Another year and another successful Kentico Connection conference has just finished. Just like last year, the US version of the conference was hosted in Boston. In 2014 there were new sessions, new people to meet, and plenty of things to learn. As usual I had a great time at the conference. I really enjoy meeting with the other great Kentico partners around the country and seeing how they are using Kentico to create successful solutions. Today I thought I would share a few things I learned during the conference and give my impressions on the two day event. Keep reading to find out the top 5 things I learned at the conference.
#1. Its Time to Choose Whether to Be Liked or Be Rich
Niall McKeown was a newcomer to the Kentico Connection conference and a welcome addition. Niall, CEO of iONOLOGY, gave a great session on how a “bolt-on digital strategy” is not good enough for an organization going into 2015. He called for a need to have a full transformative digital strategy if organizations really want to compete in the digital marketing landscape.
What really hit home for me was how Niall explained that most businesses start with an incoherent action (build me a template, get me a design, give me a persona) instead of putting the time in to figure out the strategy first. Niall encouraged that businesses should take the time to diagnosis their market, create a guiding policy that works from that diagnosis, and then execute a coherent action against that guiding policy. This incoherent tendency is something that I see all the time with my customers at BizStream, and I couldn’t agree more with him. From there Niall went on to explain his 7 principles of digital business strategy and how being liked should not be the only thing that businesses strive for. He ended with a great case study that illustrated his talk. Overall it was a great session and I am very happy I attended it.
#2. Load Testing is an Important Part of a Website Optimization Plan
Miro Remias is a Senior Solution Architect at Kentico. He presented on Kentico performance and tuning best practices. This was a very well attended session on the second day of the conference. In fact it was standing room only. I have had the pleasure of taking part in a few events with Miro, normally on the Ask the Experts live events that we do, and I can vouch for the fact that Miro knows Kentico better than pretty much anyone else on the planet. So when Miro talks it is worth listening.
Miro went over the top 10 issues that he sees when called in to optimize a Kentico site, and also went over a few new tools that he uses to diagnosis performance issues in his consulting engagements. One of those tools that I did not know about was LoadImpact.com. Load Impact is a great tool that you can use to easily test the performance levels under high traffic loads of your Kentico project with. You can also use this tool to record scenarios to simulate user actions. I wonder how this http user testing tool stacks up against Selenium. Now that would be an interesting follow-up to Ilesh Mistry’s last blog post on Selenium for sure.
Miro also talked about having a good content archiving process matters when you have large amounts of content. For instance you can use a Kentico Workflow to look for stale content that is not being viewed and automatically remove it from the content tree, or push it to a custom table item to keep your content tree nice and tidy. This is always an interesting topic, because you also have to think about SEO best practices with removing content from your site.
#3. The Marriage of Content and Commerce Matters
Simon Lassam, Managing Director at Ridgeway, traveled across the pond from the UK to present a case study on the newly re-built Twinings.co.uk. I had the pleasure of meeting Simon during my trip to Prague for the European version of Kentico Connection. I was very happy to see him again. Simon’s presentation focused on how Ridgeway utilized Kentico EMS to create a marriage of content and e-commerce for Twinings of London.
Simon talked about how the previous version of the Twinings site had a major disconnect between its website, content written in another CMS, and it’s e-commerce store, written in Magento. This made it difficult to merge a landing page or blog post with content in with showcasing a related product that was for sale. Kentico EMS was able to accomplish this for Twinings as well as set them up for the future content personalization and marketing automation.
It was a great case study that showcased what Kentico can do for an organization. Just as important though was the fact that Simon is British, traveled to Boston, and was talking about Tea… Yes, let that sink in for awhile.
#4. Sam Adams Is Not the Only Brewery In Town
This was only the second time I have visited Boston, the first being last year’s Kentico Connection conference. Let’s just say I am not what you would call a veteran of the city, and I had no clue what the local brewery scene was. So when I heard that the social event was at Harpoon Brewery I was pretty excited. Kentico always puts on a great social event at their conferences and this year was no different. All of the attendees were invited for a night of beer tasting and brewery tours. This was a very cool way to catch up with other Kentico partners and developers. I think everyone would agree that a great time was had by all.
I will also take this opportunity to talk about the venue a bit, the Seaport Hotel. The hotel had two really nice things going for it. First, the location was great. The property was right on the harbor and my room on the 14th floor had a great view of the waterfront. The hotel was also very convenient to get to, from the airport, which was definitely a bonus. Not getting lost in some Boston suburb inside a rental car was pretty nice this year.
Secondly, the space for the conference inside of hotel was first class. Not only was there plenty of room, but there were nice spaces around that you could have a conversation with a small group of people, grab a drink and snack provided by Kentico and the conference sponsors, get a back massage if needed, and each main room was large enough to hold the sessions comfortably. The technical aspect of running the conference sessions themselves was also top notch. I presented a few times and every time there was someone there to help mic me up and make sure my laptop was connected to the audio/video setup. These might seem like little touches but they helped make sure the presentations went smooth.
#5. Encrypted Passwords are Not as Safe as I thought
In a session on Enterprise class security best practices, Dominik Pinter showed how easy it was to crack encrypted passwords and how important it is enforce best practices like password policies, password expiration rules, and even two factor authentication. Dominik then went on to show how Kentico EMS could be configured to utilize these best practices.
I always enjoy Dominik’s presentations because he easily conveys what you can do to prevent vulnerabilities and what not to do to introduce any security holes. He also proved that rainbow tables are not just for mythical unicorns and greedy leprechauns. It was actually kind of scary at how easy it was to crack a simple encrypted password.
My Own Presentations
Like I mentioned in my last blog post. I had a busy week. I was lucky enough to be asked to be a panelist on the CMS-Connected live show. We discussed Common Web CMS Implementation Fails. I think it went well even through there was not a ton of preparation time. In case you missed it, the show was actually recorded and you can watch the whole thing below:
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The Kentico community is as strong as ever. Being able to spend time with great Kentico partners like Codesummit, ecentricarts, Blue Modus, Bit-Wizards, Burns Marketing, Data Inc., Brick Digital, r42, Competitive Innovations, and many more was well worth it. There are some really intelligent people across the country that do great work with Kentico. I enjoyed the conversations and knowledge sharing that took place.
I also fielded quite a few questions in the hallway about different development problems that Kentico developers face. It was interesting for me to hear their issues and solutions for how they use Kentico in the trenches. Every developer I talked to was appreciative of how well Kentico 8 was working for them and how they might best use it going forward.
Thanks Kentico for a great conference. I will be returning next year for sure.