Tag Archives: sitecore

A quick guide on reloading your Sitecore xDB contact on (or after) every request

In our road towards realtime personalization, we were in need of reloading our xDB contact on every request, as external systems might have updated several facets with information that could or should be used within Sitecore. Out of the box, this does not happen.

Why changes to the contact xDB do not reflect to the contact in Sitecore

The problem within Sitecore lies within how and when xDB contacts are retrieved from the xDB. let’s take a look at the diagram below:

In the sequence diagram, it becomes clear that after the start of the Session, a contact will be retrieved from the xDB. This is the only time in de default lifecycle of a session that this happens, which means that, whenever an update to the xDB contact will be written to the xDB, this change does not reflect the state within the private session database. In order to be able to reflect those changes, the contact needs to be reloaded. This can be done using the following code:

The code consists of three parts:

Ensure that the contact exists.

When the “IsNew” property has been set to true, the contact only exists in the Sitecore environment. An explicit save is needed, before the contact can be reloaded. This is only the case when the visitor doesn’t send a SC_GLOBAL_ANALYTICS_COOKIE – this is a persistent cookie which is stored over sessions and contains an identifier which can be used to identiy a user in the xDB. When this information is not available, the contact will be marked as “IsNew”. whenever a user leaves information, which can be used to identify this user, a merge of contacts can be executed.

Remove the contact from the current session

By removing a contact entirely from the current session, his interactions and goals will be saved, but the contact details and its facets will be reloaded upon the next request.

Explicitly reload the contact

When the contact is removed from the session, the contact can be reloaded explicitly. By removing the contact from the session at the start of the request and reloading that same contact immediately, all the latest, fresh information for this contact, with its facets, will be made availabe to sitecore.

Summary

The default working of Sitecore loads a contact into the session, but does not sync updates to the xDB immediately to Sitecore. By explicitly removing and reloading the contact at the start of a request, all the latest changes to a contact can be made availabe to sitecore. This data can be used to for, for example, smart personalizations.

How to run Azure DevOps hosted (Linux) build agents as private agents (and be able to scale them accordingly)

Lately, I was preparing for a talk on Azure DevOps for the Sitecore community. For this talk I wanted to talk about scaling up and scaling out of build agents and compare the performance of different sized build agents on larger projects. Due to some limitations on the hosted Azure DevOps build agents, I had to create my own build agents. This blogpost will explain why I had to create my own agents and how I did this without too much effort. TLDR: just run a packer script to create your own private build agents

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Sitecore analytics, cookie consent and personalization isn’t a great match – learn how to keep Sitecore functional without breaking the law!

Due to different laws (European as well as local legislation) companies have be very conversative in how they process data, while they have to take care on how they track people. People have to consent whether or not they will be tracked or not. Within Siecore, you might do both. This blogpost shares how to use your cookie consent strategy within Sitecore. In short: There are three level of cookies: Functional, analytic and tracking cookies. Without responding to the cookie consent, Only functional cookies are allowed, while analytics and tracking cookies is forbidden until a user gives approval for these kinds of functionality. Within Sitecore, this is hard to implement, due to the internal workings of Sitecore analytics and (from what I think) Sitecore bug. This blogpost explains why this is hard and how to solve this.

PS: Different companies classify the Sitecore cookies under different levels. I have seen classifications of “Functional”, “Analytics” and “Tracking”. I won’t judge any choice, as I am not a person with a legal background and can’t judge on what all companies implement to prevent data from being collected. This is my personal view and the approach should be applicable to every level. This blogpost applies to Sitecore 9.X Continue reading

Sitecore on Azure – design considerations to be more cost efficient and have more performance

After working for quite a while with a lot of Sitecore workloads on Azure, we have built up quite some experience with regards to scale and costs management. Although Sitecore has some predefined topologies, there may be various reasons why they will work or won’t work for you. From what we have seem, those topologies are not the most costs effective ones and having different requirements might lead to different choices in terms of what tier is right for you. This series of blogposts gives an overview of choices that could be made and a small indication of the costs estimation for two of the Sitecore of Azure workloads (the Single and Large setup). Please note that some choices might only be valuable for XP or only for XM, or even not be beneficial at all, as there is not cookie-cutter solution for everything. Continue reading

JSS beginner issues: Placeholder ‘xxx’ was not found in the current rendering data

Currently, I am researching JSS and I must say: it’s great. So far, I ran into a few issues and although the documentation is great (I would recommend everyone to checkout the styleguide in the default app!), I am sure that people will run into the same issues as I did. I’ll share short blogpost on these issues. Today number 1:
‘Placeholder ‘xxx’ was not found in the current rendering data’
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Sitecore Security #4: Serve your site securely over https with Let’s Encrypt

In a previous blogpost about the Http Strict Transport Security I explained how to force connections to make use of https to encrypt connections. A lot of people think it’s expensive, hard to implement and slow. This blogpost shows off how you can get a free, secure certificate, get your Sitecore site up-and-running in no more than 5 minutes, just by using the Let’s Encrypt service. Source-code can be found here on Github.

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Realtime personalization monitoring with Sitecore and google analytics

Some of our bigger sites, which don’t run on Sitecore yet, use google analytics to realtime monitor events that happen on a website, think about forms that are submitted and personalizations that are shown to a specific user. Most of the time, external (javascript) tooling is used to inject those personalizations and an event needs to be implemented which will be send to google analytics to register that event. In Sitecore, we can implement those google analytics events by including a javascript in our razor views, but, how can we tell whether or not the component that was shown was part of a personalization flow? Was a custom datasource selected, was the completed component rendered as a personalization? This blogpost series learns you on how to determine what kind of personalizations where exposed to a user and how to tell external systems about those events. It turned out that a (beautiful) pattern can be used that Sitecore itself already introduced themselves a while ago.

All sourcecode can be found here on github

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Sitecore Security #1: How to replace the password hashing algorithm

Let’s face it: It’s a business nowadays to hack sites, retrieve personal information and sell them on the black markets, think of usernames, passwords, credit card details and-so-on. Often, this data is stolen using SQL injection attacks, which may be possible to your Sitecore site as well, thus, it’s better to be safe than sorry. As Sitecore ships with an old hashing algorithm to handle Sitecore users login, it’s time to replace the hashing algorithm as well. When having a fresh installation, this isn’t much of an issue, but for existing installations, you will face the challenge on upgrading your existing users, because the password hashing algorithm will be changed. This blogpost will show how to upgrade the hashing algorithm, describe those challenges, and tell you how to increase your Sitecore security.

Find the sources on https://github.com/BasLijten/SitecoreDefaultMembershipProvider for use on your own Sitecore environment!

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