Category: Alfresco DevCon

Future of Alfresco Share Remains Foggy After DevCon

CORRECTION: The original version of this post attributed comments to John Knowles. John wasn’t at DevCon. The comments should have been attributed to Mark Heath, VP of Product Development. Also, the ADF announcement was at BeeCon 2016 in Brussels. Sorry for the mistake and thanks to alert readers for the correction.

This week Alfresco held a conference for its developer community in Lisbon, Portugal. Alfresco has been very focused on its new Alfresco Developer Framework (ADF) in terms of both marketing and engineering, and that was reflected in this year’s conference program.

However, there has been a lot of confusion and concern amongst customers and the rest of the community regarding the future of Share, the out-of-the-box web client that ships with Alfresco. In this post, I’m going to focus on why there is confusion, what, if anything, got cleared up during the conference, and speculate on what might happen going forward.

Summary of Customers’ Concerns

Alfresco Share was originally built using a proprietary framework called Surf. It was immediately controversial because even at that time (roughly 2009) there were widely-used frameworks that Alfresco could have chosen to build upon, but didn’t.

Fast forward to BeeCon 2016 in Brussels when Alfresco announced it would build a new framework featuring components based on the popular AngularJS framework. This was a welcome announcement because it painted an appealing vision of a future where a broader community of developers would be able to develop applications using well-known frameworks and established skills. But it also caused concern because, for the seven years prior, customers had been configuring and extending Alfresco Share in a myriad of ways ranging from small tweaks to massive custom applications. With Alfresco building a new developer framework, it seemed unlikely that Share, built on the old, proprietary framework, would have much of a future.

Another concern is about what a customer can expect when they install Alfresco in terms of base functionality. Alfresco Share was created when the company was going after Microsoft SharePoint, so it includes basic document management as well as some light collaboration features. A central question customers have is whether or not Alfresco will eventually replace Alfresco Share with something else, and, if so, will it address the “light collaboration” use case. Until this week Alfresco was largely silent on this point.

What We Learned about the Future of Share at DevCon

During the conference, Richard Esplin, one of Alfresco’s product managers, showed a slide that confirmed what had previously been speculated: Alfresco Share will be deprecated–some day. Most found this unsurprising, but it was the first time Alfresco had made a public statement to that effect.

This was touched upon again by Thomas DeMeo, Alfresco’s VP of Product Management. During the closing Q & A session he answered a question about the future of Share by saying (paraphrasing), “Will there be another Share? No there will not be another Share. But as the ADF continues to evolve we will release more components which could be used to build all kinds of apps”. I think some people heard, “There will be no Share replacement”, but I interpreted this as “There will not be a feature-by-feature port of Alfresco Share to ADF called Share” and my interpretation was confirmed by multiple high-level Alfresco employees, although I did not speak directly to Thomas about this.

What happened next seemed to reinforce the “Share is going away without a replacement” view. Mark Heath, who is VP of Product Development at Alfresco, said something like, “We want to be a platform company. We do not want to develop applications. We want to be the platform and let you guys develop applications.” Again, I am paraphrasing and was unable to find Heath to get a clarification, but discussions with employees indicate that’s pretty clearly how he feels.

So the messaging around the future of Share continues to be a bit of a mess. What we do know is that Share will go away some day, but we don’t know when. It could be years. What we also don’t know is what, if anything, will take its place.

What Might Happen Next

When Alfresco introduced Share, there was already a web client called Explorer. Just like Share, many customers had extended and customized Explorer. To help those clients, Alfresco kept both clients around for a long time until we eventually bid Explorer goodbye. There is no reason to think Alfresco will behave any differently this time around.

I realize Alfresco wants to be a platform company. But that doesn’t mean it can provide only a library of components and a couple of example applications unless it wants to radically alienate its existing customer base and go after a completely different market than it does now. Maybe that will be what happens over many years, but I don’t see it happening abruptly. So there will have to be some sort of Share replacement, even if Thomas doesn’t want to call it that and despite the fact that developing and supporting applications may not be ideal for a platform company.

Can you imagine implementing Alfresco for a customer and then saying, “Okay, everything is installed and working great. But before you can actually use it for anything, you’ll need to use these components to assemble an application that does what you want.” It would be like buying a car, except it only comes as a chassis, an engine, and four tires.

Alfresco points out that they are already providing at least two example applications built with the ADF. Those are helpful for developers, but a short time-to-value demands that a production-ready, supported, configurable, and extensible client be made available to customers out-of-the-box.

I suspect Alfresco will realize this and will ultimately provide it. If the past is prolog, the current “Example Content App” might evolve to be that thing.

If that does not happen, one or more of the following will happen:

  • Customers will cling to Alfresco Share for as long as possible and may ultimately delay its deprecation by threatening to not renew their support subscription unless Share support is continued.
  • Partners will start developing competing front-ends (funded by their clients). Of course alternative front-ends already exist, but you’ll see this increase, big-time.
  • The community might step up and organize around a true open source project that aims to approximate Alfresco Share, either with ADF or with their own components. I floated this idea on Twitter during the conference and it sparked a lot of discussion.
  • The Alfresco Share code base could fork. If Alfresco decides to end support for Alfresco Share before customers are ready, which I find highly unlikely, people who need it could carry it forward. A slight variation on this would be if Alfresco volunteered to make Share a community project as they’ve done with other products for which they’ve dropped support.
  • Customers could decide to migrate to some other vendor’s product.

There are many customers who don’t use Share at all. I suspect some within Alfresco believe that because many of their biggest clients don’t use Share anyway it wouldn’t be a big deal to sunset it without a replacement. I’m hoping that there’s a stronger contingent that realizes it’s not that simple and that there are a variety of customers using the platform. Alfresco can’t afford to walk away from customers who can’t or don’t want to develop and support their own custom apps for simple document management or light collaboration use cases.

The bottom line is that you should not count on Alfresco Share being around forever. This will take years to unfold, but we should all wrap our heads around that fact now and plan accordingly.

Photo Credit: Mark Gunn, CC by 2.0

Alfresco Software resurrects DevCon

Encouraged by the success of the independently-organized, developer-focused BeeCon conference, and seeking to continue its renewed focus on developers, Alfresco has decided to resurrect its own annual developer-focused event. This week Alfresco announced that DevCon will be held January 16 – 18 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Alfresco had previously given up on big, annual events, deciding instead to focus on smaller, one day events in local markets around the globe. These were primarily sales and marketing events focused on lead generation and did not include an open call for papers.

When the annual events were discontinued, the community stepped in. The Order of the Bee, a global community of Alfresco enthusiasts independent of Alfresco Software, Inc., held two successful conferences in 2016 and 2017. These were low-budget, non-profit affairs with a very high signal-to-noise ratio.

Despite being organized independently by the community, the Order of the Bee events were still heavily supported by Alfresco. The company paid for high-level sponsorships and sent many engineers, John Newton, and other staff to give talks at both Order of the Bee conferences.

The company’s interest in annual events isn’t the only thing to have come back around lately. In the early days, the company was very focused on developers. The repository was pitched as a key foundational technology to content-centric applications. Over time that focus blurred as the company tried to move up-market towards “solutions” and the marketing focus turned to business buyers. But the pendulum has swung back again, centered mainly around the Alfresco Development Framework, a set of components meant to make it easier for developers to build content and process centric applications. So it is no surprise that Alfresco would be interested in being the primary driver behind an annual developer-centric event.

The resurrection of DevCon by Alfresco should be good for the community as long as the event is able to hold on to its community and developer focus. They have invited The Order of the Bee to help with conference planning, so that will help. And, the community and developer outreach functions within Alfresco are now held by many former community members so that also increases its chance of success, at least from a community perspective.

The Alfresco community has always been strongest in Europe. For now, Lisbon is the only date announced. If it is successful, it’s possible we could see a North American date later in 2018, or perhaps they will alternate continents every other year.

The Call for Papers is open now. But if you want to speak, you’d better hurry. The deadline for submissions is Monday, October 23, 2017.

Join me in Spain for BeeCon, the community-organized Alfresco conference

Registration for BeeCon 2017 is now open. What is BeeCon? It’s a conference focused on Alfresco organized by The Order of the Bee, a grassroots community of Alfresco enthusiasts.

This year the conference is April 25 – 28. We’ll be in Zaragoza, Spain, a beautiful city about 1.5 hours by train from Madrid.

If you’ve ever been to Alfresco DevCon, the conference is a lot like that. The focus is on providing high-quality content free of sales pitches.

Despite being run by volunteers with costs kept to a minimum (it essentially runs as a non-profit), last year’s conference was well-attended and felt very professional and well-planned. I have no doubt that the hard work of the conference committee and the support of our sponsors will result in another proud moment for The Order of the Bee and, more importantly, a productive use of your time.

This year the format changed slightly. We moved the hack-a-thon to the beginning of the conference so it would not conflict with sessions. That night we’ll have a welcome party. Sessions start the next morning. The conference features two and-a-half days of traditional sessions, which are mostly technical, as well as lightning talks, which are always entertaining and informative. The schedule is on the conference site.

BeeCon is planned, organized, and executed entirely by volunteers. Alfresco Software, Inc. and other vendors pay to sponsor the event, but the program is driven by a committee of Order of the Bee members. Speaker selection is based on the merit of the proposal. Do you have an Alfresco story to share? Become a speaker!

For me, BeeCon is a time to lift my head up from my projects and spend time learning what others are doing in this space. It also gives me a chance to physically hang out, chat, and laugh with people I collaborate with online nearly every day. This year, I hope you’ll decide to join us in person. I am looking forward to seeing you in Zaragoza!

Alfresco cancels Summit, asks community to organize its own conference

summit-community-editionEarlier this week, in a post to a public mailing list, Ole Hejlskov, Developer Evangelist at Alfresco, announced that the company will not be putting on its annual conference, Alfresco Summit, this year as originally planned. Instead, the company is focusing on smaller, shorter, sales-oriented events which have been very successful in several cities around the globe.

Ole said that Alfresco will be adding developer content to its Alfresco Day events, which have historically been mostly end-user and decision-maker focused. In contrast, Alfresco’s yearly events started out as developer-focused conferences, but in recent years had a more balanced agenda with both technical and non-technical tracks.

Alfresco had announced earlier in the year that their annual conference would be in New Orleans in November. In each of the last five years the company put on two conferences–one in Europe and the other in United States. For 2015 the plan was to have a single conference only in the U.S. which drew criticism from the community that skews heavily toward a non-U.S. demographic.

When the community realized Alfresco Summit 2015 would be held only in the U.S., an independent community organization called The Order of the Bee began making plans to hold their own conference in Europe. Alfresco says it will support the community’s efforts to hold its own event and wants to explore “…ways in which participation from Alfresco corporate makes sense”.

I understand where Alfresco is coming from. Annual conferences are expensive in both real dollars and the time and attention it takes to plan and execute. When you multiply that times two it obviously represents an even bigger investment.

You also have to look at what Alfresco gets out of the conference. Alfresco is increasingly sales-focused. The conference has historically been focused on knowledge-sharing and camaraderie. Yes, there were deals closed at Alfresco Summit but it was not geared towards selling. It was more about coming together to share stories, good and bad.

The Alfresco Day events are unabashedly sales and marketing. The attendees (and they get very large turnouts) know this which means Alfresco does not have to apologize for coming off too sales-y. Multiple cities with hundreds of prospects is a better investment for them than two cities with 1400 attendees who are existing customers and community members.

As the guy who led DevCon and Alfresco Summit and together with my team grew it year after year, it is weird to see Alfresco cancel the conference for 2015. I was looking forward to attending.

As a member of The Order of the Bee, I’m intrigued by the challenge of using an all-volunteer organization to potentially put together a replacement conference of some sort. If you have any interest in helping and you did not see my email to the mailing list, we’ll probably be meeting next week to get organized. Reach out to me and I’ll add you to the invitation.

Alfresco DevCon evolves to incorporate business tracks; will be known as Alfresco Summit in 2013

We have done six Alfresco DevCon events so far–one in EMEA and one in the Americas for each of the last three years. The general feeling from people who have attended is that it has improved year after year. Attendees come from all over the globe and are usually a good mix of Enterprise Edition users, Community Edition users, partners, Alfresco employees, and other community members.

Each year we try to do something new to make the event better. Last year we added things like the DevCon web site, Lightning Talks, the Hack-a-Thon, and recordings of each session. These were all hugely popular, but they were all relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. This year, we’re going to shake things up a bit and I wanted to share our plans with you first.

There’s something that’s been bothering us about DevCon: The event isn’t inclusive of our entire community. We want an annual conference to be the go-to event for everyone in the ecosystem, not just developers. Shouldn’t it be possible to have one event with content that is laser focused on each audience?

We think so.

So this year, we are expanding DevCon into what we hope will be a must-attend event for anyone working on an Alfresco project, regardless of their job title. The first change you’ll notice is the name. We’re going to call it Alfresco Summit.

New name, same great technical content, and then some

So the name changes. What else? First, content. Alfresco Summit will include the same great DevCon tracks that you are used to plus a whole new set of non-technical content aimed at the business end of Enterprise Content Management. What might you find in such a business track? Things like non-technical customer case studies, panel discussions with industry analysts, best practices around compliance, going paperless, or case management. Basically, talks that help you be successful in your implementation that focus on everything but code and configuration.

The next change you’ll notice is that we’re adding a half-day to the event. We’ll still have the optional training day, but we want to have some room in the agenda for some high profile speakers, product demos, and other types of general sessions. In addition, the extra time gives us more opportunity to have repeats of popular sessions to help alleviate inevitable schedule conflicts.

Finally, you may notice a bit more production value or “sizzle” to the event. It’s hard to quantify what that really means. Really this is about putting on an event that appears to you, the attendee, as if it were that of a company 100 times our size in terms of organization, branding, quality, and execution.

Help me spread the DevCon magic to our non-technical brothers and sisters

I continue to chair the event. If you’ve enjoyed DevCon the last two years, this should be good news to you. (If you haven’t enjoyed it, make sure I’ve heard your feedback so I can try to make it better). I will also own the DevCon tracks so we’ll have the same high bar for technical content we’ve had in the past. I will work to keep the things that you love about DevCon (the content, the access to engineers, the fun) in place as we expand to an event the entire community can enjoy.

The general format of the conference stays the same:

  • Day 0: An optional day for training, hack-a-thon, and partner meetings.
  • Day 1: The first day of the main conference starts out with some general sessions and then moves to breakouts with a fun party that night.
  • Day 2: Another full day, again starting with some general sessions and product demos before moving to breakouts. Another party that night (this is new).
  • Day 3: New for 2013, this is a half-day of breakouts with a closing panel of Engineering leads and senior management.

Of course, we’ll have the exhibition hall, engineering office hours, lightning talks, purposeful lunches, etc.

Where and When?

The save-the-date will be coming soon. The timing will be similar to last year (November) for both EMEA and Americas. EMEA should be thinking southern Europe and we’ll be on the East Coast of the US for the Americas.

Here’s what I need from you:

  • In last year’s DevCon survey, we asked if there were people who would attend if we had a business track. Roughly half of you said yes. I need you to show up this year with those people at your side.
  • Consider speaking. Especially if you are a current customer. Business or technical track, it doesn’t matter. The key is that the community wants to hear what you’re doing with Alfresco. This is the best place to share your story. The call for papers will be open by the end of April. Watch this blog, twitter, etc. for more info on that.
  • Tell me what kind of content you’d like to see at Alfresco Summit. A good way to do that is to propose session titles. You can do that here in the comments for now. If enough people have enough feedback we can look at doing something fancier.
  • If you haven’t attended in the past, make this the year you find a way to get to the conference. This is the quintessential gathering of the Alfresco community. You won’t want to miss it.

You can trust me to not screw up a good thing, but I need your help to make it awesome. If you have thoughts or comments as we continue to evolve our annual conference, share those here or by emailing me directly at jeff dot potts at alfresco dot com.

DevCon Hack-a-Thon & Activiti Day

Just a quick note about recent DevCon goings-on in case you’ve missed this via other channels…

Early-Bird Registration Ends 10 September!

Just a friendly reminder: You can save some money if you sign up before 10 September, so do not wait to sign-up.

DevCon 2012 Promo Video

Includes a few quotes from the Alfresco community’s colorful cast of characters.

DevCon 2012 Hack-a-Thon

We’re going to be doing a Hack-a-Thon the day before the main conference starts in both Berlin and San Jose. This will run concurrently with the optional Fundamentals and Advanced Training classes. So if you are an Alfresco old-timer who doesn’t need Fundamentals or Advanced training, show up a day early and join us in the hack-a-thon. We’re still deciding which projects we’re going to work on that day. More info will be posted on the DevCon Hack-a-Thon page as it develops.

Activiti Day Berlin

If you are attending DevCon Berlin and you have any interest in Activiti, you should plan on staying an extra day and joining us for an Activiti Community reception the night of 7 November and then an all day Activiti Community event on 8 November. See the DevCon blog for more details.

DevCon Lightning Talks Debut

We’re planning on having two lightning talk sessions, one on each day of the main conference, at both DevCon events this year. We are planning on using the Ignite format, but if that is holding a significant number of people back, we may decide to relax that requirement. If you want to give a 5-minute talk at DevCon, sign up now.

How to suggest or propose a DevCon 2012 talk

If you want to give a talk at DevCon, here are your options:

  • Read the call for papers, then submit a proposal for a traditional session no later than May 19
  • Come to the conference and sign up for a Lightning Talk
  • Come to the conference and participate in a Birds-of-a-Feather session

If you have an idea for a session but you don’t want to speak, reply to this thread in the forums with your idea and maybe it will inspire someone else to give the talk.

Alfresco DevCon 2012: San Jose & Berlin

Last week I announced that Alfresco DevCon 2012 will be in Berlin and San Jose. We’ll be at the Berlin Hilton November 5, 6, & 7 and at the San Jose Marriott & Convention Center November 13, 14, & 15. Eagle-eyed readers who saw the announcement last week will note that the Berlin date has changed. The DMS Expo conference in Stuttgart conflicted with our dates so we’re moving to give everyone the maximum opportunity to Experience DevCon Awesomeness.

In both cities, the first day of the conference is an optional training day. We’re still working out exactly which classes will be offered on the training day, but we are increasing capacity this year due to popular demand.

Like last year, the main conference days will feature keynotes from Alfresco leadership, some great sessions from Alfresco Engineers, partners, and other members of the community, and plenty of opportunities for networking.

I’m finalizing tracks right now. As soon as I’m done, I’ll post the call for papers. I expect you to unleash a flood of outstanding conference submissions.

If you need some inspiration, take a look at the DevCon 2011 presentations on slideshare.

I typically post DevCon related news here but you might also want to follow the DevCon blog as well.

Alfresco Community Pledges & other things that worked well at DevCon

I had so much fun putting on Alfresco DevCon last week in San Diego. You can read my short wrap-up on the Alfresco DevCon Blog. Claudia Saleh also provides Day 1 Re-Cap and Day 2 Re-Cap posts as well. And Claudia took a lot of great pics at the event and put them on Flickr. After London we’ll get all of the presentations from both events on SlideShare for everyone to enjoy.

We tried a lot of new things at DevCon last week. I thought I’d re-cap what worked well here:

Purposeful lunches. DevCon was two days. On Day 1, we assigned a technical topic to each lunch table and then made sure an Engineer was at each table to cover that topic. Attendees sorted themselves to the table they were interested in discussing over lunch. Some tables really worked their topic over thoroughly during lunch. Others used it as an icebreaker and then moved on to other stuff. On Day 2 we divided the tables up by geography and industry vertical. Most people I talked to liked the concept.

Engineering Office Hours. The concept is a repeat from our first DevCon, but this year we had a bulletin board with each Engineer, their bio, their picture, and a sign-up sheet. Attendees grabbed a slot, then met with their Engineer. This worked out really well. For London we’ll pre-print the time slots rather than have them be freeform.

Panel Discussion. Last year at DevCon in New York, the panel discussion was a little ad hoc. This year we put the panel discussion on the morning of the second day as a general session and that seemed to work. For London, we’re moving the panel discussion to the end of the second day so any questions that the day 2 sessions raise can be asked at that time. It should also give us a nice opportunity to recap the conference.

Alfresco Community Pledges. DevCon serves a lot of purposes. One is to energize and motivate people to get involved with the Alfresco community. I had some extra Alfresco “attitude” t-shirts so I decided to give them to people who would pledge to make some contribution to the community in the coming weeks and months. Here are some that we got via twitter.

@dev_kraig Kraig Van Houten
@Alfresco I #pledge to write one #alfresco related blog post per month

@SunilRehman Sunil Rehman
@Alfresco I #pledge to report 5 new #Alfresco 4.0 b bugs before thanksgiving

@WillWhite18 Will White
I #pledge to report at least 5 bugs in #Alfresco 4.0b before thanksgiving.

@Michaelcford Michael C Ford
@Alfresco I #pledge to answer 6 unanswered #Alfresco forum post in the next 3 weeks

@emmichie Eric Michie
I #pledge to host an #Alfresco meetup in my area twice this quarter. Salt Lake City Utah

@tenthline_ecm Tenthline
@tenthline_ecm will #pledge to host #Alfresco meetup in #Toronto twice this quarter.

@aaronaheath Aaron Heath
I #pledge to write one #Alfresco related blog post per month for the next 12 months. I will also become more active on the #Alfresco forum.

@perejnar Per Ejnar Thomsen
I #pledge to report 5 new (legitimate) #Alfresco 4.0b bugs before Thanksgiving

@dstaflund Darryl Stafflund
I #pledge to answer 6 unanswered #Alfresco forum posts in the next three Weeks.

@iancrew Ian Crew
I #pledge to write one #Alfresco related blog post per month.

@trisofer Chris Paul
@jeffpotts01 I #pledge to write one #Alfresco related blog post per month.

It was great to see these and to talk to people between sessions who said the conference was the kick in the pants they needed to get going again with their contributions.

Thanks to everyone who attended, sponsored, or spoke at DevCon San Diego. It exceeded my expectations and hopefully yours as well. I’ll report back here after London and we’ll see if these ideas were just as successful for that event.

List of Alfresco Dashlet Challenge 2011 Entries

The Alfresco Dashlet Challenge contest has been over for quite a while and our winner, Florian Maul, has received his iPad and has already racked up some impressive Fruit Ninja scores, but I’m just now getting around to posting the entire list of entries. I’ve put the list on the Alfresco wiki.

Please do take a look at these projects and try them in your own installations. In many cases, it’s a single JAR you drop in, then restart and you’re done. If you find problems, don’t hesitate to log issues or maybe even crack open your editor, fix it, and contribute it back to the author.

I should take this opportunity to mention a little project we’ve got brewing. If you’ve heard any of my “State of the Community” talks you may already know about Alfresco Add-Ons. It’s a site we’re building that will do a better job of helping you find and rate add-ons the community is creating for the Alfresco platform. An Add-On might be a dashlet, like the Dashlet Challenge entries, or it might be an integration, or an API, or just about anything else that works with Alfresco.

Add-Ons isn’t meant to be a project hosting site. There are already a lot of those available. Instead, think of it as a directory or index with some social features to help the cream rise to the top. This will give everyone (Community & Enterprise users) a one-stop shop for add-ons and extensions.

We’re hoping to have a minimum viable product ready by DevCon. If it gets done and enough people want to see it, we’ll have an ad hoc session so we can look at it together. We’d obviously like to get feedback from the community for the next sprint.