TDS 2017 : Was it different than last year?

YES!

Why was it different this year (TDS2017)? And why should I go next year?

This year, as ever, was a festival of information packed presentations with lots of opportunities to network with developers and some customers too. Not only that – Content Bloom were the Diamond Sponsors so it was great to have a strong contingent from our various offices across the globe (including Nova Scotia, New Orleans, Belgium, UK, India, Czech Republic, Ukraine).

So what’s new.

Well, SDL Web 8.5 is new, Translation monitoring for in-workflow items is new, and a whole heap of other stuff was new – see the Agenda for a full list of the presentations (with more videos to follow shortly).

The thing I found quite notable was, what seems to me, a shift in approach. There seemed less of the pure technical presentations showing how to implement something specific and flashing beautiful code on the screen to wow the technical audience.

There seemed to be more discussion on challenges encountered and novel ways of overcoming them – and more importantly – the opportunity to then discuss with peers and the like “was there a better way” and to discuss with representatives from SDL “should we make a better way for the future”.

Technical, of course.

Of course, deep technical dives are still a very important part of the TDS – it’s specifically aimed at technical folks and we’re told they love to see the nuts and bolts of the solutions. Stanislav Kroshchenko from SDL presented a great introduction to a new DXA Forms Module (read more on Mukesh’s blog).

See here for the TDS video; here are time breaks for the different lightning talks:

  • 00:00:00 – 00:12:40 – Siawash Shibani delivered a lightning talk about G4TM (GUI for Topology Manager), “the first alternative UI for SDL Web’s Topology Manager”.
  • 00:14:30 – 00:34:30 – Guus Beltman continued the acronym generation with a very interesting presentation on CG4T (Code Generation 4 Tridion) and also provided a tool for Visual Studio)
  • 00:35:45 – 01:04:00 – Atila Sos, Exlrt, helps those with the situation that they have content mismatches between CM and CD status in “Orphan Delete
  • 01:05:00 – 01:31:00 – Ivan Milosevic, Exlrt, Load Balancing SDL Microservices in Azure

For the second set of lightning talks – here are more time breaks:

 

00:00:00 – 00:11:30 –  Robert Stevenson Legget presented some insightful experiences from “Using Docker with SDL Tridion/Web

00:12:50 – 00:31:00 – Michael Mannhardt from Acrolinx, TDS Drink Sponsors present how their software can be used to automate the creation of content – something they are likely to be looking into more in the future with SDL Languages

For the more design oriented.

Nicholas Whetmore’s presentation and walk-through on “Theming using the theme zip file functionality” went down well. For something that was designed to be quick and easy but hasn’t been received so intuitively once you really want to delve deep into design changes – in addition to being informative, it brought challenges from the crowd with other approaches/issues that they’ve seen.

For the editors.

Damian Jewett provided a great presentation aimed and showing how the technical folks could – with great ease – make the editorial teams’ day to day working with the CMS more pleasurable through the addition of new tools (quickly and easily installed through the Alchemy Framework).

Also, in “An author-centric approach to SDL Web 8“, Chris Summers and Justin Fansler presented some custom interfaces they had worked on and explained how this approach is now much better facilitated with a task-oriented Web API layer exposing the core SDL functionalities.

For those working with clients.

Paul Russell provided a great opportunity for participants to understand what it really takes to work with a client with “Large Scale Releases in Enterprise Environments“. In addition to the expected blood, sweat and tears, he highlighted improving and refining communications; thinking out of the box for some tools, and automating many steps being key.

For those looking to architect new solutions.

The presentation “Where did the servers go?” from Nuno Linhares and Julian Wraith will prove interesting, giving a highlight of the move from physical servers to the cloud environment now to what arising in terms of serverless computing. With this was the obligatory “Web 8.5 – What’s New” which is well documented out there but a great addition here was the lightning talks that showed on extensions for the likes of easier Taxonomy setup or management.

Something coming up is the SDL Unified Delivery Platform (UDP). Discussed in the presentation below, by Ben Middleton, it’s something Content Bloom, with our interest and collaboration in Knowledge Center, have been evaluating with our knowledge center clients! Watch this space!

Translation and workflow both made their way in with a presentation from Jan Horsman and a lightning talk from Mario van der Hoeven-Riesebos. Interestingly, the ensuing discussion from Jan resulted in the agreed creation of the SDL Idea to improve error logging!

Next year – why go again?

Well, it’s the same question anyone’s boss will ask “what’s the benefit for the Company”?

Directly – you’ll be happier, more informed. It’s possible you could even bring back new connections to help your ongoing development or sales and help you stay on top of your game.

Indirectly – you’ll be happier and more informed. The connections you make can be great introductions to start new ideas, seek or offer help for you or your colleagues; the discussions around new and forming technologies can also help ensure your Company as a whole stays aware and relevant.

Perhaps ask your boss why you shouldn’t go, I mean, what’s more important than knowing who’s who, what they’ve done and what they are doing – in your domain?!

DXA Modules Settings Interface

Recently I had the pleasure of traveling to Portugal for the SDL Web Most Valued Professional (MVP) retreat. While this was my first opportunity to participate in one of these events, I have seen the results of having some of the brightest and most willing-to-share minds in the SDL Web community brought together for the opportunity to collaborate. Often times in the past this event has helped to shape the future of SDL Web development, and this year was no exception. Continue reading

Setting up your development Environment (.NET)

Welcome to my attempt to introduce you to Digital Experience Accelerator (DXA) in a 7 days posting marathon, explaining how DXA works, what are the ways to use it and how you can contribute.

But first of all, what is Digital Experience Accelerator or shorter named DXA?

DXA is an open source product build on top of the very popular framework DD4T (Dynamic Delivery 4 Tridion), available in Java (https://community.sdl.com/developers/tridion_developer/m/mediagallery/1241) and .NET (https://community.sdl.com/developers/tridion_developer/m/mediagallery/852).

DXA is intended to help you create, design and publish SDL Web (formerly known as Tridion) based websites, together with its out-of-the-box modules like Experience Manager, SmartTarget and Search.

In order to set-up the development environment for .NET, visit the community website to download the source files, https://community.sdl.com/developers/tridion_developer/m/mediagallery/852.

The following items are found in the zip file:

  • Import package and scripts for the BluePrint
  • HTML designs that are optional to use
  • Code folders, used to connect to the SDL Core Services
  • An available module for this version supported by SDL
  • The src that we will be using for our project
  • A prebuild web application of the src
  • Web-ref- folders containing configurations for your live or staging website
  • Information about the location of the documentation.

First step is to copy the content of the src folder into your code repository and make a clean initial commit. TIP; if you are using a Git repository, I strongly recommended to take a look at Git flows. More information about Git flows at the following link: http://blog.sourcetreeapp.com/2012/08/01/smart-branching-with-sourcetree-and-git-flow/

Second step is to create the .gitignore file. If you are not sure what to put in there, have a look at the one from DXA https://github.com/sdl/dxa-web-application-dotnet/blob/master/.gitignore

Last step is to copy and update the configuration files into our project. The files can be found in the web-ref-staging folder. Update the cd_storage_conf.xml with the staging databases that you are using.

All we have left to do is commit our code to the repository and we are ready to start our DXA development.

Now there are a few ways to develop and/or extend the default site project. One way is to add everything in the existing site project. Personally I’m not in favor of this method as it limits your flexibility and capability to develop in an agile way, not to mention adding additional complexity to any future upgrades that you plan. Instead of that, you might want to split up the components in projects, develop and deliver shippable products at every sprint.

Creating separate modules for functionality increases flexibility, re-usability and a cleaner, more transparent work environment. More about creating separate modules for functionality in the following blog posts. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at creating a site “module” as component.

The simplest way to do this is to use an (Open Source) Visual Studio Extension for DXA available at https://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/2e4c85a5-3f90-4f01-97e3-515cc99d9891.

It contains prefabricated project templates for a Site, Modules and other classes; handy for new developers to become familiar with DXA faster. During today’s post and in the next, we will be using it as a reference, helping to speed up things.

With the extension downloaded and installed, when adding a new project, the DXA option becomes visible below Visual C#, DXA. For our work today, select the Site Project.

CustomerWebSite

The newly added site project has by default a folder structure with an Area for your views, Controllers and Models. It contains a disabled build event that can copy the Views, DLLs, etc. into the site project when removing the rem in the “Post-build event command line”.

CustomerBuildEvent

At the moment of writing this post, the site project is missing two references namely, Sdl.Web.Common and Sdl.Web.Mvc. These references you can manually add yourself from the default site project.

Now you can add an AreaRegistration class, this class is used by the web application to look up the strongly typed models and match them with a view. This can simple be done by adding a new item, as seen in the picture below.

CustomerAreaRegistration

I would recommend to rename the Areas/Site folder to Areas/Customer and update the Site in the CustomerAreaRegistration.cs to Customer too.

That’s it; you have setup your development environment and are ready to build your first DXA site with a clear separation of components. Hope to see you tomorrow for another DXA post.

Automating Alchemy Plugin Uploads in Visual Studio

Anyone building a plugin for Alchemy4Tridion is familiar with the repeated steps of:  Building the project, alt-tabbing to the CME Alchemy page, uninstalling the plugin, alt tabbing to your build directory, moving your hand to the mouse, dragging the *.a4t to the plugin window, yaawwwwnnn, ctrl-tabbing to the CME Content Explorer, F5ing the content. After the billionth time of doing this you yearn for something quicker!

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Announcing the Alchemy Webstore!

alchemy-tridion

Content Bloom is pleased to announce the launch of an exciting new product that brings the ease and convenience of your favourite app store to SDL Tridion. The brainchild of Alexander Klock, the master coder who gave the world the Razor Mediator for Tridion, Alchemy is a new system set to revolutionize the way Tridion eXtensions are built and installed. Not only does www.alchemywebstore.com and the Alchemy4Tridion eXtension provide one click access to a number of fully developed and tested plugins to add a range of new functionalities to your Tridion instance, but with the Alchemy framework anyone can develop and share new plugins with unheard of ease. Continue reading

Removing Node.js dependency from the reference implementation

The whole idea of the reference implementation was to make your life (the life of a SDL Tridion developer) easier. But sometimes people make mistakes, and then the end result can be slightly more difficult than it was intended to be.

This blog post is not so much a confession of what I did wrong, but more intended to help you see how easy things can be changed when the tool you use was designed to be simple and modular.

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Reference Implementation HTML design

By now I assume that everybody has had a little play with the SDL Tridion Reference Implementation, which means the questions are rising for sure. So let me start with spilling some of the guts of the HTML design and how that is build when you publish.

To start off, the HTML design is a responsive HTML5 design built Bootstrap, this means that you can adjust it to your own likings following the Bootstrap methodology. This includes building the HTML design with Node.js and Grunt, but let’s start off simple.

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Tridion and Solr Versioning: a SI4T Story

Here is a quick story with a lesson learnt: One of our clients was running Tridion 2011SP1 and installed Solr 4.8.1, and asked us to configure SI4T. We banged our heads against this thing until major head trauma occurred. The outcome was not successful. The lesson learnt is that Tridion 2011SP1 is compatible up to Solr 4.7 only. Starting with Solr 4.8 you’ll need to be running Tridion 2013 +. Read on for details…

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November 2014 SDL Tridion Webinar

Today Bart Koopman from SDL and Mihai Cădariu from Mihai Consulting presented two really interesting topics at today’s November SDL Tridion Webinar: 

  • The Tridion Reference Implementation
  • Cache implementation with and without DD4T

If you missed the webinar the resources are available after the jump.

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Tridion Reference Implementation Patterns 1: Routing & Controller Basics

One of the goals of the SDL Tridion Reference Implementation (TRI) is to provide an example web application for which ASP.NET MVC application developers can develop functionality without deep understanding of the underlying CMS. A key difference between a ‘classic’ MVC app and a CMS managed one is how URLs are managed and the impact this has on routing requests to controllers. In this article I dig into the mechanism used in the TRI to explain how it fits together.

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