Julian Wraith

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SDL Tridion MVP Weekend

Code, surfing and why you shouldn’t fly with TAP!

On Thursday the 2011 MVP weekend started with 11 of the 15 MVPs, or Most Valued Professionals, flying in from across the globe to hotel by the sea near Lisbon (technically, some of the 11 are community builders which are a sort of MVP for SDL employees). If you are not familiar with what an SDL Tridion MVP is then, in short, it is a person who distinguishes themselves by sharing their knowledge over and above what their role demands. They can be anyone from any discipline but they must of course share SDL Tridion knowledge and promote the SDL Tridion community.

Sharing is not an easy thing to do and I, like many of the MVPs, have a busy job. But on the whole the MVPs are contributing to the community and our efforts grow steadily each year as we get more and more familiar of not only what it takes to be an MVP but also what it takes to show it. To quote Tom Jones by Henry Fielding  “Make sure Tom that your actions are not all good, take care that they appear good as well.”  Quoting is very fake elitist sort of thing to do, people do that to sound smart so before any one gets any ideas about me, I watched the BBC adaptation on DVD; the phrase just stuck with me.

Over the week and eventual weekend, the MVPs have been discussing, planning and coding their hearts out from dawn till dusk it what might be describe as a little calmer weekend compared to last year. The coding outcome is the beginning of the rebuilding of the SDL Tridion PowerTools; a hugely popular and useful set of tools to go with any SDL Tridion implementation. The current version does not run on 2011 since 2011 had a graphical interface overhaul allot of the dependencies have since vanished and thus a rebuild is required. More about this in another post but none the less I must mention that the project is looking for volunteers from any part of the community that would like to write a PowerTool or just help with testing.

What little time left of the weekend was spent relaxing on the beach or in Lisbon. The hotel where the MVPs stayed is on the Atlantic coast of Portugal near to Lisbon – or technically nearer to Cascais, a town which looks like a smaller version of Monaco. The hotel, an old fort is shouldered on either side by golden sand beaches with some of the biggest waves I have even seen (ok, I have not really seen _that_ many waves up this close). But something towards 3 meters is enough to knock myself and 10 other MVPs back onto the shore like slightly disgruntled penguins.

The flights we took down to Portugal were with the airline TAP. An airline, much like Alitalia, that has a troubled existence of bankruptcy, sale, cut back etc. Leaving Amsterdam proved to be our first challenge of the weekend with the check-in line taking nearly an hour to check-in a handful of customers. For many, online check-In had not worked. For one of us, it had not worked because the ticket he had did not actually exist. Making the plane via the originally, but ultimately incorrect gate, we boarded with a minute to spare and promptly sat waiting, as waiting turned into a delay of 30 minutes. Why did I run again? I can run, when I need to – and quicker than you would expect – but it is not something I do on a regular basis and needless to say, I took some time to recover. Having made it to Lisbon airport still disgruntled by the rushing in the morning, we were approached by Jose of the local baggage handling firm. The airline, he informed us, had left my bag in Amsterdam because the plane was too heavy. I know I do not pack light but I felt, for a moment, slightly offended until I found out nine other people were in the same boat. Directed off to lost property to fill in the appropriate forms, Jose, who magically reappeared in the lost property office, assure me that the bag would make it on the next flight at 2 PM and would probably, would be at my hotel by 8 PM. In the meantime, fellow MVP, Peter had discovered that his bag was also nowhere to be seen and that, after visiting lost property, it was nowhere to be found. Both bags turned up at around 10 PM that evening, much to our relief.

The flight back, Peter remarked, “would hopefully not be as bad as the way to Lisbon.” Never could words be further from the truth. On Sunday night I slept in a hotel in Costa da Caparica, Almada; an area on the other side of the river from Lisbon. Not many might know this, but Lisbon has alot in common with San Francisco; steep hills, funny little trams, a prison on an island and a Golden Gate Bridge (known as the 25th April Bridge) and it is on one end of this look alike bridge that Almada is situated and it is also where TAP has decided to put its refugee passengers from the evening’s antics.

Firecrews standing by...

Firstly the flight was delayed by 45 minutes and then no sooner as we were bussed out to the plane, we were bussed right back to the terminal where we were “debussed” back into the terminal, only for three minutes later to be “rebussed” and taken back to the plane; the pilot, having changed his mind about whether not we would be allowed to fly with him. After take-off I began to sense that things were not completely good. The sensation of the landing gear going in, then out, then in again did not seem to fit, but then was probably I misinterpreting the various groans, creeks and clunks of the aging Fokker 100 (Jose from lost property told me about these aging aircraft, it seemed he was a plane buff too as well as a bag finding bearer of bad tidings). The second thing that did not seem right was that the steward, when signalled he could get up, got up, but then came back again and sat down. Normally they run into a frenzy of getting coffee ready. As it turned out, the pilot had discovered that the landing gear would not go up correctly (do I fly too much?) and would have to return to the airport; the steward clarified for me that the problem was only that it did not go up, not that it would not go down so I was somewhat relieved.  Standard operating procedure for such a situation is that the stewards hand out a cups of water – something akin to men boiling water when a baby will be born, an act whilst moderately useful is more designed to keep people busy – and the pilot needs to lose fuel and that takes about an hour. After that hour we returned somewhat nervously to the airport. The landing was smooth and with a big sigh of relief the pilot got his customary round of applause from the passengers for saving them from a fiery death.

After we were bussed back to the terminal, we stood in the exit of the arrivals (I got the hint immediately). The staff of TAP then tried to organize the situation. This they did by starting a stock market style trading frenzy of boarding passes and negotiations about bags and changing the flights. With my name, they will rarely say it right and I was tuned into all 15 variations that people use (mostly variations that are other names e.g. Wright). With shock and awe I heard my name correctly pronounced and I squeezed my way through to the hand holding up the ticket. The Portuguese are not that tall on average and surrounded by 50 Dutch, who are average allot taller, the only thing I could see was that hand. After much handing around and waiting to get my own bag I followed a trio of feisty brunet, brown eyed Portuguese TAP ground crew who, on the whole, looked much like each other. One declared in a loud voice normally reserved for large groups of Japanese tourists, that “those going to Amsterdam should follow her”. We continued to follow the three as the “argued” and grumped at each other as to how the whole situation was developing. As I looked and glanced around I was shocked to witness the TAP ground crew equivalent of a “Thach Weave”, an aerobatic manoeuvre where those on the left split right and those on the right split left (leaving the picture of interlocking weave). Which one of these motor mouths was I to follow again? I stuck it out only heading in the same direction hoping that I had chosen correctly. I did and at least for the time being I was on a bus going to a hotel. The hotel was 30 minutes away and I did at points wonder if I was on the right bus going to a hotel or a bus taking up to Amsterdam. I had given up caring and was only looking forward to a hot shower and some sleep.

For the weekend, I would like to thank Nuno Linhares. His dedication and devotion to knowledge sharing over and above what his job already asks (which is over and above what is normal) is amazing. A great host and an awesome guy; just don’t let him borrow your car…

[Update] The flight “drama” made the news.

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