Conspiracy Theory

Some peculiar coincidences around the San Jose SDL office.

Boomerang Logo

The boomerang is very faint on the latest SDL Tridon logo, but do you see the connection?!

SDL Tridion 2011 MVP Retreat

Less words. More pictures. More 2011 MVP Retreat fun.


Retreat was in Portugal at the end of September.

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Nominate the Next SDL Tridion MVP

Are you MVP material? You might be surprised at how simple it is to qualify by following these three steps:
  1. Use SDL Tridion
  2. Share
  3. Get Nominated


You need to use SDL Tridion, the software (hint: there is no SDL Tridion, the company). You do not need to be a consultant nor an SDL employee. Yours truly even won a title as a non-developer (at-the-time), non-partner, project manager that did business analysis and software purchases.

SDL employees can earn a "Community Builder" title. Don't let working for the company prevent you from actually liking and sharing about the software. ;-)

See my post on how to get to use the software if you're not sure on step one and after some time with the software, get ready for step two.


You need to share your "passion, knowledge" or "know-how" about the web content management system (WCM). The award program page states:
To receive the MVP award, nominees go through a review process by the MVP Selection panel. This panel will evaluate each nominee's voluntary contribution to the community over the past 12 months, the quality of their feedback and knowledge, and level of impact. Active MVPs will be re-evaluated every year, and the MVP title is only valid for one year each time. Active MVPs do not have to re-nominate, but are asked to continue their sharing activities.

Happy Thanksgiving

In light of this US-based Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to express my gratitude for my family, peers, and my dozen readers.


Thanks to the wife (my "baby sugar mama significant other" or BSMSO) for being an awesome partner and wonderful mother to our precocious big-little girl (and I thought I was a handful). From encouraging me to apply for my first technical job to giving me the okay to apply for my last one, I owe so much for BSMSO's support, love, and teasing. I lucked out somehow winning the heart of the hottest video-game playing girl at school (now, can I get Skyrim back please? Someone buy this woman an Xbox!).

Thanks to the family that followed us up to the Bay Area and to the grandparents we've left behind (who make us feel like royalty when we visit).

By the way, if anyone knows of job opportunities or connections in, or around, San Jose for part-or-full-time academic counseling, case management, or project coordination type work, please let my younger, yet more mature, sister know. I'm also trying to convince her of the power of social media and that she might even do okay following her creative side (which includes creative fan-fiction writing and photography). </personal plug>

Happy Hallowsgiving

People remember results more than a missed deadline... most of the time.

Okay so it's a little late, but the office had some left-over pumpkins we figured we'd carve anyways.

Team member Hao copied the logo design but free-styled the "Tridion" graffiti outline, relying on artistic talent that he admits doesn't transfer to graphic software (and yup we could use just a little photo-editing!).
After he cut out the letters, the rest of us orange-handed participants attempted to carve out the details. Emphasis on the "attempt."

Template Building Blocks via .NET Assembly

After getting your hands on a CMS environment, you may want to work on a Tridion Template Building Blocks (TBB) created through an ASP.NET assembly from Visual Studio. For experienced Tridion developers and consultants, move along, there's nothing new or exciting here.

I surprised a fellow coworker when I confessed never having set this up before. SDL Tridion is so flexible there are several different ways of accomplishing the same task. The answer to many Tridion questions is a strange cocktail consisting of precedence, preference, and environment. Each customer is free to focus on the parts they like, which means Tridion users may end with a very useful, but small slice of the software's capabilities (e.g. you don't need a Linux setup if you're a Windows shop or in my case, XSLT component templates provide "enough" functionality). It also makes the consultant's job that much more fun, challenging, and exciting!

Option 1

Log in to the TridionWorld forum and ask.

Option 2

Read someone else's explanation. TBBs with .NET assemblies have been covered before, along with sample code (good stuff, visvabalaji aka "String Writer"). If you get bored with your typical object-oriented languages, put on your architect hat and try them in F#. Or try them pre-made. Fellow consultants at Building Blocks even follow Joel's Rules to bake them into their SDLC with continuous integration. When you're done checking out the other posts, you can even philosophize the pros and cons of TBB and if you're still not sure which TBB is what type, you can add some visual flair to your icons.

Option 3

Hack along with your Disruptive Innovator to prepare the TcmUploadAssembly program, create a .NET class library, update code, and then update the content management system (CMS). The following assumes you have Visual Studio installed on the same environments as the CMS.

I'm New to This. Really.

Apparently I've previously shared enough about Tridion that (more than a few) of my current peers thought I was a consultant or with a firm before joining SDL.
Surprise! I didn't have the title of "consultant" until last month. Up until September, I was a 100% honest-to-goodness non-developer (at-the-time), non-partner, project manager that did business analysis and software purchases. And I worked as an employee of a Tridion customer.
If that makes your head spin, in an alternate universe I'm likely a ballroom dancer or martial artist.

I've enjoyed systems-related work that have included a mix of research, business analysis, and agile (or not-so-agile) development. I would have loved to do Tridion-related work on the side, but alas companies that buy this type of software don't have night and evening opportunities!
I was approached by a half-dozen "opportunities" from third-party recruiters--yes, it's a good market), but I had to apply (sorry, no glamorous come-work-for-us-offer) to my current job like anyone else (tip: an international call from California to SDL's HR office in Amsterdam aint cheap!).
So I'm a mix of someone who's...
  • new-to-consulting, but familiar with giving advice and teaching
  • new to having actual readers (hi Twitter bot and my dozen readers), but comfortable with informal, technical, and academic writing
  • the "new guy" that happens to have been around since the R5.3 release

When and When Not to use "SDL" When Talking about Tridion

Consider using "SDL Tridion" or #SDLTridion when communicating about your favorite Web content management system.*

*Okay it may not be your favorite. Use "Tridion" when complaining.

My main social media approach has three elements focused on being authentic and genuine (and improving my communication skills).
  • share interesting, useful, or amusing content (the quality of of which is determined by you, though I try to stick with things that I want to write about)
  • be authentic, personable, open, fair, and honest-as-possible-when-dealing-with-proprietary-info (it's an interesting balancing act for sure)
  • engage with others by giving/getting credit
    (one of my more popular recent posts wasn't about me, it was about the creative logo work from the Tridion PowerTools open source project.)

How to Get Started with SDL Tridion

How do I get started with Tridion development?
I've seen this question on Stack Overflow and Linked-In. If you'd like to develop with the SDL Tridion CMS, but don't have a license, see your options in order from the most-to-least costly:
*If I do know you, you know me, or I'm not eligible for a corporate referral bonus when you read this, replace my name with another employee, using the popular work-related social networking site at the time (Linked-In as of November 2011).

Update Nov 6, 2012: Added training as an option to get started and removed "development." It helps to be technical, but not all Tridion work is technical.

Matching Software Licensing to SDLC

Update: Thanks, Jeremy for the clarification on terms. See updates below and a new graphic to demonstrate the high-level "modularity" built into SDL Tridion.

One of the things I always wanted to get a chance to do was learn more about the Tridion templates that use template building blocks (TBBs). Originally called Tridion compound component templates (until someone must have mispronounced it in a critical sales meeting), these modular templates... I first heard of compound templates when I helped a company purchase Tridion R5.3. This modular templating approach lets template designers mix and match different pieces of re-usable functionality. This brings the modular approach full circle.

  • you can re-use whole sets of functionality (Tridion BluePrinting via parent and child publications)
  • you can re-use schema pieces (embeddable schema in regular schema)
  • you can re-use content pieces (components on a page), and now*
  • you can re-use template pieces (template building blocks in compound component templates)
*Modular templating isn't the new hotness anymore in the year 2011.
In my opinion, the hardest part about using creating re-usable classes in this "third type" of template development isn't the technology. It's getting an organization's IT operations (IT Ops) group, their development team, implementation organization, and Sales on the same page, which is far from an easy task.

On Software Costs

A rough trend I've detected with software licenses is the inverse correlation between size of the software's feature set and the physical size of the license metric. Features and price rise as the size of the individually licensed unit go down. At some point though, you can usually get the unlimited option for just $X more (for more fun on software pricing read Joel Splonky's Camels and Rubber Duckies post).

Nivlong's Observation of the Inverse Relationship Between Physical Size of the Software Licensing Unit and Total Cost™

Alvin vs. October. Alvin wins!

 I didn't have a chance to really pause starting since the end of September. But deep breath, here goes...

I had the last meeting of the 20 five-week classes to complete my Bachelor's of Science in IT (emphasis Business Systems Analysis) on Wednesday, September 28, followed by my last day at a job I loved on that Friday, then I packed that weekend while in San Diego, then went to Europe (missing a connecting flight along the way) to spend an awesome weekend with some very cool/friendly/helpful/smart people in a Portuguese fortress to help start one of the most high-profile volunteer projects I've ever worked on, then flew back to San Diego and right over to San Jose to help check out a new place to live, went back to San Diego to walk in my graduation ceremony, and then took the drive back up to San Jose to start my first week at the new job without the new place ready just yet.

Quick breath and then...

Tridion 2011 Queries

Tridion R5.3 content delivery (CD) queries use a string-based query that represents basically the "select" part of an SQL query. For example, to filter a component that has select metadata you can use something like:

(key_value LIKE 'color') and (key_string_value LIKE 'red')
(key_value LIKE 'size') and (key_string_value LIKE 'big')
(key_value LIKE 'shape') and (key_string_value LIKE 'ball')
GROUP_BY 3 and publication_id = 5"

Secondary Memory: "Didn't I ask that Before?"

I've been seeing posts that we're collectively outsourcing parts of our brain to online search engines like Google.

As a slight departure from the "sharing is awesome" theme, I wanted to describe how the TridionWorld forum has served a similar function for all-things-Tridion for me, with the following catch.
The more I document and share stuff, the easier it is to find later.
It's not a case of ego surfing when I recently searched for "XML IDE Alvin Reyes" on the forum. I wanted to find these keywords when the idea, "working on XSLT templates is so... manual without an IDE" popped into my head. Like other seemingly perceptive points, this wasn't the first time I thought of it.

Tridion-friendly XML Editors

Luckily, awhile back I had asked the Tridion gurus on TridionWorld what they used and we came up with the following list of XML IDEs (yay, developer tools!):

The PowerTools Team's Power

I wanted to recognize the work the PowerTools group has done with the code and setting up shared, re-usable resources (wiki updates, JavasScript base class, code standards, examples).
Here are some excellent take-aways from the group's first month. The PowerTools Team's power comes from collaborating, balancing best practices with understandable examples, and through sharing.


(help but also get help)
  • Team members don't hesitate to ask questions, share, and offer feedback. We may still need to be careful and pace ourselves to avoid burn out while enjoying the work. Volunteered time is appreciated, but not at the risk of someone's health, sanity, or career. I like seeing people take breaks, it makes the rest of us learn better. :-)
  • The team has started logging known issues and continues to add useful comments to source control. I personally love the progress on the wiki pages!
  • I'm not sure what in the group DNA that encourages the collaborative software, but I suspect this will make our next steps towards releasing version 1.0 (documenting, testing, and reviewing code) that much easier.

Inspect Publication Details with an XSLT Component Template

Ever need in-depth publication information from within your content management explorer (CME aka Tridion's GUI)? Curious about what XSLT can do for you?

I was hoping to make a every-example XSLT training component template (CT) with examples and everything you'd ever want to know about XSLT with Tridion, but I'll have to pace myself and settle for the following. See below on how to make an XSLT CT "inpsector" template. Preview it with any component to get publication details in a recursively-drawn HTML table.

Step 1 Create a new Component Template of type XSLT.

  • Call it something like: "Publication Info (use on any component)"
  • Output format: XML Document or HTML Document (we're just previewing so either work)
  • Priority: any, but I chose "Never Link"
  • Component Presentations based on this Component Template will be:
    Published on a Page