Checkout these 1 on 1 sessions with 3 different BC teams to checkout some fresh Business Catalyst initiatives coming down the pipe from engineering.
This article is Part 2 in my 3 part series on Adobe MAX 2011. To check out my first post, visit Adobe Max 2011 in Review Part 1: Getting Inspired. Photography courtesy of Brendan at Bos Web Solutions.
My team would arrive in the early afternoon, but I had already lined up some 1:1 sessions with 3 different BC teams to checkout some fresh of the fresh coming down the pipe from engineering.
If you haven’t already seen the releases about this topic, I recommend you have a look. I got an opportunity to sit down and play with some liquid code prototypes and see what they had done with implementing it into the e-commerce system. If I was a kid and BC was a candy store, I was right in the thick of it. Pig in mud.
This kind of pre-release viewing gets my creative juices going. As they unfolded the new coding framework in front of me, I could just see all of these little BC-barriers that we have been coding workarounds for or not getting complete control over start to disappear in front of my eyes. The most inspiring thing was to think about all of the cases that hadn’t even come up yet - the customer requests that were bound to happen in the next 12 months and to think that system limitations were no longer going to be a part of our vocabulary made me ecstatic.Full control over:
As Lucian, Bogdan and I wrapped up our walkthrough, Dragos joined us. We dived right into some new screens they had developed for email marketing campaigns. These screens were really exciting for me. Email marketing has been one of the most cost-effective ways for small businesses to market to their customers for years and it was great to see that BC was developing some powerful, integrated tools:
You must realize that through all of these conversations, the amount of ideas that were pouring out were like 1 per several seconds. The most amazing part was how many times I would bring up a recommendation based on valid-customer experience and their response was “yeah, we can do that, Bogdan, make a note of that” or whatever. This was such a different experience than my previous year at MAX. These guys were out here not to just show off their platform at a conference, they wanted to get hardcore feedback in real time from top Partners. I couldn’t have been happier to oblige.
You could feel this competitiveness in the air. The BC team wanted to get this product taken up 10 notches in record time and they were doing it in real time.
Dragos and I headed down for lunch at the Westin to meetup with all of the other Partners that were on the super-special-list of folks asked to attend the 100+ sites lunch. I’m totally kidding, it was a Linkedin post, but it did seem that everyone there was top-performers.
This gathering quite possibly made the entire conference worth going to. The roster:
Some of the top items we discussed were related to how we manage large inventories of sites in the Partner portal, rolling out v3 UI training, Partner-users permission settings, Partner support, creating “template” sites that can be moved between Partners, not deleting trial sites, integrating BC with Xero, getting Partners access to other Adobe tools to help sell more, promoting Partners through the Adobe network, BC marketplace, liquid, “Community” tab, “Master Partners”, and then a bunch of BC-related nerdy jokes and laughs.
The BC intensity was beginning to set in. Sunday afternoon was barely starting and we had already gotten so much accomplished. Heading up to meet with Marius and Max to review the soon to come Web Apps overhaul was exciting. Web Apps has been one of those BC features that we have pushed really, really hard. It seems like whenever a client-situation comes up that doesn’t fit a standard mold, I always go to this feature and say: “Yeah, we can do that with Web Apps.”
Top three requests in order of importance for web apps: defining multiple templates, true relational tables, and an API. Marius gets right into it, no primer, he just has me sit down and dig right in. He opens his laptop and says, “Ok, go.” Meaning, figure out how to use the liquid-enabled super-alpha version of the new framework, “here it is, what do you think.”
After fumbling around a bit, we explore ideas for better naming conventions. There is a new 4th layer that was being introduced right in front of my eyes. At present, Web Apps are really only three layers - you have the Web App, the fields, and the items. In the new framework, it was Web App, tables, fields, and of course, items.
On top of this, their plan was to only have a rudimentary interface in the backend for editing - more importantly, you would create your own editing interface that would be accessible from the BC-admin. Take it a step further and the whole thing is powered with Liquid templating: goodbye Backup Listview.
It was a rough cut, no doubt. Our conversation wandered into not only how the API would be enabled, but more importantly, how Web Apps were now going to be able to be packaged up and transferred between Partners. This went further and touched on the idea of a Web App Marketplace . . . yeah, that’s right, just let that one soak in. How with this new framework, things like a booking engine, blog, donation database, real estate listing system could be solved extremely well by a single Partner, adding to by another Partner, and turned into a single best-of-the-best solution that could be used by all Partners.
Something that gets me even more excited is the idea that Partners are going to be able to earn a bit of revenue from these Apps. Earning revenue means a higher quality product. Higher quality product when it comes to these types of add-ins means that BC is going to kick the Opensource platforms asses.
The rest of my team had arrived at the hotel, it was time to go meetup with the HPW crew, freshen up, and head to drinks at the Figuora.
Steve and I met up at the hotel - looked like the rest of the HotPress team was already en route to the initial BC social. Monday was our first official launch of PRO - we knew that a lot of the top Partners would be hanging out with the BC team at the Figuora Hotel for drinks the night before. I figure, we should all have some standout t-shirts promoting PRO:
They were a hit. Lots of familiar faces in the room: SimpleFlame crew, Adam Broadway, Jackson Palmer, Colin Frost, Kathryn Hayden, Katie Zulanas, Brad Lawryk, Brendon O’Sullivan, Brett Stockley, Matt, Chicago Digital guys, and lots of new people I had yet to meet.
I have to say, one of the coolest things about getting BC Gurus going has been solid recognition throughout the community. A lot of people were very forward coming up to us (throughout the whole conference) which makes networking a whole lot easier.
I was a bit surprised (not sure why) at how many Partners were already excited about PRO. Now, we had obviously been well into our pre-launch marketing campaign, but the amount of questions I had on price and specifics was really, really encouraging: we might just pull this off I thought.
Getting to know people is a passion of mine. Not just learning about what they are doing with their business, but getting a grip on what they do in their spare time, where they are from, and some of the cool stuff they have going on in their life is a real plus. So many of the attendees had made an effort over the year to reach out to us at BCG, comment on our posts, interact with us on Linkedin, and the BC forum - but it just connects the dots so well to meet in person.
One of the guys I really enjoyed meeting in person was Alex Yolgonik from EZ-BC - we had exchanged countless Skype and email conversations but never really spoke. He had some great initiatives coming down the pipe along with some entertaining client/project stories. Oh, I guess we all have a handful of those special clients.
Drinks led to pizza at CPK, which then for Steve and I - we had to get back to the hotel and actually get this PRO thing off the ground . . . the rest of the team decided to see what LA was all about at night.
The morning got moving quick, hit the gym, then breakfast, on to the keynote. We still weren’t done with PRO - needed some more time to get our initial Bonus content together and some other house keeping.
I won’t go into too much detail, but walking into the Nokia theater for this presentation is a little like going to a concert. Loud music, full on floor to ceiling projects on the entire front-facing walls of the auditorium, and lots of anticipation. The presentation breaks out with a violist and dancers which turns into digital dancers, broken violin bow strings, and even more loud techno music with explosion sounds and lights and all that.
The single most impressive thing of the whole presentation was at the very beginning of the keynote address, they present the idea of the Creative Cloud with one of their very first bullet points: Business Catalyst.
They didn’t go into any detail or show the application itself, but this one piece was such a big change compared to MAX 2010. This feature told me what I needed to know - BC was going to play an integral role in the future of Adobe and more importantly, in the future of where the web is headed.
Lots of whizbang at these keynotes, I would almost say that its worth going to MAX just to get amped at these presentations. Once it wrapped up, it was on to the Community Pavilion for Steve and I - we had to get PRO launched.
Loading up all of our initial content - the 40 training videos and the Playbook content took a while. I focused on that while Steve wrapped up our initial email sequences. Once we were ready, we made the registration page live. Only seconds after opening the doors we had our first registration - hadn’t even sent out our first email: awesome.
Steve sent our initial blast. This was a pretty major benchmark of accomplishment for us. For the last 11 years, we had been hustling a service business, hours sold - for the first time, we entered the world of scalable products. I’m not saying that we had expectations of PRO blowing up and being a household name, but it was our first home-grown product.
My one concern with our initial launch was not having enough content once people signed up. We had about 10 pieces of content for our Playbook and another 40 client-training videos, but I was confident that in the following month we could deliver and delight.
Our initial blast started to settle in - members were signing up. It was such a great rush - checking my phone and seeing familiar names giving PRO a try. Our first forum post, our second, PRO was in full swing.
So far the big drawback of launching PRO in conjunction with MAX was that we spent the majority of our first day huddled over our laptops.
The first (non-lab) Business Catalyst session was delivered from Bogdan on the future of BC with all of the v3 initiatives. Bogdan did a great job presenting the content - if you haven’t had a chance to read his post on the BC blog, take a look (http://www.businesscatalyst.com/_blog/BC_Blog/post/What_is_Business_Catalyst_V3/) - it gives a much better summary than I could plus his video from MAX is there for your viewing pleasure.
Arriving at the Meet the Team series continued our immersion into Business Catalyst for the week. This session was in the evening guarded with pizza and beer. All of the Adobe BC team was present, but this was an opportunity for non-BC-oriented folks to wander through all of the different Adobe teams, get to know them, and network with other enthusiasts.
In my head, all of the conversations were starting to meld together. PRO, Web Apps, E-commerce, Marketplace, API, Selling, Pricing, Replication, Design, Mobile, Templates, Email Marketing, CRM, Operations, Accounts, Upselling, Cross-selling, Support, Xero, Freshbooks, Accounting, Projects, Managing, Hiring, Firing . . . we were covering it all and just letting it fly.
At one point in the mix, Alex from EZ presented Colin Frost from Adobe with a Soviet military hat - Colin wore it proudly along with a cigar that he had on hand (of course he did). Apparently Alex’s suitcase coming over to the States was of interest to some extent . . . it was full to the brim of ex-Soviet military garb to give as gifts. Us Americans never tire of the classics.
Another day wraps to a close, we decide to take our team back to the hotel to get a quick debrief over some drinks. One of my favorite parts of MAX was getting to spend more time with the HotPress team. We have had the fortune of creating a very close-nit family that enjoys each other’s company - even if half of the conversation is aggressive banter, with the more than occasional mom joke. So it goes . . .
Tuesday starts off strong with Jorge Taylor introducing the concept of multi-screen for Business Catalyst. For most of us experienced Partners, this was a review of things that we had already been messing with for the majority of the summer, however, Jorge had a fresh perspective on the subject and the content was solid.
After Jorge’s presentation we headed over to the second Adobe Keynote. If you haven’t had a chance to watch, here you go.
In between presentations, Steve and I were plugging away at PRO, getting questions answered, new content queued up, and working through our marketing series. Besides that, getting my MAX presentation ready for Wednesday morning was my #1 priority.
Later that afternoon, Jason Tinnin of Simpleflame presented on some really cool stuff they’ve pulled off with JQuery. This technology is so important to the Business Catalyst scene at present - without direct server side access, its very important to be able to manipulate the user experience based on client need. Jason and his team presented five very solid examples. His presentation wrapped up with a quick preview of their new template builder prototype system - pretty damn cool guys.
Every year Adobe has a session called “Sneaks” where they preview new technologies that may or may not end up in an actual Adobe product. These are really, really cool techy, nerdy previews and they are hosted by someone famous. Last year we had William Shatner - this year was Rain Wilson. I have to say, if I was presenting something, I would have probably preferred to be interacting with Shatner. Not because I’m some closet-trekie or something, but because Rain was pretty ruthless to most of the presenters. We, the audience, did benefit on an entertainment level from this.
After “Sneaks”, it was time to Bash. This annual party that Adobe throws is unparalleled. I had heard that Weezer was going to be performing which I was pretty stoked about. The MAX conference is in downtown Los Angeles - there isn’t a whole lot of space to work with, but Adobe created an outdoor extravaganza.
There were these crazy stilt-crab-walkers, fire twirlers, big stages setup with performance artists, DJs, projected Wii on the side of buildings, every delicious food truck in LA plus Wolfgang Puck catering, and a Willy Wonka style dessert palace that had everything from fresh-made donuts to candies, brownies and massive rice crispy treats. Add on top of this the loud music, spotlights, and the main stage which Weezer was going to headline, and you have first-class entertainment worth the MAX ticket by itself.
Figure a little video will give you a better understanding...
Decided to take it in pretty early - I was presenting my topic for MAX first thing on Wednesday, so time to get some rest.
Next week I will be covering the final day and my perspective on why Business Catalyst is going to revolutionize Online Business forever: The Business Catalyst Renaissance.