Book Review: Development Blueprints

I picked up a copy of ‘ Development Blueprints’ on Friday and I wanted to share some of my first impressions. Development BlueprintsThe book contains five blueprints:

  1. Building a Salesforce community
  2. An online store using and Heroku
  3. A traditional CRM application
  4. A reporting system with custom dashboards
  5. A Mobile SDK application using Android and Microsoft Azure!

The first thing that surprised me was the technical breadth of the book, it’s not often you find one text that touches on, Android Development, Heroku, Azure and Angular.js.  On this basis I think  ‘Salesforce1 Development Blueprints’ may have been a more appropriate title.

The use of the word ‘Blueprint’ in the title of the book is, however, entirely accurate as these solutions are effectively reference architectures for the each of blueprint’s problem domain.  They are the starting point from which you could build out your own solutions.

The book’s foreword states that it is targeted at ‘Intermediate Visualforce developers’ but I think its audience is much greater than that. Readers with a non-Salesforce development background may find this book quite useful as it quickly demonstrates the nature and style of solutions that you can build on the Salesforce1 Platform.

It’s currently on sale thanks to a Packt deal, and for $10 the ebook version is fantastic value (and the book is still good value at full price).  You can buy it direct from Packt.


Visualforce: A Visual Reference Guide.

When I started working with Visualforce I found it quite time consuming to figure out what the various Visualforce tags and their options looked like when actually rendered on the page; I really wished that the tag reference included screenshots.

So, to help you out, that’s what I have done. I’ve put together some basic Visualforce tags and accompanying screenshots so you can:

  1.  see what that tag combination looks like
  2. flick through the screenshots looking for the UI you need and then check the code sample to see how to create it.

This document will be continually improved with additional examples, in the meantime I hope you find it useful!

Visualforce – A Visual Guide  (Version 1.0 – 80 pages, 6MB PDF)

URL encoding URLs in a Report.

Recently I had a slightly interesting requirement.

A URL field needed to be url encoded so that the report export could be directly imported into another system that couldn’t handle an un-encoded URL.

I would normally have handled that requirement with a formula field that called the URLENCODE function that you have in Visualforce but it turns out that function isn’t available to you when defining a formula field.

So I had to resort to this rather terrifying use of the ‘SUBSTITUTE’ function in defining a new formula field.  I thought I’d pass it on here for those who have similar needs.

'%21') , '#', '%23') , '$', '%24') , '&', '%26') , '\'', '%27') , '(', '%28'), ')', '%29') ,
 '*', '%2A') , '+', '%2B') , ',', '%2C') , '/', '%2F') , ':', '%3A') , ';', '%3B') 
, '=', '%3D') , '?', '%3F'), '@', '%40') , '[', '%5B') , ']', '%5D')

Maintaining your Salesforce Certifications….

How do I maintain my certification?

  • Each track you hold a certification in requires you to undertake maintenance exam each release.

    Certification Paths
    Click to Enlarge
  • The maintenance exam is a simple 15 minute (5-15 question) multiple choice exam booked via Web Assessor and undertaken without a proctor (i.e. at your desk, no supervision)

The Schedule

Every 12 months you need to pay a renewal fee to unlock the next 12 months maintenance exams.

Certification Maintenance Paths
Click to Enlarge


  • If you fall more than two releases behind, you will lose all your Certification’s in that and have to re-sit them all!
  • The fee is due 12 months after you passed your first exam for that track (i.e. Administrator or Developer)

What is Salesforce1? (in 82 words)

It is the culmination of at least 18 months engineering to put Salesforce on an API and mobile first footing for future development.

It is a responsive webapp which is also wrapped in a native iOS or Android container and shipped as ‘Salesforce1′ hybrid app.

It is an umbrella marketing term for the collection owned platforms.  It encompasses the traditional ‘’ platform that Salesforce1 is built on and also the existing  API/Platforms underpinning Pardot, ExactTarget, Heroku and others.

8 pieces of practical advice for starting your Career

Thinking of getting into in the new year?  It would be a great time as it has never been busier – is growing their business over 30% in revenue year on year and this success is flowing into the partner and customer ecosystem; my employer Cloud Sherpas has grown by over 300 staff in 2013 (and we’re still hiring ).

If you are thinking of jumping in a career here are some practical tips I wish people had told me when I first started out 3.5 years ago:

  1. Get a password manager and use it.
    1. Lastpass or 1Password, you are likely to get a LOT of usernames/passwords for different Salesforce orgs, these tools will help you.
  2. Register a Developer Edition that is your ‘home base’.
    1. You will register more developer editions over time, but I’ve got one I use as the basis of my ‘official’ identity on and its the place I do most of my training and self education.
  3. Get Certified
    1. Spend the money yourself or take advantage of any incentives your employer may offer.  This will repay you both in the knowledge you gain and in the eyes of potential employers.
  4. Register for Web Assessor with your  personal email address.
    1. You can’t change your web assessor password once you’ve registered with it, don’t be like me and be stuck with a username from 2 employers ago :)
  5. Get on twitter and follow, follow, follow!
    1. The official accounts are the starting point but there are lots of lists around with MVPs and Salesforce staff on them, following these people on Twitter will give you useful insights into what the community is doing.
  6. Save up for Dreamforce
    1. Book early for both accommodations and flights if you are going (And you should hope to go at least once) …  and by early, think… 10-12 months early!
  7. Always be learning – Read the manual…. and experiment
    1. Salesforce publishes so much information so it can be overwhelming, but it is vital you know the platform.  Reading the manuals and watching the videos is a start but nothing beats experimenting in your developer edition org.
  8. Go to your local user group
    1. And if there isn’t one, start one :)  I can introduce you to the right people if you need be.


7 Deadly Sins of the Developer (Told with Memes)

I thought this would be a fun way to get a few points across so I put this together some feedback from colleagues.

Each slide links to a background or more detail.