Kentico Connections - Denver 2019

Posted: 10/11/2019 9:58:09 AM by Chris Bass | with 0 comments

Kentico Connections is Kentico's big yearly world-tour event - they pick a few locations around the world, and host a two-day event. I went to my first one last year in Chicago, and this year flew out to Denver for this one. 

If you've never been to one of these events, the general proceeding is that developers, CEOs, marketers, and Kentico's own team all show up and talk about the future of Kentico, what we're working on, and generally meet eachother in-person whereas the rest of the year, we're all in the Kentico Community Slack channel, answering questions on DevNet, or talking via email.

As last year, the general flow is two tracks of presentations - one business related (talking about how to use Kentico as a marketer / analyst, understanding Kentico's future from a business path, and talking about how Kentico products let you grow your business) and one technical track (talking about setting up and building in Kentico, setting up your development team for success, understanding Kentico's future from an API / backend perspective, and understanding the pros and cons of various solutions so we can build the best web presence for our stakeholders).
There's also shared breakfast/lunch buffets and a destination dinner - last year was in the Chicago history museum, this year in the Denver natural history museum's Space section. This is the meet-and-greet portion of the proceedings, where the more social among us can chat with eachother, have a few drinks, and make - heh - connections for future collaborations or projects.

The keynote started things off, sharing the new name for Kentico 2020, and the name change from Cloud to Kontent (essentially, trying to emphazise that the product is best seen as a cloud-based content storage solution, not a cloud-based website solution).
One part that was very useful - and which I got further emphasis on later in the roundtable discussions - was them touching on the idea that Kentico EMS, being a all-in-one solution, is built for the mid-size clients that want one solution that handles everything, and to have some basic insights into their customer-base, without having to integrate a ton of different solutions in. And this really targets a different market-segment than Kentico Kontent, which is built more for the enterprise customers who already have chosen their own marketing platforms, their own email platforms, with a dedicated development team already having their own preference of programming language and UI framework, and just want a fast way to coordinate the data that will go onto their website. I thought that was a great way of putting it, and I think it explains what I see our clients choosing a bit better.
Animations and name changes aren't really my thing, so I mostly waited through to get to my favorite parts, the dev-track presentations. I've heard only good things about the business track, but getting into the code is really my jam, so I'm happy to leave the business side to Dean Dorazio (Wakefly's CEO).

The first one was the inimitable Sean Wright, talking over various points such as the Feature Folders MVC pattern, SOLID programming principles, dependency inversion, and integration testing. If you are a visual learner, a lot of it (and much more) is in his excellent 14-part (!) series on Kentico 12 design patterns, starting here:  https://dev.to/seangwright/kentico-12-design-patterns-part-1-writing-testable-code-258a 

He's been working with Kentico for a long time, but this is one of the advantages of the way the Kentico community has started really forming around the developers in Slack and DevNet, that we can actually meet and recognize eachother and put a name to a blog post :)

The next time period I  just spent time time talking to some of the Kentico team for a while - but I also went to a few panels later that were more straightforward "Setting up your MVC site"-style discussions - The Kentico documentation and the LearningKit / DancingGoat starter sites are all good resources for that sort of thing, although I wish there had been a bit more in the vein of making MVC decisions in Kentico - when to create a Page Builder page vs building it in-code, ways to use Controllers to create custom MVC-Kentico functionality, showcasing the MVC widgets people have submitted to the new Marketplace, that sort of thing.

The end of Day 1 was two case-studies, both touching on the combination of marketing / developers, but the second was particularly interesting since I'd not heard of static site generators like Gatsby.js and Gridsome, both of which have Kentico Kontent plugins, and the former which Kentico themselves actually has used in building their Advantage site.

After that was the traditional Day 1 after-dinner - I hung out and chatted with some other developers for a while, and ate some tasty food, but I didn't stay long - I hear there was some sort of virtual-reality thing that happened later, sounds like folks has fun with it.

Day 2 started with Marek Fesar putting on a great overview of Kentico's switch to .NET Standard - I personally wasn't too worried (there's a Portability Analyzer for .NET Standard/Core, that you can run on your code and get an Excel-sheet of changes you'll see in your site - very similar to the Code Analysis tool for Kentico Upgrades if you have seen that. )  but it was good to know that it's still on-track for 2020 - it sounds like they'll be waiting until later to port over the Admin interface, so the Admin side of the MVC site will still be using some Framework DLLs (all of which will be bundled under *.Web.UI dlls for ease of separation). Either way, it's good to be informed, and goodness knows some CMS communities don't give nearly this much insight into their progress.

There was also a great discussion by Eugene Paden that really showed off what a full Azure + Kentico project can do - all the way from Azure DevOps, to Kentico, Continuous Integration, and Git with a proper branching workflow (More about this last point here!), showing how a product can be sent through development, testing, and deployment, with a lot of automation and traceability. It's the sort of thing that, if we worked on a single dedicated project instead of hundreds of clients with different platforms and needs, I'd love to set up and use team-wide.

The next event was a round-table set of discussions, a new concept for this conference - Essentially, groups of 5-10 (+, in a few cases) sitting at a table, just talking about specific ideas - MVC web parts, setting up an MVC site, Kentico Kontent content strategy, that sort of thing - I had tried to hop about, hoping I could use the format to jump in and out of a few discussions that I was interested in, but nobody else was moving around and so I settled in at a discussion about the intersection of Kentico EMS / Kontent, the value of each, and ways to use both. 

I wasn't able to stick around for the closing, but I'm glad Kentico is finding a path for EMS as well as Kontent to fill their niches, and how what they've learned from each of the two can inform and supplement the other.

All in all, we'll continue to be building our new projects in MVC, but I also think there'll be a long-tail as clients who have gotten used to having developer-free CMS design for smaller projects decide to stick with Kentico 12 Portal Engine rather than rebuild their entire site, and Portal Engine is a CMS paradigm that I think is going to be missed for a while until the developer community can catch up and fill the Marketplace with replacements for the lost functionality.

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