About Daniel Peter

@danieljpeter

Encrypting and Decrypting on Salesforce and Node.js

Need to send secure messages back and forth between Salesforce and Node.js?  Whether it’s Heroku, AWS, or somewhere else, Node.js is an important platform to be able to communicate securely with Salesforce on.

Salesforce provides a fairly robust Crypto class.  I like the AES256 with Managed initialization vector (aka IV) that Salesforce provides.  The IV is 16 bytes of random/pseudorandom data that salts the encryption so the output is different every time even if the input is the same.  This prevents hackers from being able to spot patterns in the encrypted data, and makes it very difficult to brute force.  The IV gets prepended to the encrypted message so it is available on the other end when decrypting.

In Salesforce, Crypto.encryptWithManagedIV() and Crypto.decryptWithManagedIV() handle creating the IV, and prepending and parsing of the IV.

It’s pretty simple to build encryption and decryption using these methods on the Salesforce platform, see the example here.

But when it comes times to send and receive these encrypted messages on another platform, Node.js in this case, it becomes more difficult.  Managing the IV must be handled differently.  I found an article on how to do this with Java and a partial answer for Node.js.  But I couldn’t seem to find a complete, working example for Salesforce <-> Node.js.  So after I figured out how to make this work on my own, I thought I should blog about it to save others the trouble!

 

Saleforce

Here is example code of encrypt and decrypt, with some values from Node.js also included to be decrypted on Saleforce.

public class Encrypt {

    private static final Blob KEY = EncodingUtil.base64Decode('LHDK5bekAHJOFfXXzkd5uR/AoLBNPDNLIMAK8M0xss8=');    

/*

//execute anonymous example:

String secret = 'Shhhh..  This is a secret.';
System.debug('1: ' + secret);

String encrypted = Encrypt.encryptString(secret);
System.debug('2: ' + encrypted);

String encryptedAgain = Encrypt.encryptString(secret);
System.debug('3: ' + encryptedAgain);

System.debug('4: ' + Encrypt.decryptString(encrypted));
System.debug('5: ' + Encrypt.decryptString(encryptedAgain));

String encryptedfromNodeJS = 'cLaipdqsdGM/z+e+QjpqjUKeeQR26XSJdpUvgNE1areZHhB8DeAA+9xOgZO+wEe9';
System.debug('6: ' + encryptedfromNodeJS);

String encryptedfromNodeJSagain = '1NfNnjF5ROu3W9O8G14yzpjbpLDlEYjOjg/v1or5f7OgNZj+p/v3gdj5+NCR6olD';
System.debug('7: ' + encryptedfromNodeJSagain);

System.debug('8: ' + Encrypt.decryptString(encryptedfromNodeJS));
System.debug('9: ' + Encrypt.decryptString(encryptedfromNodeJSagain));

*/
    
    public static String encryptString(String clearText) {
        String encryptedText = null;
        Blob encryptedBlob = Crypto.encryptWithManagedIV('AES256', KEY, Blob.valueOf(clearText));
        encryptedText = EncodingUtil.base64Encode(encryptedBlob); 
        return encryptedText;
    }
    
    public static String decryptString(String encryptedText) {
        String clearText = null;
        Blob encryptedBlob = EncodingUtil.base64Decode(encryptedText);
        Blob decryptedBlob = Crypto.decryptWithManagedIV('AES256', KEY, encryptedBlob);
        clearText = decryptedBlob.toString();
        return clearText;
    }            
    
}

 

We can run this code in execute anonymous and we can see that we encrypt the same value twice, get two different encrypted values which decrypt to the same value.  We also decrypt two different encrypted values which came from Node.js and they decrypt to the same value.

 

Node.js

Here is example code of encrypt and decrypt, with some values from Salesforce also included to be decrypted on Node.js.

var KEY = Buffer.from('LHDK5bekAHJOFfXXzkd5uR/AoLBNPDNLIMAK8M0xss8=', 'base64');
const crypto = require('crypto');

var secret = 'Shhhh..  This is a secret.';
console.log('1: ' + secret);

var encrypted = encryptString(secret);
console.log('2: ' + encrypted);

var encryptedAgain = encryptString(secret);
console.log('3: ' + encryptedAgain);

console.log('4: ' + decryptString(encrypted));
console.log('5: ' + decryptString(encryptedAgain));

var encryptedfromSFDC = 'eFSWOcUjUiXKcfM+szX9HnjOZNTTCTUrxu82cwV0KR6AHNmp4X9PmNX8eQf4H1fG';
console.log('6: ' + encryptedfromSFDC);

var encryptedfromSFDCagain = 'Ed2oiBbyhZYm7P3kDvT7jYkg1p5e6Tb4xEEGaOPe/UznnZxEbr9pEmY6WVTWlWL6';
console.log('7: ' + encryptedfromSFDCagain);

console.log('8: ' + decryptString(encryptedfromSFDC));
console.log('9: ' + decryptString(encryptedfromSFDCagain));

function encryptString(clearText) {
	var encryptedText = null;

	var textBuffer = new Buffer(clearText, 'utf-8');
	var iv = crypto.randomBytes(16);

	var cipher = crypto.createCipheriv('aes-256-cbc', KEY, iv);
	var encryptedBuffer = cipher.update(textBuffer);
	encryptedText = Buffer.concat([iv, encryptedBuffer, cipher.final()]).toString('base64');

	return encryptedText;	
}

function decryptString(encryptedText) {
	var clearText = null;

	var encryptedBlob = new Buffer(encryptedText, 'base64');
	var iv = encryptedBlob.slice(0, 16);
	var textBuffer = encryptedBlob.toString('base64', 16);

	var decipher = crypto.createDecipheriv('aes-256-cbc', KEY, iv);
	clearText = decipher.update(textBuffer,'base64','utf-8');
	clearText += decipher.final('utf-8'); 
	
	return clearText;
}

 

We can run this code via command line and see that we encrypt the same value twice, get two different encrypted values which decrypt to the same value.  We also decrypt two different encrypted values which came from Salesforce and they decrypt to the same value.

Now you can talk securely back and forth between Salesforce and Node.js to your heart’s content!

Here is the full code on GitHub: https://github.com/danieljpeter/SalesforceNodeEncryption

 

 

 

A Salesforce Conference in Uruguay? YES!

TL;DR: Unbeknownst to many, there is a large, talented population of Salesforce developers in Latin America.  I had the privilege of making the long voyage to Uruguay to meet many of them, get to know them a bit, learn about their beautiful country, and bring them some Salesforce knowledge of my own.  It rocked! (skip to pictures at bottom)


Punta Dreamin’ – Strong Salesforce Community in Latin America’s Technology Hub

I was extremely fortunate to have the chance to speak at the first Latin American Salesforce Community Conference.  Punta Dreamin’ was held in the resort city of Punta del Este, not too far from the largest city in Uruguay, Montevideo.

The event was held at the elegant Hotel Conrad, which is right across the street from the beach.  This venue has all the needed amenities and plenty of room for future growth!  We gathered in a common, great room where we all shared the sponsor and speaker activities of the day.  There were no parallel sessions going on, just one experience.  It was a FOMO-free event! (unless you weren’t there at all)  As one described it, “One track in a continuous and dynamic show that integrates speakers, attendees, sponsors and the glamorous Conrad experience”.

There were a mix of Spanish and English presentations.  In fact, Angela Mahoney delivered the entire opening keynote in Spanish, and English in her first language.  Amazing!  Punta Dreamin’ was a technical conference, aimed primarily at Salesforce Developers and Architects.  This was reflected in the top notch content of the sessions, and even though my Spanish isn’t as good as it could be, I still got a lot out of the program.  By paying attention to the graphics on the slides and picking up 20% or so of the words, I was able to learn from all of the sessions.

I did some walking around the town before the conference to get a feel for the local vibe.  I noticed everyone drinking maté out of gourds with metal straws.  This highly caffeinated tea with a distinct flavor is enjoyed all over by everyone.  I think Uruguay is fueled by the stuff!  Luckily several of the sponsors brought some so we could try it.  This was just the ticket to get an energy boost before delivering a presentation to a packed house.

Uruguay is a wonderful country to visit.  I’m a little jealous of the Salesforce developers that get to live there.  Walking around and exploring revealed much of it’s charm.  Rustic houses, unique works of art, tranquil beaches, tasty and satisfying Chivitos, green pastures with bright blue skies, unselfish and welcoming people, even urban city life.  It’s easy to leave a piece of your heart there.

I had several great conversations with Aldo Fernandez, who is one of the folks responsible for “dreaming” up this dreamin’ event.  He described “El Maracanazo” to me, an important part of Uruguayan and Brazilian culture.  This was one of the largest upsets in the history of sports where Uruguay beat Brazil 2-1 in the 1950 World Cup.  This took a huge toll on Brazil.  It is described as being Brazil’s version of Hiroshima, it was that bad.  Yet on the flipside, it instilled a strong sense of ability to achieve amazing things within the Uruguayans.  To put these countries in a US size perspective, Uruguay is smaller than the state of Washington and Brazil is almost the size of the entire United States!  Punta Dreamin’ was not El Maracanazo, there was no tragic loser.  However, I felt the spirit of that small country and its confidence in its ability to be a world player fueling the success of this conference.

Uruguay certainly has its share of talented software developers.  It was a pleasure getting to meet some of them.  They are a 7,000 mile flight away from the Bay Area, and in the Southern Hemisphere of the world.  Perhaps this geographic separation has something to do with the lack of global awareness.  But there is no denying they are a major exporter of “nearshoring” software and IT services for many other countries with the highest per-capita numbers for this in Latin America.  Uruguay has become Latin America’s outsourcing hub, with companies like Tata Consultancy Services setting up their Spanish speaking headquarters there.  There are also many tech companies headquartered in Uruguay doing their own work, and a growing startup scene as well.  A country with low crime, natural beauty, smart people, and amazing technology resources.  What kind of well-guarded secret is this place?

Now, the secret is out!  Punta Dreamin’ was a huge step forward in making this known within the global Salesforce community.

Traveling is learning.  Meeting new people is learning.  Being a software developer means you can never stop learning.  No matter how skilled you are, there is always more to learn.  One of the great things about these conferences is the opportunity we get to cross-pollenate technical and cultural knowledge between communities.  I presented a session on an open source project I’m working on called HyperBatch.  One of the attendees who saw the presentation reached out to me to say, “Thank you for coming this far South to talk and inspire our thoughts about what’s actually possible”.  That clinched value of me participating in this event right there.


Salesforce Culture in the Extended Ohana

Salesforce has the four core values of Trust, Growth, Innovation, and Equality.  I can frame my experience as a speaker at this Latin American conference within these values.

Trust

I trusted the travel would be worth it, they trusted I would bring value to the event.

Growth

I grew personally from the experience, while attempting to grow the awareness of the Latin American Salesforce Community.

Innovation

The Punta team innovated this entire conference, it was the first of its kind.  I was sharing my own innovations with the group as a speaker.

Equality

Latin America’s Salesforce professionals deserve equality of recognition and compensation.  They deserve a conference, too!  As a visitor to their country, I was treated with equality and felt welcomed.


Sponsors

The sponsors of this event were amazing.  I didn’t get a chance to talk to all of them, but I did get to most of them.  I loved talking with these folks so much, I am listing them here so you can check them out for yourself.  These are world-class organizations with some of the friendliest people you could ask for.  Have a look to learn more about Uruguay tech.


Additional Reading


Fotos


 

Snowforce 2017: The Salesforce Crossroads of the West

There are over 15 Salesforce community conferences now, but Snowforce is one of the oldest. Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, it has a large and growing group of loyal followers. Utah is quietly becoming the next Silicon Valley. It’s been named the Silicon Slopes, and increasingly it’s got the numbers to back it up. Don’t overlook Utah, it’s going through a tech boom, and Snowforce is a great way to network and learn from the folks who are part of it.  Read on to hear about my experience at Snowforce!

The night before the conference, there was a speaker / sponsor dinner. These extra activities are so important because the day of the conference flies by so quickly. Many times this is your only chance to talk to certain people (Peter Coffee for example). I met some new folks and got a chance to talk to them in a fair amount of depth. I also got to re-acquaint with familiar people which I hadn’t seen in some time. Finding the venue was a test of our navigation skills, as it turns out the “Red Iguana” can mean many different places in Salt Lake City 🙂

Checking into the conference was a breeze. Since it was downtown this year, it was a short walk from the hotel. The venue was one of the coolest I have been to. “The Depot” is a train station converted to a music venue. Hosting Salesforce rockstars in a place that hosted literal rockstars is quite befitting.  TrailheaDX did something similar at the Warfield. It’s a nice alternative to traditional convention centers.

 

 

 

Peter Coffee’s keynote was thought provoking and flawless as always. Prior to the conference he used a poll to crowdsource the topics. This meant he ended up talking the most about topics we were most interested in. Way to be customer focused! I’m still processing these important ideas. No doubt they will help my career, and maybe even help the world a little in the process. He really makes it worth getting out from behind your desk and flying across the country to expand your mind.

One difficulty with a conference this size is that there are 3-4 parallel sessions going on at once. Inevitably this means you will have a feeling you are missing out on the sessions you aren’t in. My advice is to accept you are going to miss out on many sessions.  Be comfortable in the session you have chosen and experience the session you are in with elevated mindfulness.

I think this is the first community conference I have been to that provided it’s own mobile app!

                                

This was a private social network, similar to the Dreamforce app.  I saw a lot of people interacting on this who weren’t on twitter, so this makes it a valuable addition to the conference in my opinion.

I enjoyed the SalesforceDX presentation by John Vogt and Wade Wegner. This is a massive and ever-evolving body of knowledge, so it’s important to stay informed. I especially loved Wade’s demos. He really puts the X in DX by showing how quickly you can build apps via the new CLI tools. Marc Benioff even got wind of this presentation and retweeted what was going on in the room!

Kevin Poorman (aka codefriar) showed off his innovative “Apex Promises” project. This looks like a great architecture to build robust processes that are long running and/or use multiple callouts.

The sponsors had their own room which seemed to be getting plenty of traffic. I popped in a few times and it was always packed with attendees. My company, Kenandy had their team in there giving away swag and answering questions about our ERP built on the Salesforce platform. It was also great to catch up with other sponsors like Coveo, who generously helps to pay for the video production at the Bay Area Salesforce Developer Group.

Lunch was included as part of the conference by gourmet food trucks out in front of The Depot. It was a little tight for space, but the food was excellent. Salt Lake City has no shortage of good eats! It’s really cool being able to create your own lunch experience by perusing around the trucks and choosing whatever looks good.

 

After lunch, a new Salesforce MVP, Adrian Larson presented his LimitsProfiler project. This solves a problem which is a bit of a dark art to many Salesforce Developers – performance. You can refactor code and gather data on how you have affected the performance of it. Cool!  I also found out Adrian is one of a very small number of moderators on Salesforce Stack Exchange.

 

Morgan Robertson, a Technical Architect at Eide Bailly gave a useful demo on Custom Metadata types. It was an end to end demo of a commission calculator app where the commission tiers are stored in Custom Metadata Types. The best part?  All the source code is available here: https://bitbucket.org/eidebailly/custom-metadata-example.

Who says work can’t be fun? I invited the Simplus SaaSquatch to come to my session on HyperBatch and it showed up! It even had a few words for the audience. Something to the effect of “hwooo uuugh oooowah woooo uuuuah”. The ‘squatch even came equipped with some foam snowballs we got to throw around. Hopefully it learned a few things about Salesforce in the process.

Similar to last year, Snowforce had a closing keynote packed with great life advice. Mark Widmer, Ph.D. from BYU gave us meaningful advice on how to live a great life. This focused primarily on myths and truths about how to increase your happiness. Mark has a lot of experience in outdoor team building activities, so his talk dovetailed perfectly into Snowforce’s day 2 activities on the slopes! Work-life balance is so important, kudos to Snowforce for incorporating this into the conference.

There was a closing happy hour event, a great opportunity to connect virtual relationships to the person in real life and discuss what we learned that day. It was also a chance to assemble a large group of us to grab dinner. Dinner presented a new opportunity exchange life stories which add whole new dimensions of depth to business relationships. Everyone has an amazing story when given the chance to share it.

The second day is an entirely different experience. This is what puts the “Snow” in Snowforce. Conference attendees meet up at the Solitude Mountain Resort and decide how to spend the day. There is a lodge provided as home base with food, drinks, and space for hanging out. Groups of people form organically for all types of snow activities from here. I chose to try snowshoeing for the first time with a few other people, which proved to be a very rewarding experience. Sun, snow, and majestic scenery set the stage for a challenging, shared experience for us to connect through.

There are a lot of people I’d like to give a shout out to for making Snowforce 2017 such a wonderful experience.  But rather than risk missing some folks, I’m just going to say if you are reading this, then you know who you are.  Thank you!

French Touch Dreamin’: Where We All Speak Salesforce

NOTE: Before reading any further, start this song playing for the proper ambiance:

Music playing?  Great, read on…

img_0405

 

You may have heard of Midwest Dreamin’, Tahoe Dreamin’ or some of the many other Salesforce community conferences which may or may not have the Dreamforce-esque “Dreamin’” in their title.  Now you can welcome French Touch Dreamin’, a community event in Paris, to the lineup.

They could have simply called it France Dreamin’, or Paris Dreamin’.  But French Touch Dreamin’ conveys the spirit of the way in which the organizers of this conference infused it with their touches of France.  This delivered a very French experience!  The song you are listening to right now is also of the “French Touch” dance genre.  That might just explain all the great music which was played throughout the conference as well!

img_9701Two days before the conference I had a meeting at the Salesforce France headquarters.  They are housed in a modernized, historical building with the best view of the Eiffel tower imaginable.  Thanks to Jean Michel Mougeolle for helping to set this up.

 

img_9790img_9977The night before the conference we had some preliminary gatherings such as Happy Hour put on by Holly Goldin Firestone and a Speakers Dinner.  These activities were an excellent chance to catch up with folks in the Salesforce community and get some hints of what the conference the next day was going to be like.  I was thrilled to get to sit with Peter Coffee and Shivanath D. at the dinner.  There were brilliant conversations going on all around the table that night!

Thursday morning kicked off with a surprise musical introduction:

img_9806

And an enlightening community-themed keynote by Holly Goldin Firestone:

18 world class sessions went on throughout the day in 3 different locations at the super cool Pan Piper venue.  This venue was not only perfect in terms of size and layout, but also had the French Touch!  These sessions were a great opportunity for thought leaders to share their content with a worldwide community, in person.  I learned a ton from the sessions that I saw, and especially appreciated the diverse perspectives.

img_9960
(photo courtesy frenchtouchdreamin.com)

I had a great time presenting my session on HyperBatch.  The A/V support was excellent.  They had a remote clicker and plug-in internet available which were the icing on the cake.  I got some great questions from the audience, and I look forward to my project being used by the Salesforce community.

 

img_9798In between sessions there was plenty going on:  sponsor exhibitions, French food, wine, and coffee, a DemoJam, Trailhead Contest complete with buzzers, photo opportunities, and an outdoor patio area.  The day flew by really quickly with so many great options for things to do.

 

img_9934The one and only Peter Coffee gave the closing keynote.  Peter is one of the most recognizable Salesforce personalities, and has interviewed the who’s who of the Salesforce ecosystem.  He’s even interviewed the founder of Kenandy!  This was not your typical, glossy, “everything is amazing” type of presentation.  Peter took a hard look at many trends he is seeing, and gave us concrete advice on how to move ourselves and the industry forward.  This honest look at things was refreshing, and provided serious value to the attendees.

It goes without saying, the organizers really outdid themselves on this event.  If you were thinking of going in 2016 but didn’t make it, don’t miss it next year!  I’d also like to extend a personal thanks to the sponsors.  Without them, these types of community events could not exist.

img_99492016-11-27_21-14-32

 

 

Although it was a European conference, there were attendees and speakers from all over the world. People from 13 different countries were there!  The organizers decided to use English as the common language at the conference.  But I say that we were all united by the common language of Salesforce.

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For more information

 

 

 

Snowforce 2016 Recap

Salt Lake City’s Snowforce Salesforce event keeps getting bigger every year.  This was the 6th year, and it is now drawing around 300 people (with even more registering!) from all over the country.  The tech scene is strong in the Silicon Slopes and surrounding areas of Utah.  There are many companies in the Salesforce ecosystem located there, as well as remote employees who live in Utah with headquarters in places such as San Francisco.  About five Utah user groups pitch in with funds contributed by the sponsors to create this event.  And believe it or not all of this is absolutely free for the attendees!

Noah’s Event Venue was a great location for the event.  Multiple floors held various rooms for breakout sessions, sponsor expos, photo booths, and lounges for attendees to hang out in.  There was even a game room upstairs if you wanted to discuss Salesforce over a game of pool.    The large, main hall which was big enough to be able to fit all of attendees together at once for the keynotes.  Snowforce had sessions catered to four different tracks this year: Admin, Developer, Executive and UX.  Four tracks for a community conference?  Wow!  I attended the Developer track.

The conference kicked off with registration and breakfast starting around 7:30 in the morning.  Breakfast was good, but disappeared fast.  Thankfully the staff was on top of it and ordered more!  Saleforce sent a great group of expert Account Executives and Sales Engineers to the early bird session on Service Cloud Lightning.  Joined with folks from Instructure, we got real examples of how Salesforce’s fastest growing offering, Service Cloud Lightning, is helping companies to better service their customers.  I was particularly excited to see Jennifer Shaeffer there.  Jen is a seasoned Salesforce Account Executive who I have worked with in the past.  She did a great interview with Instructure that was reminiscent of Peter Coffee’s Dreamforce intros.

For the keynote, we had an all-star lineup of Salesforce Admin and Developer evangelists.  This worked great since there was a mixed audience.  Gillian Madill and Mike Gerholdt showcased the latest features of Salesforce that an admin might want to know about such as customizing the new Lightning Experience navigation.  Samantha Ready took over and showed some of the new developer features like building components and using them in Lightning App Builder.

 

After that we had a Demo Jam.  It was a fast-paced forum where vendors got the chance to belt out their best elevator pitches for their product, and attendees got to vote on them via SMS.  It was very entertaining as the presenters were cut off when they reached their time limit.  So hearing a presenter close with a pitch along the lines of “It’s awesome!!!” happened more than once.  The new Simplus App “Culture Climb” was demoed by the always energetic Ryan Westwood, and featured a dramatic mic drop at the end.  This is a brand new HR app which was unveiled at the conference and ultimately won the Demo Jam.  This will be an app to keep an eye on.

 

I broke out into breakouts and learned some great Developer content.  The first one I saw was by Nate Lipke of Salesforce.  He demoed a nice smattering of the new toys developers have to play with such as the Interactive Apex Debugger.  It was extremely cool to watch a Visualforce page stop in mid form submission and let you inspect everything from the server side.

nate

This took us into lunch, featuring a lineup of Utah’s finest food truck fare.  These were a huge hit with the attendees, and were provided free as part of the conference.  What a fun way to enjoy the warm weather outside while hanging out and meeting new people.  Kudos to the whoever planned for this conference lunch hack.  It delivered an all-around great experience.

After lunch, Charlie Isaacs, gave an action packed presentation.  Charlie is the CTO for Customer Connection at Salesforce.  If you haven’t seen him speak, it is something to behold.  I’m sure he had 10 presentations he wanted to give in parallel in his head but unfortunately he only has one mouth to be present with.  Passionate and knowledgeable about the Internet of Things don’t begin to describe Charlie.  IoT is becoming more and more common across many industries.  Charlie passed around estimote beacons which are used in retail, ODBII dongles which are used by insurance companies to monitor drivers, even a connected knee implant that is enabling more successful knee surgeries.  This was probably my favorite presentation, as it made the Salesforce IoT Cloud tangible for me.  At Dreamforce 2015 “the IoT Cloud, powered by Thunder” was Parker Harris swinging the hammer of Thor at the stage with thundering sound effects.  While cool, this was a little abstract.  Charlie’s session made it more clear to me what the actual product is, and what it will be able to do for customers.  I believe IoT Cloud will be huge, and have a more successful adoption curve than Analytics Cloud has had.  IoT cloud takes what can be an extremely complex implementation, and simplifies it down to the realm of Salesforce declarative development.  This will enable businesses to leverage machine-generated data to better serve their customers in a fast-to-market fashion.  What an amazing capability.  It will be exciting to watch Kenandy customers leverage this when it becomes generally available.

 

John Schultz, a developer at Salesforce, gave a cool presentation on how to integrate Salesforce and fitbit.  All the code for how to do this is in his github repo here: https://github.com/jcschultz/sfdc-fitbit-demo.  This was a good refresher on OAuth flows, REST integrations, and also showed the benefits of using a treadmill desk.  It was really cool to be able to talk with John the next day about his experience of being a software developer who uses a treadmill desk.  There are a lot of issues you don’t think about such as how the eyes adjust to the motion, and how you might need to pause the treadmill while taking phone calls.

john

The final Developer presentation taught us how to create Process Builder Blocks.  This is a useful technique if you have admins and developers working in together in an organization.  The admins can build as much of the process as they can in Lightning Process Builder, then the developers can create Apex methods which can be executed from the Lightning Process.  To me, the most amazing thing about this presentation was that is was created by Shane McLaughlin, a Platform Architect at Salesforce.  Shane was supposed to present this, but something came up, and Daniel Hoechst stepped in at the last minute to present it on his behalf!  As if organizing and executing the event wasn’t enough, Daniel was even able to do Shane’s presentation for him.  In fact, if he hadn’t told us it wasn’t his presentation, we wouldn’t have been the wiser.  Quite an impressive feat in my book.

daniel

The final presentation brought everyone back together from the breakouts into the main keynote hall.  This was a motivational speech by Dr. Craig Manning.  Dr. Manning is a great presenter with an Australian flair.  He teaches at Brigham Young University, and has worked with some of the world’s top athletes.  Though his experience is in Athletic performance coaching, the concepts apply to anything you want to accomplish in life.  He explained how to achieve “The Fearless Mind” using this formula: Potential + Training – Interference = High Performance.  He gave us a short list of actionable things we can do to achieve this, which sounded quite good to me.  He also challenged various beliefs that are common in our society.  It was an hour well spent.  It is important to take time out of our busy lives to explore techniques for self-improvement.  Working this into the conference was a nice value-add.  It wasn’t unlike the the mindfulness theme which was added to Dreamforce 2015.

manning

Wrapping up the official events for the day was a cocktail hour out on the balcony.  This included an open bar, food, snow machine, heaters, and music.  It was a great networking opportunity, with scenic views of the towering, snow-covered Utah mountains on both sides of us.  I caught up with a few people I had been meaning to talk to, and learned a lot by listening to the conversations of others.  As the crowd dwindled down, the remaining group planned to go out and grab dinner.  We all pitched in to pack up some items from the event, a reminder that we were indeed at a community conference!
We met up for dinner in downtown Salt Lake City, at a dueling piano club called Keys on Main.  The piano players were amazing, and really knew how to work the crowd.  It was a unique and entertaining experience, and a great chance for the local Salt Lake City Saleforce crowd to show the out of towners what their city has to offer.

 

keys

The next day everyone met up at the Solitude Mountain Resort for a day of snow activities and networking.  The organizers reserved us a good sized room there for our base of operations.  The room had food, drinks, networking, and gave everyone a place to change in and out of their snow gear.  It was a lot of fun to see people coming back from the slopes with huge smiles on their faces, exchanging top speeds from their smartphone GPS apps.  I was a little under the weather, so I didn’t participate in any of the vigorous activities.  I enjoyed the scenery, and skied vicariously through the stories of others.  The weather felt like a summer day, with the snow reflecting the sun at you like a tanning mirror.  There were restaurants, pubs, and gift shops around the lodge.  I had fun exploring and finding new places to hang out in small groups.  This is where serendipitous conversations around Salesforce and other topics tend to happen.  I also took a nice snow hike along a ski run / snowmobile trail with Zachary Jeans, a Salesforce strategy consultant, getting some decent exercise for the day.  Being 8,000 feet up in the pristine mountains makes you feel isolated from the stresses of life, and you can’t help but soak it all in and feel at peace.

 

It is impressive just how well a group of volunteers in the Salesforce ecosystem can organize an event like this.  I know Snowforce 2016 didn’t plan and run itself, but the organizers made it seem that way from an attendee’s perspective.  It was remarkable how collected the organizers were, considering the late nights and countless details they had to keep track of up to and during the conference.  Congratulations and thanks are in order to Daniel Hoechst, Ben Schauerhamer, Evan Johnson, Drew Dayton, Becky Webster, Carolyn Beth Adams, Kim McClure, and Brian Warren.  If I left anyone out, please let me know (@danieljpeter on twitter) and I can revise the list.  I can only imagine this event will continue to grow!

To learn more about Snowforce, check out these resources:

http://snowforce.io

https://success.salesforce.com/_ui/core/chatter/groups/GroupProfilePage?g=0F9300000009N

https://twitter.com/search?q=%23snowforce16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tahoe Dreamin’ 2016: How Less Can Give You More

Dreamforce is THE software conference.  Period.   I’m a long-time, repeat attendee, and I get a huge amount of value out of it each year.  However, I always walk away feeling like I missed out on most of it because there are so many things going on at the same time.  There are always 3 events I want to attend which are starting half way through an event I’m already sitting in and don’t want to leave because it is sparking innovative new ideas in my mind.  And then what about that list of people I promised I’d meet up with, where do I squeeze them in at?  Sleep is required, yet also optional in the face of so many extravagant parties going on.  If you’ve been there, you know exactly what I mean.  It’s an accepted side-effect of delivering massive amounts of awesomeness in a short period of time.

What would it be like if you took a sprinkling of the same attendees and speakers, and put them into a Salesforce conference where you gave the sessions and events a little more time and space to breathe?  What if there was a venue with a framework which set the tone for like-minded people, but left opportunity for serendipitous experience?  What if you could throw agenda builder, and google calendar out the window for a weekend and still feel like you got everything done and more?  It is possible, and I just experienced this at the inaugural Tahoe Dreamin’ 2016.

This was the first time I’d been to a community-organized, regional Salesforce conference. Knowing the value of diversity of experiences, I had been wanting to check one out.  This one was in my backyard, so it was a convenient way to make it happen.  The cost was very low as compared to Dreamforce.  It was more about justifying taking a couple of days off from work.  I decided to present a session there which made the justification easy.  It was an opportunity to share some knowledge and give back to a community which has afforded me a rewarding career, which I am very grateful for.  As well as create some awareness for the company I work for, which has been a catalyst for my career, which I am also grateful for.  Building a full-blown ERP on top of Salesforce has been a trial by fire, which has made doing almost anything else on the platform seem easy by comparison.  There is no substitute for that experience, and I love sharing the battle stories of doing that with the Salesforce community.

I decided early on I should rent a snow-ready vehicle and share the cost by carpooling.IMG_1166  This way we wouldn’t have to worry about chains or getting stuck in the snow.  This was probably overkill, but I liked the peace of mind of being prepared.  Bill Greenhaw matched up carpool providers with those in need of a carpool, and this worked out great.  Carpooling was smooth and enjoyable and allowed me time to get to know the people riding with me.  I had admins and developers with me who were all doing very different and interesting things with Salesforce.  This was a great learning experience.  When I picked up my first passenger, this is actually when the conference started to begin.

I arrived Thursday night and rushed up to my hotel room in full Dreamforce mode to plan my agenda for the night.
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I quickly realized there was only one thing going on.  Wow, that was refreshing!  No guilt about missing out, and a chance to meet everyone.  The event was sponsored by Shonnah Hughes & Toya Gatewood.  They did a great job of providing a happy hour style meetup which gave me the chance to meet many new people such as Katie McFadden and Stuart Edeal and consider aspects of Salesforce I don’t often think about in my daily routine.  It also gave me a chance to catch up with people I already knew, and felt like I knew from online interactions.

The next morning I woke up early to go downstairs for coffee and ran into Zachary Jeans.  We had a nice, long, slightly philosophical conversation over some Starbucks.  A great example of Tahoe Dreamin’ serendipity.  Once I was primed with coffee, I put on my #AlohaFriday shirt and sat in on some great sessions.  Adam Seligman and Shawna Wolverton upped the “juvenile marketing” ante and rocked the house with deliciously tacky, retro ski outfits.
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They gave us lots of great content such as unpublicized features way out on the roadmap.  Team ButtonClick,  Mike Gerholdt and Gillian Madill were at the keynote as well, helping to run the video of Parker Harris and Alex Dayon wishing us all a happy Tahoe Dreamin’.  I ran into more people I wasn’t expecting to see, such as Stephan Paquet, a first-rate developer from the North Bay Developer User Group I used to run.

All the sessions I attended were Dreamforce quality or better.  Yet there was something different.  The speakers, myself included, were more relaxed, confident, and open to questions.  IMG_1187Perhaps it was due to the absence of scheduling overload, or the fact the sessions weren’t recorded.  Whatever it was, I liked it, and I’m pretty sure everyone else noticed it as well.  I attended mostly developer sessions, and got plenty of takeaways to justify the trip.

I had diamond in the rough “ah-ha!” moments while Samantha Ready talked about Lightning Out while simultaneously pulling off an ambitious, live demo on hotel wifi.
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Listening to Pat Patterson talk about Forcecraft (Salesforce integrated with Minecaft), I finally gained an appreciation for the concepts it represents, something I never got the chance to do at Dreamforce due to schedule overload.
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Daniel Hoechst showed some tools for Continuous Integration which helped to validate the concepts I use myself at work.
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But between these sessions is where the magic had a chance to happen.  There were 15 minutes, sometimes an hour between them. This free time could be used to hang out in the room and talk with the presenters, converse with the people next to you, meet up with groups of people outside the room, stop by the exhibitors in the trade show area, or hop on your selfie bandwagon of choice.  There was amazing food and drinks o’plenty, which kept the day and the conversations flowing.  There was no excuse to leave if you didn’t want to.  The pacing of the sessions, breaks, lunch, happy hours, was varied, and in my opinion, perfect for a conference like this.  Taking a play from Foo Camp’s playbook, they gave us a canvas and paint to create our own masterpieces.  However, the figurative paint by numbers or even magazines were still on hand for those who prefer more structure.  The key takeaway here is that less actually leads to more.  Passionate attendees can fill the space better than event planners when given the opportunity.  And therein lies the beauty of the community conference.

Dinner was a fancy sit-down affair with a buffet of some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.  The dinner alone was worth the $100 ticket price of the entire conference.  It included plenty of time to talk with your neighbor or switch tables and talk to other people.  There was an impromptu toast to Bill Greenhaw for pulling off such a successful event, as well as some valuable prize giveaways.

After the event the attendees were free to put away their lanyards and badges and explore the nightlife of the area.  I wound up in a live music bar with 10 or so other folks from the conference.  IMG_1214Some I had met that day, others I had already known.  This was a refreshing chance to NOT talk about Salesforce and instead enjoy the fact that we are also people who do things other than sit in front of computers.  Such as listening to a cover of the Eagles with a cold bottle of beer.

Saturday was the Tahoe Dreamin’ fun day.  There was quite a list of activities to choose from.  I chose to try snowmobiling, since I’ve never tried it.  IMG_1221I ended up in a group with Zachary Jeans, Pat Patterson and his family, and Jean Michel Mougeolle (he came all the way from Paris, and gave a session that was the talk of the conference).  It turns out snowmobiling is some of the most fun you can have without breaking the law.  It was like being in a Speeder Bike scene out of Star Wars.  We climbed the deeply snow-covered hills from 7000 feet to 9000 feet on what are mountain bike trails in the summertime. Up and down hills, speeding around curves, never knowing what we would see next.  The mix of adrenaline from the ride, and the breathtaking scenery you get to see is difficult to put into words.
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Photos do not do it justice either.  Emerging from the wooded trails into panoramic views of Lake Tahoe thousands of feet below you, in potentially deadly weather, was a religious experience.  You couldn’t help but high-five the people around you.

After coming down from the snowmobile high, Jean Michel Mougeolle and I got a nice lunch at a cafe.  I learned more about the innovative image platform he is building, delivered in his wonderful french accent.  I think it made my lunch taste better.

We met up with Zachary Jeans, Eric Dreshfield, and Stuart Edeal for gondola ride to the top of Heavenly.  We relaxed and enjoyed the scenery around us as the cable pulled us high up the face of the mountain, and everything below got smaller and smaller.
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We stopped at the observation deck for awhile and tried not to freeze to death while we took some photos.  The protip for survival was keeping the icy wind to your back.IMG_1319 CZcx822UsAIDIsu
We then got back on the gondola and continued to the ski lodge. The lodge and surrounding areas were bustling with 100s of skiers and snowboarders.  We took the opportunity to duck into the lodge and thaw out with a round of coffee.
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While inside the lodge, the conditions outside got progressively worse.  We finally were alerted we needed to get off the mountain before everything shut down.  The trip down was a chance for some more reflecting on the day and joking around.

Once at the bottom I gathered up my fellow carpoolers, said goodbye to Tahoe, and we drove back to the bay area in the dark of night.  This was another opportunity to have some in depth discussions on the nuances of developing on the Salesforce platform and learn from each other.

Did the sponsors of Tahoe Dreamin’ go home with hundreds of qualified leads?  Probably not.  Was there a Tesla raffled off?  No.  But was this conference a complete and total success in the areas that matter the most?  Without a doubt.

Hack your Dreamforce experience to make it even more #Awesome

Dreamforce is the largest software event there is.  If you are a cloud computing practitioner, it is the best opportunity of the year to learn, network, and get inspired.  But it can also be overwhelming if you don’t approach it with the right mindset, or show up unprepared.

I’ve attended Dreamforce 5 times before, and put together some unique tips for you to get the best experience possible.  Some of these are a bit unconventional, so if you are into life-hacking, give them a try!

  1. I’ve always been local or driven in and stayed with friends in SF.  Despite the huge number of attendees, I’ve never had a problem finding parking in the local garages.  In fact, I find them to be rather empty!
  2. Many sessions are recorded.  Consider skipping some of these sessions if you don’t need to talk with the presenters or attendees live.  Take full advantage of the in-person opportunities and time shift some of the sessions to post-dreamforce video watching from the comfort of your couch at home.
  3. Walk around the dev zone and the exhibition halls and don’t hesitate to ask questions about anything which may interest you.  Heck, even things which don’t interest you!  In practically every case you will find the people working the booths will teach you something relevant you didn’t expect.  You would have never found this out if you didn’t talk to them.  Plus they are very friendly and motivated to talk to you.   Learn the art of asking the right questions, and not lingering any longer than is necessary – there is so much to see!
  4. Tweet your experiences with the #DF15 hashtag.  You’d be surprised how many people follow this hashtag, and it helps those who can’t attend to feel like they are part of it.
  5. If you decide to attend the keynotes, get there EARLY.  Consider an hour early for the main keynote as it always ends up in overflow.  You can watch the keynotes recorded, but it’s like watching star wars at home vs. on the big screen.  You work hard all year long, and a live keynote is a chance to recharge yourself and be inspired.
  6. Get excited about all the amazing demos, but remember they are just demos.  They may include features which aren’t generally available yet, or be the product of tons of custom work.  What you see might not be exactly what you get when you “open the box” when you get back home.  They represent what is possible, perhaps in the future.  They don’t always represent the current offering.
  7. The extra-curricular events put on by salesforce partners are a great networking opportunity, and provide free food and open bars.  Be sure to check out at least one of these, and enjoy in moderation.  They add a unique dimension to your dreamforce experience.  Keep an eye out for ones which provide products or services you are actually interested in, and conversation will flow naturally around this.
  8. Be careful with sessions in different buildings on campus.  For example Moscone West to Palace Hotel is a long, brisk walk to do if you have back to back sessions.  Some exercise if good, but you don’t want all your sessions to be spread out in this way.
  9. There are different free lunches to be had in different buildings.  If you happen to be in a campus hotel with sessions around lunch time, you may get something unique which isn’t offered in the Moscone area.
  10. Wifi and cellular networks become saturated to the point where they don’t work.  Find out how to change your phone settings to fall back from LTE to 4G->3G->Edge.  Using the older networks will often work when the newer ones fail.  Slow connection is better than no connection.  Don’t forget to switch it back, though!

In addition to this list, there is a Dreamforce Trail on Trailhead.  Trailhead is the new salesforce learning path tool which makes learning interactive and fun.  The dreamforce trail will teach you a ton of good information you need to know to have a successful dreamforce experience.  It will also let you get your feet wet with Trailhead if you haven’t used it before.  You earn a badge for completing it, which will make you want to learn more and earn more badges in other areas of salesforce.

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