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Brian McKeiver's personal blog. This blog is mostly dedicated to Kentico CMS and ASP.NET development.

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    This past week BizStream launched a new product targeted at Kentico developers, Compare for Kentico. We have been very excited to do so because we believe that Compare for Kentico makes Kentico deployments easier, quicker, and more accurate. We strongly believe this because we have been using the tool internally for quite some time. In fact we have had almost a year to take this tool from a concept, and cobbled together set of functionality, to production worthy. We started with using it on just a few test sites, and are now happily using it to make deployments easier on our client's sites. Our development team loves it, and we think you will too.

    With that being said my goal of this blog post is to do a deep dive on using Compare for Kentico to visually compare two different Kentico website instances to show you how it actually works. Keep reading to find out how you can cut your deployment time, be more confident that the deployment actually worked, and keeping some of your own sanity intact when it comes to moving changes from one environment to the next.


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    This is the second part of the How Compare For Kentico Works blog post series. Make sure that you read part 1 first befor reading this post. In this second post we skip by the how and why, and move right in to guts of using Compare for Kentico. We will also walk through how to use the tool to focus in on the differences that really matter.

    Keep reading to find out how you can cut your deployment time, be more confident that the deployment actually worked, and keep some of your own sanity intact when it comes to moving changes from one environment to the next.

     


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    This is the third part of the How Compare For Kentico Works blog post series. Make sure that read part 2 first before reading this post. In this third post I show you how to use the final output of the comparison and give you examples of how my team at BizStream uses the tool.

    Keep reading to find out how you can cut your deployment time, be more confident that the deployment actually worked, and keep some of your own sanity intact when it comes to moving changes from one environment to the next.


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    At the recent Build 2016 conference Microsoft really wowed developers with all sorts of new bells and whistles for Visual Studio, Azure, Bots, and Windows 10.  Included in some of the new enhancements for ASP.Net and Visual Studio was a pretty cool new feature called Visual Studio Application Insights. According to Microsoft, Application Insights allow developers to detect issues, solve problems and continuously improve their applications. The technology is intended to help quickly diagnose any problems in a live application.

    Since my team and I are in charge of monitoring quite a few web applications, I found the topic of Application Insights particularly interesting as it relates to Kentico based applications. I immediately thought of questions like would this technology work for web applications only hosted in Azure, or would it also work for existing applications that were on-premise. I was also curious if how easy it was to install and use the technology, how much overhead that it introduces, and exactly how the heck does it actually work. 

    Keep reading to find out how easy it is to add Visual Studio Application Insights to a Kentico based web application and what value, if any, this technology can add to your every day job as a web developer or architect.


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    For a few years now the great debate around the ASP.NET community has been around how ASP.NET MVC is the only framework of the future. The general point of this debate is that MVC is the winning framework that is finally ready to obsolete the ASP.NET Webforms technology. While I could write an entire blog post on my full opinions of this debate, today I am not going to do that. Instead, today I am going to focus on how Kentico 9.0 has come to fully embrace ASP.NET MVC.

    In the latest release of the CMS, MVC is getting very close to being a first class citizen in the choice of Kentico development models, with the other leading candidate being the Kentico Portal Engine model (which has always been based on ASP.NET Webforms). I say first class citizen because the MVC improvements in version 9.0 have been considerable enough for my team and I to start building out client projects in this model, and we are quite happy with the results.

    In fact in the last 6 or 7 months of using Kentico 9.0 MVC we have learned a few things that I feel are worth sharing with the Kentico developer community. So without further ado, keep reading after the jump to find out about 8 Things Developers Should Know about Kentico MVC


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    I recently wrote an article that was published via the Grand Rapids Business Journal on how the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way we work at BizStream. I was pretty honored to be asked to submit an article for their technology blog. The summary is below and you read the full article via the provided link after the jump.

    At BizStream, we use many different internet-connected devices. “Things” like NEST (thermostats), Dropcams (automated cameras), Amazon Echo (voice search), etc. These devices help manage our facility.

    We've automated the building’s climate control, lighting, and security settings with these IoT tools. But with the addition of Amazon Echo, Cortana in Windows 10, and Slack with its bots, we are starting to use IoT not just for physical automation, but to now answer questions and do simple tasks in our everyday work.


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  • 06/29/16--19:22: How Search For Kentico Works
  • In the second quarter of 2016 BizStream launched Compare for Kentico, part of the BizStream Toolkit, a suite of add-ons for Kentico developers. Today I'm proud to review the second tool of the toolkit, Search for Kentico.

    The goal for Search for Kentico is to be able to easily search across every object in your Kentico instance. If you search for a term like "console.log", our tool will look through every peice of code you have in your website, on the filesystem, as well as every database object that Kentico knows about (and doesn't know about) and return you intelligent results. 

    This is a very useful feature in case you want to check for debug statements, look out for dev URLs in content or email templates, or rename a column or SQL View name in the database. Now instead of waiting for some dependant object to possibly error, you can move on with confidence that your rename worked. Keep reading after the jump to find out how this free tool works.


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    A few of my fellow Kentico MVPs and I fielded questions and answers this past week in the latest edition of the Kentico Ask the Experts live webinar series. For those of you that missed it, you can watch the recorded version below via YouTube (there is a larger version after the jump too). There were some great questions around Kentico optimization, solution architecture, and best practices. Enjoy.

     

     


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    In this episode of Kentico Rocks, Brian McKeiver and Bryan Soltis review the state of using ASP.NET MVC in Kentico 9. The discussion includes why MVC matters for Kentico developers and Kentico partners, some tips and real world experience with using MVC in Kentico, and use cases for where MVC makes sense over the venerable Kentico portal engine. Listen on to find out if you should be using MVC in your own Kentico website development process.


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    According to a recent report, JavaScript is used by 93.6% of all websites. To say that's a large amount is a gigantic understatement. Considering the fact that there are over 1 billion websites in the world, that means there has to be at least 100 million different ways JavaScript is used today (it sure feels like it somedays anyway). Even though many developers strive to use the latest patterns, best practices, and modular implementations, the fact is, we all do our client side scripting a little differently. This trend continues into how we use JavaScript in Kentico CMS web development. There are many different ways to handle it in Kentico, and every site seems to have it done just a little bit differently from the next.

    There are great articles out there, from some very smart people, on how to best utilize scripts in Kentico. So I'm not going to cover those scenarios in today's blog post. Instead I am going to focus on a real world scenario that I have dubbed "The Revenge of the JavaScript Web part". Basically it boils down to a Kentico quick tip on one very sneaky gotcha, when dealing with the built-in JavaScript Web Part in Kentico. Keep reading to make sure that you are not bit by the same hard learned lesson that my team and I recently went through.


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    One of the primary strengths of the Kentico e-commerce platform is that it can be customized with relative ease. Honestly, this one of the main reasons that my team and I decided to go with Kentico in the first place. The Kentico API and provider object model is top notch, and it can be extended to do just about anything. This is especially true in the e-commerce pillar of the all-in-one solution. Do you need to integrate your Kentico e-commerce site with an ERP system, roll your own custom payment gateway implementation, or sync up with a shipping carrier's API? Have no fear, all of these tasks are totally accomplishable in Kentico.

    With that being said, one of the most common requests that we get at BizStream when building a custom e-commerce site in Kentico is the ability for B2B users to make purchases via the use of a Purchase Order Number (PO Number) instead of a standard credit card payment method. That's one feature that isn't totally 100% out of the box when you have a custom checkout process. Again this task is not a tough issue, and there are many helpful links to get you started in this area if you need to.

    Funny enough, we are actually currently working on a project that has this requirement in Kentico 9 (yes this is actually a Kentico MVC site too). And after demoing the working functionality to the client, we received a question of how to then look up orders in the administrative interface by a PO Number. And that is something that I didn't have an immediate answer for. After doing some quick research, it turns out that this customization is not that hard to do.


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    Digital Summit Detroit features over 40+ sessions and 50+ speakers on the latest digital trends & best practices from industry educators. The two day event is happening October 11th and 12th at the Cobo Center in Detroit Michigan.

    Digital Summit gives digital professionals an opportunity to learn directly from the world’s digital industry experts on topics that include Marketing, UX & Design, Search, Content, Mobile, and more. Digital Summit Detroit is part of the Digital Summit series that runs in multiple locations across the country including, Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Raleigh, and Washington DC.

    I am happy to be representing BizStream and Kentico at the event as a speaker. This time I will be talking about Reducing Churn via Predictive Analytics. BizStream and Kentico are once again sponsoring the event so If you are attending don’t forget to stop by the BizStream / Kentico booth. We have some fun planned for the booth that I can’t give away yet.  If you haven’t registered and are interested in attending make sure you take advantage of the $50 off registration promo code that we have made available.

    Keep reading to see my entire session abstract. Make sure you follow along at the hashtag #DSDET16 as well.


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    Recently I wanted to play around with some user specific scenarios in my Kentico instance for a presentation that I was working on. To do that I needed a Kentico 9 instance with a lot of various users, user settings, and role associations already setup. After firing up a few instances of Visual Studio and running locally, I realized that I didn't have any good sandboxes to play in. So I bit the bullet, and started down the path of automating the creation of a few hundred users.

    I figured that there was no way it would take more than just a few minutes to do this task. It’s just creating a few users in Kentico which is like 4 or 5 lines of code in a for loop, right? As it turns out, there is a good way to do this, and then an even better way to do it using some freely available NuGet packages.

    Keep reading after the jump to see some sample code that will make generating realistic test data in Kentico a breeze.


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    In case you haven't heard, there is no Kentico Connection conference this year. 2016 will be the first time that Kentico does not throw global events in multiple regions around the world to talk about everything Kentico related. Instead Kentico has decided to push its comfort limits by taking a bit of an out of the box approach to its annual conference. This will be the first year for a new conference dubbed, 404.

    The goal of this new event is to open some eyes to the human factor of web development and digital marketing and show attendees what happens when a project fails, highlight crucial mistakes of those failures, and turn the lessons learned into valuable shared experience for all. It will be the only event of the year for Kentico, but the key takeaway is that this event is different than past Connection conferences. 404 will focus on general web development and digital marketing (in two main tracks). The 404 conference is slated to be thrown in Las Vegas, at The Mirage, on November 2nd - 4th.

    Keep reading to find out my expectations for what the 404 conference has to offer.


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    I've been working with Kentico for quite a long time now, and I'm hard pressed to remember a more important and/or exciting month than this November for Kentico. Trust me, this isn't just the leftover turkey / high level of tryptophan in my system talking. Normally around this time of year, there would be a new major release of Kentico, and the usual enhanced features of Kentico EMS to be excited about. That would be expected item to discuss here at my blog. However, I really feel that Kentico has out done themselves this time around.  

    Keep reading after the jump to find out why I feel November 2016 just may be the best month ever for Kentico.


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    Last month's launch of Kentico 10 included some notable new features and enhancements to the Kentico EMS platform. I mentioned most of these items in my wrap up of the best Kentico month ever in my last post. However, one item stands above the rest in terms of enterprise scalability and high end performance. That item in my mind is the statement that "version 10 of Kentico can now handle 100 million contacts and one billion activities" 

    Let that sink in for a few seconds, because that’s billion with a "B". That is a big statement, but exactly what does it mean? As a long time Kentico user, I have long been aware of the performance best practices that Kentico has published over the years, and a few unpublished hidden gems as well. So when I hear the word "handle" next to performance, I immediately start to think that it could be taken as a broad statement. My curiosity got the best of me, so I reached out to Michal Kadak, platform product owner at Kentico, and asked him to explain that statement in a more detailed way.

    Keep reading to find out how Michal enlightened me on just how real Kentico 10 performance is.


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    One more year has rolled by, and with it comes the chance to reflect on what has happened in the Kentico community and my own blog here at Mcbeev.com. The very first thought that comes to mind is that I can't believe that I have been blogging about Kentico for over 6 years now. Time sure does fly.

    As for the Kentico community as a whole I would summarize this year as a year of maturity and stabilization. I'd say that a ton of effort was done by Kentico to become more known entity in the ASP.Net community, support standard ASP.Net tools and practices, and grow the number of developers out there who use Kentico in their projects. 

    For Mcbeev.com it was a year of continued rhythms. I met my goal in terms of the number of blog posts for the year, came close to my goal for total number of Kentico related speaking engagements, and surpassed my goal for feedback on the content of the blog itself. I also, surprisingly, got to meet a number of new faces in person this year who said that they have been reading my blog for quite a while now and found it valuable. That makes it all worth it for me.

    Keep reading to hear about the most notable events of 2016 for Kentico enthusiasts, as well as see my Top 10 blog posts of 2016. 

     


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    Recently I was asked to help out with a strange issue that my team had with deploying a Kentico MVC site to an Azure App Service. At first glance everything appeared to have been deployed correctly using the documented process for deploying Kentico MVC sites to Azure. The first request brought up the normal invalid license screen that most new deployments start out with. Clicking on the add license button correctly routed us to the Kentico admin screen, and we were able to login using the administrator credentials. But that's when things got weird.

    Instead of being brought to the normal Kentico Licenses application to enter the new license, we were presented with an empty dashboard and 20+ console errors in the browser. Keep reading to find out my quick tip on how we solved this issue and brought order back into the world. 

     


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    Chatbots or Bots for short, seem to have been all the rage since about early 2016 according to many technology publications. Apparently these bots will take over the world someday if you really believe the hype. As a big fan of automation, I have been keeping my eye on the tech as it has matured. But recently I finally had a chance to dive into it, and see how easy or how hard it is to create a bot.

    Now there are many ways to build a bot, you can do it in just about any technology stack. However, being that I am an ASP.NET developer, I chose to use the Microsoft stack for my scenario.  Not surprisingly I also chose a scenario that can be easily accomplished using the power Kentico e-commerce solution as well.

    Keep reading to see how I used the Microsoft Bot Framework, Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS), and Kentico to create an automated chatbot that allows you to check your recent order history, order status, and order tracking number in any Kentico e-commerce site. Oh and did I mention that some of the solution might even be using .Net Core


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    This is second part of my blog post series on Building a Kentico E-Commerce Chat Bot. Make sure that you have read the part 1 of the series before continuing. The goal of this post is to review and setup of the Kentico e-commerce side of the solution.

     


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