We recently sponsored and attended Umbraco Spark, the Bristol-based Umbraco conference that focuses on forward-thinking and technical innovation.

In recent days and weeks, the calendar for technical conferences and events has been drastically changed with postponements and cancellations. And that looks set to continue for the immediate future.

The Umbraco community was rocked when Umbraco HQ announced the cancellation of Codegarden, their flagship annual conference in Denmark.

Umbraco Spark

Umbraco Spark logo

But a few of our Umbraco web development team, along with over 160 other attendees, were fortunate enough to attend the second Umbraco Spark in early March. The Bristol-based conference focuses on development, forward-thinking and technical innovation in Umbraco and the wider subject of web development.

We, at Rock Solid Knowledge, were also pleased to be an event partner and sponsor, just one of the ways we are giving back to our wonderful Umbraco community.

The conference

Bristol Floating Harbour in glorious sunshine and blue skies

Bristol was in fine form when everyone woke up for the one-day conference. Glorious weather and clear blue skies gave the attendees a chipper bounce as they began to file into the M-Shed for the day ahead.

Main conference room at M-Shed, Bristol

After the warm welcome from Pete Williams of Gibe Digital, the conference opened with a talk about how C# handles dates and times by Jon Skeet from Google. It became clear that C# could afford to handle dates and times a whole lot better than it currently does, with the many different calendar systems, formats and time zones to consider.

If you are interested in using better dates and times with your C# project, I recommend looking at Noda Time, a .NET API created in part by Jon Skeet.

Track two listings for the conference talks

As the conference diverged into two different tracks and rooms, our development team also split to cover topics that they found most interesting and insightful.

Simplifying eCommerce with Vendr

Matt Brailsford started the track two talks by demonstrating how Vendr, his new ecommerce package for Umbraco, could be integrated with an existing brochure site to start being able to sell products online.

We are keen to be early adopters of using Vendr with Umbraco for our potential ecommerce projects. It was exciting to see what the product had to offer and how it could be used with existing Umbraco solutions to add ecommerce functionality quickly.


Umbraco has a couple of YouTube celebrities in Callum and Marcin of umbraCoffee fame. Special guests, including Jon Skeet, were invited to discuss Umbraco Spark, the talks and the diversity of these types of events.

The live broadcast is available to re-watch on YouTube.

High Performance Querying of Data in Umbraco v8

Next up on track two was performance analysis and comparison of querying data using Umbraco v7 and v8. Tim Payne and Paul Seal compared both versions of Umbraco to identify the performance improvements and benefits in the latest version of the content management system (CMS).

Most notably, LINQ querying with Umbraco v8 has significantly improved and is by far the ideal choice when doing less intense content filtering and searching.

Track one listings for the conference talks

Umbraco on .NET Core Status

One of the biggest changes in the .NET world in recent years is the introduction of .NET Core. At Rock Solid Knowledge, we are helping with the migration of Umbraco from .NET Framework to .NET Core by contributing some time from our very own Emma Garland and members of our identity team to the Unicore Team.

Bjarke Berg, software architect and developer at Umbraco HQ, explained the current road-map and progress status that has been made on the migration of Umbraco to .NET Core. It seems that the Unicore Team is on track to deliver an Umbraco backoffice built on .NET Core by the end of 2020.

How to Power-up a Customer Service Bot

Our senior software developer and Umbraco MVP, Emma Garland, took to the stage to talk about a project we have recently been working on at Rock Solid Knowledge. Emma has been using Microsoft LUIS machine learning with Umbraco to optimise customer service messaging and responses.

We will soon have a blog post and case study explaining the finer details, but the feedback for the talk was overwhelmingly positive.

The Road to Contentment: Making of a Killer Umbraco Package

As a co-organiser of umBristol, I regularly get to enjoy watching Lee Kelleher talk about Umbraco, packages and more. But this was a very open, emotional and thought-provoking talk about his coming to terms with what it takes to be a package developer when Umbraco introduced a new way to build packages.

Sometimes we forget that open source projects are created by developers who give up their free time. And sometimes we expect bug fixes for those open source projects when there really is no agreement or expectation to deliver them. If anything, if we can fix the issue ourselves then we should be contributing back to the source.

But Lee’s talk about his success as a package developer, and subsequent troubles with the introduction of Umbraco v8, was truly open and engaging. And to add a final cherry on the top of his stellar talk, he demonstrated his latest Umbraco package, Contentment.

Contentment is a fabulous library of packages aimed at making the Umbraco editing experience that little bit easier for developers and users. We look forward to using it on our future Umbraco solutions, and hopefully we can contribute back where needed.

Not a Keynote

To round-up the day of talks, discussions and conversations, Umbraco Chief Unicorn, Niels Hartvig, presented his thoughts and findings on what it meant to be innovative and creative.

With a look back at the inception and meaning of the word “innovation”, it was a nice insight in how developers can drive change and new thinking by re-imagining, experimenting and becoming more playful with our work.

Niels would normally present a keynote at conferences and other Umbraco events, but this was a break from the norm and something a bit different.

Overall, it was a good, positive finish to the conference talks and presentations.


After leaving the event, many of the attendees went to a local brewpub, Left Handed Giant, to continue to socialise, celebrate the conference and continue the discussion around development, Umbraco and innovation in technology.

It was an inspiring conference and an event we were proud to partner as a company. If you attended, we hope you had a fantastic time too!

Find out more about Umbraco Spark or please get in touch to see how we can help you and your Umbraco project.

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