Favorite Parts of 2011 (it's not ALL Tridion)

Not to be confused with the SDL Tridion Favorites Feature, here's my favorite parts of 2011.

11. Becoming a Real-Life PM

I had the opportunity to run some "real" projects with American Specialty Health's IT Operations as a PM. It was a little déjà vu working on a WFM (not WCM) purchase with a similar scope, budget, and the fun challenge of balancing IT, business, and project needs. I feel I did well in the vendor-facing PM role, but I tease my consulting peers that I "got tired of vendors... so I joined you guys."

If you're a mid-to-senior knowledge worker that gets a chance to work for American Specialty Health, go for it. Try to get into a position that involves projects and/or writing within any of the departments that interest you. Positions open on their corporate site. Tell them I sent you (no actually tell them Christy, the proposal manager (RFPs) sent you, yes she'll split any referral bonus with you).

10. Winning 3rd-Place in a I Love Work Video Contest

Here's my finalist video at my last job.

9. Winning an SDL Tridion MVP

Wow. I tell everyone contributing works. Seth Godin was right.

Don't mind the cute toddler. I'm sure she'll ask me to take this down when Google bot or its equivalent in 2020 keeps bringing up my old award in searches for her.

8. March "Bootcamp" in San Jose

A benefit of the MVP program is a test software license and occasional invites to partner training events. I had to pass up the no-expenses-paid invite to the Amsterdam Bootcamp, but instead went to San Jose to meet my unknown-at-the-time future coworkers, learn about extensions and the revised event system, and enjoy a few days of Tridion geekery.

7. Graduating with a BSIT-BSA

As much as I like how "Bachelor's of Science in Information Technology, emphasis in Business Systems Analysis" sounds, it's simply an IT degree (or BSIT-BSA).
My toddler won't be able to grow up and have an excuse to skip college, well at least not the one that goes "Daddy didn't so I don't have to."
University of Phoenix may not be the most prestigious school, but it's a legitimate program that gave me a chance to run 20 ad hoc 5-person teams through one (or more) 5-week projects with 2 to 3 electronic deliverables (assignment, requirements, etc) and presentations in front of a live audience, complete with last-minute meetings, project changes, and the occasional slacker (or cheater).

Hey that's actually pretty good training for IT or consulting work. The chance to meet other professionals in the industry and make a few friends was worth the student loans.

6. Going to the SDL Tridion MVP Retreat

SDL Tridion 2011 Favorites Feature

This isn't about my favorite SDL Tridion CME feature (that's currently a tie between BluePrinting and Where Used?), but a quick video on how a content author can save favorites.
The "send to my favorites" feature was especially useful with Tridion R5.3, where the browser didn't show "bookmark-able" URLs. We can now directly link to items via the browser address bar, but it helps to have these built-in options in the same place that authors do their work. Can you guess where the data is saved?

30 Seconds

Setting Camstudio to 30 seconds, I miss the cut-off by a split moment. Hopefully you'll get the idea from the video.

Dreamweaver Syntax with FieldPath

Sometimes I get carried away with a TridionWorld forum post and come up with a really big example. So in the name of re-use (and not just as a euphemism for "copy and paste!"), here's a post on an example DWT.
The main take-away for me is that "FieldPath" is a nifty little variable that knows it's current context. Use it with deeply nested Dreamweaver template (DWT) loops to keep track of where you are in relation to an XML (component) source. A background with XSLT development is helpful, but not required. I'll have to follow up with exactly what Dreamweaver syntax means to a SDL Tridion implementation, but for now I'll leave it up to Walter, aka "the Tridion Architect" to explain the levels of Compound Templating.
Either syntax "@@" or "${}" works, but it's best to stay consistent within an implementation, team, or at least a template building block (TBB).

Note the shortcut" paths, but it might be a better practice to loop over the full paths with "Component.Fields" then "Field.Values") DWT TBB
<!-- TemplateBeginRepeat name="Fields" --><!-- for each of the fields under the root node of ${FieldPath} -->
 <!-- Fields is at index: ${TemplateRepeatIndex} (only one node) -->
 <!-- TemplateBeginRepeat name="Values" --><!-- for each of the values under the current path of ${FieldPath} -->
 <!-- Values is at index: ${TemplateRepeatIndex} -->
  LinkSource: ${RenderComponentField(FieldPath + ".LinkSource", 0)}
  LinkName:   ${RenderComponentField(FieldPath + ".LinkName", 0)}
  LinkTitle:     ${RenderComponentField(FieldPath + ".LinkTitle",0)}
  <a href="${RenderComponentField(FieldPath + ".LinkSource", 0)}
  " title="${RenderComponentField(FieldPath + ".LinkTitle",0)}
  ">${RenderComponentField(FieldPath + ".LinkName", 0)}
<!-- TemplateEndRepeat -->


Blogging Tips for the Tridion Professional

I've been hearing this a lot lately: "I've been meaning to start a blog."
To my surprise, these are not empty promises. We saw three new blogs including one by Ferdinand Lugo (aka the Tridion Nut). I wish I could say I inspired him, but a blog is something that really comes from within. I do credit him for helping me find source material and inspire my recent Tridion Jokes post
So again with the unsolicited advice, here are three things to think about for the would-be Tridion-or-otherwise blogger. Enjoy this blog post about blogging--meta-blogging if you prefer. 

Why? Because.

Start with a reason. This is the most important part. Long after your first post when it's tough to write, it'll help to remember why you started. It's okay if this reason changes. It's okay if it's a lame reason. I admit blogging at times because no one listened/listens to me in real life. ;-)

Good Primary Reasons:

  • To contribute to a community
  • To complain about problems
  • To offer solutions for problems
  • To improve your writing skills
  • To sell your business, organization, or mission
  • To further your career or create intellectual property (whatever that means, I hear it's a good thing)
  • To leave a legacy; record moments in your life; share with friends, family, or your future self
  • To achieve other passion you deem worthy

Bad Primary Reasons:

  • To make money (maybe okay as a secondary reason, but know that users don't like being tricked and are pretty savvy and adamant about "schemes" -- don't be a shill or sock puppet)
I'd accept "become the number one expert in my field" as an okay primary reason to blog over "to make money," although there's a paradox. Genuine and authentic content may likely earn you opportunities, a change of scene, and possibly career satisfaction. But you probably shouldn't start with material gain as your only reason to blog.
I've blogged to remember what it was like to change from a couple to a family. I've blogged to share cool things with my coworkers. I currently blog to help contribute and build a technical community surrounding Web Content Management, specifically SDL Tridion (yup, I'm biased).

Web Content Management Done Better

Why Not "Done Right?"

In a previous post I only hinted at all the different "touch points" a Web content management (WCM) system such as SDL Tridion can have. And it was only for HTML tags! To balance out the seemingly bad news, I'd like to share the positives that come from a well-implemented system. I don't assume to have all the answers to managing content, but know there are some things that make it better.

A WCMS works better when:
  1. You follow standards and best practices by separating code from design from layout while using good naming conventions, include comments, etc
    • Developers and other technical people excel at spotting the differences between code so the framework or method doesn't matter so much as the consistency between elements
    • It helps to follow the technical community, but to also borrow from other disciplines to find the best (good) practices for your given environment.   
  2. You follow a life cycle (almost any method works, as long as you have a way to maintain changes and synchronize functional and code changes across environments--Joel's test definitely applies)
    • Believe me, it's tempting to just make a quick fix on the production WCM system or WCMS and forget your other environments. If at all possible, don't!
    • (Un)fortunately the 7 places an SDL Tridion setup can add markup are not always controlled by the same people. It's even worse when you multiply the 7 places by the four locations in a typical DTAP setup. "But the environments are exactly the same!" Are you sure?
  3. You empower end users to own their content
    • The project team and organization needs to set the right expectations and hold content owners responsible for their content.
    • However, this works better when you provide training, support, and documentation like any other internal or external system*

PowerTools Gotchas

Welcome to the influx of new members on the PowerTools Flow Dock. Here are some useful "gotchas" for those interested in helping with or following the SDL Tridion PowerTools.


  • Your SVN (Subversion source control) word is not your google password. You need to be added to the Google Code site as a committer and then you'll get your Google Code-specific password.
  • If you change your setup (create a new .NET project), don't forget the virtual directories.
  • The core service DLL is intentionally not included in the .NET project. Read the text file in the references folder for the reason and instructions.

The Plan

Unlike the Cylons in the Battlestar Galactica reboot, we only have an informal plan and schedule for the PowerTools at best (sorry, couldn't resist the geek joke). We rely on the voluntary contributions of a mixed group of internal, external, technical and even non-technical (like me!) volunteers. Our results are not always according to schedule, but we're making progress towards a release. We currently estimate a 2012 Q2 release for the tools; however some of the tools are already done. Despite an informal plan, we do have a guiding principal to make our results repeatable.

The Seven Deadly Places... to Add Markup with SDL Tridion

Even in a "simple" SDL Tridion setup, there are several places to add HTML markup.


How many places can you add or change HTML markup in an SDL Tridion setup (including "bad" places)?
  1. Components - entered into a rich text field (via the GUI by an end user)
  2. Filters - added or changed by a schema filter (done via XSLT defined in the schema)
  3. C# Template Building Block - added or changed by a template building block (TBB, typically from a .NET assembly or C# fragment)
  4. DWT Template Building Block - added or changed by a HTML layout template building block (typically with Dreamweaver-syntax)
  5. Component Template - added or changed by a non-modular component template (via XSLT or VBScript aka "legacy")
  6. Page Template - added or changed by a page template (or its corresponding TBBs)
  7. Presentation Server - everywhere else; okay this is a slight cheat, but in a complete WCM setup, we can't ignore the target presentation servers which include markup outside the Web content management (WCM) system such as:
    • HTML pages or the equivalent for the given Web programming framework/language
    • the appropriate in-line script, file, or compiled code that can generate HTML
This can be "deadly" because although you can sometimes guess where markup comes from, you can't be sure with a casual glance. Even harder is the fact that there are legitimate reasons for adding markup in any of these places including:

Enterprise Software Rivals

The biggest competition for enterprise systems are likely the simplest tools that get the job done.

Big SolutionExample Smaller Rival
Content ManagementMicrosoft Word offline or a blog online
Web Page or SitePDF
Project Management software
Workforce (Call Center) Management/Optimization
Electornic or paper forms
The latest programming IDENotepad, Notepad++, Gedit, or Vi

There are plenty of good (and bad) reasons to purchase the more expensive alternative. Sometimes you are better off starting with the manual, "this-is-how-we-did-it-in-my-day" tool/process to really appreciate what the bigger solution offers.

As my Tang Soo Do instructor used to say, "What would day be if it were not for night?" I'm pretty sure he meant it as a metaphor for choosing between software solutions.

SDL Tridion and Consulting Jokes

Random not-so-humorous jokes for your next time dealing with (possibly Tridion) consultants...

On Schema (content types)

What do you call a (insert your favorite Web Content Management system) implementation with only one schema and one template?
A blog.

What do you call (insert your favorite Web Content Management system) with hundreds of near duplicate schemas.
A slight misunderstanding.

On Tridion Employment

How can you annoy an SDL Tridion consultant while impressing HR?
Mention you've always wanted to work for SDL, the company, to work with Tridion, the product.

How can you get interviewed for a Tridion implementation contract?

Who are your Organization's Superstars?

I've been called a jack-of-all-trades, a "guru," and on occasion my favorite, "arrogant." Ok, I didn't like being called arrogant but a buddy said it was a badge of honor--why wouldn't you want to be called arrogant?

One place to check any arrogance in at the door is with your team. My unsolicited advice to any working professional is to respect your coworkers, and to know specifically who are your organization's linchpins aka "superstars."


Although you might know an administrative assistant, office/project coordinator/manager, or supervisor acting as the role of superstar, you can't always tell your super stars by title.

I've known IT "admins" that had direct lines of communication with the CIO. I've known volunteers who could get two dozen people in a Webinar by invite alone (and still not be satisfied at the turnout). I've personally served as a front desk receptionist, a customer service representative, or as the intern but often had access to the boss, management, or could potentially solve your problem given a chance. This idea of hidden power relates to types of power and distinguishes between official titles versus chosen or adopted roles.


I don't know how, but the best and busiest office managers, admins, or coordinators I've known seem to do their jobs, and then go beyond and act on the office morale committee, share the 2-for-1 Jamba Juice coupons, remember everyone's birthday, organize the office parties, or have all the inside leads for {pick your chosen profession or industry}. These linchpins often do the exact same tasks as "official" management and help define the informal office culture and leadership.

You might recognize some of the following roles:
  • the in-house human search engine: person who can find anything online in seconds, no matter how obscure (careful, some either enjoy or begrudge this power--act accordingly)
  • tools master: has access to, and knows background for, all the official and unofficial tools for the shop. If you're in software development, this person knows the useful Firefox plugins, how to debug with the JavaScript console, and how to make re-usable scripts with Selenium.
  • local guide, all-in-one concierge: this linchpin knows the ins-and-outs of the city, can book things no one else can, and might even know individual office staff food preferences
  • the subject-matter expert (SME): your product, software, or process guru that knows everything about anything about X
  • even the contentious curmudgeon: who by paradoxically questioning the status quo, asking the tough questions, and challenging others makes it a better place to work at 
  • know any others?
Roles and titles change, but the one consistent feature of the organizational superstar is their ability to contribute emotional work, beyond their assigned lists of tasks. Whether they piss you off or brighten your day, they're dedicated to the mission and the organization, even in ways the organization may not recognizes it needs.

What's a Professional? What Dance Teachers and Consultants Have in Common.

Last month I concluded a post about where I really came from (I got an eye roll when joked that I "just popped out of TridionWorld" to a coworker) that employees looking for a change should review their employment contracts. This is particularly true surrounding any professional or creative service-oriented organization that depends on knowledgeable, well-trained staff staff.

Personal Instructors and Consultants

There is a parallel between dance studios and consulting firms in that the hiring organization puts a lot of money and effort into marketing, employee development, and training. The resulting employee contracts typically have a "don't-steal-our-customers" and/or "don't-compete-with-us-within-our-market-within-X-miles-or-for-Y-years" clause (and for good reason). But what does this mean for professional instructors/consultants, organizations, and customers?

Competition is Good

Savvy business owners recognize that some competition is good. If the smaller dance studio down the street is doing well, it's a sign that the local market is healthy and the choices give you an opportunity to differentiate. For example, I still do the fliers for showcase at Champion Ballroom Academy in San Diego. With a history of staff, junior, and independent ballroom champions, it has maintained a level a prestige and top talent. The possible draw-back could be negative connotations with competition or the atmosphere (don't let the online pseudo drama scare you, check them out when you're in San Diego, and say I mentioned it; I don't get any referral bonus, but Mary might forgive me for moving away).

Overall this balances itself out and we see a mix of dance opportunities in the region, from salsa to international ballroom, from private lessons, to exercise classes.

With software, there's likely a point where there's too much competition. Maybe 1200 alternatives sounds like a bit much for Web content management, but if you're in a smaller wave or quadrant, it's easier to distinguish what makes you different/better-in-certain situations. Sometimes the biggest competition is the resident developer who made a simple-but-tough-to-maintain CMS who'd never pay that much for software.