#Sitecore Hackathon 2021 The Good and Some Bad. #SCHackathon

Hard to believe this was my fifth year doing the Sitecore Hackathon. It has become a tradition though and would not want to miss it. This year my teammate was a co-worker and we were team Alpha Centauri. Get it? We both work for Alpha Solutions. Anyway here is how it went.

Keep Things Simple

Learned this many times in the past. So anything that wasn’t out of the box was off the table. Nothing wrong with trying something new, but as a marathoner I have to stick to the important rule of not trying anything you haven’t practiced on race day.

Well I Missed Something

So I should of read this more closely. We were supposed to use Sitecore 10.1, but for some reason I installed Sitecore 10 update 1 beforehand. So guess what? I broke my own rule and just learned something new. It was McAvoy vs Stewart. Love the reskin BTW.

Some Great Topics to Choose from, but We Need a Solid Idea

This year was the fastest year my hackathon team came up with an idea. One of the topics was Best of SXA. Working with SXA everyday we had come up with a much needed change we felt is needed.

Divide and Conquer

As in past hackathons that I have worked with others, it is always good to come up with roles on the team. I would handle the documentation/video and my teammate would handle the coding. And we were off.

The Finale

After lots of time spent coding and documenting we put something together. Hardest thing for me was getting the video right. There is a reason why I am not a YouTube star. So this is what we came up with.

So that is a wrap. See you all next year!

Basic Authentication with #Sitecore 9.3

A few months back I was given a task to put in basic authentication into Sitecore 9.3. It was mainly from preventing anyone to get into staging sites. I came across and older blog that is currently missing. I wanted to give them credit since it was the inspiration for this blog. You can find the original blog post on the web archives here. I have made some of my own updates including Rules Based Configuration.

using System;
using System.Web;
using Sitecore.Diagnostics;
using Sitecore.Pipelines.HttpRequest;
using System.Text;
using System.Net.Http.Headers;
using System.Linq;

namespace Abc.SharedSource.SitecoreProcessors
{
    public class BasicAuthentication : HttpRequestProcessor
    {
        private bool CheckPassword(string username, string password)
        {
            string[] userlist = Sitecore.Configuration.Settings.GetSetting("BasicAuthUsername").Split(',');
            string[] passwords = Sitecore.Configuration.Settings.GetSetting("BasicAuthPassword").Split(',');

            if(userlist.Contains(username) && passwords.Contains(password))
            {
                return true;
            }
            else
            {
                return false;
            }
        }

        private void AuthenticateUser(string credentials)
        {
            try
            {
                var encoding = Encoding.GetEncoding("iso-8859-1");
                credentials = encoding.GetString(Convert.FromBase64String(credentials));

                int separator = credentials.IndexOf(':');
                string name = credentials.Substring(0, separator);
                string password = credentials.Substring(separator + 1);
             
                if (!CheckPassword(name, password))
                {
                    HttpContext.Current.Response.StatusCode = 401;
                }
            }
            catch
            {
                HttpContext.Current.Response.StatusCode = 401;
            }
        }
        //Basic Auth Code End

        public override void Process(HttpRequestArgs args)
        {
            Assert.ArgumentNotNull(args, "args");
            if (Sitecore.Context.Item != null || Sitecore.Context.Database == null || args.Url.ItemPath.Length == 0)
                return;

            if (Sitecore.Configuration.Settings.GetSetting("TurnonBasicAuth") != "True" || Sitecore.Configuration.Settings.GetSetting("TurnonBasicAuth") == "") return;
            if (PatternMatch()) return;
            var request = args.HttpContext.Request;

            var authHeader = request.Headers["Authorization"];
            if (authHeader != null)
            {
                var authHeaderVal = AuthenticationHeaderValue.Parse(authHeader);

                // RFC 2617 sec 1.2, "scheme" name is case-insensitive
                if (authHeaderVal.Scheme.Equals("basic",
                        StringComparison.OrdinalIgnoreCase) &&
                    authHeaderVal.Parameter != null)
                {
                    AuthenticateUser(authHeaderVal.Parameter);
                }
            }
            else
            {
                args.HttpContext.Response.StatusCode = 401;
            }

            if (HttpContext.Current.Response.StatusCode == 401)
            {
                string Realm = Sitecore.Context.Site.TargetHostName;//HttpContext.Current.Request.Url.AbsoluteUri;
                args.HttpContext.Response.Clear();
                args.HttpContext.Response.Headers.Add("WWW-Authenticate",
                    string.Format("Basic realm=\"{0}\"", Realm));
                args.HttpContext.Response.Flush();
                args.HttpContext.Response.End();
            }
        }
        bool PatternMatch()
        {         
            string[] mockUrls = Sitecore.Configuration.Settings.GetSetting("ExcludedPaths").Split(',');
            string url = Sitecore.Context.Site.TargetHostName;// HttpContext.Current.Request.Url.AbsoluteUri;
            foreach (var urlval in mockUrls)
            {
                var containsurl = url.Contains(urlval);
                if(containsurl)
                {
                    return true;
                }
            }
            return false;
        }
    }
}

Since this is Sitecore 9.3 the configuration below is using rules based. πŸ™‚ More than likely you would want to require the ContentManagement role, but you can modify the configuration to use any roles and environments. I put the username and settings in the configuration since Sitecore will also have its own and in this case is only for preventing anyone who accidently finds the site from seeing anything.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<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="ContentManagement, Standalone">
    <pipelines localenv:require="DevBuild or LocalDeveloper">
      <httpRequestBegin>
        <processor type="Abc.SharedSource.SitecoreProcessors.BasicAuthentication, BrookfieldResidential.Extensions"
						   patch:before="processor[@type='Sitecore.Pipelines.HttpRequest.UserResolver, Sitecore.Kernel']"/>
      </httpRequestBegin>
    </pipelines>
    <settings localenv:require="DevBuild or LocalDeveloper">
      <setting name="TurnonBasicAuth" value="True"></setting>
      <setting name="ExcludedPaths" value="media,layouts,speak,/sitecore,/sitecore/admin,brpsc.dev.local/about" />
      <setting name="BasicAuthUsername" value="UserTest1,TestUser2,TesUser3" />
      <setting name="BasicAuthPassword" value="testpass1,testpass2,testpass3" />
    </settings>
  </sitecore>
</configuration>

You should then get the default login screen that looks like this:

#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.
Magic!
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.

cavemanrules

Role:Define

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.

<!-- SUPPORTED SERVER ROLES 
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
ContentManagement
ContentDelivery, Indexing
ContentManagement, Indexing
Processing
Reporting
Standalone
Default value: Standalone
-->

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

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

Localenv:Define

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"?>
<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">
<sites localenv:require="DevEnviroment">
//Add your transformation code here.
</sites>
</sitecore>
</configuration>

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>
<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.

https://doc.sitecore.com/developers/93/platform-administration-and-architecture/en/use-a-rule-based-configuration.html

https://jammykam.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/rules-based-configuration/

#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.

Verification

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.

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.

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.

cookiecakemvp2020

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.