BluePrinting Metaphor Re-imagined

Have you ever heard, "BluePrinting is Tridion" or "Tridion is BluePrinting?" In terms of functionality, I submit that a SDL Tridion BluePrint is one of the most awesome and potentially-dangerous weapons you can wield in your Tridion toolkit. Think Sword of Omens with a light saber blade and the One Ring embedded in the handle.

So how do we approach this versatile and dangerous tool? By talking about... kids, of course! Here are some misaligned metaphors and not-so-new thoughts on BluePrinting.

Misaligned Metaphors

From BluePrint... to Genealogy?

David Adams, Director of Services Solutions at SDL and a recent Innovate speaker shared some interesting points on the "classic" BluePrinting metaphor with me and Kelly Thompson, Global Education Manager with SDL WCMS (this was sometime before for their Innovate speech). He mentioned we use  "blueprint," a fairly specific architectural term, but switch to genealogy and object-oriented programming when we explain BluePrinting to the business and IT, respectively. On top of that, the phrase "Empty Parent" is devoid of any positive connotation.
I'm imagining the typical teen-angst rant, "I hate you! I wish I was never born! You're such an empty parent!" followed by a slamming door.
Some of the BluePrint lexicon includes terms and concepts that really fit a different, but possibly old, core idea about design and architecture.

Opportunity and Challenges for Third-Party SDL Tridion Tools

As a functional lead on the PowerTools reboot, I've seen a small glimpse of Tridion-related software development challenges and opportunities. Though the volunteer group doesn't charge for the PowerTools, it also doesn't support the "product" in the typical sense.
Its GNU GPLv2 ("do-what-you-want-but-keep-it-open") license even lets third parties charge for transfers and support. This creates an untapped opportunity to provide expert services or a warranty for otherwise "free" software, but with some interesting gotchas.
The challenge with any Tridion-related tool is deciphering who buyers and stakeholders are, managing intellectual property, and determining a viable business model.

You Need the Best Design Tools Money Can't Buy

I'm back on Information Architecture (IA) work collecting inputs into Functional Requirements documentation (for a Tridion project). Here are some interesting (and free!) tools that you might want to check out when working with page types, content types, and wire frames.

Lorem Ipsum just not meaty enough (is everything better with bacon)? Sounds kind of fishy? It's not. Except that it is (Tuna Ipsum).
What's Lorem Ipsum? It's place holder or dummy text. But it's not enough to have just text. We need image placeholders. How about full of kittens? Or again with the meat?
Want a screenshot? Chrome has its own app that does the full page capture. Fireshot is now available for FireFox, IE, and Chrome.

Happy designing!

Since we're on the topic of free and open source... wait, did you know what SDL Tridion open source project I was going to plug? Fine, I'll talk about it in the next post.

For the business analysts out there, check out WebSequenceDiagram, my favorite quick-and-dirty activity diagram tool.

Aint Got No (SDL Tridion) Workflow... Blues?

Chris Summers asks and suggests reasons why organizations don't implement SDL Tridion workflow. He's absolutely correct, but I think this extends beyond Tridion into the very nature of knowledge work, situational leadership, and mature business processes.

1. "[Tridion] Workflow is one of the least explored areas".

It may or may not be widely implemented, but we've seen frameworks and webinars (thanks, Mihai) on it.

Though I'm in the yet-to-program-a-workflow (as of 3/21/12), I wouldn't hesitate to document a process, though nor give my not-quite-solicited opinion.

Like most Tridion questions, we start with "how do you/would you do this outside of Tridion?"
I have the philosophy that if you can explicitly describe the steps you want in terms of actions you can do with the CME along with a basic understanding of programming, you can capture enough requirements to build an appropriate workflow, event system, or extension... more or less, with caveats on how long or challenging it would be to build. :-)  
2. Few organizations understand their business processes

What's Wrong With a Tridion Project Plan?

Technology supports your business. Not the other way around. No matter what system you're implementing, focus on your project goals and objects with the business opportunity (challenge) in mind.

Vendor Projects

The most visible and trackable results in anything project-related are the deliverables. These take the form of those "zero-length items" in your plan (MS Project and some Gantt chart tools use diamond shapes) that mean some objective has been met. Vendors might refer to them as toll gates but your project managers might opt for objectives or milestones. Bonus if you know the difference. I don't care what they're called, someone needs to keep track of them.
Your vendor will understand the deliverables they're responsible for very well; any professional services type organization does this type of work over and over again. What they can't replace, however is understanding your business opportunity or challenge. Vendors can help guide you in discovering your business requirements, especially if in a new domain. But customers are still responsible for the results of their project.

What's a Tridion Project?

Who do you Trust?

Think about the people you trust the most. You might not know why you trust them, but it's likely they have the following according to Stephen Covey's Speed of Trust. Replace "they" with the person, organization, or product you have in mind.
  • Integrity - you believe they do and understand the right thing. They're "normal" in the sense they're not trying to cheat, break rules, or only consider their own needs.
  • Intent - you believe they're trying to do the right thing.
  • Capabilities - you believe in their skills and ability to deliver what they intend to do
  • Results - they have consistently delivered for you (by answering questions or solving problems)
The amazing thing about trust is that, like a lot of other things, it's something you can improve.

We can improve our integrity, intent, capabilities, and results. Sometimes it's reconnecting with what's important, other times it's, "Less talk. More action."

Edit (8 July 2014): fixed some typos and grammar issues.

SDL Innovate 2012. So Much Content!

I miss going to conferences. I helped host a college-bound high school conference ages ago. I've attended  SharePoint and Gartner conferences as a prospective or existing customer. This was my first conference as an employee of the hosting organization. I attended mainly the WCM portions of SDL Innovate 2012 and am glad to:
  • Hear CMS is more important than ever
  • Confirm platforms matter
  • Earn the nickname "Bloggy"
I could make several posts on all the content from the Innovate conference. I'll spare you and just highlight some things that left an impression on me.

CMS is Important

CMS is important. Ian Truscott, the North America VP of Products for SDL WCMS , explained CMS is essential to CXM (Content eXperience Management). He suggests the following equation:
Relevance + Variance  = Content Explosion
For example, anyone familiar with state-specific content, just adding a few categories to the 50 states (plus Washington DC) can easily get you hundreds to thousands of variants. I still have chills for the all-state, all-specialty updates I had to manually make in at least 255 individual XML configuration files.

The also means the page paradigm is dated, as Nuno Linhares, Principal Consultant with SDL WCMS, explains on his blog, "your content model must evolve from being page-centric to being customer-centric."

Does Platform Matter?

Forecast? Data. Lots of data!

Step-By-Step Blogging Guide

Not everyone has the time or inclination to learn and search for everything you need to start a blog. So here are some the practical steps to get started with Blogspot (Google's Blogger).

Some Clicks and Some Text

Starting a blog is ridiculously simple. The hardest part is giving yourself permission to create something. Let me know if you need help with that part, but otherwise skim over this and choose your platform (Blogger or Wordpress are good places to start, I've used both).

Go to

Blog Recipe: Be Relevant While Sharing Experience, Passionately

I presented on blogging to Tridion professionals as part of SDL WCM's kick-off (yeah, I know you want to call it the "Tridion" kick-off).

Here's the blog post on the speech. This is the emotional sales pitch, come back if you ever doubt online sharing or community for Tridion professionals. Otherwise, skip and read my next post for the manual.

Key lessons for speeches or blogs:
  • Be relevant
  • Speak from experience
  • Share your passion

I can tailor a speech to an audience, but it's hard to connect with everyone in a speech. So it helps to add a picture and some facts. Is readership on your mind? Are you interested in money or career satisfaction?

977% growth in just one year! Actually some of that comes from Twitter.
Ironically my most popular post has nothing to do with Tridion, but lolcats.

Fascination with SDL WCMS and SDL Tridion

Tina Turner's "Simply the Best" pulls all the right fascination triggers, but it's really a song about love and trust.

I'm back from a team meeting and am compelled to say, "Yes! Validation!" My peers are fascinating, the strongest fascination trigger is trust, and I trust SDL's WCMS as an organization.

Fascinating People

I've learned only a fraction of how fascinating my colleagues are, in addition to the Tridion geekery
A few fly airplanes, fish for marlin, or partake in cheese and wine culture in the Napa and Sonoma valleys. One takes day-long motorcycle trips around the Napa and Sonoma valleys. One consultant has done everything from dance to multiple sports to multiple martial arts, but still admits to being somewhat shy. Hint: you can be an excellent public speaker and still be introverted (check out Networking for People Who Hate Networking).

Over the last few weeks I've heard some spine-tingly, scary childhood memories. I was impressed by a friend so passionate about a topic he had to switch to his native tongue.* I was intrigued by stories of what European travel means for Europeans. And I was enthralled by a friend's explanation of the grammar intricacies between Dutch, Spanish, and English using examples from Star Wars.

Seven Wins in Developing a Technical Community

To me, more "community" means a win for Support, Marketing, Sales, R&D, Services, HR, customers, and you:
  1. More shared knowledge and improved support (a win for Customer Support)
  2. More awareness and visibility of products (a win for Marketing and Sales)
  3. Understanding of what challenges customers face and how they're implementing a solution (a win for Research and Development)
  4. A chance to shift from a hands-on to a brains-intensive "expert model" (a win for Professional Services)
  5. A chance to be transparent, showcase a company culture, and earn trust (win for HR, the market, and the organization)
  6. All of the above for a win for the customer as they get more shared knowledge, more product understanding, an understanding of what to watch out for, expert consulting, and a product and company they can trust.
  7. For you, a win for career satisfaction.