#Sitecore Virtual Symposium Kickoff and My Plans #SitecoreSYM @AlphaSolutionUS

2020 sure has had its changes and challenges. Right now Chicago should be alive with Sitecore fans enjoying the best pizza in the world, but that is not possible this year. I am excited nonetheless to enjoy they symposium in the Chicago suburbs and can’t wait for the next few days.

My goal for this year is to concentrate on content marketing and learn as much as I can about the Sitecore Content Hub. That is something I have been excited to learn more about and can’t wait to dive in.

Things kicked off tonight with Happy Hour. I will let the pictures speak, but there was drink making, a chef and magic. Most of all enthusiasm.

Happy Hour
Making Drinks
Some great appetizers.
Da Bears! Okay they were not part of the kickoff, but they are playing tonight.

Disabling Identity Server in #Sitecore Installation with #PowerShell

Recently I was given the task to disable the identity login for a dev server. It can be done easily by renaming Sitecore.Owin.Authentication.Disabler.config.example and Sitecore.Owin.Authentication.IdentityServer.Disabler.config.example in the [sitefolder]\App_Config\Include\Examples\ folder. We needed an automated way though. Using the PowerShell script below did the trick.

#SitePhysicalRoot and Prefix are optional. If this script is inserted into a PowerShell install script that has these variables already. In my case XP0-SingleDeveloper.ps1.
#$SitePhysicalRoot = "F:\Sites"
#$Prefix = "testsite123"

$filepath = $SitePhysicalRoot + '\' + $Prefix +'.sc\App_Config\Include\Examples\'
$filelist = @()
$fn1 = 'Sitecore.Owin.Authentication.Disabler.config.example'
$fn2 = 'Sitecore.Owin.Authentication.IdentityServer.Disabler.config.example'
$path1 = $filepath + $fn1
$path2 = $filepath + $fn2
$filelist = @($path1,$path2)

 foreach ($file in $filelist) {
    If (Test-Path $file){
        $rn = $file.replace(".example","")
        Rename-Item -Path $file -NewName $rn
        Write-Output $file was renamed to $rn
    } else {
    "{0} does not exist or already renamed" -f $file

#Sitecore Rule Based Configuration for Newbies

If you are like me, you must play around with a new feature to understand it better. When Rule Based configuration was introduced in Sitecore 9.3 that was the case for me. Now that I understand it better and have used it in a real application, I will explain it so if I ever read this blog again, I will understand it.



Depending on if you are running Sitecore locally or have setup a Content Management and Content Delivery server etc… this value will be different for each environment. In the Sitecore 9.3 you will find the following.

Specify the roles that you want this server to perform. A server can perform one or more roles. Enter the roles in a comma separated list. The supported roles are:
ContentDelivery, Indexing
ContentManagement, Indexing
Default value: Standalone

In this case we will just use the default for our example.

<add key="role:define" value="Standalone"/>


This is used to denote the type of local environment installed. For instance, you can have a CM server setup for staging and production. You might then have one value on the CM for staging that says “StageCM” the one on the production CM could be “ProdCM”. This is done so you can break down the configuration settings further. I will go into this more later. In this case we will pretend the role:define value is Standalone and this is a developer’s install. We are going to add the following:

<add key="localenv:define" value="DevEnviroment"/>

Let’s bring this together. Below is a simple example of how to make sure the configuration looks for the role Standalone and localenv value of DevEnviroment. Notice the xmlns:localenv=http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/localenv/. That is important to tell the process to look for that localenv key and xmlns:role=http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/role/ is used to tell the process to look for the role key. In this example we are doing this for sites, but this can be done for other tags.

<?xml version="1.0"?>
xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/" xmlns:localenv="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/localenv/" xmlns:role="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/role/">
<sitecore role:require="Standalone">
<sites localenv:require="DevEnviroment">
//Add your transformation code here.

You can do many combinations. Keep in mind that you can use logical expressions as well. Like or and !.

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<configuration xmlns:patch="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/"xmlns:localenv="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/localenv/"xmlns:role="http://www.sitecore.net/xmlconfig/role/">
<sitecore role:require="Standalone or ContentDelivery">
<sites localenv:require="LocalDeveloper">
//Add your transformation code here.
<sites localenv:require="DevBuild"> //Add your transformation code here. </sites> <sites localenv:require="Prod"> //Add your transformation code here. </sites> <sites localenv:require="Stage"> //Add your transformation code here. </sites> </sitecore> <sitecore role:require="ContentManagement"> <sites localenv:require="Prod"> //Add your transformation code here. </sites> <sites localenv:require="Stage"> //Add your transformation code here. </sites> </sitecore> </configuration>

What is a good way to test all this? Well Sitecore has though of that.

Using [siteaddress]/sitecore/admin/showconfiglayers.aspx you can select a role and see what the configuration will look like. The result is similar to what you would see with showconfig.aspx.

One thing I should mention is so far, I have not gotten it to work with a non-Sitecore configuration transform. In those cases, you may still need to use something like SlowCheetah. Let me know if you have any questions.

Check out the links below for more reading on the rule based configurations.



#Sitecore Data Exchange Framework Gems

There are a lot of things I have found with each version of the Sitecore Data Exchange Framework that I wanted to explore, and others have asked me about. I will call them gems. These are things that might not always be used but can serve a good purpose I believe. I also wanted to get a higher understanding of what they do so here we are. I hope to go into more detail for each one in other blogs.

Telemetry Enabled

With telemetry enabled checkbox checked you can track the performance of each process. This information can be useful to IT support group as well as developers needed to know how the DEF process performs so adjustments can be made to processes/hardware for instance.

Create New Item

In the checkbox option below, it is defaulted as unchecked. Normally based on a unique field value a new item would be created when unchecked after checking if an existing item exists. Checking it the item will be only created in memory. There could be a variety of reasons to have an item in memory only. One of which would be for testing, it saves clean up time when you just need to test processing without worrying about getting rid of the Sitecore items.

Runtime Settings

This setting allows the pipeline step to be run on a different server. This saves resources on the Sitecore server. I can see this used for something where a lot of data is involved from a separate data source and/or if you finish extracting data from Sitecore another system can pick it up and continue. The DEF process can wait for that to be done and continue.


I have not used this, but from what I understand xDB analytics data migration would be logged here if you have a DEF process that does that. If you do not, make sure not to check any of the options. It can cause the DEF process not to work.

There are some more little gems I am going to look at for DEF in another blog. Also like I said before I am going to try and expand and go into more detail on each one of these. Let me know what you would like to see and I will try and cover it.

#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.


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.


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.

My Third #Sitecore Technology MVP Journey. #SitecoreMVP

I debate this every year. Should I write a blog about becoming a Sitecore MVP? I like to blog so why not. It is no secret that I love the Sitecore community and I am honored to be a part of it. Being an MVP last year I was able to help with feedback on a few things before they were released to rest of the community. I felt like the cool kid in class. So here is my goal check and what I would like to do this year.

Last year’s goals:

  • Write some more good quality blogs. (I believe I did this. I really hope my DEF blogs have helped at least one person.)
  • Attend all the local Sitecore meetups including one in Milwaukee. (Chicago didn’t have much for meetups, but drove the 2+ hours to go the Milwaukee meetup. I also got to present at one. Yay!)
  • Reach out help others in Slack and Sitecore Stack Exchange. (I love helping others so I won’t stop trying.)
  • Create Sitecore Runner Buttons and bring them to the Symposium. (Sadly I didn’t get to go this year, but if you want a button I can send you one. :()
  • Using my new MVP status network with the Sitecore family better. (I hope I did a good job with this, but I can always do better.)
  • Participate in the Sitecore Hackathon again. (Did that with a successful submission finally.)
  • Make a VLog. (I still have to make this happen.)
  • Finish that update on my DEF Reddit Module in the Sitecore Marketplace. (All updated and code shared.)

This Year’s Goals:

  • Helping others. I love doing this and feel I can do a better job.
  • Continue updating my blog and sharing my knowledge with the Sitecore community.
  • Come up with a good idea that hasn’t been done before with Sitecore (I got this, can’t share yet until I know it works.)
  • Speak again at a meetup. I was shy once. Hard to believe. I love speaking now in front of others.
  • Make that darn VLog. For my new idea I will need to.
  • Attend the Sitecore Symposium in Chicago. I can take the train. Even if it costs me vacation time and I have to pay for it I will be there.
  • Keep updating my DEF Reddit Module.


Ways Retailers and Brands Built With #Sitecore Can Compete Against Amazon

There are many ways to compete against Amazon. The digital market is still wide open for competition. Using Sitecore you have tools that can get your brand out in front of a wider audience with many more engagements and customer purchases. You can target customers based on their needs that would be a good fit to buy your brand. As a race director I have learned a few tricks on how to compete with other races. Participants want the experience of a good course, lots of support and some nice bling. Marketing in the digital world is not that much different. So, here are top five things that you can do to compete against Amazon and can be implemented with the custom site with a Sitecore CMS. Recently I got the chance to take a class on Sitecore’s commerce server. A lot of the features mentioned below are ready for use with little customization.

Drive Brand Awareness

There are many visuals and tools you can use to drive brand awareness. Here are some that are often used.

  • Infographics – Infographics embedded in various places will catch the attention of potential customers getting to engage more with your brand.
  • Social Media Tagging – Tagging related brands will not only make the brand company you tagged grateful it will also engage that company’s followers. In turn the brand company you tagged may tag you on another post.
  • Social Media Contests – Having a giveaway is a great way to build up your contact list and get potential customers interested in your brand.
  • Social media ad boosting – Many may see your ad but paying a little extra for your ad gets it in front of a wider range audience. We have all seen the sponsored ads in Facebook that we tend to click on.
  • Partner with others that compliment your products – This goes along with social media tagging, but there are other things you can do to partner. You can present a case of working together with another brand that makes your brand a must buy when using the other brand. For example, a company that sells rags for cleaning may partner with a company that makes chemicals used in cleaning.
  • Email Marketing – This is one of the best ways to keep your customer list up to date on new products and specials you may be running. It also keeps you on the customer’s mind when it is time for them to go shopping for your product brand.
  • Blogging – Talking about your brand and giving real life cases for it can be accomplished easily with blogging. Blogs also can be shared on many social sites as well. Building up followers for your blog will get many to engage as you publish new ones or a series of blogs about a certain topic.
  • Search Engine Optimization – A good site will be search engine friendly. Make sure each page in your site in the meta data describes the page well so search engines know to pick it up and show it in the expected results. Also having other complimentary brands link to your site helps search visibility as well.

Offer Fast Shipping

One of Amazon’s main selling point is their fast shipping for prime members. Many sites have now offered free shipping over a certain amount. A big difference between shipping from Amazon and a specific site is the personal touch a site gives to the order. If there is an issue the customer knows they can go directly to that company. Digital advertising of shipping is a keyway to get potential customers to order directly from you.

Dynamic Pricing – Shoppers are very price savvy these days. Checking competitor prices on brands you sell will keep you competitive with your competition’s prices. Amazon has done this to stay competitive and using dynamic pricing along with shipping deals can make sure a potential customer will buy from you.

Auto Delivery – Selling anything that will keep customers continuing to buy from you is a great way to keep current customers and make them happy, so they don’t run out of a product they continually buy. For instance, some vitamin shops will offer a 10% discount and free shipping when you use their auto-ship program. Ensuring you never run out.

Membership Pricing and Deals – It is always good to be part of the club. Having customers that are part of a free membership program will help you target their needs easier. When you have specials, they can be the first one that is notified based on their preferences.

Milwaukee #Sitecore October Meetup Recap. @layeronemedia #mkesug @ParagonInc

This was my second Milwaukee meetup and this one like the last one did not disappoint. I drove 2+ hours to get there both ways, but it was worth it. So here is the summary in pictures.

Food First

Presentation 1

The first presentation was “Keeping Content Editors In Mind When Implementing”​ presented by Andrew Schwabe. He talked about one of the most forgotten things when creating a website. The content editor. He emphasized to think of the customer as the content editor on how you could make their experience better. Lots of great tips such as getting the experience editor changes in front of them before the front-end done. So, they can get a feel of how they will change things. Also figuring out what the customer really needs and wants to change instead of giving them extra steps to do one thing.

Presentation 2


The second presentation was “Introduction to Sitecore JavaScript Services (JSS)​” by Phil Busch. This was one of the first times I have seen JSS in action and it did not disappoint. We started from PowerShell, then Visual Studio and then finally in Sitecore. One of the biggest things I learned is that you have to change your mind set and be more front-end focused then back-end focus which is normally the case when most Sitecore developers are coding.

Next meetup is Chicago meets Milwaukee. Always a good time at that one.

Top 5 Presentations at the #Sitecore Symposium I Would Want to Attend #SitecoreSym

Unfortunately, this year I won’t be attending the Sitecore Symposium. However, if I was these are the top 5 presentations I would want to see.

1. Managing technical debt while implementing Helix principles – Day 1

This one appeals to me as I see about half the clients, I work with trying to move their existing site into a Helix solution. Sometimes It is a straightforward process, but most of the time it is not. This class would be great to learn some techniques that I can apply to my clients. I would also ask the question of at what point is it better to just start from scratch (new solution and Sitecore instance) versus trying to get a square into a circle? You can find more about this session here.

2. Face recognition, AI, and personalization: Data-driven marketing in a brick-and-click store – Day 1

I will be honest. I use face recognition several times a day with my iPhone. Whether it is to unlock the phone, put in a saved password, make a purchase etc. There is no doubt this something that will be integrated more and more and leveraging Sitecore as part of that is key to changing with the times. I would love to see how a web cam can be used with face recognition. I would have a lot of questions on it and I am sure from this class I could discover things I haven’t heard of before. You can find out more here.

3. New editing experience in Sitecore: What it means for developers – Day 2

I would say at least 60% of clients I work with use the experience editor. I am so old I remember it was once called page editor. I have done many overrides and changes to the EE and really have gotten a good feel for it. With the new changes in Horizon I know it would be critical to learn them. So, I can better serve my clients. You can find out more here.

4. Netflix next with Sitecore Cortex – Day 2

This class combines two of my favorite things. Netflix and Sitecore. I haven’t done much with Sitecore Cortex, but this class would give me some good ideas and how to use it. I am hoping this class will be available online so I can follow the steps. You can find out more here.

5. Data integration: Get your head in the cloud – Day 3

For people that follow my blog and me on Twitter know I like data integration with the Data Entity Framework. This class leverages the Sitecore Item Service API and Azure WebJobs and Functions. From the description “This is a scalable, secure, and robust approach to data integration.”. You can find out more here.

Have fun if you are attending (especially my fellow MVPs). If it is your first time there make sure you take it all in and network with the Sitecore family. There is so much to learn. It is such an awarding experience.

#Sitecore Data Exchange Framework Revisited (Reddit to Sitecore Feed)

I did a blog series on DEF and I did a few more follow up blogs. You can find the previous blog on DEF here. After I updated my Reddit Feed example to the latest DEF and doing a presentation on it I decided to do an updated blog.

You can find the my Sitecore Market Place module here. You can find the code in GitHub here.

So, let’s get started.

Overview (what is covered in this blog):

  • What is Data Exchange Framework?
  • How Can it be Used?
  • Sitecore Setup
  • Backend Setup
  • How to Run
  • Scheduling Data Exchange Framework Batch Jobs
  • Final Thoughts

From Sitecore:

Sitecore Data Exchange Framework is designed to facilitate the transfer of data between systems. It allows you to define the logic needed to read data from a source system, transform that data into a format that is compatible with a target system, and write the transformed data into a target system. Developers can build connectors that allow 3rd party systems to serve as source and target systems.

How can it be used?

  • Importing Data from One Source into Sitecore (example rss feed, reddit feed etc…).
  • Exporting Data from Sitecore into Another System (external SQL tables)
  • Reading and Processing xDB contacts.
  • Anything data related. The possibilities are endless.

Sitecore Setup

Below is the overview on how the Data Exchange tenant was setup.

Expanding the Pipeline Batch, you will see the following:

So, let’s start dissecting this stuff.

Sitecore Setup – Value Accessor Sets

  • Used to map field values from the source (Reddit).
  • Used to map source values from Sitecore.

Each Accessor set has a field. I made these fields the same names I was getting from the feed. It made things a little easier to remember.

For the Sitecore field you will use the fields of a template you create. In this case it will be a Reddit item template.

The field value is going to point to the item template of the Reddit feed item. I kept the field naming consistent with the feed.

To bring those together we will use a value mapping set. This will make the connection from the Reddit feed field to the Sitecore field. In this example Title of the Value Accessor Set for the Reddit feed chosen.

In this example created a template that contains settings needed for the field. Template inherits from the endpoint base template. For the Sitecore endpoint I created and used the default values.

The converter type points to a created method in the code behind. The method is used to retrieve the blog path.

Converter Type is defaulted.

Backend Setup – Overview

This is a snapshot of each folder that was created and the corresponding class file.


The Supported Ids above, the template id ({68BD9AAD-635F-40F3-9ACD-711662C59EEC}) being set refers to the following template. This template inherits from the Value Accessor template installed by the DEF package.

So how this corresponds to Sitecore is simple. A Value Accessor Set item is created and the items underneath it uses this template. In the RedditFeedFieldValueAccessorConverter class it is setup to get the value of that field using the combination of the template and the field name defined in the RedditFeedFieldValueValueAccesorItemModel. You will see how this is tied into other parts of the DEF process as we go along.

In the code you will notice a ValueReader and a ValueWriter are set. The ValueReader is used to read in the feed and match the fields for each Reddit blog item. The field definition is contained in the stringValue. The ValueWriter defines a new PropertyValueWriter class. That class is part of the DEF and used to convert the field values. (This code was changed in 2.1 versus previous versions so you might see this done differently if using an earlier version).


This class will process the Reddit Post item and match field name with value. Title, AuthorName, SelfText etc… are field names in the Reddit feed. I believe you can name these differently, but I prefer to keep the same name as it is in the Reddit post item.


The Reddit End Point will have the information for the Blog Path in Reddit. The TemplateId defined points to the RedditEndPoint template. Settings are returned and added to the plugin. The plugin is required to be implemented by the pipeline converter and processor.

This is the model plug in code:

This is values of the Reddit Endpoint. You can see that the Converter Type points to the RedditEndPoint class.

More about this later, but as you can see in the Reddit Pipeline Step the Reddit Endpoint is selected. Now you can see how this all ties together.

Looking in Sitecore you can see where the Converter Type points to the Endpoint Converter and the Processor Type which will get called and receive the end point information and do the Reddit Feed processing.


The converter is one of the most crucial parts of the DEF. This is what ties together the pipeline step of the DEF. The SupportedIds value is the template id of the Reddit Pipeline step. As you can see the endpoint settings are passed into the pipeline step.


In Sitecore under Pipelines\Reddit Pipeline\Reddit Pipeline Step you will see under Processor Type the RedditItemsProcessor defined.

The next images shows the code for the processor. You will see that the Required EndpointPlugin is defined for RedditSettings.

Endpoint, PipelineStep and PipelineContext should all have values at this point. As you will notice the ILogger parameter is used to set up any custom logging.

If you look at the method RedditFeed, what that does is create a new Reddit class using RedditSharp. It then uses the blogpath setting from the endpoint to retrieve the blog feed.

A collection of reddit feed blogs is then created. It will use fieldnames we defined earlier to match the Reddit feed fields to the fields defined for the new Reddit Sitecore item.

How to Run

Below you will find a Pipeline Batch that was created to run all the necessary steps to process and import the data into Sitecore.

Below are the steps that get run under Pipelines. You can also see above that the Reddit Pipeline is selected.

One of the things I found difficult with DEF now that I have used it quite a bit is getting the correct settings right on each step. I got some help from an expert on Slack. So hopefully this will help someone else.

The first setting Iterable Data Location is important because that is your data that was read in. The Data Location is usually set to Pipeline Context Source.

The Identifier Value Accessor is set to your unique key for your data. Identifier Object Location is usually set to Pipeline Context Source.

Resolved Object Location will usually be set to Pipeline Context Target.

See setting below for mapping. Source and Target are common.

Finally you have the Item Location that will be used to map to the Sitecore Endpoint.

When you first click on the Pipeline Batch you will notice a group of buttons on the ribbon. If something is not correctly setup these buttons will be disabled. To run the Pipeline Batch just click on the Run Pipeline Batch button. While it is running the button will grey out and you will see the Stop Pipeline Batch button enabled. After it is finished running the Run Pipeline Batch will be enabled again.


If you need information on scheduling the DEF process check out my previous blog here.

Final Thoughts

  • The Data Exchange Framework should always be considered when importing/exporting data in Sitecore.
  • It does not completely replace tools such as RAZL as the process would be more manually intensive.
  • The possibilities are endless.

I hope this guide helps those who need to get started with the Data Exchange Framework.