While waiting for Alfresco to share all the presentations held at Paris Developer Conference, I decided it would be good to write my own memories down before I forget something. This might also help those who go to New York to pick right sessions for them.
But first the overall verdict for Developer conference:
Excellent value for money. There is no better chance to get information straight from the source in commercial open source projects than by participating in these events and by being active.
You get to meet people making the core components and services in Alfresco, and get to ask detailed questions about current as well as about coming features in the pipeline.
And besides Alfresco’s engineers there will be all the other participants, people who are interested in Alfresco and/or are already using it in their projects. You can learn a lot by socializing with people and networking with other users. What you can learn within one conversation can be pure gold, compared to hours and hours spent on forums and wiki.
If you did not participate the Paris event, you still have chance to go to New York.
During the conference it is also a good idea to follow #Alfresco tweets, as people will tweet their thoughts. And you will see how awake people from Alfresco are, as they immediately do retweets of flattering comments. Just like I would do too. And from time to time in some of the presentations you can see the twitter feed on big screen, while waiting for the presentations to start.
But now to the actual presentations I saw and what I liked about them.
Note: I will write separate posting about what John Newton said in the keynotes, as it is way too important and big stuff to be squeezed into the same posting.
Day 1, session 1 and 3: Web Quick Start: Under the covers and WQS Exploring the web tier
Other options were CMIS Spec uncovered and Subsystem framework and Authentication. I opted not to go these sessions as I had just read some examples of CMIS from the new Alfresco webservices book and did not see CMIS as such an important thing for our current project. With 20/20 vision I should have participated on some of these CMIS sessions. I skipped ’Subsystem framework and authentication’-session because I had a feeling that after reading the Professional Alfresco-book – this was going to be quite similar content as in the book.. hence taking a look at the Web Quickstart ( WQS ).
During the third session of day one, other options would have been Alfresco ”Day Zero”-configuration and Webscripts presentation. The Day Zero configuration session would have been really good to participate, but I believed that the validation tools and checklists would be published to the community in any case, so I could later on check them out on my own. Similarly Webscripts are already familiar technology to me, so it was better to use time to something new.
Previously I had had some time alone with the old Alfresco WCM, which included some pretty cool ideas – but was insanely unusable in the scenarios that I had in my mind and overall in type of projects I usually did. So I had no real expectations for this session, other than to get updated on developments on web content management. I had heard about in place editing and other progress Alfresco had made, but was still in the mindset of the old WCM with sandboxes, AVM store and all.
So with that in mind I was quite impressed. Web Quick Start is not a beast like the old WCM, but rather it is extension of the DM ( document management ) functionalities of Alfresco, editing within Share and a webapp based on Surf, which gets the content from the repository via CMIS-interface. Webapp seemed to have also Alfresco Web Editor integrated to provide in context editing, allowing ease of use for content authors for small edits.
For me this is a huge step into right direction. And even though Web Quickstart is just a base or an example project meant to be used as a base, while building your own solutions, it brings Alfresco much closer to be used even in smaller enterprises for web content management in different website projects. If I was a customer who has deployed Share as a collaboration platform in the intranet, I would take a good look at WQS and see whether what is needed in website management could be implemented on top of that.
For integrators WQS opens new possibilities – as with the same skillset and knowledge used to build Share-solutions, companies can now extend the offering easily to include also website management and leverage same user interfaces and same usability paradigms customers have already liked inside Share.
These two WQS presentations made much sense together, but if I had participated only in the first session – I might not have had the same feeling and A-ha experience I had now. WQS is definitely something that I will keep my eye on.
Day 1, session 2: Alfresco Search Internals
Other options were OpenCMIS session and session about content modeling behavior. Reasons for choosing search instead of other sessions was the same as previously. But without any regrets I can say that this session was great and worth the time invested into it.
Andy Hind was presented by Luis Sala as ’Lucene God’ and he lived up to the hype, taking us around the internals of search mechanisms inside the Alfresco and allowed us to understand better what configuration options and tweaking opportunities exist within the properties. He also opened up little bit thinking behind different design choices, implementations and what could be in store in the future.
All and all this session helped me to understand better how the search is integrated into Alfresco and how to use it efficiently. If you are into sessions that go well into the geeky details of software, then Andy’s presentation can be of great value and entertainment to you.
Day 1, session 4: Spring Surf 101
Kevin Roast gave us great introduction into the ideas behind Spring Surf. Previous presentations about Web Quick Start had already opened up some ideas about what the Surf is and why should I care about it, but this presentation made the final point. It could have been better to actually have this presentation in the schedule before WQS presentations – but I did enjoy it also this way.
After this 101 I finally understod why Share was built on top of Surf and what the value proposition of Surf was. I still do not see it used and do not believe it will get a strong adoption outside Alfresco ( and related projects ) anytime soon, even though it has really nifty ideas and can boost developers’ performance.
Most important points for me were that Surf nicely decouples client / UI development from Alfresco repository. As the Surf application can be deployed into it’s own appserver, restarts can be a snap – but then again there are many situations when you do not need to even make restarts, as Surf loads resources straight from the disk.
So Surf enables really rapid and agile client application development on top of Alfresco. And as it is a Spring web-application – it should be quite easy to extend with your own code and services.
And yes. Documentation is nonexistent, but Kevin promised that the situation will get better. I assume that it also means that he will offer a round of beer to attendees of Developer Conference 2011 if the situation hasn’t greatly improved by then?
Day 1, session 5: Activiti BPM
Activiti BPM-engine presentation was a big surprise for me, as I hadn’t expected such a cool vision for the project.
Activiti is not just about the engine, but even more about fixing the collaboration around workflow definition, application development and maintenance – so that all the stakeholders can understand each other and work together better. Value proposition for that is huge, and I will be keeping my eye on this project for sure.
Guys from the team showed some slick demos, which made everyone impressed. Especially impressive was the web based modeller, which was based on Signavio’s code, and looked really, really, really good. Future will show how it is integrated into Alfresco and what will come of it.
I wouldn’t be immediately replacing jBPM with Activiti, but rather will wait for some time and learn more about the software and how the collaboration ideas will work in real life, before starting to adapt it into use. Like I said, I believe Activiti’s greatest value comes from the whole vision — not just from the BPM 2.0 engine.
Definitely impressive stuff.
Day 1, session 6: Using Forms in Share
Last presentation for the day was something for which I had absolutely no expectations what so ever. I hadn’t really used Share before, nor had I real grasp on how to start to do modifications into it. Previous presentations had given me ideas and concepts about Surf, but before this last presentation I was still quite ambivalent about Share.
Gavin Cornwell’s presentation changed it all, and now I am taking a big dive into Share and ditching Explorer as soon as we can.
Why, you ask? And I will answer.
Gavin’s presentation showed in practical terms and in very practical demo on how to modify userinterfaces in Share, how Share renders forms that are used to show content elements and create fields that make content elements editable. It was like a crash course into how to configure Share edit / view -views and made it look so easy that I had to smile. Everything which I was thinking about – for example how could I replace standard rich text editing component with our own for our content type – was covered in the demo and presentation. So for our project the presentation couldn’t have been any better!
Even though Gavin did not yet release his demo files, he gave a pointer to check out. There is a Forms Development Kit in the source repository and it includes examples of all the features of forms infrastructure. That is also the place, where I will head down and start to take more in depth look.
Yep. This presentation really made my day.
Afterparty / Reception
After all the presentation were doen, it was time for afterparty – where most of the participants and Alfresco engineers were able to hang out, socialize and have interesting discussions with great people. Snacks were available as well as different kind of drinks, so that no one had to go back to the hotel with empty stomach or dry mouth.
I have to say that the party was brilliantly organized and great idea, as it was next to impossible to meet and mingle with people during the fast paced day. It was so much fun to unwind and meet people from Alfresco world in person.
So that was it about the first day.
How was your first day of the conference?