Month: June 2011

Tech Talk Live, Dashlet Challenge, & other Alfresco community events

Just wanted to clue you in to some upcoming Alfresco events in case you missed them via other channels.

Tech Talk Live Reloaded

We’re going to start doing Tech Talk Live webinars again. In the past these webinars were run by Luis and Yong pretty much on a weekly basis. They typically started out with a short presentation on some topic and then opened up to general technical discussion. We’re going to start these back up, but we’ll do them monthly (at least to start out) on the first Wednesday of each month and we’re going to rotate the Alfresco engineers that participate.

The first call will be Wednesday, July 6th. Will Abson is going to talk about Share Extras and then field questions on Share dashlet development and other customizations. Get more information on the event details page.

Community Vision and Plan

I’ve presented a vision and plan for the Alfresco community to the rest of the senior management team at Alfresco, and recently I’ve been sharing that presentation with members of the community. On July 7th, I’ll be sharing it more broadly in a webinar. I’d really like as many members of the community to attend as possible and then provide me with feedback on the plan. Sign up for the webinar here.

Intro to Alfresco Development

On July 20th I’ll be giving a talk for people new to the Alfresco platform. We’ll be walking through the major sub-systems and taking a high-level look at the development model. Again, this is aimed a beginners–this is not a technical deep dive. Sign up for the webinar here.

Take the Dashlet Challenge

Speaking of writing code, got any cool ideas for Alfresco Share dashlets? If you code it up, make it available as open source, and send a pointer to your project to, you could win an iPad2. Your dashlet has to run on either Community or Enterprise 3.4 and will be judged on the basis of creativity, business applicability, code quality, and packaging. Will Abson, Mike Vertal (RivetLogic), and I will pick the winner. The contest runs until the end of August, so get coding. More details on the contest can be found here.

Alfresco launches Team for Departments and SMBs

Alfresco launched a new offering yesterday called Alfresco Team. Team is an attempt by Alfresco to reach out to departments and smaller organizations who would like a supported tool for collaboration, but don’t have the number of users, volume of documents, or support level requirements necessary to justify an Enterprise support subscription for Alfresco Share.

Team is essentially Alfresco Share plus some new features that haven’t yet made it into the Share product. Team will not be a separate code base going forward. After the next release of Alfresco, the features should be on parity and the difference between Team and Share will be the cost (which, for Team, is based on number of users and number of documents) and support levels.

Team can be downloaded and run on-premise, on the customer’s own cloud infrastructure (public or private), or on Bitnami’s cloud infrastructure. It is not yet offered as true SaaS–the customer must install and maintain the software. We will likely see a true SaaS offering of Team later this year.

In July, Alfresco will be releasing iOS apps for Team that run on both iPad and iPhone. I haven’t yet played with these but the use case is primarily around content creation and capture, so that collaborators can grab content (from a camera, from iWork, etc.) and get it into the Team repository where it can be routed, reviewed, updated, and commented on by the rest of the team members.

Once the new Team features are added in to Share, the iOS apps will probably work with Share as well (not certain, but likely).

We’re going to release the iOS code as open source so that you’ll be able to take it, tweak it, re-brand it, or develop new Alfresco-centric mobile apps with it. I’ll give you more details on that as we get closer.

One early concern partners had was whether or not they would be able to implement and customize Alfresco Team. The answer is a qualified “yes”. Partners can install the product for clients, but customization is limited to creating custom themes or adding new mash-up style dashlets. In other words, if you want to change how the document library works in Team, you can’t do it. There’s a complete list of what customizations can and cannot be done here. It’s important to note that this isn’t really a partner issue–customers are subject to the same list. It’s really about keeping support costs down due to the lower price point.

So, for partners, the reaction to the new offering will probably be lukewarm based on the limited opportunities for big projects to happen around Team, although I suspect we’ll see a fair number of folks doing short Team install and config engagements. One of the nice things about Team is that because it is Share, partners already know how to install it and create add-ons for it.

I see Team as an opportunity for Alfresco to find new use cases and functionality for Share, which will improve both the Community and Enterprise editions of the Share product, and as a way to get Alfresco in front of a lot more people. What will be interesting to see is if there is enough room in the market between extremely low cost collaboration tools like Basecamp and relatively higher-cost, higher-end tools like Alfresco Team.

Seven tips after five years working from home

Yesterday morning I was enjoying a bike ride before work and it occurred to me that this month marks my fifth year of working from home. As with all things in life, there are both good and bad aspects to working remotely, but on the whole I think working from home nets out to a Good Thing: I see more of my family, I spend less time and money on driving, and I’m healthier.

Most of these didn’t take five years to figure out, but here they are anyway: Seven Tips on Working From Home:

Tip #1: Take a shower and get dressed, for crying out loud

I know there are a lot of people that like to work from home in their pajamas, but I don’t see how they do that consistently. Can you really have a serious conference call about global strategy when you’ve got Yoda staring up at you from your lounge pants? Plus, I need that shower to wake me up. And, while they may be shorts and a t-shirt, putting clothes on is part of getting into the “I’m working” mindset for you and a good external signal to others around you.

Tip #2: Set expectations with your kids

My kids were 5 and 8 when I started working from home. That meant both were in school for most of the day for most of the year. The other key factor is that they were old enough to understand that Dad’s at home during the day to work, not to play. Younger kids don’t get that at all. And little kids don’t quickly grasp the all-critical Signs of Interrupt-ability:

  • Door Open = Come on in.
  • Door Closed = Think twice!
  • Door Closed with Headphones On = Interrupt only if you are bleeding uncontrollably or the house is on fire, also realizing that it may take several minutes for Dad to come out of The Zone such that he can form words and coherent thoughts.

Tip #3: Set expectations with your spouse/partner/roommate

Similar to the previous point, you’ve got to set some ground rules with your mate. For example, I don’t answer the door or the home phone during work hours. Or work on honey-do’s. Or tell one sibling to stop bugging the other. Or figure out why the printer doesn’t work. When I’m in work mode, I’m at work. Sure, I’m happy to have lunch with the rest of the fam or take a quick break to find out how the kids’ day at school went–that’s part of the appeal to working from home–but my family understands the limits of what they can get away with when I’m in the home office.

Tip #4: Establish a clean break between work and non-work modes

A common complaint from the families of people who work from home is that “they work all of the time”. It is easy to fall into that pattern. I think you’ve got to already have a handle on work-life balance before you start working from home or it can become a bigger problem. It helps if you have space you can dedicate as your work area and a time window you can designate as work-time and try to stick to that. When you are in serious work mode, don’t work from the couch. And on the weekends, don’t hang out in your office. Sure, in crunch times you’ll burn the midnight oil, but don’t let that be all of the time. And, if it is any consolation to your family, at least when you are working all night, you don’t have to drive home in the wee hours.

Tip #5: Collaborate with co-workers/clients in-person from time-to-time

It’s important to form bonds with the rest of your teammates. You can do this when you collaborate with remote tools like Skype and Webex, but it happens much faster in-person. My job involves a lot of travel, so I get plenty of opportunities for face-time with colleagues. When I collaborate remotely with people I don’t see in-person often, I make sure some part of our online collaboration is spent talking about non-work stuff. On client projects, we always tried to be on-site at the start of a project and again at major milestones.

Tip #6: Get out of the house

When your commute is measured in steps, not miles, it is easy to get cabin fever. Staring at the same four walls every day can be a drag. In America, our average day contains an appallingly low amount of walking or other physical activity. Working from home can compound the problem–you’re not getting that vigorous walk from the parking garage to the cubicle twice a day, after all! I try to go out to lunch with friends or family, ride my bike or go for a walk, or attend meetups or networking events. Anything to get out of the house, interact with people, and get the blood flowing. A nice thing about working from home is that it is easier to do a mid-day exercise break, whereas most people in a traditional office have to settle for working out before or after work. If you can take advantage of the opportunity for more exercise and combine that with less eating out, I think working from home can have positive health effects.

Tip #7: Invest in tools

If your company relies on a remote workforce you need to make sure you are providing top-notch tools and infrastructure to facilitate that (disclaimer: I work for a software company that produces content management and collaboration tools). At Optaros, we were a globally distributed team. We used Alfresco for document management, but for project collaboration we used Trac because, although Alfresco Share is awesome for content collaboration, it lacks some of the tools critical for collaborating on code-based projects, like source code control integration and automatically-logged real-time chat. (Those would actually make good community contributions, by the way, hint, hint). Regardless of what you use, the point is, there are a lot of great tools out there (both on-premise and SaaS) that can really make remote teams hum, and this ought to be considered critical infrastructure at your company.

So, overall, it’s been a productive and happy five years working from home and it would be hard to change now. I do miss the higher level of face-time with my teammates, and actually, sometimes I miss the drive–that’s when I did most of my music listening and thinking about the day. But the pros outweigh the cons, for sure.

How about you? Got any working from home tips I’ve missed?

Enjoyed the Atlanta Alfresco Meetup last week

Last week I joined about 15 other Alfresco fanatics for the Atlanta Alfresco Meetup. The attendees braved some seriously crappy weather to attend. We’re talking about trees falling on roads and power outages so I was pleasantly surprised it was more than just me and the guys who work in the building that showed up.

I gave a talk on my high-level plan for the Alfresco Community. Then, Dimy Jeannot of Armedia gave a project walkthrough based on some work they did with Alfresco Web Quick Start, the Web Editor Framework, Google Fusion Tables, and It was a good progression from business need to code. I think this particular meetup group is looking to get even more hands-on in the future–they’ve got a hack-a-thon style get together in the works.

Thanks to Dimy and Doug Bock for organizing the meetup and to Jim Nasr of Armedia for providing the location and snacks. I look forward to more great events from this group in the future.

This meetup was what I hope will be the start of several locally-driven Alfresco meetups happening around the world (see “Getting Involved with a Local Alfresco Community“). I know that the Boston, Washington, D.C., and Southern California groups are all planning on getting together soon. I’ll be at “Alfresco Day” in Madrid on June 22nd, which is an Alfresco-led event. I’m hoping to see (and attend) locally-driven Alfresco meetups in Spain and other parts of Europe later this year. South Africa is also planning an event that I’m really excited about.

If there’s not already a meetup in your corner of the world, put your name on the Alfresco Meetups Everywhere page and you can collaborate with others to get one started.