Thursday, August 9, 2012

An Evening with @Sitecorejohn

The Professional Sitecore Development book tour made a stop in Boston last night, and John West had quite a story to tell. He talked about falling in love with his Commodore 64 ("my parents thought it was just for games"), cutting his teeth on EDI and Interwoven ("robust enterprise systems mean fewer phone calls in the middle of the night") and discovering Sitecore as he consulted for clients on the emerging technology of the CMS system.  His passion for the platform came through when he told of being U.S. employee number two, working in a basement with Bjarne Hansen, with a mortgage to pay and paycheck in the works soon. The morale was bet on the best technology - the other stuff will work itself out.

He described his current role as putting himself in the role of the developer, using Reflector to figure out how the the latest release works. (He said he did not spend a lot of time reading Sitecore documentation, because he wrote the first drafts of most of it.)  He counseled us away from writing tech books. $1 a copy x 5000 copies does not a living make.  And he promised to respond to our emails. A foolish, but heartfelt and very classy commitment.

Three moments stick in my mind from the evening. The first is John asking us to be mentors, and then showing us how it is done by telling us to keep heart when the projects get tough, because "success is building up behind you.  It's there in your resume, even if you don't realize it." The second was a lively discussion about MVC, with Erik Westland talking about building client interest in the technology and asking when it will be ready for production implementations, and Rick Cabral telling us about his experiences getting an MVC solution up and running: "John West has written a lot of blog posts on MVC. Read them! Carefully!"

But the magic was when someone asked John what feature of Sitecore he wished people used more. His answer was the Rules Engine. OK, I've used it, and it's a nice piece of functionality. But then he explained why. "When you write conditions, they become things you can use again to solve other problems, and you give content authors building blocks to solve theirs." (Rough paraphrase.) Yup, that makes an awful lot of sense.  Solve your problems while empowering the people you work with to solve theirs.  Sitecore, as explained by the master.

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