Today I've just released version 1.1 of ContextConfig. The main update is support for overriding ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["key"] to check the ContextConfig file before defaulting to the web.config value. What this means is that, if enabled (It can be disabled easily, if you don't want the functionality), you don't need to use the ContextConfig.GetValue("key") syntax in your code. It also means that any current existing code which looks for appkeys will automatically support ContextConfig.

When enabled, any calls to ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["key"] will utilize ContextConfig data as follows:

  1. If there is a value specified for the key for the current environment, it will be used.
  2. If there is no matching value for this environment, but there is a default value, the specified default value will be used.
  3. If there is no record of the key in the ContextConfig.config file, it will use the value specified in the web.config <appSettings> section.
  4. If there is no matching key in the web.config, an empty string will be returned, as usual.

To enable “Override Configuration Manager” mode, a call needs to be made at application start to “ContextConfigOverride.ActivateOverride().” An HttpModule class has been included, so the call can be made in a web application by simply registering the HttpModule in the application’s web.config and setting the ContextConfig.config “OverrideConfigurationManager” attribute to "true". Alternatively, a call in the Global.asax “Application_Start()” section can be used.

Check out the documentation for all the details.

Get the updated Umbraco Package or the Source Code to use in any ASP.Net web project.

Watch the version 1.0 Demo video.

PS. Please Vote on possible new features

I’ve just released version 1 of the ContextConfig library on GitHub as well as an umbraco package.

This C# library allows you to set configuration values dependent upon which web server environment the code is currently running using a basic XML config file.

Environments are defined using the hostname (url) from which the page is operating. Multiple hostnames can be set for each environment. You can also add an optional "catch-all" wildcard domain indicating which environment should be assumed if the current domain doesn't match any that have been predefined.

Here’s a quick demo of the functionality.

Once you have spent some blissful hours getting acquainted with the finest CMS available, and after you have partaken of the responsive, helpful our.umbraco.org forum, you may start getting an urge to attend the annual Umbraco conference in Copenhagen, Denmark – Codegarden.

For those of us of the Umbraco persuasion, Codegarden represents the pilgrimage-to-mecca of web development. Just imagine three days spent in the company of those august HQ core developers – along with Umbraco community legends and hundreds of happy geeks. Yes – it IS as good as all that, and yes, you SHOULD, if at all possible, make the trip.

A trip across the world can be a daunting prospect to some, though, so I have here compiled a list of tips and hints gleaned from my first visit to Codegarden. Though this may be rather lengthy and detailed, I do request that anyone reading this who has additions from their own experience to please get in touch, so I can keep it updated.

Also, being from the United States, I have written this from the North American perspective. Hopefully attendees from other parts of the world will gain some value from it as well, and I am happy to append international tips, or link to other’s posts on the matter from their own geographic vantage point.

Preparation

Getting Your Codegarden Ticket

Each year a new website is created for the event, usually along the lines of “www.CodegardenXX.com” (where XX is the current year). If you’re not sure about this year’s website, check Twitter, Facebook, or www.Umbraco.com. You can’t miss it.

There are always “early bird” specials on tickets, so order your ticket as soon as you are sure you want to attend.

After you order your ticket, login to your umbraco.com account where it was purchased and make sure you assign your name to the ticket. If you have a group from your office going, and the company has purchased a block of tickets, just be sure someone logs in and assigns names a few weeks before the event.

Making Your Travel Arrangements

Some tips for selecting your travel dates:

  • Keep in mind that the time difference wreaks havoc on your sleep schedule, and if you don’t sleep well on planes, you will be doubly affected by exhaustion upon your arrival in Copenhagen. It’s a good idea to fly into Copenhagen a few days before the conference begins on Wednesday to settle in and orient yourself.
  • Another good reason to arrive a bit early is to attend any “pre-conference” events that might be happening. Check out http://our.umbraco.org/events and twitter for planned meet ups.
  • Most people will be flying out of Copenhagen by Sunday after the conference concludes on Friday evening. Otherwise, meet up with a local umbracian if you don’t enjoy sightseeing by yourself.

I know that Norwegian Airlines flies direct from JFK to CPH, at a reasonable price. Many airlines will have a stopover in London or another European city. Check with other attendees from your area for good routes and airlines.

Copenhagen Accommodations

The conference center for the past few years has been Kedelhallen, located in Frederiksberg. Most of the evening events and general carousing happen around Central Copenhagen. Map with various event locations for 2014.

Booking a hotel in Central Copenhagen is a safe and comfortable bet – there are many hotels right near the Central train station. You will generally be able to walk back to your hotel at whatever ungodly hour you leave the festivities each night, and can take the train/metro to the conference center in the morning.

There are a few favorite hotels among conference attendees. Picking one of these options will practically guarantee that you have someone to walk back with or head to breakfast with each day.

Cabinn – For the budget conscious, “all you need to sleep” is what you’ll get. The “Cabinn City” location is reasonably central, and the “Cabinn Scandinavia” is a bit closer to Kedelhallen.

Wake Up – A good option with small, modern rooms nearby to Central Station.

Other Hotels – Check out your favorite online travel sites, looking for hotels within proximity to Central Copenhagen.

Apartment/Air BnB Rentals – A somewhat riskier choice for the first-time visitor, but might be a good option if you are staying together in a small group or family. Often the prices are lower and the space somewhat larger. However, make sure you check on the details about the number and sizes of the included beds – I heard a few stories about slumbering on pull-out daybeds and tiny children’s beds. Another thing to watch out for – you will often need to pick up your keys upon arrival, as well as drop them off before departure, from a different location than the apartment you are staying in. Make sure you are aware of these details when planning your trip.

Other Things to Do

  • Deal with your mobile communication needs
    Check with your carrier about international roaming for phone, text, and data. There are likely add-on packages you can use for the trip which will make it more affordable. One suggestion I heard was to add only an international data plan, and use Skype for any voice calls you want to make.
    My own experience was that it was challenging – though not impossible – to get along without a data plan other than whatever WiFi was available at the hotel, cafes, or (very rarely available), at the conference center itself.
  • Order your currency
    It might take several days for your bank to get Kroners, so plan ahead. Sure, there are ATMs in Copenhagen, but starting with some cash will give you peace of mind.
  • Consider a Chip + Pin credit card
    If you have the time, and are in the market for a new credit card, try to locate one with Chip + Pin technology (and ideally, no foreign fees). It isn’t necessarily easy to get in the US, but it will make aspects of your trip much easier.
  • Get onto Twitter
    Before, during, and after Codegarden, Twitter is used to share information, coordinate gatherings, and generally connect attendees. If you don’t yet have a Twitter account, sign up for one and start following umbraco people. A hash tag search for #umbraco and #cgXX (once again, where XX is the current year), will turn up all manner of goodies and keep you in the loop.

Things to Bring

  • 1000 – 2000 Danish Kroner currency -  (See above)
  • Sleep mask (and possibly, ear plugs) – The sun sets very late, and comes up around 4 am. Not all accommodations have curtains, so be prepared. You will get so little opportunity for sleep, you might as well get as much as you can.
  • Flat sheet - if you get uncomfortable sleeping under only a duvet.
  • Converter/Adapter for electronics/small appliances
  • Comfortable shoes – Be prepared to walk (a lot).
  • Business cards of some type – to share with your new colleagues
  • A print-out of the conference schedule once it has been finalized on the website. I know, sounds old school, but just trust me on this. I did it and was glad every day.
  • An open mind and friendly attitude – Codegarden is a fantastic place to meet new friends. In general, people there will be inclined to like you unless you prove otherwise. Bring along the same attitude and you will have an absolute blast.

In Copenhagen

Getting Around

Taxis are readily available, but can be pricy. Take note – tipping is not customary nor required.

The different train & bus lines will make it easy for you to get from the Central Station area out to the conference each day. Go ahead and get yourself a 10-clip ticket at one of the ticket machines. You just shove it into the yellow box once you get down onto the train platform or onto a bus and it will stamp it with a validation (this is called a “clip”).

If you are intrepid, you can rent a bicycle and join the locals on their dedicated bike lanes all over the city.

Oh, and you did bring your walking shoes, right?

Getting the Most Out of the Event (Heather’s Tiny Manifesto)

Once the schedule of speakers has been finalized, take some time to review the descriptions and get an idea about what sessions you might be interested in attending. The break time between sessions might seem like a perfect chance to review the upcoming sessions and make your choice, but really isn’t when you are chatting happily with all your new friends, grabbing another coffee, or waiting in line (for the men’s room :-) ).

Meet new people as much as possible. Go ahead, just go up and introduce yourself. It isn’t that painful. Need some opening lines? Here you go:

  • Where are you from? Where do you work?
  • What have you been working on lately?
  • What code are you most proud of?
  • Wanna get a beer? ;-)

Also, spend quality time with your current Umbraco friends, who likely live nowhere near you.

Go out every night. I know, I know, you are crazy jet-lagged and totally knackered. It doesn’t matter. You will survive. I was getting an average of 3-4 hours of sleep each night, but was so glad I took every opportunity to talk more with more people. Have fun, you might just learn something amazing.

So, basically, unlike some other conferences you might have attended the whole point of Codegarden isn’t really the speakers. (Yeah, they’re all awesome and you will be blown away by what everyone is up to in the wild world of web development, no doubt about that.) The main point is the COMMUNITY. It’s about connecting. Call it “networking” if you have to get your boss on board with the whole thing, but do it. Seriously. This could be one of the best things you do for yourself and I know you won’t regret it.

“Is there any adventure more exciting than meeting new people and finding out what lives within them?”
- Sonja Henie

*ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS* Special thanks to Casey Neehouse, 8-time Codegarden attendee and one of my long-time Umbraco friends who provided many of these tips to me via email before I came to my first Codegarden. Also, shout-outs to some “Kings of Umbraco Community Building” who have unwittingly provided material for my manifesto: Doug Robar, Bob Baty-Barr, and Pete Duncanson. I love all you guys.

I had the pleasure of speaking at uWestFest in March and have since created a video version of my talk, below. I hope you enjoy it.

Frontend Fundamentals: Working in an Umbraco development team

Backend-focused developers love Umbraco for its structured flexibility, but frontend developers unfamiliar with the framework might need a little support to work most effectively with Umbraco. Heather has been leading development teams on Umbraco projects for 3 years and will share:

  • “Umbraco 101 for Frontend Developers” – What they need to know to get up to-speed quickly.
  • Tips for site architecture which will make blending frontend and backend work easier and more efficient.
  • Strategies for setting up workflows and shared server environments so everyone can use familiar and favorite development tools.

Backend developers and team leaders will leave with concrete ideas about how best to manage Umbraco projects with diverse teams, and frontend developers will gain insight into the Umbraco mindset of the backend developers they work with.

Video Resources:

SmartGit – GUI Git client (Mac OS X, Windows and Linux) http://www.syntevo.com/smartgithg

VS Express for Web - http://www.visualstudio.com/en-us/downloads/download-visual-studio-vs#DownloadFamilies_2

Stop right now – in the middle of whatever marketing or advertising project you are painstakingly planning. And don’t do anything else until you are crystal clear about how , exactly, you plan to follow-up.

Now, what do I mean by “Follow-up Strategy”? I am talking about the whole sales process you have in place – a system of moving people from first-contact through some qualifying activities, and, once they are sufficiently warmed-up – into a sales conversation.

Here is an example follow-up strategy I recently shared with a man who is in the business of helping people leave corporate jobs to start their own businesses.

He is planning on doing talks for small groups – a great marketing idea. My suggestion to him was that he should develop a multiple-choice “quiz” for his participants to take home. The topic would cover questions to determine whether someone is really ready to give up paycheck security and head out on their own. His expertise will easily provide the appropriate questions and answer choices.

The key, however, is not to make it a self-scoring quiz, like in Teen magazines, but one which the participant would need to submit to him, via fax or email, for instance, or with an online-version of the form. This would give him the opportunity to have a preliminary sales conversation via a brief “consultation” about their results.

The great thing about this is that he will know upfront how qualified the prospect is, and will be able to deliver just the right information to help them decide to work with him, and if it seems to him that they really might not be ready to strike out on their own, he can provide that honest assessment to them – and promise to follow-up with them in 3 to 6 months to see if they are now ready.

Plus, now that he has made initial contact with these prospects, even if they aren’t ready to sign up for his services yet, he can put them into some drip-marketing system, such as a mailing list, and set a reminder to check back-in in-person at an appropriate time in the future.

So, can you use this example as inspiration for your own Follow-up strategy?

Digging Outlook 2010…

March 18, 2011

So, I finally upgraded from Office 2003, which I have been using since, probably, 2003, to Office 2010.

At first I was worried that I would immediately be less efficient because I knew that the UI changed dramatically. Also, I have some Add-ins I rely on, and I knew I would likely need to upgrade those.  Upgrading the Add-ins in Outlook was a little bumpy, but now that it’s all finished, I can safely say that I see Outlook 2010 as an improvement.

One thing which I just learned about today is the “Conversation Clean Up” feature, which I ran on my “reference” folders and immediately deleted 628 redundant messages. Woo hoo! THAT’s going to make my backup file a bit smaller!

I also like the “Social Connectors” which automatically pulls up people’s profile photos and status updates from Facebook or Linked-In when you read an email message or look at a contact. Very cool!

The implementation of the RSS Feeds folder is also convenient (though I wish you could delete and edit feed details by right-clicking the feed folder, whereas you need to go to File > Accounts > RSS Feeds to do that.

So, I came across two tidbits in the latest issue of the New York Enterprise Report about recent surveys done about Social Media usage among different demographics.

1 – “Female entrepreneurs are three times more likely to engage in social networking than their male counterparts” NYER-March 2011 (p.14) 

2 – For business owners in any age group, Facebook is the most-used social networking platform, followed by Twitter and Linked-In. NYER-March 2011 (p. 14) (Sadly, the online version doesn’t have the useful graphs that the print edition has for this.)

So, what does this mean for your social media marketing? Well, first of all, if you are marketing to business people – especially women, you should definitely be using Facebook to share information about your business and engage with your prospects. Secondly, if you have the resources, keeping up on Twitter and Linked-In will also be beneficial.

The good news from Facebook is the re-design of the “Pages” functionality. If you have previously set up a page for your business, there are some great new options that you can see via the “Take a Tour” button under the “Welcome to your upgraded page!” announcement at the top.

A few highlights:

imageThe ability to change the “Category” of your page. (Edit Page > Basic Information) When you first set up your page you got a limited selection of “page types” to chose from, but once you had picked one (without any information except the name of the category), you were stuck with it – even if you later realized that you might have not made the best choice.

Specifically, the Category determines which “Info” fields are displayed on your page, so, for instance, if you are a “local business” you could put in your address and business hours. You can see how useful it is to select the right category for your page. Not only can you now change an erroneous selection at any time, but there are many more choices so you get a better fit.

imageAn option to get notifications for activity on your page – and the ability to turn off notifications for certain pages you are an admin on. (Edit Page > Your Settings >View all email settings for your pages > Change email settings for individual Pages) This is handy if you want to be more responsive to activity on your page, but you can avoid getting email about pages you might have helped a friend set up, etc.

imageBeing able to do things on Facebook as yourself, or as your page. (Account > Use Facebook as Page) This is good especially for organizations that want to have a voice when commenting on other pages, etc.

You can switch your Facebook identity back-and-forth between “you” and “your page”.

You can read more about all the changes here: An Upgrade for Pages - Facebook.com.

On the Media Talks About SEO

February 28, 2011

This past Sunday’s On the Media NPR program featured several stories about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). If you have always wanted a clear and simple explanation of this mysterious field, check out these excellent audio segments (transcripts also available):

How to Cheat Google

Companies who find their websites on the top of Google's search results get a huge traffic boost, a traffic boost that can translate into millions of dollars in sales. Not surprisingly, this has led some companies to look for ways to game the system. New York Times reporter David Segal explains how one company, JCPenney, did just that.

Matt Cutts, Head of Google's Web Spam Team

When most companies try to improve their search engine optimization the search engine they're optimizing is Google. But the ease of a Google search belies the hard work that Google engineers like Matt Cutts do behind the scenes to assure that search isn't gamed or unfairly manipulated. Cutts explains how Google must set the search rules, over and over again.

How Search Engines are Changing Journalism

As online news outlets vie for search engine supremacy, journalists are learning to write their stories so that they appear on top of search results. Perhaps no outfit does this better than The Huffington Post. The site was just bought by AOL for a whopping 315 million dollars. Slate's Farhad Manjoo says that the driving force behind The Huffington Post's web traffic is their SEO-savvy style.

Steven Rosenbaum and the Curation Nation

What if instead of relying on search engines to get our information, we relied on each other - friends, experts, journalists - to deliver us information by way of carefully curated websites? Steven Rosenbaum, CEO of Magnify.net and author of Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators tells Bob that our curated content future may have already arrived.

The Formula for a Most-Emailed Story

What motivates people to want to share a newspaper article with a friend, co-worker or grandma? What makes some stories climb to the top of the "most e-mailed list"? Professors Katherine Milkman and Jonah Berger studied The New York Times' most e-mailed list for months, combing through thousands of articles. They discovered a surprising characteristic of most “most e-mailed” stories. Professor Milkman explains.

FUN BONUS:

A music video of the “Page Rank” song by SEO Rapper played at the end of the episode.

7

So, now that you’ve gotten a bit familiar with the mechanics of posting on Twitter (from Part 1 and Part 2 in this series), it’s time to learn about a few additional “Twitter Terms.” If you’ve ever wondered what “retweeting” and “hash tags” are, or how to reply to someone else’s tweet, this article is for you.

Replying and Direct Messaging

There is some built-in Twitter functionality that allows you to talk more directly to another Twitter user. The basic is “@reply”, which refers to the way you can respond directly to something someone else has tweeted, or give a public “shout out” to someone specific. The way you can use this is to type in your tweet the “@” symbol directly followed by the twitter username of the person you want to talk to (or about). Here are some different examples of how you could use this.

  • Respond to a question or comment posed by someone else:
    hfloyd tweets: What is your favorite color?
    You tweet: @hfloyd : My favorite color is teal.
  • Direct a tweet to someone directly.
    You tweet: @hfloyd, what is your website URL?
    hfloyd tweets: @YOU – It’s www.WholeWebImpact.com. Thanks for asking!
  • Mention someone in a tweet:
    You tweet: I just read a great article about Twitter by @hfloyd

You can reply to anyone, even if you aren’t following them or they aren’t following you. Anyone who is following them, or following you, will see the tweet in their home feed.

Replying is a public conversation. Anyone could read the tweet that you send out. If you want to send a private message to someone, which is visible only to them, you can use a “direct message”.

To send a “DM”, put the letter “d” then a space, the username you want to send the message to. Example:

You tweet: d hfloyd : Can you email me at me@x.com to talk about my website?

Keep in mind you can only send a direct message to someone who is already following you.

ReTweeting

A retweet is like an email forward. It is a way to pass along someone else’s tweet to your own network. It is like an endorsement of their tweet.

To retweet something, just copy the message and put an “RT” and the “@username” in front. Example:

hfloyd tweets: New Twitter article up on my website:www.WholeWebImpact.com/articles

You tweet: RT @hfloyd : New Twitter article up on my website:www.WholeWebImpact.com/articles

You can add your own comments to anything you retweet as well.

You don’t need to memorize the different keystrokes for these things, though, since when you are using a twitter interface (whether it’s Twitter.com, TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or any other, there are usually little “Reply, DM, Retweet” buttons associated with each tweet in your stream, and you can just click one of these buttons and the proper data will be copied into the edit box for you to customize and send out.

Hashtags

Adding one or more hashtags to a tweet is a way to categorize the tweet. You can make up hastags on the fly, or use popular ones that others have already created. To add a hashtag, just prefix the keyword with the “#” sign. Example:

You tweet: I just love using #twitter for my business!

There are tons of hashtags in current use. Some are general and others are specific to a certain brand, event, or idea. You can use search.twitter.com to see all the posts for a certain hashtag, and you could even get an RSS feed for a specific hashtag if you wanted to display it on your website, for instance. If you’d like to see an example of a popular hashtag, check out #haiku.

Learn more about hashtags here: http://support.twitter.com/entries/49309-what-are-hashtags-symbols

Web Action Steps

  • Step up your twitter participation by experimenting with these features.
  • Consider creating a hashtag for your business, event, or product. Tag your tweets appropriately.

Becoming familiar with the lingo and usage of the built-in twitter features will help you get more out of your tweeting. If you need help setting up your social media and linking it together appropriately, I am now offering a “Social Media Setup & Integration” service. As always, feel free to tweet questions to me @hfloyd.

Nifty follow-up to my e-zine article last week. This goes a bit in-depth about the value of retweeting for your business/brand.

Read it: SiteProNews: Retweets and Viral Marketing