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Brian McKeiver's personal blog. This blog is mostly dedicated to Kentico CMS and ASP.NET development.

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    This is the third part of my blog post series on Building a Kentico E-Commerce Chat Bot. Make sure that you have read the part 1 and part 2 of the series before continuing. The goal of this post is to get down and dirty on the Azure side of the solution. We will walk through what it takes to get started with your very own Azure Bot Service, Bot Builder Framework account, and LUIS account.


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  • 04/09/17--07:32: I'm Speaking at GLSEC 2017
  • Every year SoftwareGR puts on the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference, known as GLSEC. The conference is dedicated to building and enhancing the software industry in the West Michigan region. The conference brings hundreds of software professionals and business leaders together for a day of learning and networking.

    GLSEC 2017 takes place this year on May 22nd, 2017 in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. I have attended this conference multiple times, but am excited to annouce that this will be the first time I will be speaking at the event.

    GLSEC normally has a specific theme that the conference centers around. Last year it was around Mobile technology, and there were some great sessions held around Native, Responsive, and other soft skills growth. This year the theme is on "Big Data". The goal is to explore how organizations across a variety of industries are collecting and utilizing big data to drive organizational behaviors.

    As a result of the theme, my session is titled "Build a Big Data .Net MVC App in 30 mins". Keep reading after the jump to see the full abstract of my talk.


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    I was lucky enough to attend both the Chicago and Boston editions of the 2017 Kentico Roadshow this past week. For those of you that might not have attended, or don't know too much about it, the event was hosted by the product management team at Kentico in various cities around the world. The main agenda consisted of Kentico communicating its vision for a dual rail strategy of continually developing and enhancing Kentico EMS as well as building new functionality into Kentico's new product, Kentico Cloud.

    As usual with a Kentico event, there were two tracks throughout the day, one for the business / marketing focused attendees, and the other for technically inclined attendees. There were also a few deep dives into the Kentico Cloud technology, a performance optimization session on Kentico EMS, and case study presentations of websites that have been built with Kentico Cloud. Since I was able to attend two of the roadshows, I actually got to see pretty much every session that was available.  I was also honored that Kentico asked my team and I at BizStream to present our own case study of our first Kentico Cloud project, www.CaseStream.net.

    Keep reading after the jump to hear my thoughts on some of the key takeaways from the event, and see the slides from my our presentation on our impressions of using Kentico Cloud to implement a content first strategy for building a website. 


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    The Chicago Coder Conference (CCC) is entering its fourth year of supporting and promoting the Chicagoland area’s technology community. The conference, which runs June 26th through June 27th 2017, boasts topics that include Agile, Architecture/Integration, Big Data, Cloud, DevOps, .Net, Java, Mobile, IoT, Robotics, Security, Tech Leadership and UX/Front End Dev and features over 100 sessions. This year I am pleased to announce that I will be presenting one of those sessions. 

    I will be presenting my session "Search Bogging You Down? Move it to the Cloud!" on the first day of the event. The presentation is intended to introduce cloud based search technologies, such as Azure Search, and how developers can leverage such a microservice in their solutions. Keep reading after the jump to see my full session abstract.


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    This is part 4 of my blog post series, Building a Kentico E-commerce Chat Bot. Today we will review the Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS) aspect of the solution. During the review we will see how to create and train our bot to communicate with humans in a smart way.


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    This is the final post in my blog post series, Building a Kentico E-Commerce Chat Bot. At long last I have finally had time to do a little code refactoring, wrap up the solution into a nice GitHub repository, and ensure that a test page to host the bot works here at Mcbeev.com. Keep reading to check out the final code, and most importantly, make sure you give the chat bot a try yourself.


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    While working on a few different Kentico Cloud based projects, I ran into a situation that was a real head scratcher when working with the Delivery .Net SDK. I had done the research, installed the fabulous Kentico Cloud Boilerplate for ASP.NET, followed the getting started examples to a T, and for the most part everything worked perfectly. However, every once in a while the whole application came to a screeching halt, with a deep level exception being thrown the very first time I ran the project. Hitting refresh always fixed the error, but the whole situation really made no sense to me at first.

    I know what you must be thinking, "Well Brian, it's probably just a caching issue if it works on a refresh". Trust me, I wish it was that, but it isn't. Keep reading after the jump to hear the whole story and see how I resolved the issue using an unexpected technique.


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    I'm excited to announce that my next speaking gig will be at Little Rock Tech Fest 2017. Little Rock Tech Fest is an annual developer conference featuring popular web, mobile, database, devops and related developer topics from industry leaders. It is a fairly popular event in the Little Rock, AR area for both professional and aspiring software developers.

    The event takes place on October 5th and 6th at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. My session this time will be "Build a Big Data .Net MVC App in 30 mins". I'm going to cover what it takes to build an ASP.NET based site that utilizes a few different APIs / microservices to show what Big Data can do.

    I won't be there alone either, Bryan Soltis, Technical Evangelist at Kentico Software, will also be presenting. Bryan will be giving a session titled "Building Your Evil(?) Empire with Azure Functions". Kentico is also a top sponsor this year at LRTF. We will both be manning a sponsor booth, so come say hi! 

    The full abstract of my session can be read after the jump.


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    By now most of you should know that Kentico 10 was released about 10 months ago. What you might not know is that as part of the 10.0 release, under the hood, Kentico re-engineered the major relationships between the CMS’s Users, Contacts, and Subscribers (newsletter recipients). The primary reason for this was to address and increase the scalability of the Kentico EMS platform. As a result of this work, Kentico 10 can now handle a shockingly high level of Contacts in the system (100 million according to best practices).

    All of this awesomeness is the reason why I was a little bit shocked when my team and I were troubleshooting a problem with a Kentico EMS site that we had recently upgraded to Kentico 10.0. In the final stages of pushing the upgrade live, our client noticed that there seemed to be something amiss between Users and Contacts when a registered user updated their profile using the My Account functionality that comes with Kentico. The short of it was that when a user updated their email address, everything worked great, except for the fact that we were using Kentico EMS functionality to track anonymous and known website visitors and their web activity, and the user’s related contact record did not contain the correct updated value for the newly entered email address. It just didn’t feel correct.

    Keep reading to find out what the cause of the issue was, and how to quickly resolve it.   


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    This past week I was able to attend the Kentico Roadshow conference in Chicago. I attended a few different sessions, but the morning session by [A]'s founder Cruce Saunders and afternoon session by Get Started's founder Marty Drill got me thinking quite a bit about Content Modeling and the beginning phases of a web project. This process is something that we do often at BizStream and it typically involves creating a set of wireframes that illustrate how content might look on a page or view.

    In fact, the very first task I had to do back at the office the next day was to review a set of wireframes for a new project we are working on. And it dawned on me in that meeting, that wireframing could be thought of as another channel for content to be used. What if we could quickly grab the content from Kentico Cloud, since it existed already, and leverage it in these wireframes instead of Lorem Ipsum text. And thus, my idea was born to create a browser extension to easily grab content from Kentico Cloud and simply copy and paste it into our browser based wireframing tool.


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    If you or your company uses Kentico to power your website, chances are you’ve seen the marketing that Kentico 11 will be released in a mere 11 days from now, on December 11th 2017. Yes, that’s a lot of elevens in a row right there, and there might be a small coincidence that I planned this blog post for to go live today. 

    I have made few posts before about new version releases of Kentico, in fact it's turning into a little bit of an annual activity for me, but each new release is worth talking about. I can say that not just because I am a Kentico enthusiast, but really because each major release of Kentico tends to add something that community is demanding. Typically it is a deepening of the Online Marketing feature set, more configurability of the e-commerce APIs, or performance enhancements that Kentico users and developers want, and for as long as I can remember Kentico has always moved the ball forward with each of the major releases. 

    Keep reading after the jump to find out if Kentico 11 delivers yet again on this strong history.

     


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    Last week, a developer that I work with here at BizStream came to me seeking some quick help on one of our Kentico MVC projects. When he showed me the issue, I was initially quite surprised because the thing that wasn't working, was inside of the Kentico admin interface. It had nothing to do with our custom code on the live site. The issue existed when editing content with WYSIWYG content fields, something that has always "just" worked in Kentico since the very first version. Specifically, the problem boiled down to creating links inside of the content field that targeted internal site pages using the Insert link button's dialog picker. 

    The expected behavior of the Insert link button dialog would be to allow a content admin to navigate the Kentico content tree, find an internal page that the link should target, and with a simple click of the Save & Close button the CMS will generate a correct relative URL to the that page of the tree. Dead simple right?

    Well in this case, no matter what page we chose in the picker on our Kentico MVC the dialog always generated the link with an href that was "~/" instead of the correct URL path to the content page. Crazy right?

    Keep reading after the jump to see what was causing the issue and how to resolve it.

     


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    Recently I was tasked with troubleshooting a problem with one of our Kentico MVC projects that we were working on. The issue was that, at a high load, the performance of the front end MVC live site was not scaling very well. This was an issue that I had not really seen before in our Kentico MVC projects because typically Kentico’s API caching system does a really great job at making sure sites are very high performing.

    As long as you follow best practices for Kentico MVC development you are usually pretty good on the performance side, well, that is until a client loads a 5 MB image file on the home page, but alas, that is a different story for a different blog post.

    The root issue seemed to be that the Time to first byte (TTFB) was relatively high in the first few tests and didn’t efficiently drop as much as we would like on the primed cache hits. This was a clue that it was something to do on the server-side rendering of the page, before the HTTP response was even being sent down to the browser. And with any asp.net database backed CMS, this usually points to something being up with the SQL database calls that it takes to render the page.

    Keep reading to see how I used the fantastic Kentico.Glimpse debugging tool to solve where the slowness was on this Kentico MVC project.


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    I'm happy to announce that I have been selected to speak at the 13th Annual Orlando Code Camp on March 17th, 2018 at Seminole State College. The code camp is a free, one day learning event for programming professionals and students with a focus on .NET and other related technologies. This year the Orlando Code Camp features 89 Speakers, 91 Sessions, and 13 Tracks on a diverse range of topics, and I am happy to be one of them.

    My session for this conference, "Serverless Architecture Shootout", has me really excited. I get to do my favorite thing, which is debate the age old question of who does it better, Azure or AWS.  Keep reading after the jump to see the full details of how I will present on which platform reigns supreme.


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  • 03/10/18--11:46: .Net Core in Kentico MVC?
  • Lately I have been asked by quite a few developers, quite a few times, if it is possible to use .Net Core 2.0 with Kentico? This is especially true with developers who are going down the path of using MVC with Kentico. So I though instead of repeating the same story over and over, I would make my opinion known publicly on my blog. 

    The official short answer to this question is unfortunately no. Currently with both Kentico 10 and Kentico 11 you need to still use the full ASP.NET Framework versions 4.6.x or 4.7.x. These framework versions basically set you up to also only use MVC 5 and not anything far along than that (sorry Razor Pages).

    However, there is actually a little bit more to the story, and a bit longer answer to consider. Keep reading after the jump to get the full picture and maybe learn a bit more about where this is all going.


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    One week from today (March 29th, 2018) I will once again be speaking at one of my favorite conferences of the year, Code PaLOUsa. CPL is a multi-day software development conference, located in Louisville, KY, designed to cover all aspects of software development regardless of technology stack. The conference schedule features presentations from many well-known professionals in the software development community.

    I am pulling double duty with two sessions this year for the conference, "How to Build an E-commerce Chat bot with Azure Bot Framework" and "Serverless Architecture Shootout". The first talk about the Azure Bot Framework has me excited because it is the first time I have been able to give this talk, and I firmly believe that chatbots are an example of technology that every organization could use.

    For the second talk about Serverless Architecture, I am calling in some backup to help me out (or crush… depending on how you look at it). Keep reading after the jump to find out more about both sessions and which special guest will debate me on the age-old discussion of who’s better at Serverless computing, Azure or AWS.


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  • 04/23/18--06:12: I'm Speaking at GLSEC 2018
  • SoftwareGR is once again hosting its annual software conference, the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference, known as GLSEC. Each year the conference is dedicated to building and enhancing the software industry in the West Michigan region. The conference brings hundreds of software professionals and business leaders together for a day of learning and networking. And once again I am happy to announce that I will be speaking for the second time at the event.

    GLSEC 2018 takes place this year on April 30th, 2018 in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. This year the theme is on "Data Protection" or how to keep your company's data and systems safe and secure. The goal is help software developers understand the security risks that are always present whenever dealing with potentially sensitive or personal information, and how to create applications and systems that protect against that risk.

    As a result of the theme, my session is titled "Doom, Gloom and the New GDPR, What's a Web Developer to do?". If this is the first time you are hearing about GDPR and reside in West Michigan, I fully recommend joining my talk to find out more about this important topic. Keep reading after the jump to see the full abstract of my talk.


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    With the May 25th 2018 GDPR deadline looming it seems like every third email in my inbox is about either a privacy policy change, or a client asking for information about how to handle GDPR on their Kentico website. More than one of those emails have asked me how to handle GDPR compliance when it comes to analytics tracking scripts like Google Tag Manager, Universal Analytics, or Marketo. This is a bit of sticky situation in my mind because the personal data is not exactly stored in the Kentico website, but the website definitely serves the JavaScript code that starts to track the person. As far as I can tell, this is still very much a GDPR issue to deal with that you can't just ignore if you want to stay in compliance.

    Now, Kentico 11 has a great new Data Protection app that makes it easy to handle GDPR compliance compared to most CMS's. However, the fully built in features are targetted mostly at Kentico functionality like Kentico E-Commerce, Kentico Analytics, and Kentico Activity Tracking. So I thought I would try out the new Data Protection functionality of tracking and applying consents on third party services instead. Keep reading to find out how easy it is to integrate these services with the Kentico to achieve GDPR compliance.   


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    In about two weeks (May 31st, 2018) I will be presenting at the next Chicago .Net Users Group meetup in Downers Grove IL. I'm looking forward to my first time attending and speaking at this group's meetup because I have heard good things of the group even all the way up here in Michigan from a few other developers in the .Net community.

    I'll be giving my chat bot talk on "How to Build an E-commerce Chat bot with Azure Bot Framework". The talk was very well received at CPL this year, and today I am working on updating a few of the samples to give the session a small refresh. 


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    In case you were not aware, the second beta release of Kentico Raptor dropped last week ("Raptor" is the code name for the Kentico 12.0 beta releases). I have been keeping my eye on the first two releases of Raptor for one main reason, and that reason is the proclamation that Kentico made  earlier this year that announced ASP.NET MVC would be the main development model supported in Kentico 12 and later. This announcement was music to my ears as my team and I at BizStream have been pushing MVC in Kentico for the past two years.

    Since we are such big fans of the MVC development style in Kentico getting the installation of Kentico Raptor up and running was the second highest priority of the week for me (sorry Kentico, coffee is always, and will always be the highest priority for me). And actually one of the newest features of the Kentico platform in version 12 is the updated installer that allows you to seamlessly install an ASP.NET MVC based solution and project type on your development machine. But that is not the most interesting part of the story here. The biggest star of the show in Kentico 12 is the new MVC Page Builder that allows content authors to use a drag and drop method of building content pages on MVC sites. Trust me this feature does not disappoint. It comes with many abilities including the long awaited MVC widgets that most developers have wanted for a while now. 

    Keep reading after the jump to hear my impressions of Kentico Raptor and whether or not this Raptor is better than "Blue" in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, or just another box office flop.


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