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Experience Sitecore! | All posts tagged 'community'

Experience Sitecore!

Martin Miles on Sitecore

An exciting updgrade of Sitecore.Link project to JSS with Vue and GraphQL on Azure PaaS

It is 2.5 years already since I launched Sitecore.Link project and it made a great input to the community in terms of accumulating and finding technical information. It served well as a starting point for those willing quickly to obtain all available knowledge about some specific aspects of Sitecore as all the links are split into 150+ categories from 15+ top-level areas (ie. SXA, Helix, Security, Media etc.)


From the back-end prospective Sitecore.Link is one of the greatest things I've ever done, with all automation, crawlers and bit of artificial intelligence and machine learning, finding the new materials and taking off all the monotonous work from me, except the one and only thing I should do - taking the decision (on adding that particular link to the collection after reading it).

Speaking about front-end and UX I can now say that things were also great 2 years ago when the project gained 1-2K of links, not 16K+ as for today. It offered real-time predictive input, powerful filtering and few more. But many of these features came out of PoC (as well as the project itself entirely) and have been added more or less spontaneously in the limited timeframes (yes, I have a full-time job plus 3 hours of commute each day), that's why front-end and UX did not expect such a growth of data. I bravely optimized everything as much as could until hitting the performance ceiling of rendering. So it was just a matter of time when to perform reUX and rewrite, rather than whether to.

Finally, the time has come! I am doing the entire rework of Sitecore.Link project.


When attending SUGCON 2018 I was very enthusiastic to find out how perfectly GraphQL stands for querying the data. Since front-end of Sitecore.Link is, in fact, a single page application - JSS would suit the best, while the data itself becomes bucketable implementing new taxonomy. So, as for the moment, I came to the following changes:

Most of back-end and crawlers will remain as they are. From the new features, apart from changing data storage, I plan to add a page where blog authors will be easily able to test and adjust their resources for Sitecore.Link parser them further automatically, and even see how crawlers process their blogs in real-time.

Front-end will entirely rework UI to fit visitors' day-to-day needs to be as quick as possible. UI will be re-written to Vue.js backed by Sitecore Javascript Services (JSS)

At the moment, only blog names are searchable, but after changes will take place all articles' content also becomes tokenized for relevancy in order to provide more precise results and order. Such a nice Sitecore Google will be born, lol)

Once completed, the project will be delivered to Azure PaaS for hosting.


Outcomes

One of the most important things - when done, the source code becomes opensource (MIT) on GitHub - this will bring to the community a real-world example of JSS-running website (but not only - plenty of Sitecore features will be there as implementation example for others). Since the project is community-based and is fed by the community-driven data, it will serve the community in full, including the source code to be hared and ideally pull-requested with new features or fixes.

Another community support back to the project will become a browser extension for submitting currently open URL (of a blog post) into the links database by specifying relevant categories as well as other information, after a quick moderation of course.

Numerous blog posts from myself, describing the changes implemented and sharing the experience of JSS and other features done will accompany this transformation.

In order to make all mentioned above happen, I finish my current contract and do not pick anything next in the following 2 months, to be able fully to concentrate on this amazing challenges. I am also looking for any support from Sitecore Technical Marketing team on technical issues

Introducing Sitecore Discussion Club


Introduction

Sitecore User Groups have been a commonly used way of offline knowledge sharing and socializing for long years and we all love them. However, there are some drawbacks and things that on my opinion could be improved.

As I know, there are many of participants willing to present, but typically in most cases one presentation is taken by people from sponsor, yet one more - by Sitecore employees and whatever remains - by some MVP, while there are only 3, maximum 4 speeches available. Those lucky who manage to get presented have to artificially adjust to ~40 minutes format extending their speech time frames, while in fact the core sense of most presentations can be fit into 15 minutes. In addition, user groups are the rare event, occurring once per quarter.

Another thing is that attendants are socialising only little time during breaks between the presentations, while I know few people are attending only just because of networking. At the same time some of attendees are "switched off". I suggest making user groups more interactive with participants interacting with each other apart from just socializing. Limiting presentation with shorter time frames will allow speakers to better structure their thoughts and allocate time for a bigger number of people to participate.

To address these calls, I am going to introduce and run events of a new format, called Sitecore Discussion Clubs, starting in London and that will run on monthly basis (ex. first Tuesday of each month) and in parallel to existing Sitecore User Groups, not as a replacement. This document describes what is Discussion Club and some basic rules and thoughts, however it may be subject to changes.


What is Discussion Club

Sitecore Discussion Club will be held on a monthly basis and consists of four blocks

1. Light Talks

Each of participants can present anything of his / her recent experience or some interesting aspects of work with Sitecore, that may be useful and interested to the community. We currently tend to limit these talks with 5 minutes, having up to 10 talks during the event. It serves as sort of warmup before major part - Discussion Club. Speech registration opens 48 hours before the event via Discussion Club website, with 10 slots open (first come - first spoken principle), where new participants have priority as they are obliged to present. Every new member of the club must present on first visit the club, that speech actually "opens" (or initiates) the membership.

2. Discussion Club

This is the most important part of the event. Each of participants may suggest a problem he / she currently has for a collective-mindset to challenge, but it's not limited with day-to-day issues. One would probably like to discuss new Sitecore features or whatsoever, if it is interesting to other members to discuss (ex. "can someone please tell in which cases SXA is perfect for greenfield projects and how do I 'sell' it to my client?" etc.). All suggestions are registered at the website, and upon the beginning when the organizer goes along this list - each one has 30 -60 seconds to briefly explain the problem and what is he looking from the discussion to get solved. once finished, every participant votes for topics that seems to be interested (that is done using mobile phone). Then an actual discussions start, from most to least voted suggestions on from agenda list. Each discussion limits to 10 minutes, there is also a mechanism of 5 minutes extension (if majority insist, 80% or more clicking "extend" button on their mobile phones next to current discussion).

3. What If

Is the funniest part of the event, but brings huge value. It is also a collective-mind discussion of unusual, weird or even craziest ideas we can do with our beloved platform. As a good example, I want to share few ideas that came into my head and the one I was trying to implement. The first, is a LunchPad with the live icons showing a progress or any dynamically changeable information, pulled from a Sitecore instance (or behind it), for example showing a progress of a long-running scheduled task, and clicking this live icon brings you to corresponding SPEAK app. I expect, that should be implemented with SignalR or similar technology, but very willing to discuss it in more details and potential traps. Another example is a module I have implemented in 2017, that changes item ID from a context menu - it is a great area for discussion what needs to be taken into account and things to keep in mind, such as child items, changing references to this items, reindexing, links database, etc.). These ideas unlock attendees' creativity and serve as an important source of inspiration and will be shared with Sitecore for considering and potential implementation. This is similar way how Dynamic Placeholder, Buckets and Language Fallback became part of the platform. Who knows what valuable inspiration our enthusiasts will create? Also, I am be seeking a sponsorship from Sitecore for awarding 3 most valuable of "What If" ideas, where award can be anything like free certification on choice, or free SugCon / Symposium entrance of whatsoever Sitecore decides.

4. Hiring, not Recruiting

Is the final simple block. Each member of the club can briefly say what Sitecore vacancies do they have open at the moment or in if looking for a new opportunity - make a brief self-introduction. 3-5 minutes for everything would be enough, I assume. Quick, direct, and no recruiters.


Entrance and attendance

The very first event welcomes everyone who is willing to attend - they all will be allowed and receive Discussion Club membership (but please see "First Event" section below). Then an event registration will be done via website similar to MeetUp, running with minor overbooking, just in case few people are not coming. When event bуcomes mature - new members can join the club by invites from existing member (and they still must present light talk upon first visit). Existing MVPs can attend without any limitations, cannot be denied or dismissed from the club. They also have priority for Light talks (but after newbies of course). Sponsors have another "priority lane" for Discussion Club, however not more than on 3 consecutive events, than they have "chill out" event. However sponsor can suggest a topiс on common grounds to be evaluated and voted.


Venue and sponsorship

The event will take part at sponsor's venue in central London, in 3-5 minutes of walking distance from Angel station (map: https://goo.gl/5p8v7D). Sponsor is also proving the necessary equipment, food and drinks, as normal. Dare agency is currently sponsoring the event, I am currently contracted with them building an advanced platform with Helix and Sitecore 9, they are highly interested in absorbing any of the latest Sitecore knowledge.


Benefits

Discussion Club unites the most enthusiastic members of the Sitecore scene from London and area, offering them all sharing the experience. Unlike as on the User Groups, we discuss real-life scenarios, and actual day-to-day problems, as we vote for most preferred topic from agenda. We are more engaged, communicate and discuss directly and collectively. All that enables us sharing our experience in interactive, friendly manner at unprecedented level, that becomes sort of Sitecore Community 2.0

Sitecore Link gained a list of Sitecore modules and implementations as well as their authors

Sitecore Link project gained a list of additional Sitecore modules and implementations as well as their authors. With time, I tend to make it something more useful than Marketplace, so withing first quarter of 2018 will be populating it with the data and add features.

With an initial starting set of data for the beginning, it is available at:

Modules: http://Sitecore.Link/Modules



Authors: http://Sitecore.Link/Authors


Introducing Sitecore Telegram



Telegram Messenger has boosted significantly during past years, as the most convenient and functional with UX well thought and incredibly growing base of users. Since recent, Telegram allows creating informational channels, making itself more than a messenger, but a proper publishing platform.

Apart from that, the messenger is perfect for distributing binaries of any format, it also supports any mobile or desktop platform. With such a simplicity of creating the content and delivering it to all subscribers, Telegram became my communicational app number one.

Today I decided to create a Sitecore channel in Telegram, that would be a merely a news channel for the events happening in a Sitecore world. It will also provide the hottest articles created by the community in recent, with a plans to integrate this channel with Sitecore Link project by implementing a search bot, that will return you with most relevant links according to search criteria provided.

So, if you are already using Telegram messenger, just click this link and subscribe! If not - only two more clicks limits you from using the most functional and secure messenger in the world that keeps you be aware of your favourite digital platform - Sitecore.

Stay tuned!

Symposium 2017 and takeaways

I've been anticipating that event for so long, and finally, I was there! So let's take a look at what's new have been presented.

Sitecore 9 and xConnect brought a new era of Sitecore development. Starting from principally different installation approach, Sitecore brings multiple changes, the most significant of which are changes developers used to work with xDB (which now moved to SQL Server) and content search (which is now Solr by default). Now instead of calling xDB directly, we will be using xConnect API, which is very well documented, thanks to Martina Welander and her team.

CRM connectors have been announced - for both Dynamics and Salesforce. 

Zenith and Horizon - two Sitecore projects currently in development, but both are very promising. It will change the way we work with the platform, but as for now, there is no way too much information about.

Marketing Automation has been re-worked to the best. Brimit, a Sitecore partner, has arranged a perfect demonstration stand of xConnect and marketing Automation working together on Sitecore 9, identifying contact's (visitor's) parameters from both online and offline channels and assigning them to certain profile pattern card, with sending them personalised email afterwards.

Sitecore Cortex will be a new machine-learning technology to be used along with Sitecore xDB in order to increase personalisation and data analysis. 

I spent decent time talking to guys from the team that builds the core of the platform and Express Upgrade Tool. The last one became a mature intelligent tool allowing do controlled upgrades from almost any recent version of Sitecore to version 9, with identifying all the potential issues and configuration breaking changes. I proud that have suggested few valuable ideas for the product about identifying any customises pipeline changes for the instance.

Technical Preview of JavaScript Services.

Thursday morning Symposium finished, but not for the 250+ lucky to be announced Sitecore MVPs of 2017. We have had 2 more thrilling days of MVP Summit.

Almost everything we have been told or presented there has a "non-disclosure" label, so there's not too much to share. Summit was held at much faster pace, comparing to Symposium itself - longer up to 1 hour long deep presentations, with short 5-10 minutes breaks. We were given a great opportunity to challenge new Sitecore 9 training exam, so that whoever passes that test - becomes Sitecore 9 certified already (as I did!). We also took part in Round Table, where various Sitecore teams were presented at round tables, so MVPs were travelling from one interested table to another, raising questions, suggesting ideas and providing feedback.


SUGCon 2017 insights and takeaways

I have attended SUGCon in Amsterdam this year, as usual - it was a blast! What I like Sitecore events for - they always have such an enthusiastic atmosphere of hundreds of best technology professionals united together "on the same boat".

This time I was proud to announce the winners of the community award - The Most Productive Sitecore Authors of 2016. Three luxury looking trophies found their owners, well-deserved guys!


Anyway, I have got few thoughts/takeaways from that wonderful event.

Sitecore Helix has become a proven and reliable development approach for Sitecore already. The more complex your solution is - the more likely you'd use Helix. I am now working on a multinational and multi-project implementation for an insurance service provider and we are using Helix. Given that we have also a distributed development teams, it became crucial that we are doping the development under the same guidelines and each new team member, already familiar with Helix and SOLID principles, becomes productive quite quickly. Also deployment, quality assurance as well as the rest of day-to-day activities - are going to the same standards. My own opinion on Helix is that "if it is cooked well - it serves you well"

My greatest impression after attending SUGCon was after I saw how Mark Stiles combined Microsoft Cognitive Services with Sitecore. The future is already here!

SXA and Sitecore Commerce are also two going trends. As you know, Sitecore has purchased Commerce Server and has now had intensively committed to the product. Sitecore Experience Accelerator is a different beast, that would best suit for large brands with multisite implementations, that simplifies governance and maintainability of them.

Sitecore PaaS becomes closer and closer to the real world. I'd personally not use it now, due to many (not yet sorted) incompatibilities, but the pace is impressing. Christof Claessens has presented about the way Sitecore works on Azure PaaS and relevant modules compatibilities.

Stephen Pope presented Sitecore Publishing Service 2.0 - an app written with .NET core that now increases publishing performance dramatically. The idea behind service is that it separates publishing process from the Sitecore UI by creating standalone service with a publishing queue, that allows aligning publishing load.

Nick Hills from True Clarity gave a great portion of insights on how Sitecore DevOps on AWS and personalisation are done for such a large implementation as for EasyJet.

JavaScript Service (or simply JSS) - another great impression was the last event at SUGCon, presented by Alex Shyba and Adam Weber. Smoothless javascript and front-end stuff working with node.js and Sitecore layouts will bring an excellent user experience. However, that was more a demo of the proof of concept and team needs to complete the development.

There was much more, but this is what comes to my mind (and from the notes) for the moment...

And finally, those 250+ of lucky to become Sitecore MVPs of 2017 were awarded a symbol of commitment to the Sitecore and its community: