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Moderator Bots: Baby Steps


In a world of ever-growing conversations and large forums, moderating manpower is in high demand. Websites turn to bots. Is that really the best idea?


Children’s MMOs And Overzealous Bots


Poorly configured bots will spot curse words in other words, so bot configuration is especially important to prevent kids from reverse-discovering a curse word. Kid’s games with open chat are notorious for this issue, even though they should have more attention and care put into their bot moderation than anywhere else. That’s the problem: they’ll go to extreme lengths to protect these children! The people programming auto-moderator bots get overaggressive and say ‘no exceptions. None’ to their bots. Context doesn’t matter, if it sees a combination of letters that add up to a curse word, then it has to be removed before other children see it. This, however, causes problems.

If someone tries to type ‘assess the situation’ they may end up with a message that says ‘***ess the situation’. They can confirm or deny words their friends told them were actually curse words by bouncing it off the chat filter. Children may be naïve, but they aren’t stupid!

Moderator bots were also trained to spot curse words separated by spaces l i k e t h i s later on. This isn’t a bad idea – it just has to be more delicately configured. People will do their best to worm around content filters, and if spaces work, then they’ll use spaces to curse out other players. The problem is that the machine frequently doesn’t understand the context of the letters surrounding it, and you get “Ay* **mells weird” instead of “Aya Ssmells weird” from some little kid’s typo.

The irony of all of this is that it creates a reverse censor effect – clean words seem dirty because the bot’s censored them, words like ‘Assassinate’, or “Scattered”, things kids might use in a game. Typos under this system turn into a fount of forbidden knowledge. People will worm around bot moderators, but – especially on children’s forums – it’s important that the bot understands context, at least a little. If it can’t do that, a human teammate is necessary to whitelist weird word combinations as they appear.


Paleontology and Oversized Profanity Libraries


There are many bones. And if you were going to single out a specific bone (in the context of paleontology) just to cause problems, which bone would you pick? The censor library picked the pubic bone, alongside a host of other totally normal words like ‘stream’ and ‘crack’. There were curse words in the library too, but, of course, like most normal, professional conferences, the curse words did not appear nearly as much as the other words used in completely scientific contexts.

As in the children’s MMO example, it wasn’t an innuendo to say ‘the bone was found in a stream’ until the censor library did the equivalent of adding the flirty wink emoji to the end of the statement. Since tone can’t be conveyed over text except by word choice, the computer choosing to single out a definition for ‘stream’ and apply it to all uses is what made it a dirty word. Besides the words with no connection to actual profanity, pubic bones do come up quite a lot when talking about fossils, because it provides information about how fossilized animals would walk. The pubic bone is the ‘front’ bone in the pelvis: two-legged animals have a differently shaped one than four-legged ones, and animals that walk totally upright like humans have differently shaped ones than animals that ‘lean forwards’, like birds.

Why make a moderation bot too strict to have conversations around? They didn’t make the bot! The conference organizers were using a pre-made program that included its own profanity library. Buying a software that includes censorship already baked-in sounds like a great idea! If applied correctly, it can save everyone time and prevent profanity from appearing where it shouldn’t, even anonymously. However, ask two people what profanity is, and you’ll get two different answers. Everyone has a different threshold for professional language, so it’s better to build a library of the ‘obvious’ ones and go from there based on the event. The best censoring software is the kind you don’t have to use. Professional events are better off stating their expectations, before frustrating their attendees with a software that causes more harm than good.


Weaponizing Profanity Filters


Twitter had a bit of a kerfuffle involving the city of Memphis. People using the word Memphis in a tweet got a temporary ban. Then, a rash of baiting other Twitter users into using Memphis hit once word got around. Memphis getting users banned was the result of a bug, but the incident itself highlights issues with profanity filters. It’s possible to bait people into using banned words, especially if they aren’t inherently a profane word when used out of context.

For example, some online games will filter out the countries of Niger and Nigeria, to prevent misspellings of a racial slur from evading a deserved ban. Why would North Americans ever be discussing African countries over a game set in Russia, after all? But, by including them, they’ve created a way to troll other players without saying anything profane (in context). Baiting another user into answering questions about the countries will result in them getting banned, not the question-asker. The person who answered now has to contact the human support line to get unbanned, or wait for their timeout to end, which is annoying and inconvenient for them. The anti-profanity filter has been weaponized!

Building a positive culture around a game takes a lot of effort, and profanity filters are an integral part of keeping arsonists and trolls out. Nobody should feel targeted in game chat for reasons outside the game. However, just like with every example mentioned here, humans should be on call to un-ban and un-block users who were genuinely attempting to answer a question. Err on the side of caution, both with the software and customer support.


Are Bots a Cure?


Short answer: no. Most good moderation teams have at least one human on them in case the bot screws up. Preferably, they’ll be able to respond to ‘deleted comment’ or ‘banned user’ complaints right away. Even better, if the bots are configured well enough, they’re not going to be jumping the gun often enough to take a team!

It’s just very difficult to make a bot that understands people well enough to understand every instance of bad language.

If you’re running a forum and you don’t want people using profanity, you will censor the profane words. A bot could do that. But then there’s things like LeetSpeek, where users will spell the colloquial name for a donkey with two fives in place of the ‘s’s. Do you ban that too? Sure, you could add that to the bot’s library. But then they change the A to a 4. Do you censor that too? If you do, people will push to figure out what is and isn’t acceptable to your bots, and they will. Not. Stop.

And then there’s things like homophones! TikTok, a popular video app, has a fairly robust profanity filter for text. Videos with curse words and sensitive topics in them are noticeably less popular than ones without those words, due to TikTok’s algorithm.  However, people making videos on sensitive topics use phrases like ‘Sewer Slide’ and ‘Home of Phobia’ to evade the bots. The bots, then, have not stopped anything. These conversations will happen no matter what TikTok’s moderators want, and banning the word ‘sewer’ is only displacing the problem. If you don’t want users discussing these things on your site, you’ll have to have human moderators at some point.

Language is dynamic, and bots simply can’t keep up. It takes real people to study languages – why wouldn’t it take real people to moderate it online?




What Drives Ants Towards Electricity?


If you were on the internet just a few years back, you might have seen pictures of those horrible, horrible electricity ants. Ants driven towards power boxes and cords, laptop batteries and electrical outlets. Sometimes they’d get to their goal only to die upon contact, lifeless ant corpses piling up in front of the device like some scene out of an apocalypse movie. Other times, they’d cluster together inside the box, nesting around something that could kill them at any moment.

But why were they so into electricity?

Some people say it was the warmth of the hardware, but that doesn’t fully track in summer. Some say something spilt in the box. However, most spillables also cause short-circuits, which the user would have definitely noticed before the ants got there.

Which Ants?

Well, experts disagree on exactly why, and different species seem to have different reasons. A species of Crazy Ant that lives in Texas doesn’t like to dig its own nesting burrows. Instead, in the wild, it would use cracks and crevices in rocks. For Crazy Ants, an electrical box is a fantastic place to nest, and they’re so small that they can squeeze in with ease. Pest control experts in this region generally agree that the space is why Crazy Ants love electronics, not the warmth.

But wait, there’s more!

Fire ants, known for their aggressive behavior, may be swarming electrical boxes because they think they’re under attack. An ant gets shocked, and it releases a bunch of attack pheromones as it dies, because ants have no concept of electricity. This attracts more ants who all do the same thing. Yikes.


What Can You Do About It?

Ants may be a nearly unstoppable force of nature, but there are some limits. Pest control experts get a little better every year at effectively destroying ant colonies at the source, and electronics get a little more difficult to squeeze into as they approach full waterproofing. Not to mention, the worst ant offenders live pretty much exclusively in Texas. Other species might still approach electronics for heat and get caught in that zap-death-avenge cycle, but almost none of them are as aggressive as the species of fire ant currently cursing Texas, or as small as the species of Crazy Ant. Aside from flukes, most people have nothing to worry about.





Don’t Plug In Found USB Sticks

Don’t Plug In Found USB Sticks

Did you find a seemingly normal USB stick on the ground outside your work? How about in the lobby, where the public can come and go as they please? Did you find something that doesn’t seem to be your company’s preferred brand of USB stick, or even not branded at all? Is it strangely heavy for a typical USB stick?

DON’T plug it in. Here are some reasons why.


As it’s now 2020 and WannaCry has made the news more than once, you’ve probably heard of ransomware, a type of malware that encrypts files, and threatens to destroy them if money is not sent to the hacker.

USB sticks are one of many ways this virus finds itself into your most important files, pictures, and documents, and it’s notoriously difficult to get rid of. In the time it takes to discover it and attempt to neutralize it, the hacker can simply *poof* the files away if they realize you’re not going to pay.

And deleting them isn’t the only way they can cause pain. Copying the files somewhere and then releasing them online can be disastrous for certain industries and businesses, even worse than just destroying the files, and the hackers know that.

Do NOT plug strange USB sticks into your device. Even if it looks like someone from your office might have dropped it, if you don’t recognize it? Don’t plug it in. Keep it on your desk or turn it in to the IT department and wait for them to come looking for it.

Broad Malware

If the ultimate goal of the USB isn’t money, malware is another widely used way to completely wreck a computer. Sometimes malware is aiming to destroy a business’s computer network, or looking to steal secrets without ransom, or infect other computers on the network and eventually break them all at once. This is where something like AI-driven antivirus comes in handy: if something is propagating very quickly across all the devices on a network, and it’s not officially licensed, and it’s bringing a bunch of .exe stuff with it – antiviruses designed around behavior and not fingerprinting will take notice. They aren’t impenetrable, but it takes more to get around them than it does to get around a classic antivirus.

Again, don’t fall victim to Social Engineering and plug in a USB you found on the floor.

USB Killers

If you thought your anti-virus was enough to stop something nasty from creeping in on a USB, you’d be wrong. There’s more than one way to go about breaking a machine.

A USB killer is a device meant to cause harm to the device’s hardware. Essentially, it takes charge from the computer with a capacitor and then redirects it back. “How much damage could the power flowing to the USB port actually cause?”, you may ask. USB killers aren’t simply redirecting the energy back into the computer at a one-unit-in one-unit-out basis. Instead, they use a capacitor. A capacitor behaves kind of like a balloon rubbed on a carpet: it stores charge in a ‘field’ (the balloon in that example) passively. It doesn’t really matter how much power is leaving the USB port, as long as there is power – when the capacitor gets to its limit, it discharges back into the computer, like the static shock you’d get from the doorknob after scooting across the carpet in socks, but many times larger. Up to 215 volts larger, according to Hackaday.

USB killers are becoming rarer, but they aren’t extinct.

But Why?

So why would someone want to use a USB killer or destructive malware, instead of using ransomware or straight file-stealing?

There are a lot of answers.

Some people just want to break expensive things, and don’t care what that is. Some people are looking to slow down business opponents or gauge weaknesses within the organization. Sometimes something expensive or hard to replace is stored on the computer, and the hacker wants it gone. Sometimes it can even boil down into terrorism, depending on the industry.

The long and the short of it is that you shouldn’t plug in a USB if you don’t definitely recognize it as yours.


How to Destroy a Hard Drive (Accidentally): A List of Common Items and “Hacks”

Elizabeth IT Support, Technology December 7, 2020

1. Those fancy Neodymium (or rare-earth) magnets.

Strong magnets can erase credit cards and fuzz (or even destroy) VHS tapes, and magnetizing hard drives is actually a commonly advertised way to completely wipe the information from it. A hard drive contains thin glass disks coated in magnetic film that can be modified and read by the head attachment, and therefore shouldn’t be exposed to other magnets.

As for decorating your PC stand, fridge magnets are probably not strong enough to wipe the machine from the outer wall of the PC stand, but it’s not exactly recommended.

Go for a couple of stickers instead (not over the air intake ports, of course). (As a side note, when I was looking up information from this, I found a lot of freak MRI accidents. Industrial magnets are terrifying!)

2. Dropping the machine.

Don’t do that. Blunt force trauma can break the computer by dislodging components inside it. Most good-quality computers do their best to prevent breakage by just making the machine’s insides a little tougher, using bigger pins or more solder, but at some point fine machinery is fine machinery and dropping it might break it.

The same goes for “percussive maintenance” – a computer wouldn’t last very long in the real world if the user could never get away with tapping it, or setting it down a little too fast, but hitting anything inside the PC tower, directly, even if you recognize the part, is a major NO. The hard drive especially. Remember, it’s insides are made of glass!

3. Freezing it.

Freezing the machine is sometimes recommended for hard drive failure, but it’s… not ideal. You know how putting cling-wrap over something that’s still kind of warm will lead to water collecting on the inside of the wrap? The same thing happens when a computer is put in the freezer. Water can collect inside the machine and cause issues.

Besides the risk of condensation, freezers can completely brick up LCD screens, which rely on temperature to change color. If you’re trying to save an older laptop with this hack, that alone can match the cost of the hard drive IF it works, which is far from guaranteed. The potential for saving a hard drive vs. harming other parts of the computer is not good enough to be worth it. Anecdotally, Gillware Data Recovery’s article on the subject says that they’ve never seen this trick work in the first place!

4. Cooking it.

On the other end of temperatures, don’t remove the cooling fan for being too loud. Overheating a computer can lead to hard drive failure; the fan being too loud is much better than the hard drive going dead silent, and there’s other fixes for a too-loud fan. Dell, a large computer manufacturer, has a troubleshooting guide on the issue.

5. Drowning it.

Getting the machine wet can cause a short circuit, which can then lead to hard drive failure. Don’t balance your drinks on top of your PC stand! It’s not so much the liquid itself as the things dissolved inside it. Chemically pure, laboratory-grade water is actually a pretty poor conductor, but tap water and even regular grocery-store distilled water have some amount of dissolved minerals in them, which are conductors. Not to mention things like soda or juice. Just keep drinks away!

6. Choking it.

Don’t go opening the hard drive seal in a non-dust free environment. It does require lab conditions. Don’t try to DIY hard drive repair in the same garage that’s regularly opened to the outside; getting dust in that part of the computer can cripple or ruin it. Even if you know what the problem is, the machinery in the hard drive is so incredibly fine that dust invisible to the human eye can damage it.

7. Confusing it.

Try not to delete critical software and/or firmware. If you’re going to take advice from strangers online to avoid a computer repair shop, maybe do a little more research after they’ve suggested a solution – sometimes, people give wrong instructions on purpose just because they can. It is also important to note that it’s not impossible to damage hardware with software, or a lack of software.

If you do accidentally delete critical software, don’t restart the machine after turning it off. The odds of getting your data back go down every time the computer has to struggle to re-boot after a major failure, according to Data Recovery Labs.


Sources (left as links for convenience):

Cybersecurity – Firewalls

Jeff Cyber Security, IT Support November 4, 2020

As we explained previously, cybersecurity is the defence of computers and devices from damage or theft of sensitive information concerning your business and your customers.


Cybersecurity is a challenge all over the modern world. With 312 million people accessing the internet across the United States in 2019, this statistically makes the United States one of the largest online markets worldwide ranking only behind China and India in terms of online audience size.¹ The rate of growth in technology has made our personal information more accessible to potentially threatening people than ever before. This should make cybersecurity as important as any other part of your daily life and business.


Keeping your customer information safe and secure at all times should not only be important on a moral level but also has business benefits too. Using a good quality cybersecurity programme will not only protect you from cyberattack but will also make you appear more credible on a business level by providing confidence to your customers.

Firewalls in more detail.



Firewall a definition: Protect (a network or system) from unauthorized access with a firewall, ‘a firewalled network’.

Firewalls can be split into two different types depending on where they sit in a network:


Personal Firewalls

Personal firewalls are installed by the individual for the protection of their devices.


Boundary Firewalls

Boundary firewalls function at a network’s most outer points, meaning all the devices within the network are protected.


How firewalls function

Firewalls operate to set rules they must follow whilst police the traffic passing across a network. The firewall administrator manages these set ‘rules, making the firewall block actions that are considered to be of high-risk whilst allowing the use of ‘safe’ services online needed by users. Firewalls ‘filter’ data through a variety of methods. For example:


Firewall installation

Deciding on the best way to install firewall protection will depend on the size of your network. If it’s a very small network then using a software firewall on each device should offer adequate protection, provided it’s maintained correctly.


Safeguard administrative accounts – Using strong passwords and authentification protocols

Strong passwords!

Many of us have the bad habit of using a short repetitive password or a sequence of letters/numbers. This is unacceptable for good cyber safety. Long passwords with a series of numbers, special characters and letters in upper and lower case will give your password the best chance of standing up to potential scrutiny.


Restricting access to as few devices as possible

Make access limited to a select few IP addresses that you trust.


Record and manage Firewall rules

There should be someone in charge of the rules surrounding the firewall. They should also oversee the running of the firewall.


Use two-factor authentification

The more access criteria the better. Verifying your identity at available intervals ensures safety when accessing administrative accounts.


We’re Elixis Technology

In the ever-changing, technology-centric world we live in, it’s vital to have an I.T. solution source you can count on. At Elixis Technology, it is our mission to help businesses — big and small — produce the results their customers demand, with technology that actually works.


For more information, feel free to send us a message.,terms%20of%20online%20audience%20size¹²


CyberSecurity – Secure configuration

Jeff Cyber Security, IT Support November 4, 2020

As we found out in the last article, cybersecurity is an important part of every business in the modern world. Since COVID-19, the U.S FBI reported a 300% increase in reported cybercrimes¹ which highlights the importance of cybersecurity. Here are a few things to look out for.


Managing Permissions

To stop unauthorized access, managing permissions is very important, (by individuals within or outside your organization) to confidential information, sensitive data and system settings. A breach of access could result in malware intrusion, data theft/loss, or deliberate changes to your security settings will likely present opportunities for cybercriminals.


Configuring your system

System configuration control requires businesses to optimize all settings within their network for maximum security, ensure the upkeep of the system with regular maintenance as this lowers opportunities for cybercriminals.

This may sound simple, but breaking down your network into parts and fine-tuning each part to be as secure as possible can be a daunting task to undertake for the unconfident or untrained.


Are you open to attack? An attack could be imminent!

Keeping current and applying security protocols is very important, it requires you to be vigilant and aware of the latest update available. Regular system reviews are essential, be proactive when it comes to maintenance and change your settings accordingly as your business grows and develops. A poorly configured system could leave you vulnerable.


Poorly kept software

Patch management is integral to stop hackers. Failing to have the correct security framework and fixes can leave software vulnerabilities exposed, leading to a greater probability of a damaging cyber-attack.


Keeping yourself secure

Use a vulnerability scanning tool

Vulnerability scanners help to find weak points across networks’ online services, devices, and applications. Make sure these scans are a regular part of your cybersecurity routine.


Avoid removable media and Disconnect unnecessary peripherals

Disable ports to prevent the use of flash drives and other removable media. These devices are common causes of transmission for malware, you should stop the use of them wherever possible.


Shape guidelines for secure system configuration

Form a set of guidelines on how software programs should be set up to ensure maximum security. Perhaps include a rule that apps or services have a multifactor authentication wherever available and if not possible they should be removed from the system immediately. Ensure that you document any cases where the rules cannot be adhered to.


Make a record of all software and hardware

A good start to configuring your network to be secure is to create an inventory of all the software and hardware components of your network. Keep record details such as version, purpose, location, and patch status to help with system maintenance.


We’re Elixis Technology

In the ever-changing, technology-centric world we live in, it’s vital to have an I.T. solution source you can count on. At Elixis Technology, it is our mission to help businesses — big and small — produce the results their customers demand, with technology that actually works.


For more information, feel free to send us a message.¹


Cybersecurity – An introduction

Jeff Cyber Security, IT Support November 4, 2020

Cybersecurity is the practice of defending internet-connected systems such as; computers, electronic systems, networks, and mobile data from cyber attacks. Cybersecurity’s sole objective is to prevent the loss or damage of personal information belonging to the owner or user. It also prevents harm to your computer networks, applications, data and devices.


Cybersecurity is constantly changing to keep up with the ever-evolving methods and technology used by hackers.


In the digital world, all the information cannot be guaranteed to be safe nowadays. Cyber attacks can and will happen and they can happen anywhere. Cybersecurity law in the U.S promotes three fundamental principles confidentiality, integrity and availability. Every element of an information security program (and every security control put in place by an entity) should be designed to achieve one or more of these principles. Together they are called the CIA Triad.


While there is no reliable data on this for the current year, data breach statistics from 2018 show that over 2.5 billion accounts were hacked in that year. That amounts to roughly 6.85 million accounts getting hacked each day or 158 every second.¹


Keeping your data safe is very important, but arguably more important is the data and information regarding staff and customers also.


The business benefits of having cybersecurity to a good standard

Customer interest

Customers will trust your company more knowing that the information they are trusting you with is being used safely and securely. Possibly bringing more customers in if you can offer a better standard of security than your rivals.


The potential cost to you

The average cost a small business incurs as the result of a cyber- attack has risen to $200,000². And with 58% of cyber attack victims being small to medium businesses³ you are more than likely to be one of those targeted.


Certification inspires adoption of security

Having proof from the cybersecurity program provider through certification will distinguish your business as one that cares about online security. It will ensure customers, suppliers and partners with proof that you are using their data in the correct secure way.


A start with cybersecurity

A good place to start with cybersecurity is by using best practices, here are 5 key controls for cybersecurity.


These include:

  1. Secure configuration
  2. Malware protection
  3. Patch management
  4. Firewalls
  5. Access control


There are many factors outside of these five controls to help the protection of your data, however, these are a good place to begin. In the following blogs, we will explore each of these controls and give you some tips and information on how to implement the best practices around each in your business.


We’re Elixis Technology

In the ever-changing, technology-centric world we live in, it’s vital to have an I.T. solution source you can count on. At Elixis Technology, it is our mission to help businesses — big and small — produce the results their customers demand, with technology that actually works.


For more information, feel free to send us a message.¹,after%20suffering%20a%20data%20breach²³


What’s a cookie?

Elizabeth IT Support October 26, 2020

What’s a cookie?

A depiction of a computer gremlin eating a cookie

A browser cookie is a little snippet of data that the browser stores while the user is browsing. The most familiar use of the cookie is likely for logging in –if you log into a site on one page, and then open another completely new page on your browser (maybe you want to look at something specific without interrupting the feed) that new page remembers that you’re currently logged in on another tab, and won’t make you do that again.

The same goes for online shopping – even when you’re not logged in (when you’re logged in, the website saves that info to their server instead of your browser), the page remembers what you’ve added to the cart, sometimes (depending on your browser’s settings) even after you’ve left the page, closed the browser, and shut down the computer. Coming back a day later, the website will still have those items in your cart even though you’re still not logged in. That’s the convenience of a cookie!

It may not be immediately apparent, but this actually has quite a few security implications.

The Good

Websites use cookies to figure out if they should show you certain pages. If you’ve logged out in one tab, switch to another, and keep trying to shop, the website will put a hold on things before checkout (as long as checkout’s a separate page. It is on most websites).

The Bad

The downside to having cookies that keep you logged in is that if someone else gets their hands on your device, they can access everything that the browser remembers you as logged in from. Example: You don’t log out of Facebook, but you close the browser. You let a friend use your computer to look something up real quick, but they notice Facebook pops up in the web bar. Suddenly they have access to your Facebook.

Or, logging in to Amazon on a friend’s device to order something, and then leaving without logging out, makes it possible for that friend to buy something on your account completely accidentally!!

Additionally, cookies can be ‘read’ by hackers and public WiFi providers like Starbucks or McDonald’s, but that security issue isn’t exclusive to cookies.  Tracking cookies and other such shenanigans are usually used for advertising purposes, but that can be a security concern too, if privacy is a part of your security considerations.

These aren’t all the security implications of cookies, but they’re the most obvious, and the most likely to trip up a user.

Why does every website warn me that they’re using cookies to “improve my experience” on their site?

Well, tracking cookies. Tracking cookies are exactly what they sound like: cookies that track you as you travel along the web. These cookies are used to form a long-term record of a user’s browsing history, which is obviously a concern, and caused outcry due to what it could do to privacy – most people would be creeped out by someone following them through the mall, watching what stores they go into and what items they come out with. The same went for cookies. Why does want to see what I’m buying for my tropical fish?

And that’s just shopping! Any website that has something to gain from knowing what websites you visit, your potential interests, what kind of recipes you save, what kind of sports you watch or politics you follow – they can use that to sell you something, and that something can be ideas. That’s why they have to warn you first.

Should I be Worried?

It’s not all bad – cookies are still really useful, and they make a lot of websites more convenient to use. Staying logged in on a personal device that you don’t share and don’t use on public WiFi is usually pretty low-risk, anyway. Just clear that cache every now and again and use a password manager if possible – it means that the log-in cookies are less important!

Kaspersky. (2020, July 16). “Cookies: What you need to know and how they work.” Retrieved October 20, 2020, from
“New net rules set to make cookies crumble.” (2011, March 08). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from

Make the Most of Microsoft Teams – The Microsoft Lists App

Jeff IT Support, Technology October 9, 2020

One of the most significant Microsoft 365 developments of 2020 has been the launch of the new Microsoft Lists app. For years users have only been able to use the ‘Lists’ feature through SharePoint, but now, the Lists tool has been made accessible through a standalone web application, and an app that you can launch within Microsoft Teams.


What is a list?

Up until recently, a ‘List’ was a content item you could set up within a SharePoint site for storing information that relates to the site’s contents. The highly customisable nature of a List allows you to store information in a variety of formats, so the information you choose to store is entirely up to you. Some common uses include the storing of contact details, weblinks, employee data and the management of complaints or support tickets.

The New Lists app has introduced a series of fundamental changes to the Lists experience and thanks to Teams compatibility, you can now attach Lists to a Teams channel to bring data and conversation together in a way that wasn’t previously possible.


Microsoft Lists and Teams

In this blog, we will explore the Lists app within Teams. Let’s get started.

Firstly, you’ll have to add Lists to the channels where you want to use it. The best way to do this is to navigate to the relevant channel and add lists through the ‘add a tab’ button at the top of the window, indicated by a ‘+.’



Then search for ‘Lists’ using the search box provided.

You’ll then be prompted to click save to add Lists to your channel…



Upon adding Lists to the channel, you’ll be given the option to either create a new list or add a pre-existing one.



Choosing ‘Create a List’ will redirect you to a page which sets out your options. You can either create a new list from the ground up, base a list on an excel file or format your new list on an existing one.

Below these options you’ll find a new feature; templates. These provide pre-configured List formats designed to fast-track the listed building process and ensure consistency. These templates aren’t rigid; you can add and remove columns to suit your specific data storage requirements. There are currently 11 list templates available as shown below.



Upon selecting one of these templates you’ll be shown a preview so you can decide whether it meets your requirements. If it does, click ‘use template’ in the bottom right.



Then, name your List, add an optional description and choose a colour and icon for ease of identification. Click ‘create’ in the bottom right when finished.



You now have a List pinned to your channel, and you’ll notice it displayed among your channel tabs with the name you gave it.



You’re now ready to populate your list with data. Click on your list and select ‘New Item.’ You’ll then see a form representing one row of the List. You might refer to this as a row, item, or entry. Once you’ve entered the required information, click ‘save’ and the item will be added to your list.



As we’ve mentioned, you can modify a list to conform to the specific data you wish to record. To the right of your list’s column headings, you’ll see ‘Add Column.’ Choose the format of your new column from the drop-down list, and then add a column name, description and further details in the ‘create a column’ form that appears.



Now that we’ve looked at the basics of establishing a new list, let’s look at how to pin an existing list to a channel.

Again, navigate to the channel where you want to add the List, click ‘add a tab’ and then select the Lists app.

This time select ‘add an existing list’ when prompted.



You’ll then be presented with 2 options: you can either add a list using a weblink; or attach a List that is already available within the Team site you are in.



The SharePoint link option also works with links to the Lists browser app. To use a link, navigate to the Lists app or the SharePoint site where the list is stored, open the list and then copy and paste the list’s web address into the ‘enter link here box.’ The Lists app is a great way to manage your Lists, as it displays on a single screen all the lists you’ve created across different Team sites.

The second option lets you add lists that are already available within the team – Lists which aren’t available in the same team will have to be added using the link option. Upon selecting a list from those available it will immediately appear as a tab within the channel.



A couple of points to note…

Lists stored in your OneDrive cannot be synced to Teams. Attempting to use a OneDrive URL to add a pre-existing list stored there will result in a ‘file not found’ error message.

If the list you wish to attach to a channel originates from a different Team site problems can occur. Only individuals who also have access to the origin site will be able to view the list data.


We’re Elixis Technology

In the ever-changing, technology-centric world we live in, it’s vital to have an I.T. solution source you can count on. At Elixis Technology, it is our mission to help businesses — big and small — produce the results their customers demand, with technology that actually works.

Making the most of Microsoft Teams – Scheduling Meetings

Jeff IT Support, Technology October 8, 2020

In Microsoft 365, there are often multiple ways to achieve the same outcome. Scheduling Teams meetings is one example of this, as users can organise meetings through both the Teams app and Outlook. Let’s explore each option in more detail.


Meeting Scheduling using Outlook

With email remaining a critical communication medium in most workplaces, for many, Outlook is the focal point of daily office life. As a result, this is probably the most popular way to schedule Teams meetings.

To get started, navigate to your calendar at the bottom left of the Outlook window.



If you want to arrange a group meeting, bring up the relevant group calendar.

Choose the time or date for your meeting by double-clicking on the calendar. This will cause a meeting window to appear with the time you’ve selected already populated. It should look like this…



From here, select ‘Teams Meeting’ from the ribbon.



The meeting window will then change, allowing you to enter the full set of details required to schedule the meeting. Add a title, specify those required to attend and those for whom attendance is optional, and then stipulate a start and end time. You can also programme the meeting to be recurring.



Alternatively, you can navigate straight to this meeting window form your calendar without first selecting time by clicking ‘new teams meeting’ as shown below.



After clicking send, all those requested to join the meeting will be sent an email containing the meeting information. You can also trigger reminder emails to be sent so that no-one forgets to attend.


Scheduling meetings from within Teams

There are various ways to launch or schedule a meeting within Teams, but the most common route is via the ‘Calendar’ tab located on the left of the window.

You’re then presented with 2 options for launching a meeting: ‘Meet Now’ and ‘New Meeting.’



‘Meet now’ is a quick launch method. It immediately opens a meeting window from which you then add the names of people you wish to attend.

‘New Meeting’ allows you to plan a meeting in advance and features scheduling functionality that lets you check to see when everyone is free to attend.

Upon clicking ‘new meeting’ a form will appear into which the meeting details can be entered.

This is where things get clever…

Once you’ve selected time and date for your meeting and entered the names of those you want to attend, Teams flags up any time conflicts that exist between the specified meeting time, and the schedules of your attendees. If someone is unable to attend, their name will appear in red. The scheduling tool will also suggest meeting times that don’t result in such conflicts. See below.



If you need more detailing insight into the schedules of attendees you can open the ‘scheduling assistant.’ This helpful tool displays everyone’s schedule so that you can identifying times when everyone is free.



Once you’ve included all the relevant meeting details, click send ‘send.’ Everyone requested to attend the meeting will then be sent a notification. The meeting will also appear in the calendar of all requested attendees; both in Teams and Outlook.


Making Changes to a Scheduled meeting

After scheduling a meeting, you can return to it to make changes. You can alter the meeting information – you might want to add additional attendees or change the scheduled time. You can also attach files to a meeting; this is useful if you intend to discuss a document, as attaching the file beforehand will allow participants to review it prior to the meeting taking place.

To make changes, locate the meeting in your Teams calendar and double click. You’ll then be presented with the meeting details which you can update. Once alterations have been made, click ‘send update’ in the top right to save changes.



You’ll also notice a number of other tabs at the top of the screen…



Click on ‘chat’ to discuss the meeting ahead of schedule and upload relevant files using the ‘files’ tab, either from your computer, OneDrive account or SharePoint.


We’re Elixis Technology

In the ever-changing, technology-centric world we live in, it’s vital to have an I.T. solution source you can count on. At Elixis Technology, it is our mission to help businesses — big and small — produce the results their customers demand, with technology that actually works.