Friday, January 21, 2011

5 years of Sitecore blogging

Without any fanfares, ticker-tape parades or national holidays, this blog’s 5th anniversary came and went just this last week Smile

Now I can’t be certain, but I think that might just qualify as being the earliest Sitecore blog outside Sitecore itself. Certainly should qualify me for the Old Boys League, if nothing else *g* Winking smile

I do remember people like Lars F. Nielsen was blogging back when I started (his archive stretches back to October 2005), and there was also various grassroots projects going on, on communities such as Yahoo and probably more.

I figured I’d use this post to do some sort of recap over the past 5 years of Sitecore blogging, at least from my own little narrow perspective of the world.


5 years ago

Apparently, it all started with some comments on the IDTable.

I remember we were working a lot with integration of external data and Sitecore. This was in part due to the song of the Sitecore Evangelists – this feature was being marketed back then as one of the key advantages to Sitecore CMS over its competition – and back then, putting too large quantities of data into a Sitecore solution wasn’t really a great hit in terms of performance either. So we used data sources and data providers.

It’s actually quite funny, but the key document we used to guide us - Integrating External Data Sources is still on the SDN today and as far as I can tell, completely unchanged.

Now if you’ve never had to work with custom data providers, you probably don’t know this. But it’s a matter of extending your Sitecore database’s capabilities and feeding it from multiple sources (other than just your scSolution_Master database, keeping track of the relations between the Sitecore ID and your external key, setting up Proxy items, enabling Virtual Item publishing…  all sorts of black magic in short, and while we did eventually get things working – it was never a happy marriage.

Ironically, Sitecore eventually cracked this problem. By means of a complete re-architecture – with the release of 6.3 (I believe it was, perhaps 6.4) and Item Cloning. I’m not sure this feature was specifically targeted at solving the same types of problems we were having back then, but it certainly seems to be a side effect.

All fine and well Smile    Except I very rarely do these types of integration today. I import the data into Sitecore instead, since it just makes a lot of things a lot easier once you’re inside under the Sitecore Feature Umbrella to take care of “boring” issues such as Versioning, Language Versions, Workflows, and so on.

So anyway…

By no means was this blog ever meant to be a commentary on the workings of Sitecore Data Integration, even if there has been a lot of posts about that over the years. It so happens that this type of work fits my personal developer profile quite nicely, so I seem to end up doing those types of jobs quite a bit.

Looking back over the early posts, this blog partly came to be out of frustration. Back then, the Sitecore product was highly unstable in many areas, and each new release seemed to remove a couple of issues only to introduce a handful of new ones. And none of this was being documented, no release logs of any note, no real change logs, barely a “Known Issues” list. At least that’s how I saw it at the time, because the information COULD have been there – and just very hard to locate. SDN, while still looking almost like I remember it, wasn’t the same either – searching for content was near impossible – and that lead myself (and I suspect others) to start putting information out where Google (well… Yahoo! in my case) could find it. The thinking was; “If I can save some other developer the grief of spending 4 unscheduled project hours on combatting this problem by putting the information out there for him or her to find, it’ll be worth it”

Up through to today

Of course, most of this has changed today.

“Aah you young kids of today, you know nothing about the hardships us old folks had to endure” Winking smile

I think it was probably best summarised in Showing Sitecore how to improve, where the number one grief about it all was the inability to find absolutely anything on SDN. Documentation was starting to come out at that time, and has now evolved even more – there’s a Sitecore Cookbook on how to do just about anything with the product – now it’s actually more become a problem of finding the right document your information is located in. *g*   Still, I’d much rather have that problem, than no information being available at all.

SDN search itself is better too. While it’s still not perfect, I think it is certainly good enough so as to silence the critique.

So over the years, the nature of posts in this blog started to change as well.

For one thing, I started becoming more proficient in the use of Sitecore. It could of course mean that I’ve learned to avoid the grey areas of Sitecore functionality efficiently and therefore don’t as often fall into a pit from which there can be no hope of returning. It could also mean that the product has stabilised, and there are in fact not as many pits to fall into any more.

I think both.

The core product has become very stable, with the only issues I really run into these days being related to only the newest of features and language handling. Releases are being well documented and there’s enough cookbooks out there now to probably even shut Gordon Ramsey up Winking smile

So this blog turned, in part, from it’s original function into something else. I am still motivated by sharing information to save my fellow Sitecore developers some grief, but the posts are more informational these days. Of course, the entire scene has changed as well. There’s a virtual army of corporate Sitecore bloggers now (The Sitecore Corporation does seem to assimilate Sitecore professionals quicker than the Borg collective) and on my blogroll I get on average 6-8 blog posts a day related to everyday Sitecore usage. Most of these guys are being paid to blog, and I certainly won’t pretend to be able to keep up with the sheer volume of information they output on a monthly or yearly basis. I am worried though. Sitecore never liked public critique (despite what is being said in public), and now that 90% of all Sitecore related blogging is being moved and syndicated with itself – how will this affect the public debate that they themselves have always encouraged (yet not truly sought)?

I wonder what will happen, if one was to start commenting critique on their posts on servers that is under corporate control…   Smile

And onwards

I can’t predict what the future will bring. I’ve been working – without pause – with the Sitecore product since I started blogging about it. I think it’s a safe assumption that I will continue to blog about it for as long as I have something to say, add or comment about it. My target group will continue to be the Sitecore developer base, possibly shifting the focus slightly upwards towards the Solution Architects and Project Managers.

There’ll still be no post schedule. And English will still be my second language, not my first Winking smile

To the next 5 years….


Steve Green said...

5 years, congratulations!

Does this mean you're going to update that profile pic now? ;)

Akshay Sura said...

congratulations. I just read through the data migration post. Keep up the good work.