Sitecore MVP Summit 2016 and Sitecore Symposium 2016: Down on the Bayou!


Traveling down to New Orleans

I opted to arrive late in New Orleans, so that I could watch the Chicago Bears season opener. Looking back on that decision I would’ve preferred to join some of the Sitecore MVPs for the New Orleans Saints game instead of watching Jay Cutler cost the Bears yet again. They saw a great game and had a wonderful experience. My NOLA experience truly began Monday morning with my token trip to CafĂ© Du Monde with fellow Sitecore MVP, Robbert Hock. We enjoyed beignets and coffee while catching up on the year that had past. It was a great side excursion despite the brutal temperature and humidity.

MVP Summit

The MVP Summit kicked off at 1pm. As usual the topics were great, ranging from ‘Things I’m not allowed to speak about’ to ‘Tell anyone and you’re out of the program’. LOL Not too much I can pass on without violating my NDA. Let’s say that Sitecore is providing a way to listen to the User Voice and working on improving documentation (along with other top level secrets)! Since the Sitecore MVP community spends most of its year ensuring the great experiences for its users, Sitecore treats us to an amazing regional experience. This year they covered the River Boat experience – which is an essentially experience for those in NOLA. The river boat traveled up and down the Mississippi while the MVPs were treated to great music, food, drinks, and most importantly conversation!

Day 2 of the MVP Summit

For the 2nd day of the MVP Summit, Sitecore planned a secret location which seems fitting as I write this post about secret MVP only sessions. The location for day 2 was at NOLA Motorsports about 30 minutes outside of New Orleans. It is a really cool venue with multiple racing tracks. Within the event center, the Sitecore MVPs were briefed on various topics such as Nuget plans, Dependency Injection, and more. After the main sessions, the MVPs broke off into multiple roundtable discussions on a wide assortment of topics. The day ended with Go Kart racing and a party! You have to end every Sitecore day with a great experience!


Sitecore Symposium Notes:

Sitecore Symposium Keynote takeaways:

Michael Seifert: DEMAND MORE Value for your customers

Michael kicked off the symposium with a great presentation showcasing the latest and greatest features coming to a Sitecore install near you. With help from Darren Guarnaccia, he showed us the new look Path Analyzer, SxA demo of wireframing within the Sitecore Experience Editor, and even touched on the 8.2 Sitecore migration tool!

Jason Silva: Technology & Innovation
Jason Silva was up next and really did a great job of presenting futuristic ideas. Some concepts talked about were cell phones the size of a blood cell that wire directly to brain, the new billionaire: reach/better a billion people instead of focusing on making a billion dollars, and many more. I was really surprised with just how good Jason did as I really only knew him as the host of Brain Games, but he really is an amazing individual.

Lars Floe Nielson: The Developer keynote
This was kind of a repeat from the MVP Summit but Lars set the stage for all the new features being rolled out from Publishing Service (ASP.NET Core) to NuGet support!

Jane McGonigal: Why games make us better
Jane presenting a great case that gaming actually is a benefit to humans. Talked about the opposite of play being depression (not work). She tied in the talk to Pokemon Go and how the game is retraining the brain to think something good can happen around every corner. This new way of thinking allows the body to power through negative signals in the body because the brain wants to find the next something good waiting for them.

Another topic she covered was Uber and how Uber isn’t really looking to enable drivers to find work. Instead there long term goal is to shift to auto driven cars. There short term goal is to train a generation into using a service instead of the need for purchasing a car. One amazing fact I got from this is that 3.1 million truck drivers will be replaced by autonomous trucks over the next decade.

Sitecore Symposium Session notes by topic:

Personalization
Sessions:
·         Dive into Personalization Bliss

Dive into Personalization Bliss was actually really well done. David Walker covered utilizing free 3rd party APIs to create custom rules against. This allows the personalization to become smarter. Example: Weather API: If the weather is freezing, you don’t want to offer your customer a deal on open toed sandals. Nearest Walmart; Housing Market demographics (Wolfram); etc. It really shows that the sky is the limit when personalizing content.


Path Analyzer
Sessions:
·         Path Analyzer X-Files: How we built the ultimate xDB forensic tool

This session by Alex Shyba and Adam Weber covered the redesigned and much improved next generation Path Analyzer. You will all be happy to know that Path analyzer no longer uses Silverlight (hold for applause). The new path analyzer will be 100% JavaScript based! It now uses React.js, Redux, and D3.js to render all reporting. I felt the new Path Analyzer really ties the xDB together. Pick a Goal --> analyze path to goal --> view recent profiles/contacts that triggered this goal.

FXM
Sessions:

·         Not just a cool party trick: Sitecore FXM

Most are aware of FXM, but I don’t think many are utilizing FXM to it full capacity. The basics are simple enough: configure a 3rd party website and get the FXM tracking beacon JavaScript to add to the 3rd party website. This enables tracking of the 3rd party website within the xDB. This session took it a step further and utilized the JavaScript injection to populate header and footer within a 3rd party website. Kind of neat when you think about the power of manipulating a 3rd party websites content via Sitecore. Of course the presenters mentioned some pitfalls with the approach: SEO, scale, easy to break JavaScript or CSS, and speed to load. My takeaway was that it is still best used for tracking, but it is nice to see the overall potential for extending FXM by utilizing injection.


Mobile
Sessions:
·         Didn’t attend any

Initially my thoughts were that mobile wasn’t really discussed but I just want back through the schedule and found couple of sessions on mobile. One was just the basic “Getting Started with Mobile” and the other was a marketing focused session on “Accelerating your mobile app with Xamarin and Sitecore”. From years past, it seemed to be much less discussed then at SUGCON NA and 2014 symposium. I’m wondering with companies adopting responsive designs for websites if the need for a separate mobile app is not as important as in years past. If the user can navigate the site on a mobile browser, then why build an app to repeat website functionality?


Sitecore Publishing Service
Sessions:
·         Now in Top Gear: How we Turbocharged Sitecore Publishing with .NET Core

I didn’t actually attend this session as much of the Sitecore Publishing Service was discussed at the MVP Summit earlier in the week. The publishing service is a separate installed service built using .NET Core and can be utilized starting with Sitecore 8.2. Using a manifest concept, it reduces the number of operations significantly (8753 to 11 on a single item)! 10x+ performance gains: ~50 GB media in under 2 hours; 1.5 million variations in under 1 hour! It also enables rollback capabilities which can be quite useful.


xConnect
Sessions:
·         Data Superheroes: Capture IoT Data with Sitecore xConnect
·         Dreams Achieved: xConnect will drive your brand’s next digital revolution


Dreams Achieved was a great introductory talk by Todd Mitchell on Sitecore xConnect. xConnect is a unified API for collecting and querying experience data. The idea behind this is that Sitecore needed to open up the exposure of the data being collected in xDB and also make it easier to capture offline interactions for storage in xDB. This idea was put into practice at the Data Superheroes talk given by Jason Wilkerson. Jason created a dummy device to capture various exercise metrics and report them back into xDB. He then showed how one could personalize the content based on the metrics reported by the device.

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