TAPS at the SDL Web MVP Retreat (Tridion, Alchemy, Performance, Seafood)

In January of this year, I learned that for the second time I had been honored with an award by SDL. In 2014, I’d been given the SDL Tridion MVP award. This year, I earned the SDL Web MVP award. And it was pretty rad.

If you’re unfamiliar with the SDL Web MVP awards, then you may be unfamiliar with the perks:

  • A really cool badge
  • Access to a super secret Skype chat room
  • Access to a super secreter Slack chat
  • Beach-appropriate bling
  • An uncomfortable dependence on Portuguese-speakers for your survival

Now, because of non-disclosure agreements and sternly-phrased email signatures, I can’t discuss the details of the first three bullet points. However, because I never learned the Dutch/Danish/Dom translation of “What happens in Portugal stays in Portugal”, I feel confident that I can fill you in on those last two bullet points without fear of reprisal. So, I’m going to summarize them in TAPS: Tridion, Alchemy, Performance, Seafood


You may notice that this is the SDL Web MVP retreat, and not the SDL Tridion MVP retreat. SDL is a lot more than just Tridion — I heard they do translation, too! They have Smart Target, Fredhopper, SDL Mobile, Media Manager, and even TRI STRI DXA. The name of the award changed to more accurately reflect the scope of SDL’s influence. In fact, the next version of Tridion won’t even be called Tridion 2015. It’ll be called SDL Web 8.

Tridion Web 8 Your Publishing

(Read it out loud)

The next version of Tridion will have the biggest change to your publishing approach. There’ll be change detection in the core, to avoid redundant saves. You’ll have more resilience for publishing failures, privilege elevation in events, and basically, a decoupling of Content Deployment from Content Management.

Oh, and you’ll be able to move things up and down in a blueprint. That’s pretty spiffy.


Alex Klock’s blog is called Coded Weapon. But, methinks that he needs to add a subdomain to it just to talk about Alchemy. Something like


Something like that.

Plugins are So Easy

If you’ve used WordPress,or Joomla, … or Drupal, you’ve probably appreciated the fact that there was a plugin framework. You know, a simple means to add extra features to your content management system.

  1. Search for a plugin.
  2. Add it.
  3. Use it.

GUI Extensions are so…

If you’ve ever wanted to extend the UI in Tridion, it’s almost as easy as a plugin in any other CMS:

  1. You search all of the blogs you know.
  2. You check stack exchange.
  3. You download some sample GUI extension.
  4. You write your code.
  5. You debug.
  6. You read more blogs.
  7. You debug.
  8. You start drinking.
  9. You debug.
  10. You edit a config file.
  11. Tridion crashes.
  12. You debug.
  13. You buy more alcohol.
  14. You debug.
  15. Edit another config.
  16. Tridion crashes.
  17. You debug.
  18. It works and you sacrifice a small woodland creature to the Anguilla gods in thanks.
  19. Copy the GUI extension out of your VM into Tridion.
  20. Tridion crashes, dev team sends you strongly worded chat messages.
  21. You contemplate becoming a farmer because literal bullshit can’t be worse than the figurative kind

Simple. Right?

Either Alex hates farmers or our chipmunk effigies have paid off.

Alchemy Makes us Wizards

Now adding new features to Tridion is a bit smoother:

  1. Go to the Alchemy Web Store
  2. Install Alchemy
  3. Search for plugins in Alchemy
  4. Use Plugin
  5. Write letter of apology to Alvin and Simon regarding Theodore’s last days

That’s right. Alex, over at Content Bloom, created a whole plugin framework for Tridion. Installing plugins is now a one-click deal.

Alex’ School of Wizardry

Alex presented on Alchemy, how to make plugins, and then we spent the rest of our time making Alchemy plugins. Raimond Kempees, Oleksander Orlov (Beardcore) and I teamed up, and we made an image editor. Right now, it only lets you get all instagramm-y with images, but pretty soon, you’ll be able to crop and resize images.

Inside of Tridion.

In an Alchemy plugin.

It’s magical.


Carla Osorio once again was our host, event planner, tour guide, and kitten-wrangler. This year she used a tactic common amongst Texas ranchers: if you put the cattle in a place far enough from civilization, civilization can’t hurt them.

Carla's hotel room view at Quinta Dos Machados. Not pictured is the high powered rifle she used to pick us off.
Carla’s hotel room view at Quinta Dos Machados. Not pictured is the high powered rifle she used to pick us off.

The Kitten Ranch

So, Carla had us near Mafra. The hotel was Quinta Dos Machados, which featured spacy hotel rooms, excellent meals, a nice hotel, and sheep.

Fewer people peed in this than the codebase for your last GUI extension
Fewer people peed in this than the codebase for your last GUI extension

We would often gather together in the pool after a hard day of trying to look like we were listening to people. Then, we’d put chairs in the pool. And do tricks on the chairs in the pool. Extreme Chairing almost became an olympic sport, right up until I pulled muscles in both of my legs trying to do a fully-submerged front flip. Everyone else was fine. I mostly hobbled like an old man.

And yes, there really were sheep. We would often here them bleating around the time that Dom would go on some rant about core services or powershell scripts or something. Nick Roussakov and some other folks even got a chance to feed a baby sheep named Rosita one night.

Not Pictured: Black Sheep responding to the name 'CWA'
Not Pictured:Black Sheep responding to the name ‘CWA’

Eating Out

In order to gather a baseline sobriety level, Carla had us walk a mile (238 KM?) to a restaurant in town. Our herding instinct is weak.

I generally avoid pork — with exception to Bacon( because I’m not a communist). But this place had finger foods that were some sort of bacon, wrapped in an even more delicious part of the pig, wrapped in the deliciousest part of the pig. They had fried foods that should put the Texas State Fair to delicious, delicious shame.

This restaurant also had a lawn. On the inside:

How do they cut the grass?
How do they cut the grass?

Key Performance Indicators

One key performance indicator that we established last year was the Osorio Inebration Convergence; that point where people have consumed a sufficient amount of alcohol, become sufficiently loud, lost alcohol privileges and awakened Carla.

Carla did her part to push out the convergence by getting a hotel where the alcohol-serving-part was far, far, far away from the sleeping part.

But, the Trail of Tridion Tears into Town helped establish a new KPI.

The MVP Survival SLA

We learned that Carla had an unreasonably high expectation that 28-ish developers could successfully follow instructions to travel a single mile (189 KM?) to a restaurant. And we were sober.

Now we were drinking.

And had to walk back.

So we decided to negotiate success a little bit.

We figured if 80% of us made it, that’s acceptable. It maths out to 22.4 of us making it to the airport alive.

  • 5.6 seems high, but it still wasn’t as high as some people’s blood alcohol level
  • We were going surfing later in the week; the .6 accounts for sharks
  • It’s to the airport — not home; they serve alcohol at the airport

I am happy to report that Carla exceeded expectations this year. All MVPs successfully made it to the airport. And no one crossed the Osorio Inebration Convergence. Impressive, since at least one MVP nursed a hangover for at least 18 hours (213 KM?)


Take a look at Portugal on a map. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Did you notice the borders?

If there’s two things that you can guarantee are fresh, it’s seafood and Spaniards. Since we had two on the trip with us, Carla felt it prudent to focus on the seafood.

I don’t hate seafood, but I generally avoid it. Mostly because the Midwest is devoid of coastlines, thus making fresh seafood a contradiction of terms.

But this was Portugal.

No one is going to call week-old fried catfish “fresh seafood”.

My Portuguese isn’t the best, but I believe the correct translation of this is “AwesomeBalls”:

Note to self: the green stuff is not guacamole
Note to self: the green stuff is not guacamole

There was a ton of seafood. And it was all amazing, every bit of it. At every restaurant.

Not only that, the restaurants were as amazing from the inside as the views were of the outside.

Us hanging out in a restaurant that wasn't even open to the public. No big deal.
Us hanging out in a restaurant that wasn’t even open to the public. No big deal.

Every meal was perfectly planned, perfectly flavored, and perfectly executed. Carla most certainly exceeded expectations.

Some of the best views in Europe were at our dinner tables
Some of the best views in Europe were at our dinner tables

In Summary

The SDL [whatever] Retreat is both an incentive and a reward. If you share what you know about the SDL Web products — whether with blogs, videos, contributions to code bases, or lectures — you’re improving the community, and the products it uses. Tridion, Smart Target, SDL Mobile, and Media Manager won’t get better unless you share how to make it better.

The award and the retreat aren’t targeted to any one person. We had analysts, architects, back-end developers, product managers, and even front-end developers. If you know something about Tridion, and you’re willing to share it, you’re able to win.

So get sharing.

(and thanks, Carla!)

Comments are closed.