Software Development, Web Design, Training

MuraCon 2018 Recap

MuraCon 2018 wrapped up last night. Did you miss it? Did you skip it because you don’t use Mura CMS? Big mistake! :)  As I  mentioned in “5 Things to Know About MuraCon 2018” most of the content was not Mura specific, and the entire conference was packed with great information.

The keynote kicked off with Ryan Thompson (Blue River CEO) announcing that Mura 7.1 has been released and that Mura CMS has been listed as a “high performer” on g2crowd.com for the last 4 quarters in a row.  

The keynote also previewed information coming later in the conference from Sean Shroeder (discussing some rebranding and refocusing that Blue River has been up to this year).  Bret Fisher also gave a quick intro to Docker and talked a bit about his half-day workshop that would happen on Day 2.

Park Howell from Business of Story had the lion’s share of the keynote time, discussing rebranding and “flow”, which was a big recurring theme among all the presenters (to the point where I think Blue River may have encouraged presenters to include references to that in their presentations, but that’s just a guess).  

Initially my plan was to attend some sessions in both the Developer and Digital Experience tracks, but I ended up spending both days anchored in the Developer track (I’ll watch the recordings of the other sessions later).

As expected, several sessions included highlights of new features in Mura 7.1.  But really that was the minority of the content. Between both tracks, there were maybe a handful of sessions that were 100% Mura specific.  Most sessions were either general (and applicable to any app whether or not it uses Mura) or they were “hybrid” talks: some content about Mura, but still a great deal of info that could be applied anywhere.

Evan Dunham’s “CSS Is Awesome” talk started with a primer on CSS and how the “cascading” part of Cascading Style Sheets work, complete with a great Darth Vader + Storm Troopers analogy! He also gave great intros to SASS, FlexBox, several great CSS snippets to make debugging responsive layouts easier.  Evan’s talk wrapped up by showing us A Single Div: a fascinating website that shows off the power of CSS in a modern web browser. Evan’s demo of the same concept was a great Simon Says animation based on the 80’s electronic toy — I’ve done several projects with him in the past and I’m always impressed.  Evan is one of the best CSS developers I’ve dealt with in several years — this talk was further proof at how creative he is with front-end code.

Day 1 ended with some “20 minute lightning talks” from the Mura team on using React, Alexa, Rest, Swagger and OAuth with Mura. Again, most of the content was usable whether you’re on a Mura site or not.  Each session would begin with a primer on the tech itself (i.e. how to start using React) and after the basics were explained, we’d see how to integrate it into Mura CMS.  

Day 2 started with a 3-hour Docker workshop lead by Bret Fisher.  I’ve used Docker on various projects.   Usually I just run whatever another developer has set up for the team; more recently I’ve worked on projects where I was (partially) responsible for getting the Docker environment set up.  While I’ve done bits of this, I had yet to feel that “aha!” moment where it all clicked.  Honestly Bret’s workshop didn’t 100% get me there, but I definitely feel closer now.  After hearing several attendees rave about them, I purchased both of Bret's Udemy courses -- Docker Mastery and Docker Swarm Mastery -- which are on sale for a BIG discount right now! Here’s hope that’s what I need in order to fully grasp this Docker craze that’s happening everywhere.

Bret and Eddie Ballisty from Blue River gave a joint talk in the afternoon where they went over some tips and learning experiences of trying to use Docker in Production environments. Again Bret provided a ton of great info, including various Ready Player One themed jokes and a “guess the vintage video game” portion of his presentation that appealed greatly to 80’s game nerds like me! (BurgerTime continues to be my favorite game of all time — I’ll happily debate any one who feels otherwise. ;) ) Eddie joined Bret for the last portion of his talk and shared some of his experiences using Docker in Production for various Blue River projects, issues they’d run into along the way, and things he’d learned.  Again, a great session with usable content that’s applicable to anyone whether it’s a Mura site or not.

Day 2 wrapped up with 3 more “20 minute lightning talks” from Blue River employees.  Chris McCarty’s talk was the only one I’d describe as “Mura specific”: he showed off some of the customizations Blue River used on a recent client project that took advantage of MuraORM, the plugin architecture, and what it was like moving that site to a Docker environment.  Paul Denato and Luke Wilson gave lightning talks on AMP and integrating React into a headless Mura website (Luke worked on the recent rebuild of blueriver.com which is running React + headless Mura CMS).

All in all a great 2 day conference! I’m looking forward to the videos being posted so I can watch a few things from the Digital Experience track.  Every demo I saw ran great, no code fails, no slide decks that looked unpolished or last-minute in nature. There wasn’t a mention of MuraCon 2019 but I can only imagine that’s in the works (or will be soon). Hope to see you all next year!

-nolan