Paul Gruffydd, our Technical Director and an Episerver MVP, talks about his experiences at the recent Episerver Ascend conference in Miami.
Over the past few weeks, Episerver has taken to the road, calling at Berlin, Copenhagen and Utrecht before reaching their flagship Ascend event which this year was held at the iconic Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. For the uninitiated, Episerver Ascend is a conference for the company's partners, customers, developers and staff to discuss all things Episerver and this year was larger than ever.
Love is all around
The main partner day sessions started with the bold declaration "We love partners", reinforced by a slightly tongue-in-cheek video featuring key Episerver staff talking about how much Episerver partners mean to them.
The remainder of the sessions set the tone for the days ahead with a focus on how Episerver and their partners can make the most of their relationship.
Content still matters
The main part of the conference started with a bang as dancers in neon and LED trimmed suits took to the stage performing an impeccably choreographed routine. This divided the audience into two camps with one group simply amazed by what they'd just seen and the other group (myself included) trying to work out the technology that went into controlling and synchronising the suits.
The opening keynote from Justin Anovick used the story of his first online company to introduce the theme of customer centricity and having a people first mentality. Justin spoke about the balance between self-direction and AI based guidance, likening it to a sat-nav system where the user determines the destination but the technology decides the best route.
In his keynote, ‘Godfather of Content Management’ Deane Barker described content as "the currency of human connection". He defined the difference between content and data and reinforced the importance of content as a thread which binds everything together. Deane cautioned against ignoring content as part of the web site production process stating that "We're so concerned with building the swimming pool that we often forget the water". He concluded by reasserting Episerver’s commitment to content management which had taken something of a back seat in favour of commerce recently.
Later that afternoon, it was my turn to take to the stage, delivering a talk on how we can leverage Episerver's capabilities to easily deliver search engine optimised sites that go beyond the basics of adding meta tags and hoping for the best. A recurring theme of my talk was also the importance of good content which tied neatly into the morning's keynote.
Women in technology
It's an uncomfortable truth that the world of technology is very male-dominated. This fact was highlighted by Episerver's CMO Jessica Dannemann who began the final day by pointing out the gender imbalance in keynote speakers up to that point and announcing an all-woman line-up on the main stage.
This began with an inspiring talk from Amy Purdy on how her life changed when, aged 19, she contracted meningitis. The disease resulted in her losing both kidneys and her spleen, and required both of her legs to be amputated below the knee, with doctors estimating her chance of survival at just 2%. Needless to say, she fought back and went on to become the top ranked adaptive snowboarder in the US and Paralympic silver medallist. She also co-founded a charity called Adaptive Action Sports to help others in a similar situation.
That session was followed by the Women's Panel made up of female leaders from across the technology sector. It was interesting to hear the panel's experiences and some of the ways Microsoft is approaching the issues of diversity and inclusion within their business.
Episerver announced support for .Net Core and I’ll write a little more about this important development in a future blog so watch this space. We also found out about a new single reference site called Foundation which will replace the existing Alloy (CMS) and Quicksilver (commerce) sites as well as showcasing their full product range in a modular way, allowing those products to be easily added and removed. In fact the only essential component is the CMS.
We were told about major improvements in data analysis within Episerver Profile Store and Insight, new APIs for simplifying deployments, a new zero downtime ‘smooth deploy’ option in DXC and many many more. It's clear that there is a very busy roadmap for the months ahead and I look forward to trying out some of the new features.
As most of the delegates packed their bags and headed off into the sunset, being an Episerver Most Valued Professional (EMVP), I was also invited to the EMVP Summit, held in a secret location in Miami Beach. The EMVP summit is an opportunity for the EMVPs to get together with key stakeholders from Episerver but what happens at the EMVP Summit stays at the EMVP Summit I’m afraid. I can’t even tell my wife.
All in all, it was an energising few days and made me excited for our future partnership with Episerver. But there was little time to rest. The next stop was London and a full blown AmazeRealise exhibition and presentation. More to follow on that soon.
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