Category: Social Software

Alfresco Share microblogging component released as open source

Back in February (I know, it’s been simmering on the back burner for too long), I did a couple of screencasts on Optaros Labs showing a demo of Alfresco Share (part 1, part 2). In part 2 of that screencast I showed two custom components: Status and Bookmark. Alfresco made Bookmark obsolete by releasing their own shared bookmarks module for Share, and that’s a Good Thing. I kind of expected them to release a microblog component as well, but they haven’t yet. Well, I finally got around to making ours available, so until a similar feature makes it into the product, feel free to use it in your own projects.

The component is simple: A “My Current Activity” dashlet lets you and your team give a quick blurb about what you’re working on. Another dashlet aggregates all of the status entries from your teammates. A global dashlet aggregates the entries from all Share sites. All status changes automatically show up in Alfresco’s Activity Feed as well.

My Current Activity Dashlet
My Current Activity Dashlet

Unlike Twitter, the status component lets you mark an entry as “done”. When you do that, your current status gets reset and the old entry moves to the archive. So it’s a little more task-oriented than more general purpose, free-form microblogging tools.

Deployment is pretty easy. An AMP gets deployed to your Alfresco WAR, and a ZIP gets unzipped into your Alfresco Share web application. That’s it. No configuration necessary. All of the data lives in the same structure as the other tools in your Share site.

I’ve put the code out on Google Code under a BSD license. There’s a pre-built AMP and a ZIP for download or you can checkout and build from source. There’s one Eclipse project for the repository tier and one for the Surf tier. I’ve tested this on Alfresco 3.2 Community. I’ll test it out on the Enterprise releases when I get a chance. There were some changes in the Activity Feed that I had to deal with and I’m not sure how far back those go so I may have to have version-specific releases.

Have a look and give me your feedback. If you want to dig in and make enhancements, bring ’em on.

Open Source ECM: My topic for tomorrow’s AIIM DFW Meeting

I’ll be speaking at the AIIM DFW meeting tomorrow at the University of Dallas. My topic is ECM and Open Source Software: A New Force in ECM Solutions. Here’s the abstract:

Open source software is finally getting the recognition it deserves from analysts like Forrester and Gartner as a disruptive force in IT. Over the years, open source has “climbed up the stack” from operating systems to databases and now to business applications where it has established a firm foothold in the content management space.What should enterprises know about open source content management? Is it really just for Web Content Management (WCM) or does it meet the needs of broader Enterprise Content Management (ECM) deployments? Arelarge enterprises doing big, meaningful content management projects with open source or is its appeal limited to subsets of the market? What about Enterprise 2.0 initiatives? Can you assemble an Enterprise 2.0 solution from open source components? How does it compare with something like Sharepoint?

If you are in the Dallas area and are interested in the topic you should swing by. And, as always, please say hello and mention the blog. I look forward to meeting you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008
11:30a – 1:30p, Registration at 11:20a

University of Dallas
Haggar University Center – Haggar Dining Room
1845 East Northgate Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Parking – Lot A and B
Campus Map Link – Bldg 4

AIIM DFW luncheons are $30 at the door if you have not pre-registered. The pre-registration deadline for this event is now closed.

Thoughts on social software and events

It sounds like Ringside has some work brewing around events. I haven’t updated my Ringside source code in a while so I don’t know how much of this can be played with right now but I’m anxious to take a look and you can bet I’ll report back here when I do.

The problem with today’s event sites is that they are too focused (live music, social gatherings, etc.) and too isolated (people have to sign up to use them, they are really only used for RSVP-ing, etc.). I’ve also found that finding interesting events can be tough. I think is a particularly bad offender–they’ve got a weird taxonomy thing going with their events. Their search doesn’t appear to be full-text indexed across meetup names or descriptions. Try to search meetup for “Alfresco”, for example. Although I know there are multiple Alfresco meetup groups out there, you won’t turn up one with a keyword search even with your search scope set to “100 miles of USA”. And when you create an event, it seems like there is a limited taxonomy for categorization. You have to decide if your meetup is about “Software” or “Technology”. Why would I pay them to host an event no one can find attended by a set of people who’s profiles I can only leverage in the context of

This is a sticking point for me. We all belong to different communities with different interests. And sometimes those overlap. Our social graphs shouldn’t be in silos. Neither should the events we attend. Managing your connections across networks together and exposing events to sub-sections of your connections (or across your entire network, regardless of where it is hosted) is really powerful. After all, as Bob says, it is through these events by which we form and strengthen those connections in the first place. Hopefully, this is what you’ll be able to do with Ringside.

His post got me thinking about what I might like to do with events in my own community. So here’s a list off the top of my head. Maybe Bob will comment on how/if this maps to the Ringside roadmap.

Attend/host flag & security settings. An individual ought to be able to publish an event, make public/private settings about that event, and indicate whether they are attending or hosting the event.

Event matching/de-duplication. What would be great is if there was a way to match up events. If I say I’m going to a Wilco concert, and you say you’re going to a Wilco concert, there needs to be a way to figure out if those are the same event.

In-network/same-event notification. Once you figure out two events are the same, people in the same network can discover the fact they share similar interests. The system should facilitate this kind of thing.

Targeted event promo. You should also be able to publicize an event to particular cross-sections of your graph. I might want to host a Ringside meet-up that only goes to my open source/E2.0 friends without spamming my family about it.

Interest level indication. An individual ought to be able to specify whether they are thinking about attending an event or are definitely attending an event. For example, someone might post an event they would only go to if someone else from one of their networks is also going.

Events as tags. Obviously events integrate with the rest of the model. Activity feeds certainly have to know when someone attended an event. But you should also have the ability to tag any item with an event. A photo library app needs to be able to let users tag photos that pertain to certain events, for example.

Event discovery. Events should be easily discoverable by tag/topic, full-text keyword search, by geography, and by attendee. I’d like to see a mash-up between Dopplr and an event database, for example, that knows what kind of events I like to attend and then cross references that with my travel schedule so that if I am traveling to San Francisco, and one of my favorite bands happens to be playing, the site can let me know that, including which of my friends might also be planning to attend (or would attend if they knew I was going to be in town).

Slice-and-dice RSS subscriptions. I should be able to get an RSS feed for each of the following: All events happening in a particular cross-section of my social graph, all events happening in a particular tag/topic, all events in a geography, all events in a particular date range, all events attended by a particular individual in one of my networks, or any combination of these (Live music shows happening in Dallas that my friend Jim is going to).

RSVP options. People should have the option of whether or not to track attendance to an event. Even for an event they are not hosting, they may or may not care who else is attending.

Configurable reminders. People need to be able to choose whether or not to send reminders to attendees. Attendees need to be able to opt out of receiving reminders.

Event ratings, comments, and UGC. People should be able to rate, comment on, and upload content related to an event.

Flexible event types. Events don’t have to be of any particular type. An event is really just a span of time during which something that might be potentially interesting to others is happening. “I’m going to Taco Bell for lunch tomorrow” and “I’ll be spending an hour in the Ubuntu forums Saturday” are both legitimate events that people might want to publish.

Calendar view with the same filtering capability as the “slice-and-dice RSS feeds” requirement. And the calendar ought to be widget-able so that anyone can embed it on their own site.

Standard calendar options for events including start and end time, duration, “all day event”, recurring event. I guess if the event was (or could be exported as) an iCal compliant piece of data that might be enough?

Who’s bringing what. Obviously everyone is familiar with the concept in a social gathering (You aren’t the guy who always just brings the chips, are you? Come on, make an effort, man). But this is also relevant to professional events, particularly for “un-conference” or bar camp type events where attendees are expected to present.

What about an ecommerce component? Maybe you ought to be able to sell tickets for an event. This could open up a can of worms regarding capacity, tiered pricing and availability, ticket authenticity verification, etc., but it might be cool/fun to provide something that could loosen the stranglehold a small number of vendors have on the “live event” market. Just a thought. At the very least, if an event requires a charge, you should at least be able to link to a shopping cart somewhere.

Thanks for attending the Open Source ECM event

I want to thank everyone for attending the Open Source ECM event in Dallas this morning. In case you missed it, the slides I presented on “Assembling Enterprise 2.0 Solutions with Alfresco” are available on (which is powered by Alfresco, BTW) here.

The deck covers a bit about the general components of Enterprise 2.0 solutions and how a repository like Alfresco can be central to that architecture because it is so open. I then give a brief intro to web scripts (recycled from the talk I gave at the user conference in San Jose earlier this year) and walk through Endeca and a few other client examples.

I’ve also got some Alfresco-Ringside thoughts in there that include screenshots on the Alfresco-Facebook demo app running on Ringside and a list of potential features that might be interesting to implement with an Alfresco-Ringside combination.

Finally, I’ve got some never-before seen screenshots of the yet-to-be-announced Optaros-built streamlined Alfresco web client which we will release as an open source project under the GPLv3 soon.

Fixed the Alfresco-Ringside File Upload Problem

I’ve been playing with Ringside‘s Social Application Server. In my initial post on the subject I mentioned I was having trouble with the file upload. I got that put to bed this evening. As it turns out, Facebook inserts some hidden fields into form tags (see doc) such as the Facebook user, API key, session key, and app ID. Ringside doesn’t insert those fields.

Why does this matter? When you post a multipart form (i.e., a file upload) in a Facebook app, you don’t post to the canvas URL, you post to the application directly, which in this case is an Alfresco web script. All other posts go through the canvas URL and by the time they arrive at the web script, the request has the parameters it needs to make Alfresco’s Facebook web script runtime happy. In Ringside, the file upload post lacks that context because the hidden fields are missing. Alfresco needs those hidden fields–without them, the script has no idea which Facebook app is posting the data.

The fix was easy enough. I just inserted the hidden fields into the form via the Freemarker template ( The “facebook” root object knows the user, API, and app ID because the form gets displayed as the result of a canvas post.

Here are the hidden fields I added to form in the Freemarker template:

<input type="hidden" name="fb_sig_user" value="${facebook.user}" /><input type="hidden" name="fb_sig_session_key" value="${facebook.sessionKey}" /><input type="hidden" name="fb_sig_api_key" value="${facebook.apiKey}" />

The only other change I made was to comment out the postUserAction call in I’m not sure that’s supported yet in Ringside. If it is, there’s some other problem causing it to choke.

So, other than the user action post, the Alfresco Document Library Facebook app is fully-functional in Ringside.

The next step is deeper integration into the web client. I know Alfresco is moving toward more social networking features in the 3.x release, but integrating with Ringside via web scripts might be a way to get there faster with more functionality.

Event: Open Source ECM in Action

If you’re going to be in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area on June 26th, come on by the Westin Galleria. I’ll be speaking at Alfresco’s “Open Source Enterprise Content Management in Action” event. I’ll be talking about some real-world client implementations involving Alfresco and Liferay and I can give a quick update on how the book is coming along. I’m not making any promises, but if I get time between now and then to finish off the Ringside-Alfresco integration demo, I’ll see if I can squeeze that it in as well if there is any interest.I’d also like to use the event to gauge interest in a DFW-area Alfresco meetup. If you can’t come to the event but you think such a thing would be valuable, please let me know.

Alfresco and Ringside

I’ve made moderate progress getting Alfresco and Ringside integrated. If you haven’t played with it yet, Ringside Networks is an open source project that essentially gives you a standalone Facebook server. There’s actually more to it than that, but for this conversation, what matters is that Ringside supports the Facebook API and FBML without requiring a connection to Facebook.My goal is to get the Alfresco Facebook “Document Library” example (screencast) working in Ringside. What I have working now is single sign-on between Alfresco and Ringside, the main web script, the document library creation web script, and the document libraries list web script (pictured). What isn’t working so well (yet) is the file upload.

If you want to try this yourself, you’ll need:

  • A working install of Ringside Networks Social Application Server (Advanced Developer Setup instructions) which requires PHP and MySQL
  • A working install of Alfresco Community
  • The Facebook AMP (or just the web scripts from the AMP) or your own set of Facebook runtime web scripts
  • Alfresco Community SDK & Source

Alfresco has hardcoded Facebook URLs into the FacebookAuthenticatorFactory and FacebookModel classes. You need those to point to your local Ringside server instead of Facebook. I created a RingsideAuthenticatorFactory which is just a dup of FacebookAuthenticatorFactory with LOGIN_REDIRECT changed to:

"<fb:redirect url=\"http://localhost/api/login.php?api_key=%s&v=1.0%s\">"

You’ll need to override the webscripts.authenticator.facebook bean with a pointer to the new class, like so:

<bean id="webscripts.authenticator.facebook" class="com.optaros.ringside.RingsideAuthenticatorFactory" />

I took a more hackish approach to the FacebookModel. I removed Alfresco’s class from alfresco-webscript-framework.jar and replaced it with my own version that has updated getCanvasURL and getPageURL methods:

public String getCanvasURL() {
return "http://localhost/web/canvas.php/" + getCanvasPath();

public String getPageURL() {
return “http://localhost/web/canvas.php/” + req.getPagePath();

At some point, what should really happen is that all of these URLs should be pulled out into a config. Once I get everything working, maybe I’ll circle back with a better step-by-step and perhaps the changes can be submitted to Alfresco so that it is easier for people to choose whether their Facebook web scripts run against Facebook or a Ringside server.