2016 Sitecore MVP Awards and onward

18. February 2016 17:39 by Mark Servais in Sitecore  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

It's been a wild and weird year.

I am extremely humbled and honored to be one of Sitecore's 2016 Technology MVPs. Get the list of names here.

During the past year, I found some different ways to preach to the goodness of Sitecore through involvement in the Sitecore! Experienced work, posting through a few different blogs, and conversing with Sitecore customers.

I did more with SPEAK than I imagined through working on XCentium's upcoming Vault product, I learned from each of our guests on the podcast, and really focused my personal interests into career development of myself and a few others.

This year the Sitecore site took hold and the Sitecore Community Slack channel was born. Watching both of these flourish this year has been really fun to watch.

Now there are more MVPs than ever before - 221 of us now. Going through the list some regular faces and a lot of newer folks. Group pictures are really going to suck getting everyone in the shot. A drone might be needed this year to take that group photo.

The community is getting better and better.

The weird for me, besides the weird zombie drunk guy in New Orleans trying to spit food on Mark Stiles, Dan Solovay, and myself, was the amount I took on and the speed of burnout that was incorporated. This year was the first time I felt I needed a hiatus from career focused and some personal endeavors. That was a bit tough for me to do, but in hindsight was necessary.

Going forward, changes are a coming for me this year. New directions around career and life are going to be interesting for me.

Sitecore! Experienced ideas are flowing and getting on the board to execute and finish...

Module, big data and whitepaper ideas are making me salivate like a dog hearing a bell..

We as co-creators are sending off the first of our offspring to university - our work to laying adulthood groundwork is complete and I get to enjoy the role of adviser instead of composer

Embracing and exercising my non-logical thinking more which produced a by product of strengthening my logical thinking. A little odd kinda like a politician that thinks for everyone else before themselves. (BTW - that politician thing doesn't exist in the United States. I don't want people to have false hope about money and politics.)

So here is to Sitecore's 2016 season that will bring the future MVPs of 2017...let's tear into this with a little more swagger in our step, shall we?


Things to know about Sitecore SPEAK

11. February 2016 19:00 by Mark Servais in Sitecore  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

I just wrapped up a presentation (admittedly clearly not my best) for the Milwaukee Sitecore User Group where I gave an very brief overview of SPEAK and I did a little Betty Crocker baking of an existing Sitecore Marketplace module from Sheer UI to SPEAK.

The prezi is here. The MKE SUG presentation video is here. Finally the summary video I did as a backup is here.

A small Sitecore! Experienced video is here - our first Tangible Knowledge series piece. These are open forum so if you got something uniquely Sitecore to share see us on the Sitecore! Experienced site.

SPEAK has some portions that give it some heat. Let's review some of these nuggets:

Config files:

Sitecore.Speak.config -> Contains a series of SPEAK settings around requireJS files, caching, script minificaton, etc. Play with this file at your own risk. Big takeaway in this file is the addition for pre compilation of SPEAK views and the custom SPEAK handler which is critical for component rendering.

001.Sitecore.Speak.Important.config - Important enough to be at the head of the list. All the client piplelines are defined here for the client processing -clicks, layout rendering, scripts and stylesheets, and bindings.

Sitecore.Speak.ItemWebApi.config -> Pipelines. The word you're going to here for a bit more. So this ties in the pipelines related to item search for SPEAK. Item requests, searchs, and property retrieval are defined here.

Sitecore.Speak.Applications.config -> Some settings and pipelines that deal with dialog presentation overrides , the media browser dialog (XML control override), and logout functionality around SPEAK.

Sitecore.Speak.Components.config -> Some of those things, you know - pipelines. Rules, controls, styling are defined here.

Sitecore.Speak.Mvc.config -> MVC routing prefix is established here with command route and content rendering pipelines.

Sitecore.Speak.LaunchPad.config -> No pipelines! Instead a processor to work with SPEAK log in functions and a setting to enable personalized frames with Analytics.

Sitecore.Speak.AntiCsrf,SheerUI.config - Looks to be a rules filtering limitation - but don't quote me on that one.

Sitecore.ExperienceEditor.Speak.Requests.config & Sitecore.ExperienceExplorer.Speak.Requests.config - processes related to content author activities to verify that actions on the client can take place, retrieve specific information and perform specific processing actions. Looks like a lot of tool setup.

So knowing where things are defined for life in Sitecore will come in handy when having issues with very customized and complex controls.

In keeping with the theme of pipelines, we just don't have them for the code-behind. In your Sitecore instance file structure, go to website/sitecore/shell/client/Speak/Assets/lib/core/<pick your version here, we are looking at 2.0>. The sitecore.js file begins the journey of functions that are the girders and bolts for the SPEAK framework. You can read this at your leisure. 

Ok you really don't need to spend leisure time reading this, read Moby Dick, White Fang, Grapes of Wrath, or a great piece of literature.

Do however take a little bit of non-leisure time to review this script as it will give you some insights on the client side composition of SPEAK and where frameworks like jQuery, Knockout.js, and Backbone.js come into play and also where their wings may have been clipped/enhanced for SPEAK.

You likely will never want to make changes here, but always good to know what is going on where.

This URL -> https://doc.sitecore.net/speak = your friend when working with SPEAK. You are going to make a lot of other friends too. Several Sitecore employees, Sitecore MVPs, and dedicated developers have written blogs on some trials and successes with their speak efforts.

The most difficult part about working with SPEAK has been knowing what each of the components can and can't do. Even with the improvements in documentation, you are going to have needs and wants to push the provided components further than they were designed to go. You may even find the need to have to create something brand new (I encourage you to do so frequently).

There are a few good tutorials on how to get started with SPEAK and I will not reiterate that information here. I will though share with you some honest advice around my using SPEAK for XCentium's Vault product and other little tidbits I have worked on.

1. Don't screw with the main layouts. Yes that is a technical term that I made tamer than the original word. Sitecore has put these in place for a consistent feel for all customers. I haven't seen too many hard and fast UI best practices for consistency from the controls provided, but the dashboard pages and dialogs have a definitive sandbox to do you thing in. Play in the sandbox as much as possible.

2. The learning curve is certainly inclined. Even if you have a solid understanding of the stack behinds SPEAK (I consider myself mediocre here), there are things that you can, can't, should, and shouldn't do. Trial and error around building stuff is the best teacher here.

3. The premise of SPEAK is built on concepts you should know as a Sitecore developer. Placeholders, templates, renderings, etc. It's just a different composition toolbox and space.

4. Sitecore Rocks is another friend of yours. In fact you really can't do SPEAK without it. I did though have to go into the Content Editor within the Core database to verify some checkboxes. They didn't set very clean for me in Rocks.

5. Estimation is futile at first. That incline I mentioned before, it humbles you. Starting out, especially if building custom SPEAK components, you are going to mis-judge the time it will take you to accomplish tasks. If you are a consultant, and promising custom SPEAK based functionality, you may want to decide on some what-if overage scenarios. At minimum, give yourself plenty of runway to complete what needs to be done. If possible start with smaller tasks to begin to get a structural feel around the environment.

6. Understand the concepts behind backbone and knockout. While you will not want to rely on them entirely in case the stack changes later, you most likely will want to leverage the architecture the best you are able to keep your components and overall flow clean.

7. Listeners are king.

8. Rules help with component to component interaction. If that fails, utilize your page code capabilities to facilitate that communication. 

9. Keep your code generalizations in nuggets for re-use but expect that each "page" entity in SPEAK will require its own unique capabilities.

10. Provide as much feedback as possible. Sitecore has invested time and energy into this as a future piece of the puzzle. The more voices they here about issues, improvement ideas, etc., the better it is for the entire community. The real good part - they are listening.

11. Your browser development tools are another really close friend you will make. Learn them well.

I hope you found some wisdom in my words. Good luck with your adventures and share what you are doing.

Here are some of the best places for SPEAK information as of now:

Sitecore Support, the Sitecore community (community.sitecore.net, the Sitecore slack channel (#sitecore-speak), Twitter, etc.), your local Sitecore User Groups - talk to other Sitecore folks to see what they are doing.

Sitecore 8.1 - /sitecore/client/Business Component Library/version 2/Content/Guidance/Dashboard

Sitecore.Net Documentation - http://bit.ly/1JnuXrQ

Julia Gavrilova - http://bit.ly/1OCTWTY

Jakob Christensen – http://bit.ly/1mYrDtdhttp://bit.ly/1P9E4ZO

Martina Welander - http://bit.ly/1P9E7Vk

Anders Laub - http://bit.ly/22FHspb

Göran  Halvarsson - http://bit.ly/1MOmPLE

Vikram Rathore - http://bit.ly/1JnvqtQ

Martin English - http://bit.ly/1WgKD1e

Mike Robbins - http://bit.ly/1Tfas3I

My stuff - https://vimeo.com/sitecoreexperienced/sitecoreexperienced9   http://www.markservais.com/post/2015/08/24/xcentium-speaking-aloud-changing-css           https://prezi.com/firrr2kjvpcu/speak-converting-a-module/

You can always practice your Google Foo -> "Sitecore SPEAK".

The end of a series - Episode 9 of Sitecore! Experienced

20. October 2015 21:06 by Mark Servais in Sitecore  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments (0)


It's done. We did something that we weren't sure had much merit, how much work it was really going to be, nor did we think we originally were going to do more than 3 episodes.

Jamie and I took on these nine episodes and had a lot of fun doing it. Sure there were many nights staying up till 2-3 AM to shoot interviews, marathon video editing sessions, and countless challenges along the way, but it was something that two people in the Sitecore community were able to put together and move forward.

This was very garage punk band stuff for me. The sessions were pretty raw from a humor standpoint. Most material cut from the final versions of their episodes will never see the light of day. The guests were amazing. For many guests it felt like we knew  then from childhood making the process so much more enriching than I could have ever imagined.

But like everything in life, you can only ride the wave for as long as it lasts, and we felt like this wave crested and came to shore. It is time for both of us to determine what is next for Sitecore! Experienced. We know this much, it won't be a podcast.

We wanted to go on to other projects and endeavors within and outside of the Sitecore community.

Jamie and myself had developed this friendship from merely working together within the same team. We took that friendship and  this collaboration to allow others to share what they do in the Sitecore community, while we selfishly got to hang out, tell bad jokes, catch up on family news, and have some fun and laughs along the way.

While we will still be doing some things together in the future (and we really don't know what that will be yet) I would like to encourage the community, which we think is one of the better software development communities out there, to continue to extend, share, and find ways to share by working together.

The benefits of doing so have now been repeated a few times in the community since our episode #1 alone.

So thank you for all your support and your viewership.

You can find me soon on the next wave! I don't sit still for very long.



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