked out NBCOlympics.com? That’s the website where you can watch live and edited events from the Games if you’re in the United States. If you haven’t been there yet—go look! There are hundreds of hours of video content on the site, much of which is also available as streams to your mobile devices. I also stumbled across a wickedly cool plug in at TVTonic which brings the NBCOlympics.com video directly into Vista’s Media Center. Amazing.
Behind this historic push of Olympic events onto the web is some very interesting technology. To get all that content to all the right media outlets, a dedicated video distribution application takes video packages and delivers or streams them. A large amount of metadata accompanies each package—metadata that varies per outlet. For example, the “Title” field can be long on Amazon.com, but must be short for mobile (MMS) delivery.
Additionally, editors must be assigned to create the packages. To make it possible for mere mortals to enter all this data, before and during the Games, we needed a user-friendly interface that exposes just the right data, performs data validation, ensures that required fields are completed, then transforms all this information into the XML file required by the video distribution application. Once again, SharePoint came to the rescue.
We built the UI—the form—by using Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007, which allows us to embed the business logic into the form so that when an editor works on metadata for a specific package, the only fields that appear are those needed by the appropriate outlets. The form also makes sure the data complies with the data type and content expectations of the video distribution application.
So that we don’t have to deploy the InfoPath client on our systems, we’re using InfoPath Forms Services, a feature of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 Enterprise Edition, to render the forms in users’ browsers. When a form is saved, the data is stored in a SharePoint list, and a custom application page uses a workflow to publish the data to the XML format that the video distribution application requires. This application is a fairly straightforward solution to build on top of SharePoint, taking two smart folks from NetFusion, a Microsoft Gold Partner, less than two weeks to create. It would have taken months without thefunctionality that InfoPath and MOSS provided.
On top of the list that manages all of this metadata, we’ve created custom views that allow editors, producers, and management to perform their responsibilities related to the process. We even have a small Access application for one user that produces well-formatted, hard-copy work assignments using Access reports. Once again, SharePoint has proven its ability to play a major role in a rapid-deploy solution for collaboration and workflow! So if you watch any of the Games on a device other than a television, know that SharePoint helped it get to you.
Until next week, all the best!