Alfresco Developer Conference in Paris – day 2

As a continuum from my previous post here is my take on sessions I saw on the second day of the conference. Third post in the series will be posting about John Newton’s keynotes.

Second day continued with similar themes as the first one. I skipped fireside chat sessions, which could have been really beneficial if I had been already deeper in the world of Alfresco and would have been keen to know what is there for the near future in each of the products. Similarly I tried to avoid discussions which would be too much like the content in the Professional Alfresco as I can read on my own.

Day 2, session 1 – Real World Share, WCM, DM, Surf

Aingaran Pillai from Zaizi made a great presentation about a real life project and shared his insights on making a successful implementation. Project was made for the Irish Tax Office to help them write and collaborate on production of the local tax code. It included nice modifications to the Share UI, complex workflows and integration of Word to the Share UI via an Active X-component.

Major key points to take home from his presentation: learn Alfresco well and create implementation which utilizes strengths of Alfresco ( not fall on it’s weaknesses ) and keep it simple. He had brilliant points and examples for example about how you could query documents workflow history in complicated way from the workflow service, but how much simpler and elegant it was to just copy the workflow state and history information into content object.

Definitely a worth while presentation, if for nothing else to see and hear how you do not need to try to be too clever for your own good. Keep it simple!

Really looking forward seeing Aingaran Pillai to share the code and dig into the modifications they did. Let’s all hope he can make some kind of releases soon.

Day 2, session 2 – Authorization & security

I had my doubts about this talk as I had just read about this subject in the Professional Alfresco book. However I thought that there might be some hidden gems in this talk, which make it worthwhile. I’m also quite familiar with Spring Security as I had used it already when it was called Acegi Security – so the subject matter was somewhat familiar.

So I can’t say that I learned much new within this presentation. However it was good to get reinforcements for things I had previously learned and go through those things with someone who knows what he is talking about. Good point to be taken home: do not put ACLs in every object. Do not do that.

If you haven’t read the parts about security in Alfresco from Professional Alfresco, then this presentation is a great way to get an in depth view how things work under the hood. If you know your Spring Security and how security is put over beans with AOP and have already read Professional Alfresco, then you might not need take this session. However if you have tough questions about the security, then Any Hind might be just the person to whom to point them to.

Day 2, session 3&4 – Customizing the Document Library, More ways of extending the Share

These two presentations went in a fuzz and I did not get much out of them. I was lacking required amount of caffeine to really stay awake and focused, and started to doze off from time to time. If I had had more hands on experience in making modifications to the Share, then I could have got more out of these presentations.

I really, really hope that presenters will share their example codes besides the slides – so that I can try to repeat the steps at home and learn to recreate what was presented on stage. Similarly in the future it would be so great to have full audio recordings published for participants of the conference about all the talks. It doesn’t matter if there is a delay of a month or so before we would have access to the data, just that we would eventually have it and could use it to help us remember what the discussed details were.

The thing I learned from these two presentations was that Share was really intended to be a product, not a platform – and therefore customizing and modifying it is not as easy and pleasant as it could be. But the good thing is that Alfresco knows it and is doing something about it. All the presenters used Alfresco 3.4b – which is not yet released – to make their life a little bit easier😀

Day 2, session 5 – Scale your Alfresco

This was the million dollar presentation for the day two. Mika Farman showed his skills working us through a fast paced presentation about different aspects of Alfresco solution optimization. He directed some more detailed questions to Derek Hulley and to Andy Hind, and managed to keep information packed presentation on time. Even though the presentation was just a scratch on the surface on what can be done, it was still really, really, really good crash course into the internals of Alfresco, what happens in the repository and what can be made to make most out of it.

Two different usecases discussed as examples were bulk loading loads of data into the repository and scenario where you have numerous updates / writes happening at the same time – ie. using Alfresco as a collaboration platform.

Some golden nuggets to take home from this presentation: optimize indexing to happen outside transaction, do not use functional aspects like versionable until you actually need them, configure your environment properly to suit your usage scenarios. Way too common issue behind support requests is that people use Alfresco with default configurations, which are optimized for laptop use and quick testdrives.

Like I said, this presentation was pure gold and I would be kicking myself if I hand’t participated in it. At the same time this presentation made me actually think that paying for enterprise support can be a really good idea, as these guys really do know what they are doing and can provide tremendous help to you if you are in trouble.

Day 2, session 6 – Alfresco Forms Part 2: Deep dive

This presentation continued from previous day’s talk and went quickly into very geeky, having a very detailed look into the architecture and ideas of forms services. Talk was so detailed that there were really no questions after the presentation, which was quite unusual. But then again this new framework was introduced in 3.3, so it is possible that not so many people have such in depth experience with it that they would have interesting questions or problems with it.

Great thing about this presentation was that it gave me the sufficient run through and context for the information that I can now quite confidently start to read about the forms from the wiki on my own and understand what it is about and how it relates to everything else.

http://wiki.alfresco.com/wiki/Forms_Developer_Guide#Form_UI_Component

If you are doing Share development, then these two forms related talks by Gavin should be must have talks for you.

So that was about it for the day two.

After last presentations were over, people hurried away to get their planes or trains back to home – which was a little bit of shame. There were lots of interesting people I would have liked to meet and talk more in person, but there was only so much time during these two action packed days.

Some ideas for the future

Power Bars so that it is easy to load your laptop, mobiles or other gadgets at the conference.

List of attendees and their contact information to all the attendees before the conference, if people allow their name and/or info to be shared. It would be great to see who else is coming and make it an action item to meet those people.

More real life case studies and demos, even shorter ones. It would be great to have some kind of more informal presentations and to get more exposure to what people are doing. For example Pecha Kucha kind of format could be really cool way to present numerous projects in short time and then allow people to mix and mingle afterwards with each other ( see more http://www.pecha-kucha.org/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning_Talk ).

More social time and possibilities to meet people who might be doing similar or otherwise interesting things. It was great to see so many people, but one thing that was really unfortunate was the language barriers between different groups of people. Not everyone was quite confident in expressing themselves in english and lots of people mingled with people from their home countries, speaking in native languages. I know since I did the same too. It would be great if there were more time and more opportunities to reach out socially and cross pollinate ideas from different corners of the Europe. Having the list of people and their interests beforehand and pecha kucha kind of sessions could help.

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