Month: October 2007

Go go gadget: JBoss Portal adds Google Gadget capability

InfoWorld says the latest version of JBoss Portal allows you to drop in Google Gadgets. I haven’t tried it out yet but I like the concept. The JBoss Portal Portlet Catalog is rather sparse (as is the collection of open source JSR-168 portlets in general as pointed out by Christopher Laprun) so adding to the collection of what’s effectively available out-of-the-box is a Good Thing.

I suppose people using JBoss Portal for consumer facing sites will make the most use of the Google Gadget capability at first. I doubt internal-facing enterprise portals have much use for the Bart Simpson Quote of the Day gadget. From an enterprise perspective, what we’ll probably see is the same thing Laprun points out with regard to JSR-168 portlets–companies will leverage the Google Gadget API to develop their own internal gadgets, but may not be able (or willing) to make them freely available to the community.

Exposing reports & analytics through portal gets easier

CBR Online is reporting that Liferay, an open source portal, and Pentaho, an open source business intelligence platform, are working on better integration between the two products. This is good news to Enterprise clients who often want to expose BI data such as reports and dashboards to users across the company via the web. Tighter integration through JSR-168 will make it easier to personalize and deliver Pentaho portlets through Liferay.

Mixing BI, or quantitative data and technologies, with ECM, which is more qualitative, can be powerful. Here are a couple of examples. Clients sometimes ask about reporting capabilities in Alfresco. Alfresco has pretty granular auditing capabilities. When you enable it, events get written into a set of auditing tables in your relational database. Once that happens, it’s simply a matter of using a reporting or BI tool, like Pentaho, to create all the reports you might need, and you could deliver them via your Liferay portal.

Thinking more strategically, maybe you want to monitor certain analytical aspects of your business and convene a response team if any metrics fall below a certain level. You could do that with a Liferay-Pentaho-Alfresco solution. Pentaho could generate the reports and fire of an event when a certain metric is reached. That event triggers an Alfresco workflow which routes a snapshot of the report through a workflow or creates a discussion thread in the Alfresco repository, setting permissions appropriately and notifying the members of the response team who can then use Pentaho’s analytic tools to slice-and-dice the data to their heart’s content.

Give Alfresco a REST!

UPDATE (2/2014): This tutorial has been updated. Please use the latest version rather than the one linked to in this post.

A REST API, that is. The latest in the Alfresco Developer Series is an Introduction to the Web Script Framework which shows you how to create your own REST API to the Alfresco repository. As usual, the article has Example Source Code you can download and try out on your own.

The intent of the article is to walk through some hands-on examples using Alfresco’s Web Script Framework which became available in the 2.1 release of the product. The article extends the “SomeCo Whitepapers” example started in the Custom Content Model and Custom Behavior articles by using Web Scripts to create a REST API for creating user-contributed ratings. Front-end developers wire an AJAX ratings widget to the REST API to allow users to rate whitepapers on the SomeCo web site.

Give it a read, try out the code, and let me know what you think.

Read more about the Alfresco Developer Series.

CIO magazine on what makes Alfresco different

Esther Schindler wrote a short article on about Alfresco with the premise that the presence of a marketing department and a PR firm makes them unique in the open source world. I liked how she summed up how Alfresco’s approach was different than many open source projects when she said, “Instead of a project that began with the attitude of ‘My Dad has a barn; let’s put on a play!’ the Alfresco team started with a core competency in content management and looked for new market opportunities”.

She also rightly identified Alfresco’s competition as Documentum, OpenText, and FileNet rather than Joomla, Plone, and Drupal although Microsoft (and anyone else on Gartner’s Mysterious Magic Quadrant) should be considered fair game as well.

But I don’t think they are unique in the larger realm of open source. There are many examples of commercial open source companies with much bigger marketing budgets than Alfresco’s, although in the ECM space, I can’t think of one.

InfoWorld reviews five open source CMS offerings

InfoWorld published a review of Alfresco, DotNetNuke, Plone, Drupal, and Joomla. Heck ranks Alfresco the highest out of the five, which is a good data point for people evaluating these products, but most folks should consider deeply the scenarios they will use the package for when making a decision because each package has a “fitness to purpose” that’s more important to consider than just “fit” alone.

For example, although the article gives a good high-level description of the pro’s and con’s of each package, there’s a more fundamental characteristic of Alfresco that makes comparison to the others an apples-to-oranges exercise. That characteristic is that unlike the others in the list, Alfresco isn’t focused on community-centric functionality. Can you build a community site that is managed by Alfresco and/or uses Alfresco as the back-end repository? Of course. And the new REST framework makes that even easier than it used to be. But you won’t find consumer-facing wiki, blog, or forum functionality out-of-the-box with Alfresco. In fact, you can take your entire web site, as-is, and manage it with Alfresco without any changes to the front-end code. That’s a fundamentally different model than the other packages evaluated.

So you should read the article. But when people ask you to compare Alfresco to Drupal, back them up a bit and instead, figure out the purpose and goal of the site and the business processes needed to manage it (the “how”) and then talk about the open source CMS options.