#Sitecore #SCHackathon 2020 Team Sitecore Daredevil (My solo adventure.)

This was my fourth year competing in the Sitecore Hackathon. This year was a little different for me though. As I had to go in it alone. I am not going to lie; I was a little nervous doing this solo. I thought hey I will try and do what I can, but if after a few hours if I just don’t get it, I will be done. After all I had a lot going on as early in the morning, I would have to stop to do Dad duty. However, this experience made me better and I even discovered some things about myself. So, here is the play by play and what I learned along the way.

Pre-Planning

The last three years I learned a lot of how to prepare as much as I could. You can check out those experiences here. I learned my lesson in the past to install Sitecore beforehand. This year it was the latest version 9.3. Also learned to make sure I had access to my GitHub repo and to download the solution. All good there.


Hours 1-2

For some reason I did not get the topics emailed to me, but that didn’t stop me. I went on Slack to the Hackathon channel and one of the judges sent me them. I looked them over and my first thought was I need a team to do this.

Task were something like this (had to choose just one):

  • Create a meetup website.
  • Create a new site for Sitecore modules.
  • Create a new Hackathon website.

You see these tasks kind of needed a front-end developer to make it look pretty. Not that I can’t do front-end work, but not one of my strengths. However, I was in the same boat as others as I found out in Slack. So, functionality first then I will make it look as pretty as possible. I did need to envision the screen either way and I sketched out something for the meetup website task. Then after an hour of research I said no. I saw someone post in Slack about the KISS (keep it simple stupid) method. One of the best coding philosophies ever. So from the past I have learned go for the path with the least resistance and make it work. I chose to do the Hackathon website. I had ideas on how to make it better and utilize Sitecore out of the box. Just pure raw Sitecore is all I needed.

Hours 3-10

Did I ever mention I have run over ten marathons? If I could do that maybe I could do this I thought. Well in the words of Forrest Gump I was running. Except replace running with coding. Well to be honest I created the templates, layouts and content for the first few hours. Does that count as coding? I had a vision on how I could make the site easy to maintain. I want to mention that I used the icon Sitecore searcher. Thank you Gabrial Streza.

After creating the initial Sitecore stuff it was time to fire up Visual Studio and start integrating. I coded away. With each hour that went by I got a little further. In fact, I didn’t want to stop. I finally got to a point where I had to as I had to make a two-hour drive round trip and be on Dad duty at a sporting event.

Not going to lie. At this point I was really wishing I had a team. When you know you will have to go on little sleep the next day it is good to have someone there with you that you can tag in. Fortunately, just going on Slack helped me feel a little more supported.

Hours 11-13

I slept. Also dreamed about the Hackathon.

Hours 14-19

Drove and went to one of my kids sporting events. Thought about the Hackathon while there and if I will get the documentation done on time. Drove home and then I was back at it.

Hours 20-23

Finish up the code and make the screen look pretty as possible. Okay looks like the 90’s front-end and Netscape only compatible, but the functionality and my vision are there. Let’s package it up. Update the Readme file with installation instructions and screen shots. Okay got that. Now I must do a video. The part I was dreading the most. It was like when Scrooge was going to meet the ghost of Christmas future. So, after trying a few things decided what the heck time to buy Snagit. In one take I had my video. Checked in code and double checked it and checked it in a few more times to make sure it was perfect. Viewed the readme file which contained installation instructions, screen shots, package link and video link. Alright time to call it a day.

Lessons Learned This Year (short list this year)

  • Functionality first. I always knew this, but most of the time with Sitecore projects I prefer the screens done first.
  • Buy Snagit. It is worth every penny.
  • Do a clean install of the package. Not that it would fail, but I am thinking next year have another vanilla Sitecore site at the standby.

Summary

I have to say no matter what happens. I learned a lot about myself and gained some confidence I felt I have been missing. In 24 hours I got to be an architect, lead developer, senior developer and entry level developer. Others may not always believe in you and support you, but for sure you must be your own biggest cheerleader.

#Sitecore #SCHackathon 2019 Battle of the Team X-Men Developers @ParagonDev

A third year in a row participating in the Sitecore Hackathon with my coworkers at Paragon. I have learned from the previous years I have done this not to make the same mistakes, mostly. See Top 5 Reasons of Failure and Top 5 Reasons the Experience Was Better. However, nothing is ever smooth in the world of web development. So here is a quick summary and lessons learned for next time.

Pre-planning:

We made sure we could get into the GitHub repos. All was good there.

Hours 1-2:

Got the hackathon rules and we started coming up with ideas. I am just going to fix my install for 9.1 that I should have done beforehand that I cannot figure out why it is not working. Well I hopefully can get that finished soon. Okay we came up with some decent ideas and time to start documenting those ideas.

Hours 3-4:

Oh look 9.1 is still not quite installed. My teammates probably want to send me over to Magneto’s team at this point. However at least our idea is solid, but wait a minute…

Hours 5-6:

We need a new idea as all our ideas were already done in different variations. Hey, look at that finally got Sitecore 9.1 working.

Hours 7-12:

Alright we have an idea that solves a problem. Let the coding begin!

Hours 13-17:

Okay finished coding. Let’s surprise our teammate with the new idea we came up with while he was taking a break. He thinks it is a good idea and documentation has begun.

Hours 18-21.5

Video created, documentation created, GitHub repo checked. Let’s finish this up and get it checked in.

Finish:

Time to sleep.

Summary and Lessons Learned

Well I haven’t learned all my lessons. I should have not assumed 9.1 would install as easy as 9.0. In my defense I did have food poisoning the day before and still feeling it. Despite that setback and getting an idea off the ground we made it in time this year. Win or lose I love doing this contest every year. It is a good time to bond with co-workers who I may not normally work and learn new things. One big thing we learned this year was keep the idea simple. That 24 hours comes quick. Solve a problem with your idea, but make sure you can do it in a good time. Documentation takes longer than you think.

Going into the Sitecore Hackathon:

Finishing:

#Sitecore #SCHackathon 2018 @ParagonDev Top 5 Reasons of Failure and Top 5 Reasons the Experience Was Better

Well with very little sleep this weekend I am writing this blog as the thoughts of my second Sitecore Hackathon has ended. I was on team SIF Lords. We all love Star Wars and Sitecore if you can’t tell by the name. We came up with a clever idea this year that would combine my running world (Strava) with Sitecore. Just like last year though with a different team my team this year failed to get the needed things in time to qualify. We needed about 26 hours not 24. However just like last year all was not lost. I don’t do these contests to win. It would be nice to win, but there are more important things at play here. So here are my top 5 reasons for failure, but also top 5 reasons why the experience outshines the failures.


Top 5 Failures

Ever year is going to be a learning experience I learned from my failures last year and vowed to not make the same mistakes. Well mostly not the same mistakes. Here are the mistakes this year. Hey, we never stop learning.

  1. Not trying to cover all the bases.

    Knowing there was a lot introduced in the last year new to Sitecore we probably should have studied each thing we though might be part of the contest that was introduced in Sitecore recently. We instead had ideas and going into the assumption that they would be broad enough to fit in. We were wrong.

  2. Installing anything in Sitecore that was not out of the box.

    Well this one I learned a little from last year. We decided no Glass Mapper and we would use Unicorn instead of TDS. Well I am a huge fan of TDS, but Unicorn was lighter to install and one of our team members had experience with it. I had a little experience with it. This would be a good opportunity to learn it better. Well in the end that did us in. No fault of Unicorn which is a great product btw, we missed a few configurations so we had some syncing issues. Lesson learned. Maybe we just use Sitecore packages next year.

  3. Not spending enough time mentally preparing.

    Working all day and it being a Friday I thought it would wind down gradually and then I would be mentally prepared for the hackathon. Well as everyone knows in the programming world things can get hectic at times. So, by the time I finished work I had to go right into the hackathon. Maybe next year I take a half day off and prepare.

  4. Not meeting with the group beforehand.

    We did have some chatroom talk on Slack and email, but we never had an official phone meeting. Not sure if it would have been beneficial, but it might have helped the brainstorming session go a little quicker.

  5. Being overconfident.

    Hey coding is hard if you don’t know. However, as developers we love to code. Sometimes though when you think you know everything you just don’t. This goes back to number 1. Study anything you can that you are not familiar with.

Top 5 Experiences

No matter the failures these experiences overcame any failure that happened.

  1. I got to learn something new.

    The topics introduced to us when the contest started was something we haven’t had experience in it. We came in the contest with all these ideas, but wham we were hit with the reality that none of them will work. So, we picked the path that we hoped we can have the most success on XConnect. Also, as mentioned above I got more experience with Unicorn.

  2. Crash course into Sitecore 9.

    This goes along with learning something new, but it does deserve its own number on the list. Right before the hackathon after several tries I finally got Sitecore 9 installed. I barely had time to play around with it so as my team got coding I had to learn all the new things that come with the latest version of Sitecore.

  3. Brainstorming a unique idea and executing that idea.

    We spent a good hour or two coming up with ideas that could fit into what we wanted to do with XConnect. We hit some dead ends, but finally came up with a pretty solid idea. When you have 24 hours to code something though you don’t exactly know if that idea will work or not until you really get into it. Towards the end the idea looked like it was going to work. Too bad we ran out of time.

  4. I got to work with co-workers I normally don’t get to.

    I am very blessed to be working for a great company. I know one thing that makes the company great are the people working there. I haven’t really worked with these specific co-workers until the hackathon. I didn’t know what they would be like other than talking to them socially. In that 24 hours we were working together as a solid team. I got to know them more and I am sure when we work on an actual project for Paragon we will be even more prepared and cohesive.

  5. I love the Sitecore world.

    Knowing that there are other Sitecore developers crazy like us makes me happy to be part of the family. I think about how much Sitecore has meant to my career and anytime I can be more involved with the it I want to seize the opportunity. There is so much to learn in Sitecore no matter how long you have been using it.

So now that I am reflecting on my experience will I be back next year? Well when I am running a marathon at mile 20+ I always question myself on why the heck did I decide to do this. I felt the same way with the hackathon in the 20+ hour. However, when it was over I thought yeah, I will do that again just like a marathon. Special thanks to everyone in the Sitecore family that made this year’s Sitecore hackathon special. Most of all to team SIF Lord. Next year we got this. If you like to follow the rest of my team you can find Steve on Twitter here and Jennifer on Twitter here.

My Sitecore Hackathon 2017 Adventure

I like things that challenge me. Don’t we all? I have done numerous races all different distances that were very challenging. I even had to give myself some Rocky speeches while doing them. Sure physically/mentally that stuff is hard, but how about doing something professionally/mentally challenging? Enter the #Sitecore Hackathon 2017 #SDHackathon. A 24 hour coding frenzy. Now I have done some all nighters for work at times, but doing something that was going to challenge me to show the world what I could do that is a different story.

sitecore-hackathon-logo

My team consisted of two other developers that happened to be coworkers.Our team name was the X-Men and we named our project WeaponX. Who doesn’t like comics right?

75964729

The contest started at 8 eastern time. We were giving instructions at that time and decided to do a Sitecore module. After brainstorming for a bit I came up with a blog importer. I have done something like it in the past, but never as a Sitecore module. My teammates agreed that is what we will do.

deadpool

So after having an idea in place next was figuring out our parts. One team member would be doing the documentation, presentation and Git Hub setup. The rest of us would do coding, analysis and researching.

One of the requirements of the contest is to make sure that we create the project in a Helix format. Well that was new to all of us. I was able to use a Helix generator though and we had a project started. Meanwhile one of my teammates started creating the Sitecore items we would need. Another teammate was getting the Git Hub stuff ready. I started adding all the stuff to the project that we would need to develop as a team. Such as TDS and Glass Mapper. When the project and Sitecore items were done I was ready to start coding. Before that I did my initial check in though. Always back up your code. 🙂

As it was getting late the team started dropping off. At this point there wasn’t much for them to do as I was full heads down coding. I stayed up until about 3:30 AM central time. I got the code to where I wanted it and made any Sitecore updates I needed to do. There was still a lot to be done though and I was having trouble getting Glass Mapper to cooperate. So I set the alarm for 6:30 AM and called it a night.

In the morning I woke up tired, but ready to go. I did shower and do all the usual morning stuff before logging back on. 🙂 I met with my teammates and gave them my status. Throughout the day we communicated, collaborated and stayed in contact as much as possible. We all have lives though so we had things to do people to see.

It was touch and go there for a while, but finally there was light at the end of the tunnel. We were finally code complete and we had our install package created/tested. There was not much time to spare though. Documentation and video presentation had to be done.

website-is-done-meme

As each minute ticked by we were approaching the final hour. Code, install package and documentation was handed in. However YouTube was taking it’s sweet time rendering the video. It finally finished and we had all the necessary stuff done and handed in. We could finally breath a sigh of relief. Check out our finished Sitecore module presentation here.

Things we learned:

  • Setting up a Helix project.
  • Keep things basic. GlassMapper is nice to have, but getting that going took us more time than if we used standard out of the box Sitecore functionality.
  • You only have so much time. Stick to getting the basics done first. Add the nice have stuff later.
  • The right people make things happen. We worked well together.

So next year will we do this again? I believe the answer is yes.

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