We, Dennis Nijssen and Jesper Volkers, attended the BloomReach Connect event at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam. Before the acquisition of Hippo by Bloomreach this event was called Hippo Connect. Since we are both Java developers we attended most of the tech track sessions, after the opening keynotes by BloomReach’s CEO Raj de Datta, Mike Lowndes from Gartner and BloomReach’s CTO Arjé Cahn.
A new approach to integration SPA’s with WCM
The first tech track session we attended was one of Rik van de Ven, Enterprise Architect at ING, together with Robbert Kauffman, a solutions consultant of BloomReach. Together they held a presentation about the challenges they got into with single page applications (SPA’s). They showed us several solutions on how to integrate a SPA together with a DXP, such as BloomReach. With Web Components, a new specification browsers are currently still implementing, they managed to find a new way to expose content as a service, without losing the flexibility for the content editor and with a more traditional implementation of a CMS.
Drop the Beat: Live Coding with Sonic Pi
Sam Aaron, a Research Associate at the Cambridge University, developed a live programming environment for creating music from code, with a focus on education. In his presentation about this programming environment, called Sonic Pi, he showed us how easy it is to start making music with Sonic Pi. With just a simple ‘play’ command you can play any sound or music sample. When the talk continues he starts using sleeps, loops and all kind of parameters to adjust the sounds and actually starts creating really cool music, with code only! This was really inspiring to us and we think it would have been to a lot of people, even non-coders. It’s hard to explain with just text, so we really recommend watching a video of one of his talks.
TEDx Newcastle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TK1mBqKvIyU
ALFRED the cocktail mixer
The cocktail mixer, named ALFRED, which was not actually a talk on the BloomReach Connect, but just a stand to get a cocktail. The special part about this cocktail machine was that it was voice controlled. This got us interested, so we got into a conversation with one of the developers. He told us about a hackathon they had with the goal of creating something cool with the Amazon Alexa. So they created a cocktail mixer.
He even showed us the code and the Amazon configuration, which actually was just a single lamba. This lamba sends all the requests from Alexa to their own web API, created using Spring Boot. All the spoken requests were captured by Alexa, converted into strings and send to the Spring Boot application via Amazon. This Spring Boot application matched these Strings to certain drinks and converted those into steps for the Raspberry Pi inside the actual cocktail machine. We thought this was a really cool project, hopefully we could see more creative and especially useful things, made with the quite new Alexa.
Blogpost about the Emakina Alexa hackaton: https://blog.emakina.nl/2017/05/02/cocktails-magic-mirrors-en-therapie-tijdens-de-emakina-alexa-hackaton
How GDPR Will Change the Dynamics of CX
Not a the tech track session, but certainly an interesting session was the one from Tim Walters, Principal Strategist & Privacy Lead of The Content Advisory. He shared his thoughts about the new upcoming General Data Protection Regulation, also referred to as GDPR. The GDPR is all about the data protection of European residents, which will bring new challenges to maintain the customer experience and online marketing with DXPs. Gladly the relevance suite of BloomReach Experience already focuses on collecting non personal identifiable data, which you do not need a consent for. Although we encourage everyone who is not familiar with the GDPR law, to have a look into it and come up with a plan for your DX.
Bot Boys: Conversational Commerce Through Chatbot
Founder of Bot Boys, Vincent Ulmer, talked about chatbots and how conversational commerce is getting more important. The best example for this is the most popular chat app in China, called WeChat. A chat application we, western people, probably never heard of before. WeChat is not just a Chinese version of Whatsapp, but also includes functionalities like ordering a taxi, paying a bill, buying new shoes, ordering a pizza and way more. Instead of installing applications on your phone for every company you do business with, you will have just one single application. WeChat connects by scanning a QR code and each individual or business has its own QR code.
How do chatbots take part in this? It’s all about providing service. The example Vincent gave, was the one about an amusement park. A chatbot can help in many ways, for example telling you how long the row in front of a roller coaster is, advising attractions based on your profile or the weather forecast and way more. Because it’s a chat, you can ask questions or get tips from the chatbot itself. This brings service to the next level and removes the need of all those different applications on your phone. Facebook is also making steps in this direction, but is still some years ahead of WeChat.
We personally think this could make life a lot easier, but not only with chatbots in messengers of course. Also technologies like the Amazon Alexa can take part in this new way of providing service.
Hidden Gems in Hippo Forge and Experience Plugins
As a sequel to his presentation last year, Woonsan Ko, Principal Solution Architect of BloomReach, held a tech track session about some hidden features in the Hippo Forge- and Experience plugins. It started off with the IFrame Perspective, which allows users to easy embed different applications inside the CMS. This feature even offers support for using the CMS authenticated users within the iframe application.
The next plugin he showed us was one that we were surprised off not be in the CMS itself, namely to copy or move a folder. Apparently to do so we need a Forge Plugin at this moment, hopefully this is something BloomReach tends to include in their product later on. Furthermore more document related plugins where demo’d, such as an external document picker and a document commenting plugin.
Last but not least, his presentation also showed us the new Content HAL API add-on which is a BloomReach experience plugin, and it is more or less an implementation of the HATEOAS specification to enable a more standardized way of exposing content via REST APIs.
Pull Up Your YAML Bootstraps: Hippo Configuration Management
Probably the biggest change in Hippo 12 is the new configuration management system. Which works fully with YAML and deprecates all the previous XML configuration. In this tech track session, also our last of the day, both Peter Centgraf and Adrian Collier of BloomReach showed us all the changes BloomReach made with the HCM system and why they did it.
The most important thing to mention is that bootstrapping is not about telling the system what has been changed, but the configuration in your artifacts will now be the baseline that Hippo will maintain. So anything that is not in your artifact will not be on your DTAP environments, at least for configuration that is the case. For content, the rules are slightly different, but more details can be found on: https://www.onehippo.org/library/concepts/configuration-management/introduction.html
After a long day of interesting talks it was finally party time! We secretly hoped the Indivirtual sponsord DJ-Booth would be claimed by Sam Aaron (from the Sonic Pi). Sadly this was not the case, nevertheless there was some good music and time to connect with everyone. After some glasses of champagne, beer or cocktails (Mixed by ALFRED) it was time to go home.
We enjoyed BloomReach Connect 2017 very much and hope to see you next year!