Three Things I Took Away from Cloudforce Sydney

This is something of a diary/report piece (or something of that ilk), rather than a coding based 'how to fix x', so if it's code you're after then I apologise, but please read on to hear about the first force.com developer meetup in Australia, and some thoughts/discoveries regarding developing force.com apps for mobile platforms. This post is a little late; it was intended to be a day or two later than usual, as alternating Thursdays are what I aim for and Cloudforce was held on one of those Thursdays, but on the Saturday I got sick, and now here we are.

Developer Meetup

The first force.com developer meetup to take place in Australia was held the night before Cloudforce, and was both enjoyable and informative. I had the pleasure of finally meeting Pat Patterson (@metadaddy), who works on the developer evangelism team for Salesforce and has been a strong supporter of the Stack Exchange proposal from the word go.

Pat presented a whirlwind tour regarding social sign on, and demonstrated how to setup customer portal to allow customers to sign in with their Facebook accounts (amongst others). Although I'd been aware of this functionality since it was released, I'd never really thought much about the benefits it brings. If your customers are likely to have Facebook accounts, and would like to use them when working with you (i.e. they're not large corporations), then there really is no excuse not to have this setup; within an hour you could drastically reduce the friction for customers to interact with you, and for repeat visits they need do no more than click a button to sign in.

Takeaway #1 Social sign-on could really help drive adoption of your customer portal

Following Pat's presentation, Abhinav Keswani (@wasabhi from Trineo gave a speedy, but thorough, introduction to Heroku, showing how quickly you can get code up and running on a production server, along with an overview of the tools available. Again, I'd been aware of Heroku since Salesforce announced their acquisition of it at Dreamforce '10, but never really gotten around to seeing what it's strengths were or even what it encompassed, but now I'm planning to set aside some time to get my hands dirty and have a play with it.

Takeaway #2 If you want to write scalable web apps without getting bogged down in server setup, try Heroku

After a break, Pat hosted a bout of force.com trivia, and I'm pleased to say that yours truly came away with a new force.com hoodie, which will come in handy snowboarding at Mount Buller if the snow coverage picks up a bit. The end of the night revolved largely around networking, and it was good to meet a few new people as well as see some familiar faces.

*Cloudforce: The Keynote *

Cloudforce Sydney this year was pretty big to say the least, noticeably larger than last years event and although I don't know the attendance figures I do know that registrations were upwards of 5,500 and that the keynote had an impressive audience. As expected, nothing new was on display during the keynote, with the familiar piano notes sounding out the start of the Burberry video, though the demos were as slick as ever and I couldn't help but grin when Enter Sandman was blasting out at the beginning.

One thing that did jump out at me was Rypple, a performance management tool with a bit of a social twist, and this is something I'm going to investigate further in my capacity as a manager rather than a developer. I won't suggest that you use it, because I don't know much about it yet, but I will suggest that you give it a once over if you're looking for a performance management tool.

Easy, social, collaborative

Designed to build a transparent, results-driven work culture, Rypple replaces the traditional performance review with an easy, social and collaborative approach. People always know where they stand, and are accountable for achieving their goals.

Cloudforce: The Sessions

With regards to break out sessions, I attended the two targeting developers and these were covering mobile application development, and customer engagement, presented by Pat and Abhinav respectively. Much of the ground covered in the mobile development session has been covered previously on webcasts, though something that did jump out at me was how far the mobile SDKs have come along in such a short time. For instance, at the start of the year there was no real storage option for applications built with the hybrid SDK which provides a native wrapper around HTML 5 based interfaces, but secure offline storage is now on offer.

Additionally, Pat demonstrated creating a mobile device friendly page through the use of Mobile Components for Visualforce, and these appear to be wonderfully succinct in comparison to straight up HTML 5 / Javascript implementations. The inevitable trade-off is that they're far less flexible, but if you want something easy and fast, they could be the tools you need, and the library being open source means that changing anything that doesn't work for you shouldn't be an issue.

Takeaway #3 Mobile visualforce may well be the easiest way to present your data in a mobile friendly manner

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Cloudforce this year; for me it was more of a learning experience than last year and the expanded schedule really enabled that. The inaugural developer meetup was perfectly pitched for the audience, and I hope that it will become more than an annual event.

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