About Chris Summers

Chris has spent his career creating and developing technology for website operation and management. With a background in engineering and design, for the past 12 years, Chris has focused on implementing SDL Tridion products, working with companies and their technical staff to ensure an in-depth understanding of the software and complete successful, on-going implementations.

Chris has worked with more than 60 of the largest and most expansive SDL Tridion implementations in the world, from launching custom integrations, offering technical training and mentoring consultants through to certification.

When he’s not talking or thinking about websites, Chris is an avid chef, an amateur carpenter and a flying trapeze enthusiast. A fan of travel and adventure, he’s a citizen of the world who currently makes his home in Boston, USA.

Distributed “Tridion-less” Tridion Development

About five years ago I wrote a blog entitled the “The Fifth SDL Tridion Environment” in which I explored the need for additional development environments. SDL solved my frustration in part, by creating the MVP program, which carries the great benefit of a special MVP license for Tridion. The license can be used for personal research etc., but not on customer or partner projects. So fast forwarding to 2014, independent Tridion developers are in much the same boat of needing to use a customer’s license installed on a customer’s server.

A lot has changed since 2009, and I am now on a project where we have a globally distributed army of developers (many of which have no knowledge of Tridion or any other CMS) working on a Tridion project from their own machines without the need to buy additional licenses or provide training to each developer. SDL may not like this idea (sorry SDL), but the approach I am about to share has drastically increased the productivity of our team, and has removed many of the ‘barriers to entry’ that so many of SDL’s customers and prospects have complained about in the past. I really believe that this is a model that could significantly increase the acceptance of Tridion to the broader developer community. Continue reading

TransportPackageHandler: Does this count as documentation?

I was recently working on an implementation which required a custom Deployer Module to publish and un-publish DCPs from a third party system. In order to store and retrieve data in/from the system, certain ‘non-display’ data is required by the Deployer (think configurable username, passwords, and primary keys for the databases etc.).

Publishing actions were very straight forward, as all of the ‘non-display’ data could be stored in the contents of the DCP and parsed out before storing it. There are even more elegant ways of adding Metadata to Publish Instructions. Unfortunately this is not the case for a un-publish action. The only information sent in the package when un-publishing a DCP is an instruction to remove the specific DCP (or DCPs).

Having never faced this challenge before, I posted the question on tridion.stackexchange.com  and received a suggestion from Eric Huiza regarding an un-documented extension point for the transport package called a TransportPackageHandler. I will leave it to you to decide if it is a great suggestion or not. Continue reading

The Community XSLT Mediator vs. SDL Tridion 2013 XSLT Template Building Blocks

A brief history of the XSLT Mediator for SDL Tridion
Back in 2007/08, Tridion introduced a modular template framework called Compound Templates with R5.3. At the time you could use a combination of Template Building Blocks written in Dreamweaver (DWTs), C# Fragments and .NET assemblies to manipulate items in a package and add them to the output of your Compound Template.

This was a giant leap forward from what are now called legacy templates (VBScript, JScript and classic XSLT Component Templates) in SDL Tridion 2013. The concept of Compound Templates remains strong today, and is the primary way that developers render their content.

One of the key features of the template framework, was that it could be extended to support additional programming languages through the creation of Mediators. Over the years as developers got frustrated with the out-of-the-box mediators (C# Fragments, DWT and .NET assemblies), a number of community built Mediators have reared their heads, including ones for XSLT, Razor and Java. Continue reading

So you committed the SDL Tridion proposal on Area 51. Now what?

A lot of people have been jumping on the commitment band wagon for the recently proposed Q & A site for Tridion on Stack Exchange’s Area 51 site. This is a great step toward the proposal making it to the beta phase. Thanks to all of you who have got involved so far.

For those who don’t know, Stack Exchange is the creator of some generic technical Q & A sites such as Stack Overflow, Super User and Server Fault. They also make their platform available to more focused communities for products like Drupal and Word Press, as well as completely non-technical sites on various topics as far reaching as gardening, literature and poker. These sites are built by the online communities that want them. Before Stack Exchange sanctions the use of their platform, they want to be sure the sites will get used, and are filled with good content backed by an active community of knowledgeable contributors. They do this by allowing anyone to propose a site on their staging area called Area 51, and measuring its progress as it moves through various phases from initial definition, through commitment and beta until the site becomes live. Continue reading

A Custom Resolver in practice

Back in February I posted an article about Custom Resolvers. Yesterday I rolled my first Custom Resolver into a production environment, so I figured it was time to share my findings.

Background

To set the scene, it probably helps to explain the business requirements first. We have a large implementation with over 300 publications. Many of these share content, some of which needs to be secured, and links to binaries that also need to be secured. We have a third party security solution, which is implemented as a proxy on top of our published site. The proxy looks for a security.xml in the folder of any request, and then prompts for login etc depending what is contained in the XML file. This works very well for pages, but the pages often link to binaries (which were all contained in the “/images” directory for each publication). In order to secure binaries with different sets of restrictions we needed to bind the binaries in different Structure Groups. To simplify the concept, we decided to publish a variant of each binary linked from a page to the same Structure Group as the page. This has the desired effect of securing all binaries that are linked from secured pages with the same restrictions.  When a binary is linked from multiple secured pages, multiple variants of the binary are published. Continue reading

Why we don’t use SDL Tridion Workflow

The SDL Tridion MVPs were chatting on Skype last week, and the subject of workflow came up. One MVP told us he was working on a particularly interesting workflow challenge, and another shared the fantastic one-liner “Rule #1 for SDL Tridion Workflow: Don’t do it”.

Now based on my last post “Welcome back SDL Tridion Workflow” I thought it would be interesting to take a look at why so few clients implement SDL Tridion’s workflow solution for managing their content. After all, I bet 9 out of 10 clients list workflow as a feature in RFIs when making their WCM selection shortlists. Continue reading

Welcome back SDL Tridion Workflow

Over the last two weeks, I have had the privilege of spending a lot of time with some of the R&D folks at SDL who are working on the forth coming releases of their world beating WCM platform SDL Tridion. At both SDL Innovate 2012 and SDL Tridion HQ in Amsterdam this week, there has been a lot of talk about “bundles”. Now I can’t really tell you anything about bundles per se (because I really don’t know the details), but from what I hear “it will be the revolution of SDL Tridion Workflow” which has been the thorn in many a consultant and customer’s side since R4. The biggest feature of the new workflow offering will be grouping items together into “Bundles”, allowing you to process complete work packages through a workflow process instead of just a single Page or Component. Continue reading

Installing SDL Tridion Hotfixes from a Network Location

This is not strictly an SDL Tridion issue, but I figured I would share it here in case others ran into the problem.

I just installed a hotfix on my development machine for a publish states issue in SDL Tridion 2011 SP1 which fixed a problem on marking items as published or not after installing the service pack. To apply the hotfix I needed to install an updated Tridion.ContentManager.Publishing.dll into the GAC. Continue reading