Sugcon NA 2015 – Sitecore User Group Conference

The last week has been packed with all kinds of Sitecore goodness. Firstly the Sitecore MVP summit and then the Sugcon NA Sitecore user group conference, both hosted in New Orleans. Re-adjusting to the UK timezone has been interesting but well worth the trip 🙂

Here are a few stats on the Sugcon event – a great success by all accounts. http://www.akshaysura.com/2015/10/02/sugcon-sitecore-user-group-conference-status-rocked-it/

sugcon_na_logo

What really stood out was how much cool stuff is being done by Sitecore and even more, all the partners around the world. Even if the ideas weren’t closely aligned with the sites we build its great to see the direction people are taking the platform.

I even got to show a few of the ideas we’ve been working on recently. From the questions at the end we aren’t the only ones trying similar things. Phew!

There should be some slides available soon from the different sessions so do keep an eye out. The tricky thing was choosing which sessions to visit with 3/4 concurrent ones all the time. Here’s a quick summary of the ones I did catch:

  • The importance of component modularity
    • http://www.brainjocks.com/company/score
    • http://bradfrost.com/blog/post/atomic-web-design/
    • Brainjocks have developed a custom development framework – SCORE. The talk wasn’t primarily based on SCORE but ran through the kind of issues and ideas they’d had to tackle during it’s development. The crux of the presentation was to decompose your pages & components into atoms, then gradually pool them together into molecules, organisms, templates and ultimately pages. Think of an atom as a button / a textbox / a title field. Entities could then talk amongst themselves via js pub/sub events.
  • Unicorn 3 and transparent sync
    • https://github.com/kamsar/Unicorn
    • We’ve been using previous versions of Unicorn across a few projects recently so was great to see what Kam had brewed up for the latest version. To work around merge difficulties of Sitecore’s default serialization format the whole thing has been underwritten with Rainbow – a YAML serialization format for Sitecore items. Live GIT demo’s between branches was pretty bold but paid off, especially when transparent sync was demo’d – the recipient of the branch didn’t even need to run a sync page to pick up the latest changes from another branch.
  • How to best setup Sitecore unit tests and the different options available
    • https://github.com/sergeyshushlyapin/Sitecore.FakeDb
    • Let’s count the ‘usings’ – often a telling sign as to the coupling in your code. Kern had found some good 404 handling code (*good as in: this is an interesting challenge – do not try this at home but makes for useful demo fodder). Different options for how to test were shown off: Microsoft Fakes vs. Sitecore Fake DB vs. Custom refactoring. Each had it’s benefits and costs. If you’ve not checked out Fake DB yet I’d highly recommend it.
  • Personalization driven by machine learning
    • https://www.markstiles.net/Blog/2014/08/26/I-Sitecore-Integrating-Machine-Learning.aspx
    • There are certain areas of IT that just blow your mind & this was definitely one for me! The idea here was great – your system self evolves to select and report back on which content fits the users best. It might sound trivial but under the hood things move in complex ways – all based around a genetic algorithm (this was my WTF moment!). The more visitors interact, the more the system understands you and the underlying dataset. This was surfaced in a few ways, via in-page debug details, the actual page content and finally some custom UI’s for editors. The implementation hadn’t quite got live yet, it will be interesting to see how it performs when scaled and receiving real traffic.
  • Store your media in S3
    • https://aws.amazon.com/documentation/s3/
    • If you want to distribute your media, then serve with scaling and different compression’s this talk was a good introduction. Ben showed off custom implementations that allowed media to be pushed directly to S3 and then transformed as required when rendered into your pages. It’s early days but I have a feeling this kind of thing will become a lot more prevalent in the near future.
  • Under the hood with Mongo
    • http://docs.mongodb.org/manual/core/storage/
    • Eminem & Snoop karaoke, Lars tribute video’s and hidden sound effects! Yes, this was a Mongo talk but not like many I’ve seen before 🙂 Sean ran through information on the different storage options available since the release of Mongo 3.0 – primarily wiredTiger vs
      MMAPv1. A key thing to take away, one size doesn’t fit all – your choice of storage engine really depends on what you find when you profile your application & the data residing in your infrastructure.
  • Javascript overload (es6, javascript pipelines, javascript in speak)
    • https://github.com/lukehoban/es6features
    • If like me you struggle to keep up with all the new Javascript libraries, frameworks and techniques – this was a great eye opener for how fast its all evolving and improving. Through a variety of sourceMap’s and transpilers some of the latest syntax and features can be used in modern browsers. You could tell Pavel really knew his stuff here, when asked to pick one language to work with for the next 10 years, well, you can probably guess 🙂

There were some great topics on show at Sugcon, it was great to see the diversity and all the ideas people are coming up with! I’d highly recommend going to the next ones if you get the opportunity.

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