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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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    Recently I was having a conversation with BizStream founder, Mark Schmidt, on how we could simplify the learning curve for using some of the custom functionality that we had created in one of our projects. Mark was on the side of adding custom labels into the pages where needed. I was on the side of trying to leverage the excellent help system that Kentico comes built with. The argument actually got quite heated, as it tends to do around the office, and we finally ended the argument without a real agreement.

    The fact is that we frequently create custom modules in Kentico to handle any large customization need. Building your own modules is actually the preferred choice and Kentico best practice when it comes to adding in functionality to a site built with Kentico or the actual Kentico admin interface itself. But neither Mark nor I had actually taken the time to sit down and browse through the lesser known aspect of module development.

    This morning I had a chance to do that, and it turns out there is a really simple solution to linking any helpful information or documentation to a custom module. The best part is that the solution was just a few clicks away. 


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    There are a few developer conferences that I will be presenting at in the next few days and weeks. The first one is actually coming up in just about a week from now. At the South Florida Code Camp I will be giving a new presentation that I am pretty excited about related to optimizing mobile pages of your site and/or cms. The SFCC event is happening on February 20th, 2016. It is billed as a free one day geekfest in Fort Lauderdale, FL on all things that developers are interested in .Net and beyond. Considering that right now as I write this it is 13 degrees in Michigan, a trip to Florida is going to be well worth it.  

    The second event that I will be presenting at is the annual GR DevDay 2016. This is my second favorite of event of the year because it is right here in my back yard in Grand Rapids, MI (first favorite being Kentico Connection). DevDay is coming up March 12th, 2016. BizStream is once again a platinum sponsor for the whole GR DevDay and GR DevNight series. We really beleive this is the best event (and series of events) in West Michigan for developers.

    If you are an ASP.NET developer from South Florida or Grand Rapids I hope to see you there. Keep reading to check out my abstract for these events.


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    In this episode of Kentico Rocks, Brian McKeiver and Bryan Soltis sit down and cover Macros in Kentico CMS. The discussion includes an overview, common use cases, best practices, tooling, and gotcha's for developers who are working with Macros in the CMS. Listen on find out how to best utilize this important aspect of developing websites with Kentico.


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    From time to time I get asked: What are the steps to upgrade to Kentico EMS from an existing Kentico CMS site? The technical answer is that upgrading only requires having the correct EMS license added to the installation of Kentico (which you can generate from the client portal). Once the license is in place, the system automatically enables the full feature set of Kentico. The easiest way to check if it worked is to look and see if all of the menu items (Contact management, Email marketing, Marketing automation, etc. etc.) show up for the On-line marketing category in the Kentico menu.

    However, if you want to make sure everything is working perfectly, and get the fullest out of your Kentico EMS site there are few more things to consider. For instance, if you have upgraded from previous versions of Kentico like 5.5 R2, 6.0, or 7.0 some of the required features and settings didn’t yet exist and therefore can cause issues. Ensuring that the EMS functionality works correctly really does come in to play if you have had your Kentico CMS site running for a while.

    As a result of upgrading many Kentico sites over the years, my team and I at BizStream have found that there are a few things that seem to be recurring issues, and honestly there are some items that we sometimes forgot to check or configure, when upgrading a Kentico 7.0 CMS site to a Kentico 8 or 9 EMS site. To solve this issue I have created a checklist to make this process easier for my team, and I thought it was worth sharing with the Kentico developer community. So today I am presenting my Upgrade Kentico CMS to Kentico EMS Checklist as a free downloadable pdf.


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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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    This is the third part of my blog post series on Building a Kentico E-Commerce Chat Bot. Make sure that you have read the part 1 and part 2 of the series before continuing. The goal of this post is to get down and dirty on the Azure side of the solution. We will walk through what it takes to get started with your very own Azure Bot Service, Bot Builder Framework account, and LUIS account.


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  • 04/09/17--07:32: I'm Speaking at GLSEC 2017
  • Every year SoftwareGR puts on the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference, known as GLSEC. The conference is dedicated to building and enhancing the software industry in the West Michigan region. The conference brings hundreds of software professionals and business leaders together for a day of learning and networking.

    GLSEC 2017 takes place this year on May 22nd, 2017 in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. I have attended this conference multiple times, but am excited to annouce that this will be the first time I will be speaking at the event.

    GLSEC normally has a specific theme that the conference centers around. Last year it was around Mobile technology, and there were some great sessions held around Native, Responsive, and other soft skills growth. This year the theme is on "Big Data". The goal is to explore how organizations across a variety of industries are collecting and utilizing big data to drive organizational behaviors.

    As a result of the theme, my session is titled "Build a Big Data .Net MVC App in 30 mins". Keep reading after the jump to see the full abstract of my talk.


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    I was lucky enough to attend both the Chicago and Boston editions of the 2017 Kentico Roadshow this past week. For those of you that might not have attended, or don't know too much about it, the event was hosted by the product management team at Kentico in various cities around the world. The main agenda consisted of Kentico communicating its vision for a dual rail strategy of continually developing and enhancing Kentico EMS as well as building new functionality into Kentico's new product, Kentico Cloud.

    As usual with a Kentico event, there were two tracks throughout the day, one for the business / marketing focused attendees, and the other for technically inclined attendees. There were also a few deep dives into the Kentico Cloud technology, a performance optimization session on Kentico EMS, and case study presentations of websites that have been built with Kentico Cloud. Since I was able to attend two of the roadshows, I actually got to see pretty much every session that was available.  I was also honored that Kentico asked my team and I at BizStream to present our own case study of our first Kentico Cloud project, www.CaseStream.net.

    Keep reading after the jump to hear my thoughts on some of the key takeaways from the event, and see the slides from my our presentation on our impressions of using Kentico Cloud to implement a content first strategy for building a website. 


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    The Chicago Coder Conference (CCC) is entering its fourth year of supporting and promoting the Chicagoland area’s technology community. The conference, which runs June 26th through June 27th 2017, boasts topics that include Agile, Architecture/Integration, Big Data, Cloud, DevOps, .Net, Java, Mobile, IoT, Robotics, Security, Tech Leadership and UX/Front End Dev and features over 100 sessions. This year I am pleased to announce that I will be presenting one of those sessions. 

    I will be presenting my session "Search Bogging You Down? Move it to the Cloud!" on the first day of the event. The presentation is intended to introduce cloud based search technologies, such as Azure Search, and how developers can leverage such a microservice in their solutions. Keep reading after the jump to see my full session abstract.


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    This is part 4 of my blog post series, Building a Kentico E-commerce Chat Bot. Today we will review the Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS) aspect of the solution. During the review we will see how to create and train our bot to communicate with humans in a smart way.


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    This is the final post in my blog post series, Building a Kentico E-Commerce Chat Bot. At long last I have finally had time to do a little code refactoring, wrap up the solution into a nice GitHub repository, and ensure that a test page to host the bot works here at Mcbeev.com. Keep reading to check out the final code, and most importantly, make sure you give the chat bot a try yourself.


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    While working on a few different Kentico Cloud based projects, I ran into a situation that was a real head scratcher when working with the Delivery .Net SDK. I had done the research, installed the fabulous Kentico Cloud Boilerplate for ASP.NET, followed the getting started examples to a T, and for the most part everything worked perfectly. However, every once in a while the whole application came to a screeching halt, with a deep level exception being thrown the very first time I ran the project. Hitting refresh always fixed the error, but the whole situation really made no sense to me at first.

    I know what you must be thinking, "Well Brian, it's probably just a caching issue if it works on a refresh". Trust me, I wish it was that, but it isn't. Keep reading after the jump to hear the whole story and see how I resolved the issue using an unexpected technique.


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    I'm excited to announce that my next speaking gig will be at Little Rock Tech Fest 2017. Little Rock Tech Fest is an annual developer conference featuring popular web, mobile, database, devops and related developer topics from industry leaders. It is a fairly popular event in the Little Rock, AR area for both professional and aspiring software developers.

    The event takes place on October 5th and 6th at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. My session this time will be "Build a Big Data .Net MVC App in 30 mins". I'm going to cover what it takes to build an ASP.NET based site that utilizes a few different APIs / microservices to show what Big Data can do.

    I won't be there alone either, Bryan Soltis, Technical Evangelist at Kentico Software, will also be presenting. Bryan will be giving a session titled "Building Your Evil(?) Empire with Azure Functions". Kentico is also a top sponsor this year at LRTF. We will both be manning a sponsor booth, so come say hi! 

    The full abstract of my session can be read after the jump.


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    By now most of you should know that Kentico 10 was released about 10 months ago. What you might not know is that as part of the 10.0 release, under the hood, Kentico re-engineered the major relationships between the CMS’s Users, Contacts, and Subscribers (newsletter recipients). The primary reason for this was to address and increase the scalability of the Kentico EMS platform. As a result of this work, Kentico 10 can now handle a shockingly high level of Contacts in the system (100 million according to best practices).

    All of this awesomeness is the reason why I was a little bit shocked when my team and I were troubleshooting a problem with a Kentico EMS site that we had recently upgraded to Kentico 10.0. In the final stages of pushing the upgrade live, our client noticed that there seemed to be something amiss between Users and Contacts when a registered user updated their profile using the My Account functionality that comes with Kentico. The short of it was that when a user updated their email address, everything worked great, except for the fact that we were using Kentico EMS functionality to track anonymous and known website visitors and their web activity, and the user’s related contact record did not contain the correct updated value for the newly entered email address. It just didn’t feel correct.

    Keep reading to find out what the cause of the issue was, and how to quickly resolve it.   


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    This past week I was able to attend the Kentico Roadshow conference in Chicago. I attended a few different sessions, but the morning session by [A]'s founder Cruce Saunders and afternoon session by Get Started's founder Marty Drill got me thinking quite a bit about Content Modeling and the beginning phases of a web project. This process is something that we do often at BizStream and it typically involves creating a set of wireframes that illustrate how content might look on a page or view.

    In fact, the very first task I had to do back at the office the next day was to review a set of wireframes for a new project we are working on. And it dawned on me in that meeting, that wireframing could be thought of as another channel for content to be used. What if we could quickly grab the content from Kentico Cloud, since it existed already, and leverage it in these wireframes instead of Lorem Ipsum text. And thus, my idea was born to create a browser extension to easily grab content from Kentico Cloud and simply copy and paste it into our browser based wireframing tool.


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    If you or your company uses Kentico to power your website, chances are you’ve seen the marketing that Kentico 11 will be released in a mere 11 days from now, on December 11th 2017. Yes, that’s a lot of elevens in a row right there, and there might be a small coincidence that I planned this blog post for to go live today. 

    I have made few posts before about new version releases of Kentico, in fact it's turning into a little bit of an annual activity for me, but each new release is worth talking about. I can say that not just because I am a Kentico enthusiast, but really because each major release of Kentico tends to add something that community is demanding. Typically it is a deepening of the Online Marketing feature set, more configurability of the e-commerce APIs, or performance enhancements that Kentico users and developers want, and for as long as I can remember Kentico has always moved the ball forward with each of the major releases. 

    Keep reading after the jump to find out if Kentico 11 delivers yet again on this strong history.

     


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    Last week, a developer that I work with here at BizStream came to me seeking some quick help on one of our Kentico MVC projects. When he showed me the issue, I was initially quite surprised because the thing that wasn't working, was inside of the Kentico admin interface. It had nothing to do with our custom code on the live site. The issue existed when editing content with WYSIWYG content fields, something that has always "just" worked in Kentico since the very first version. Specifically, the problem boiled down to creating links inside of the content field that targeted internal site pages using the Insert link button's dialog picker. 

    The expected behavior of the Insert link button dialog would be to allow a content admin to navigate the Kentico content tree, find an internal page that the link should target, and with a simple click of the Save & Close button the CMS will generate a correct relative URL to the that page of the tree. Dead simple right?

    Well in this case, no matter what page we chose in the picker on our Kentico MVC the dialog always generated the link with an href that was "~/" instead of the correct URL path to the content page. Crazy right?

    Keep reading after the jump to see what was causing the issue and how to resolve it.

     


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    Recently I was tasked with troubleshooting a problem with one of our Kentico MVC projects that we were working on. The issue was that, at a high load, the performance of the front end MVC live site was not scaling very well. This was an issue that I had not really seen before in our Kentico MVC projects because typically Kentico’s API caching system does a really great job at making sure sites are very high performing.

    As long as you follow best practices for Kentico MVC development you are usually pretty good on the performance side, well, that is until a client loads a 5 MB image file on the home page, but alas, that is a different story for a different blog post.

    The root issue seemed to be that the Time to first byte (TTFB) was relatively high in the first few tests and didn’t efficiently drop as much as we would like on the primed cache hits. This was a clue that it was something to do on the server-side rendering of the page, before the HTTP response was even being sent down to the browser. And with any asp.net database backed CMS, this usually points to something being up with the SQL database calls that it takes to render the page.

    Keep reading to see how I used the fantastic Kentico.Glimpse debugging tool to solve where the slowness was on this Kentico MVC project.


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    I'm happy to announce that I have been selected to speak at the 13th Annual Orlando Code Camp on March 17th, 2018 at Seminole State College. The code camp is a free, one day learning event for programming professionals and students with a focus on .NET and other related technologies. This year the Orlando Code Camp features 89 Speakers, 91 Sessions, and 13 Tracks on a diverse range of topics, and I am happy to be one of them.

    My session for this conference, "Serverless Architecture Shootout", has me really excited. I get to do my favorite thing, which is debate the age old question of who does it better, Azure or AWS.  Keep reading after the jump to see the full details of how I will present on which platform reigns supreme.


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  • 03/10/18--11:46: .Net Core in Kentico MVC?
  • Lately I have been asked by quite a few developers, quite a few times, if it is possible to use .Net Core 2.0 with Kentico? This is especially true with developers who are going down the path of using MVC with Kentico. So I though instead of repeating the same story over and over, I would make my opinion known publicly on my blog. 

    The official short answer to this question is unfortunately no. Currently with both Kentico 10 and Kentico 11 you need to still use the full ASP.NET Framework versions 4.6.x or 4.7.x. These framework versions basically set you up to also only use MVC 5 and not anything far along than that (sorry Razor Pages).

    However, there is actually a little bit more to the story, and a bit longer answer to consider. Keep reading after the jump to get the full picture and maybe learn a bit more about where this is all going.


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    One week from today (March 29th, 2018) I will once again be speaking at one of my favorite conferences of the year, Code PaLOUsa. CPL is a multi-day software development conference, located in Louisville, KY, designed to cover all aspects of software development regardless of technology stack. The conference schedule features presentations from many well-known professionals in the software development community.

    I am pulling double duty with two sessions this year for the conference, "How to Build an E-commerce Chat bot with Azure Bot Framework" and "Serverless Architecture Shootout". The first talk about the Azure Bot Framework has me excited because it is the first time I have been able to give this talk, and I firmly believe that chatbots are an example of technology that every organization could use.

    For the second talk about Serverless Architecture, I am calling in some backup to help me out (or crush… depending on how you look at it). Keep reading after the jump to find out more about both sessions and which special guest will debate me on the age-old discussion of who’s better at Serverless computing, Azure or AWS.


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  • 04/23/18--06:12: I'm Speaking at GLSEC 2018
  • SoftwareGR is once again hosting its annual software conference, the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference, known as GLSEC. Each year the conference is dedicated to building and enhancing the software industry in the West Michigan region. The conference brings hundreds of software professionals and business leaders together for a day of learning and networking. And once again I am happy to announce that I will be speaking for the second time at the event.

    GLSEC 2018 takes place this year on April 30th, 2018 in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. This year the theme is on "Data Protection" or how to keep your company's data and systems safe and secure. The goal is help software developers understand the security risks that are always present whenever dealing with potentially sensitive or personal information, and how to create applications and systems that protect against that risk.

    As a result of the theme, my session is titled "Doom, Gloom and the New GDPR, What's a Web Developer to do?". If this is the first time you are hearing about GDPR and reside in West Michigan, I fully recommend joining my talk to find out more about this important topic. Keep reading after the jump to see the full abstract of my talk.


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    With the May 25th 2018 GDPR deadline looming it seems like every third email in my inbox is about either a privacy policy change, or a client asking for information about how to handle GDPR on their Kentico website. More than one of those emails have asked me how to handle GDPR compliance when it comes to analytics tracking scripts like Google Tag Manager, Universal Analytics, or Marketo. This is a bit of sticky situation in my mind because the personal data is not exactly stored in the Kentico website, but the website definitely serves the JavaScript code that starts to track the person. As far as I can tell, this is still very much a GDPR issue to deal with that you can't just ignore if you want to stay in compliance.

    Now, Kentico 11 has a great new Data Protection app that makes it easy to handle GDPR compliance compared to most CMS's. However, the fully built in features are targetted mostly at Kentico functionality like Kentico E-Commerce, Kentico Analytics, and Kentico Activity Tracking. So I thought I would try out the new Data Protection functionality of tracking and applying consents on third party services instead. Keep reading to find out how easy it is to integrate these services with the Kentico to achieve GDPR compliance.   


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    In about two weeks (May 31st, 2018) I will be presenting at the next Chicago .Net Users Group meetup in Downers Grove IL. I'm looking forward to my first time attending and speaking at this group's meetup because I have heard good things of the group even all the way up here in Michigan from a few other developers in the .Net community.

    I'll be giving my chat bot talk on "How to Build an E-commerce Chat bot with Azure Bot Framework". The talk was very well received at CPL this year, and today I am working on updating a few of the samples to give the session a small refresh. 


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    In case you were not aware, the second beta release of Kentico Raptor dropped last week ("Raptor" is the code name for the Kentico 12.0 beta releases). I have been keeping my eye on the first two releases of Raptor for one main reason, and that reason is the proclamation that Kentico made  earlier this year that announced ASP.NET MVC would be the main development model supported in Kentico 12 and later. This announcement was music to my ears as my team and I at BizStream have been pushing MVC in Kentico for the past two years.

    Since we are such big fans of the MVC development style in Kentico getting the installation of Kentico Raptor up and running was the second highest priority of the week for me (sorry Kentico, coffee is always, and will always be the highest priority for me). And actually one of the newest features of the Kentico platform in version 12 is the updated installer that allows you to seamlessly install an ASP.NET MVC based solution and project type on your development machine. But that is not the most interesting part of the story here. The biggest star of the show in Kentico 12 is the new MVC Page Builder that allows content authors to use a drag and drop method of building content pages on MVC sites. Trust me this feature does not disappoint. It comes with many abilities including the long awaited MVC widgets that most developers have wanted for a while now. 

    Keep reading after the jump to hear my impressions of Kentico Raptor and whether or not this Raptor is better than "Blue" in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, or just another box office flop.


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    In just less than a month from now (August 10th, 2018) I will be speaking at Code on the Beach 2018 in Atlantic Beach, FL. I am very excited about participating at this event because it will be the first time attending for me, and one of the big draws of this event is that it is family friendly, so my family is making the journey with me. And don't forget any change to go to Florida is pretty nice when you live in Michigan.

    This time I will be giving my popular chat bot talk on "How to Build an E-commerce Chat bot with Azure Bot Framework". The talk was very well received at CPL this year and a few other events. For this instance I have added another new ability of the bot to show off as well.


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    It's been right around a year and half since my team and I decided to give this new Headless CMS thing a try. We really wanted to use it for a real world solution, not just a starter site. So for the original scope of the project, we leveraged Kentico Cloud to build www.CaseStream.net in 12 days. It was actually a lot of fun to create the new site because I was able to use the latest and greatest technology at the time. It was like a breathe of fresh air. 

    But that was in 2017, and time flies, ridiculously fast. Just ask one of my new employees who's 90 day review didn't exactly happen anywhere near 90 days, or 120 days.... Fast forward to where we are at here in the end of July 2018, and that's like 15 months that went by in a blink of the eye.

    Since that first release of www.CaseStream.net, Kentico has been rapidly improving Kentico Cloud, adding new feature after new feature. I have been keeping my eye on it, and been able to play with a few demos of the new features here and there, but it wasn't until about a week ago that I was able to put those features into real use. I'd say the feature that really got me motivated however was the new responsive image based API (named the Image transformation API) that Kentico Cloud released in June of this year. 

    After reading the documentation and excellent blog post on transforming images, I decided to fire up my code and try to add this feature feature to the site. That's when I realized I had a problem. Quite a bit had changed, and my code was in dire need of an update. But I always love a challenge.

    Keep reading after the jump to see how I leveled up my Kentico Cloud ASP.Net MVC site to .Net Core 2.1, the Kentico Cloud Delivery SDK 4.14, and added support for a few of those lovely new Kentico Cloud features.

     


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    Make sure you have read part one of Leveling Up a Kentico Project before continuing on. Reminder, in the first part, I reviewed mostly the coding issues of updating my Kentico Cloud ASP.Net MVC site to .Net Core 2.1, the Kentico Cloud Delivery SDK 4.14, and other technical issues with getting the solution running. But all that was really to get me ready to something much more intriguing.

    In the second part of this mini blog post series I will focus on how I added support for some new Kentico Cloud features.


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    In this episode of Kentico Rocks, Brian McKeiver and Bryan Soltis review the state of using ASP.NET MVC in the upcoming release of Kentico 12. Yes, that's right after a small hiatus, we are looking to revive the podcast. This time Brian and Bryan talk about why Kentico MVC is a first class citizen now in 2018, how an agency might start to transition from the legacy Portal Engine to MVC, and behind the scenes in BizStream's journey into MVC development. And for an extra special bonus, this time we recorded the session with live video as well. Listen and/or watch on to find out how you can start MVC in your own Kentico website development process now.


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    Being able to efficiently debug through source code is a critical aspect / skillset to performing the day to day duties of a .Net developer. Typically, using Visual Studio or Visual Studio Code makes this task very easy, however, for awhile now there has been a bit of a loophole to debugging through a full project. That loophole comes to light when a project has different dependencies that were referenced as NuGet packages. That's where traditional debugging stops (since those packages are compiled binaries and not true source code on a local machine).

    However, did you know there is actually a better way to handle this for certain NuGet packages? The answer my friends is SourceLink, a technology that allows you solve this issue. I recently had a chance to check this out first hand using the KenticoCloud.Delivery NuGet package since this package recently became SourceLink enabled. I mean why not, as I was doing a little maintenance on my headless CMS project anyways. Keep reading after the jump to find out how.


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    Wow I can't believe that I almost forgot to mention it here on my blog, but in little less than a week from now, October 10th-11th, Kentico developers, partners, employees, and customers will be meeting up in Chicago, IL for the 2018 version of Kentico Connection. I'm happy to announce that this will be the 7th time that I am speaking at the conference.

    The good thing is that I am just as excited about it as I was back in 2012. Why, you might ask? Well that is because this year's conference is centered around one of my favorite topics, the fact that Kentico 12.0 is about to release with first class support for ASP.NET MVC.

    This time I will be giving a session on how my team at BizStream has been utilizing Kentico EMS with the MVC development framework for a few years now, and what we were able to do with it for one of our customers, National Heritage Academies. Keep reading after the jump for the full abstract of my session.