2015 SDL Tridion MVP Retreat

Alternative Title

Survived Another SDL Tridion MVP Retreat

I was honored to have been selected for a third time as an SDL Tridion MVP, and as one of the MVP benefits, last week I got to travel to Portugal to accompany my fellow MVP and Community Builders at this year’s MVP retreat. On my first year I got to experience castle living at Óbidos. And last year we got live it up near the fortified city of Évora. And as the tradition of staying in a new location to experience a different part of culture continues, this year we got to experience some remote location lovin’ at Mafra. Don’t let the remote lovin’ part fool ya, because we really did get the royal treatment this year.

Our traditional music loving time - picture taken by Pankaj Guar

Our traditional music loving time – picture taken by Pankaj Guar

Another one of our MVP traditions as anyone who’s attended one of these retreats can tell you, is music. No, not blasting music from a stereo, but playing and singing. And usually late at night. Or what some may consider early morning. It was also somewhat of an unofficial tradition to have someone yelling at us to keep it down and go to sleep around 3 or 4 in the morning. So with that in mind, this year was special as we got to stay at the lovely Quinta Dos Machados, a countryside hotel, spa and pool. Doesn’t sound impressive yet? Did I mention that the entire place was booked only to us, with no one around that we could possibly bother? That’s right, and this was the first year I think we didn’t get in trouble for our loud three am singing! And that was our evenings… we got to experience dining somewhere new each night, followed by good drinks, good company, and good entertainment.

More Than Drinking and Singing

Our 0815 to 1800-1900 workday at the office...

Our 0815 to 1800-1900 workday at the office… picture by Elena Linhares

Although the rumor may be that the retreat is just a 3 or 4 day party, we actually get work done! And a lot of it during that short period of time. On Monday and Tuesday, we would meet in a conference room at 0815 (some of us having gone to sleep only several hours earlier), and we would have presentations and workshops. Nuno gave us some excellent presentations on SDL Tridion’s roadmap and the next version of Tridion… as well as some warnings as it seems a lot of us have been slacking on the sharing side this year (hopefully you didn’t notice the date of my last blog post).

As for the workshops, that was another honor as I not only got to present a project that we’ve been working on at Content Bloom called Alchemy, but I got to coach during the workshops as everyone formed into teams to work on plugins developed using the Alchemy4Tridion framework. At the end of the final work day, each team got to present the plugin that they developed.

Wait… what is this thing called Alchemy4Tridion?

That my friend will be told in a follow up post. :)

And Some Culture

Worn out and ready to crash after our tour!

Worn out and ready to crash after our tour!

On our final day of the retreat, we followed another important tradition of our retreats – our culture day! This year we got to take a tour of the Royal Palace of Mafra. We learned about some interesting history lessons during the tour about what life was like when the royal family use to vacation there.

The last part of our culture day before we’d retire back to our villa for a final night of food and drinks was an activity that most of us had never done before… surfing! Several instructors awaited us at the beach where we were handed body suits and surf boards. An important lesson for anyone who has never put on a body suit before… the zipper is on the back! It must of been quite a site watching a group such as ours struggling to get into the suits… only to find out that half of us put it on wrong! As for the surfing part, the waves were a bit rough for a bunch of newbs as ourselves so we only got to have a paddling content before the instructors grounded us (which after nearly being demolished by a wave while trying to get to land, I dind’t mind). There was however a large pool of water on the beach, so we at least got to learn how to get from the paddle position to standing while on actual water.

Thank You’s Once Again

Just like last year I’d once again like to thank SDL for having such a great community program and for having such a rewarding event like the MVP retreat. The experiences and memories I’ve gained (and lost?) these past several years are priceless. And another round of thanks and applause to Carla Osorio and Paulo Linhares, not only for making the event as awesome as it is with their planning, but for putting up with us lot (I’m pretty positive at least a few of us would have missing posters posted in Portugal if not for them).

Future Sharers?

For those of you on the brink of sharing wondering if you should or not… you absolutely should. Don’t be afraid of what others will think or that you will be judged, there isn’t a better community of diverse and judge free personalities that you could be a part of. So share, whether it be technical articles on Tridion, awesome code repositories, or just your thoughts of Tridion. And hopefully we’ll see you there next year as well as everyone else who made it, past and present. (and that applies for me as well! so let’s motivate each other because I’ve been doing some serious slacking!)

A group of us after exploring all the way to the end of an an ancient mine - picture (and shadow) taken by Angel Puntero

A group of us after exploring all the way to the end of an an ancient mine – picture (and shadow) taken by Angel Puntero

Other Links

Things I Learned in Portugal (Robert Curlette)
TAPS at the SDL Web MVP Retreat (Tridion, Alchemy, Performance, Seafood) (Frank Taylor)

2014 SDL Tridion MVP Retreat

The past few days has been filled with excitement and awe as SDL hosted their fifth Tridion MVP Retreat. I was extremely lucky to have had the honor of getting to go to Portugal for a second time. Last year the group of Tridionaughts got to visit the castle town of Óbidos, and this year we got to gaze our eyes upon the fortified city of Évora. The day started just like the previous year, the sleep deprived flew into the Lisbon airport to meet with the hungover who had decided to join the party a day (or more) earlier. This year though I got to journey on the adventure with my good friend and first time MVP winner Frank Taylor.

The Roman Temple

The Roman Temple at night as we make our way for dinner at the Pousada Dos Loios.

Courtyard of the Albergaria do Calvário

Hanging out in the courtyard of our hotel… did I mention we had the whole hotel to ourselves?

A private shuttle picked up everyone from the airport and shuttled us to Évora, where we were to stay at the Albergaria do Calvário, a hotel that was booked solely to our MVP group (possibly due to some noise complaints from outside guests at the hotel of the previous year’s retreat). For a little background on the kind of group that we are, its definitely not uncommon to see some of us out still drinking outside at 0400 in the morning singing along loud and drunkenly with a ukulele playing.

Outside of our conference room

Outside of our conference room at the M’Ar De Ar

Once we checked into our hotel, we headed across the street to the M’Ar De Ar where our conference/war room (and lunches) awaited us. After a multi course lunch, the event began with Nuno discussing the road map for Tridion and its products. The rest of the MVP business for the next days was focused on the SDL Tridion Reference Implementation. We discussed what it was in detail, the architecture of how it was built, installation and feedback, and future features that are in the works or needing recruitment to help out on.

Post Work Events

Singing in the Courtyard

Raimond and Quirijn showing their musical talent the first evening in the courtyard at the hotel.

Our first evening’s event was dinner at Pousada Dos Loios, which was a multi-course meal (thinking back, which meal didn’t have multiple courses?) that included octopus. I was a little bit worried when the octopus first came out, as the ones I’ve had before were always a bit rubbery. But I have to say, it was probably the most tender and delightful octopus I’ve ever eaten. My only regret is not taking a picture of it to share with you! After the dinner we shared some drinks at the restaurant’s bar, and finally retired the night in the courtyard of our hotel where we drank even more as our very own talented musicians Nick, Raimond, Quirijn, and Dominic provided a night of sing along music with a guitar, ukuleles, and harmonicas. Various members dropped off through the night, but the party continued til around four in the morn (to the dismay of some who were trying to sleep).

Beautiful view of the grounds at Adega Da Cartuxa

Beautiful view of the grounds at Adega Da Cartuxa

Are those barrels of wine for us?

Are those barrels of wine for us?

A chapel at the Convento Do Espinheiro

A tour through a chapel at the Convento Do Espinheiro

Our second evening’s event kicked off to Adega Da Cartuxa, a winery that produces one of Nuno’s most favorites (so if you ever need to bribe him, you know where to go). We got a tour of the building, watched a couple of videos, and got a wine tasting. Following the winery, the group continued on to the luxurious Convento Do Espinheiro, a historic national monument where we got a tour and then a feast. Following the feast was more drinking, pool playing, and our own personal pianist (Quirijn!). The night ended back at the courtyard of our hotel, but most of the group retired a lot earlier than the previous night.

Will Price serving drinks at the  Convento Do Espinheiro

Will Price serving drinks at the Convento Do Espinheiro

Saturday’s events started right after our final lunch at the M’Ar De Ar. The activities started with a guided tour around the city. One of the places we visited that stood out most to me was the Bones Chapel, a room where the walls and ceiling are covered in skulls and bones. Although the skulls look like they belong to children, the guide said it was due to age and shrinking. From the tour we went directly to Kartodromo de Évora, where we had a serious go kart race. It started with a 5 minute warm up, followed by a 15 minute qualifier which determined the positions that we would start in for the actual race. I must admit that after the 15 minute qualifier I was about sore and done…

At the Bones Chapel

At the Bones Chapel. We were told this is where MVPs end up when they stop sharing.

but alas no rest for the wicked as we entered the 30 minutes of the actual race. It was great times as many of us spun out and crashed into each other, and the race ended with the venue handing out trophies and awards to the winners and finishers. It was pretty intense, and each of us were drenched in sweat by the race’s end.

Our war room at the M’Ar De Ar conference room

Our war room on the last morning at the M’Ar De Ar conference room

Winners of the go kart race!

Winners of the go kart race… Nick in First, Chris in Second, and Julian in Third

Finally the night found us once again at our hotel’s courtyard where a three hour buffet of various traditional Portuguese foods awaited us. The night ended as any other night with your fellow MVP’s would: with good food, good drinks, good music (this time Frank and Robert Curlette joined in on the Triangle), and good friends.

Thanks You’s

A special thank you to SDL again for hosting this award program for the community and for making those who are selected to feel beyond special and appreciated. For those of you who have not yet won but are thinking of trying for it – keep sharing and don’t stop. Believe me, the experience of spending several days with your fellow Tridionaughts is well worth any amount of time spent sharing your knowledge and helping others. And the MVP community and its events are one that you will remember through a lifetime.

Another special thank you to Carla Osorio for organizing yet another smashingly great year and the amazing job in keeping a drunken lot such as ourselves organized and together. And another thank you to Paulo Linhares for helping with the organizing as well as the threats and cursing that helped us keep in line and not end up mugged and arrested somewhere. And of course to Nuno, as this program would not be where it is today without him.

Hanging out on a wall of the Adega Da Cartuxa

Hanging out on a wall of the Adega Da Cartuxa

Til next time my friends, hopefully I’ll be there and you as well!

2013 SDL Tridion MVP Retreat

It’s been a very interesting past few days here at the SDL Tridion MVP Retreat, this year being held at the wonderful location of Óbidos, Portugal. Upon stepping out of the bus with the other MVP’s, it was like taking a step back into time into a medieval like setting. We walked from the bus up a narrow cobblestone pathway that lead to our hotel, the Hotel Real D’Óbidos, where we could see the walls of the castle and the fortified village area.

An Obidos View

After checking in and having some breakfast, it was down to business for the MVP’s. We met up in an office room out looking the hotel’s swimming pool and spectacular view of the lower village area. Office View Nuno started off with a great speech about the MVP program and the meaning of being an MVP, and also told us about some upcoming awesome Tridion features. Then we discussed the projects that the MVP’s would be working on that were voted by the community. The projects that we would be doing were Custom Content Views (aka the Tridion Field Builder Injector), Client Side Templating (aka CT4T), Testing and Automation (aka Tridion Implementation Testing System), and Responsible Web Design. After discussing what each of the projects were, each of us decided which project that most interested us, and then broke for lunch. Once lunch was finished, we eagerly split into our groups and started discussions on what technologies that we wanted to use, the architecture of the projects, and the minimal amount that we wanted to have done for the demos that we would be doing first thing Saturday morning. I had joined the Client Side Templating group, led by Will Price, along with Angel Puntero and Mihai Cădariu (the details of this project will be in another blog post though).

Once the work day was over, we were given a break to go back to the hotel rooms and then to meet back out front to go to our very first event. We were greeted by the jingling of bells and the trotting of hooves as 3 horse-pulled carriages pulled up to the hotel. Our Ride to the CastleWe climbed into the carriages and rode off down the cobblestone roads to our event… dinner at the castle. We felt like celebrities as tourist flashed their cameras at us as we trotted along the narrow roads with a line of cars behind us. At the castle, we had a welcoming drink(s) before the dinner, where the servers kept bringing us drink after drink before taking us up to our table where we enjoyed a delicious 3 course meal paired with wine.Night View From Obidos Castle The night ended at a local Ginjinha bar (followed of course by a walk back to the hotel in deep concentration so not to fall on my face over the stony pathways).

Day Two – Friday

Grind day. The teams crunched furiously at their keyboards to get ready for the demos that were to be given the next day. Each team also gave a quick presentation about where they were going with their projects to get early feedback and suggestions from the other teams. MVP's At WorkAt the end of the work day, 4 new open source Tridion projects awaited the Tridion Community to start taking a peek at. And, after a day of hard work, came a night of hard play. A grand bbq awaited us on the hotel grounds that evening, filled with great food, an endless supply of alcohol, games of Foosball, pool and darts, a live performance by Quirijn Slings and other MVP’s, a face caking… and… did I mention the endless supply of alcohol?

Day Three – Saturday

Saturday morning the teams did a splendid job of presenting their projects. It’s amazing the amount of work that was produced in such a short term period by these talented folks and colleagues. The presentations lasted until noon, where we broke for lunch and then went off to our events for the rest of the day. An Obidos Guided TourIt began with a guided tour around the walled village and we actually had a woman who knew her stories pretty actually well. When the tour ended at the castle itself, we jumped into several jeeps and trucks where we did a bit of off-roading to the next event – a tour through FRUTÓBIDOS, a Ginjinha brewery. A brewery tour...After the brewery, it was more off-roading through some rough spots (the jeep that I was in got stuck in one of the spots on a sandy hill) and some air time in the back of the jeep (thankfully I never hit the ceiling), with several stops along the way for smaller events such as rope top spinning (I don’t quite remember the name of it), archery, and a group photo in front of a lagoon on a truck.An off-roading lagoon stop... The off-roading ended at a very eco-friendly restaurant where they grow their own food, and the structures themselves are made out of recycled materials. The food and drinks was extraordinary as the MVP crew stood around a fire telling stories of past events and Tridion projects (and more singing) until it was time to go back to the hotel.Restaurant camp fire

Thank You’s

I wanted to say a personal thank you to SDL Tridion for the MVP program. The program is about community and sharing, and winning the MVP is so much more than just some title that you can slap on a resume or dazzle a client with. It’s about being part of that community, and being a part of so much more. And the MVP Retreat is something that shows that Tridion really cares about the MVP program and wants to do something special and nice for its MVP’s. This retreat was an experience that I will remember and look fondly back on for the rest of my life. So thank you, for giving me an opportunity to have this experience. I encourage all of my fellow Tridion colleagues to shoot for winning this program if they have not already, as it is definitely well worth the effort and I promise it will be an experience you too will never forget.

And Cheers Actually

And for my fellow MVP’s and Tridionaughts who were actually out on the retreat with me, it was actually quite nice to finally get the chance to put faces and personalities behind the words of your blog posts and your answers on stackoverflow. I mentioned to some of you that I am actually quite shy and I was a bit intimidated to be out there with such an intelligent lot such as yourselves, but you actually made me feel quite comfortable and right at home, and I actually had a much greater time than I actually thought I would’ve or could’ve had. I traveled there with you as fellow community sharers, and I left there with you actually considered as friends. And for those of you who know what I am actually talking about and was actually there, I actually hope that I’m lucky enough to get the chance to win once again next year, so that I can actually be there again just to hear the stories that actually happened after you have read this last paragraph. So salud and cheers my friends. Til next time actually.