Reflecting on Umbraco CodeGarden 2024: Key Takeaways and Insights

Jonathan Wood, .Net Developer,

Wow what a week! I now understand the meaning of “CodeGarden blues” after a fantastic week of talks at CodeGarden 2024. I’ve gained some valuable insight into the future of Umbraco and cutting-edge technologies that we can take advantage of back here at 26 DX. Now back from the city of Odense it’s time to reflect on some of the key takeaways from this jammed packed week. 

Keynote Highlights 

The opening keynote set the stage with an overview of Umbraco’s strategic direction and upcoming innovations.  

Among the announcements one standout was the new features being introduced to Umbraco Cloud. The first of which being configurable environment. Expected to roll out later this year, this will increase the flexibility of workstreams by allowing us to spin up new environments on the fly. The key advantage of configurable environment is that now large feature projects can be independently developed and tested minimising impact of ongoing development on the core project. 

Furthermore, with sustainability becoming ever so more prominent Umbraco Cloud will be releasing later this month the sustainability dashboard. This new dashboard will show the emissions generated from back-end computing so we can keep a closer eye to ensure we are being as carbon efficient as possible. 

Beyond the cloud the core Umbraco CMS recently launched version 14. In this version we see a complete rebuild of the back office using modern front-end technologies based on web components. This modularises the entire back office taking customisability to a new level making it easier to create bespoke solutions around our clients’ needs and completely customise the back-office to our hearts content.  

Along with the new back office a full management system is now available as part of the content delivery API first introduced in Umbraco 12. This further extends Umbraco’s headless capabilities to integrate with external systems and creating custom solutions. 

Blending AI with Umbraco and preventing scary hallucinations with AI platforms 

Two talks that showcased the intersection of AI and Umbraco were Jeffery Schoemaker’s "Blending AI with Umbraco: Unlocking Extraordinary Opportunities" and Matt Sutherland’s "Fighting Ghosts and Monsters: How We Prevent Scary Hallucinations in Our AI Platforms." 

Blending AI with Umbraco: Unlocking Extraordinary Opportunities 

Jeffery Schoemaker's session provided a deep dive into the future potential of AI within the Umbraco and his dreams of the future possibilities. He painted a picture of how AI could transform content management and streamline workflows for developers and editors alike. Jeffery also highlighted some current implementations and packages available currently with Umbraco to showcase what is currently possible such as AI assistants and content generators. 

The big standout of Jefferey’s talk was that he has taken one of his dreams and has made it a reality with the upcoming package called AI Contentbuddy. Hold onto your hats content editors, as this package will allow editors to import documents by leveraging AI. The package will allow editors to import the data into Umbraco filling out fields and creating blocks on the fly, which will accelerate editors’ ability to create new pages and make content changes. I personally can’t wait to see that package in action. 

Fighting Ghosts and Monsters: How We Prevent Scary Hallucinations in Our AI Platforms 

On the other side of the AI spectrum, Matt Sutherland's talk addressed the potential pitfalls and principles to follow by looking at horror stories from the recent past. Matt's showed a shocking history of where AI bias, hallucinations and poor-quality data, which has caused real world problems from HR systems to exposing medical information.  

To help us navigate these challenges, Matt provided a checklist for 3rd party AI adoption: 

  1. Feedback Process: Is there a mechanism for ongoing training and improvement of the model? 
  2. Confidence Levels: Are confidence levels provided to understand the certainty of the AI’s predictions? 
  3. Governance and Control: Does the system include governance, controlled acceptance, and appropriate gateways? 
  4. Context Awareness: Does it allow for all relevant context points to be considered where possible? 

Additionally, Matt also emphasizes 5 key principles to follow for developing reliable AI systems: 

  • High-Quality Data: Ensure the AI is trained on large volumes of high-quality data. The accuracy and performance of AI models heavily depend on the data they are fed. 
  • Task Representation: The system should accurately represent the specific task it is designed to perform, aligning its functionality with real-world needs. 
  • Diverse Data: Use data that is diverse and covers a wide range of scenarios and variations to minimize bias and improve generalizability. 
  • Annotated Data: Provide clearly annotated data for accurate guidance and classification, helping the AI to learn from well-defined examples. 
  • Human Values: Incorporate human values and ethical considerations into the design to ensure the AI’s decisions align with societal norms and expectations. 

By adhering to these principles, we can look to mitigate the risks associated with AI hallucinations and biases, ensuring our AI platforms are reliable, ethical, and effective. 

Umbraco Deploy:  a deep dive into migrating between major versions 

Ronald Barendse, from Umbraco HQ, talk on the new updates of Umbraco deploy took us on a deep dive of the internal working of Umbraco Deploy but also the exciting new advancements. One of the most significant is support for content migrations from Umbraco 7 onwards.  

The migration feature allows us to take content from an old version of Umbraco and import the data into a new major version, which previously would have been a massive undertaking. Using artifact and property editor migrators we can now take data from obsolete community packages and Umbraco field types in-order to convert them in code to be migrated into a new version of the CMS. 

This capability is particularly beneficial for projects involving large content structures. For agencies like 26 DX, it means we can migrate substantial amounts of content for our clients more efficiently, reducing both the time and resources required. 

Bake Don’t Fry – Astro & the content delivery API 

In addition to offering delicious pastries, Adam Prendergast talk on integrating Astro with the content delivery API really opened our world to the possibilities of headless solutions using Umbraco. For 26 DX this provides a great opportunity to look at enhancing our headless offerings for clients looking to embrace a headless architecture. 

Astro: A Fast Framework for Content-Driven Websites 

Astro is a blazing-fast web framework designed for content-driven websites. It excels at static site generation (SSG), making it an excellent choice for creating lightweight, efficient websites. When combined with the Umbraco Content Delivery API, Astro becomes a powerful tool for building fast and modern web solutions. 

Integrating Astro with Umbraco 

Adam walked us through the process of setting up Astro to work seamlessly with the Umbraco Content Delivery API. This integration allows developers to leverage Umbraco’s robust content management capabilities while utilizing Astro’s performance advantages for delivering content. 

He also showcased some useful community packages that further streamline the integration between Umbraco and Astro. These packages simplify the setup and enhance the functionality of headless Umbraco sites, making it easier to pull content from Umbraco and render it using Astro. 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Improving the architecture of an existing site 

Heather Floyd's talk really hammered home how we can look at sites to cleanup and prevent sites from becoming “frankensites” that have morphed over the years from continuous development and multiple developers.  

Heather showed how some simple techniques that can be used to keep sites clean and future proof builds to stop cluttering of projects that inevitably cause projects to slow down overtime. There are some great learnings to be taken on how you ensure projects new and old remain clean and efficient. 

Wrapping Up CodeGarden 2024 

CodeGarden was a non-stop week of great talks and connecting with people far and wide from within the community. Though this a whistle stop tour of some of the key talks I took away, it barely scratches the surface from what was to offer this year. CodeGarden didn’t fail to impress, and I’m looking forward to taking these learnings into 26 DX to further leverage the great power of Umbraco. 

Thank you to the team at Umbraco that make CodeGarden possible. #h5yr 

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