Looking back on Sitecore SUGCON Europe 2016

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Introduction

Looking back on Sitecore SUGCON Europe 2016

The Sitecore User Group Conference of 2016 (SUGCON 2016) was held in Copenhagen this year. Together with Remco van Toor, I was fortunate enough to participate in this conference. You can read a brief report here.

Copenhagen

Monday morning, we left from Airport Eindhoven to Copenhagen on an early flight. When we arrived in Copenhagen, we hopped on the tube downtown to do some site-seeing. Afterwards we took the tube back to the Bella Center for the start of the conference.

Unfortunately, the negotiations with the home front about a slightly extended stay didn't pan out and I didn't have any more time explore this magnificent city.

Bella Center Copenhagen

Day 1

After a very nice lunch, day 1 of the conference was about to begin. It started with an important speaker, because after a brief introduction by CEO Michael Seifert, it was time for the first keynote by Lars Floe Nielsen, Sitecore CTO.

As we are used to, Lars' keynote focuses on new features we can expect in the coming versions (8.2 and 8.3) of Sitecore. The features that speak to the imagination most are super fast publication and a simple upgrade process (8.2) and a replacement of the Web Forms For Marketers (WFFM) by an out-of-the-box tool.

After this inspiring keynote, the content-related sessions started. The first presentation was by Kam Fygi, developer of Unicorn. Unicorn is a tool that serialises Sitecore items and in doing so offers the possibility to check this in together with code. Kam gave a demonstration of all the possibilities Unicorn offers. It is also noteworthy that in version 3.2 it is possible to synchronise users and roles.

After a short sponsor track about uCommerce, by Soren Spelling Lund of course, the parallel sessions began. There were always 3 parallel sessions one could choose from. I have chosen the following sessions:

  • Atomic design to the max
  • Content delivery networks with Sitecore
  • Building large scale Sitecore solutions

Atomic design to the max was about splitting up and making renderings on an 'atom' level. By opting for this setup, it is possible to A/B test on micro level and to personalise.

Subsequently, the session about CDNs in combination with Sitecore. Here, the possibilities for the use of content delivery networks in combination with Sitecore were explained. For example, it is possible to 'host' your media items in Azure.

The last, popular, parallel session concerned 'Building large scale Sitecore solutions'. Or, how you can upscale your Sitecore solution and what the advantages of this are. Central theme of the story was this: how you can upscale your Sitecore platform and make sure there's no downtime in case of a deployment. This should always the goal according to Mike Edwards.

After a short sponsor track of Coveo, with a presentation about the latest version, in which machine learning is central, it was time for the evening programme. A dinner, awarding of the MVP and hackathon awards and closing with a hilarious Sitecore quiz.

Day 2

After a good night's rest (in the hotel where the conference was also held) it was time for the second and also last day. Whereas day 1 was visited by approximately 300 people, on day 2 there were approximately 1000 Sitecore enthusiasts. The reason was that on this second day, Sitecore digital marketing summit was organised in the same location.

The first session of the day was a session about mobile analytics with xDB by Todd Mitchell, Technical Product Manager at Sitecore. Although the session could have been more extensive and clear, it was very interesting to see which developments are ongoing within Sitecore to store mobile analytics in xDB. In the basis, it comes down to the fact that a tracker on a mobile device stores analytical data in the local storage and synchronises this with xDB.

Afterwards it was time again to time to choose from the various parallel sessions. I had opted for the following sessions:

  • Performance optimisation on the Sitecore platform
  • Bluetooth beacons, IOT and Sitecore personalisation
  • Practical Habitat: embrace the architecture

The performance optimisation was a good session, filled with tips and experiences in the field of performance. It included a passionate discussion and demo about the use of dotTrace. Also, a statement was made that Sitecore caching is an optimisation step, but shouldn't be a condition for a good performance.

Subsequently, it was Mike Robbins' turn. He gave a very appealing presentation on the use of beacons in combination with xDB. By means of examples from a zoo, Mike demonstrated how data of visitors - in this case the visited animals - could added to an experience profile by means of a beacon. This can then be used to send visitors personalised emails, for instance. In the same session, Mike also managed to demonstrate a souvenir shop app based on the visited animals. The demo code is already available on GitHub.

After this session, Anders Laub gave a presentation about 'Architecture', 'Methods' and 'Tools'. Habitat, the standard Sitecore architecture boilerplate and the work method at Pentia, Sitecore partner and employer of Anders, were all discussed. The conclusion was that your architecture is the most stable factor and the tools the least.

Between these parallel sessions, there were a few other sessions as well. For example, Kern Herskind spoke about MVC. This was a summary and refreshing session about Sitecore MVC supplemented with the latest developments such as support of Areas within Sitecore MVC.

There was also a very interesting and well-prepared session about testing. The (unit) test possibilities within Sitecore were briefly discussed. The message was, despite that unit testing within Sitecore can be difficult, that there are good possibilities available.

Last but not least, Martina Wehlander took the stage to share her experiences gained during development of doc.sitecore.net. One slide was quickly followed by the next. A fun, airy and enthusiastic presentation.

Conclusion

I was a little reserved beforehand, because no truly big developments have occurred within the Sitecore platform lately. Nevertheless, I've seen many interesting, fun and enthusiastic presentations with lots of useful tips. I have once again seen how enthusiastic the Sitecore community is and that is certainly infectious and great to be a part of.

We get inspired by curious people

Our goal is for people to Get Smarter Every Day. 

John van Beek

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