Alfresco DevCon London 2011: Second day highlights

My second day for the Alfresco DevCon started with tube problems.

I absolutely love the London underground, but hated the congestion. It took multiple trains on my line before I even fit into the train – and as I had planned my schedule too tightly, I missed most parts of the first presentations. I really, really wanted to see the ”WCM solutions with Drupal and Alfresco”-presentation.

Luckily I had already discussed about the subject with Richard Esplin from Alfresco already previously, so I more or less knew the 10 000 ft overview of the stuff. I felt bummed that I missed the presentation though, especially as the slides weren’t available at the time. Now that the slides are available and there is also rather good webinar about the subject, I don’t feel that bad.

See the webinar here:
http://www.frequency.com/video/canopy-webinar-september-14-2011/18366591

At the same time Gab was running interesting talk about application lifecycle management, which also was good news to developers loving Maven. Should try new Maven artefacts myself someday. Few years ago I had some problems with the WAR-artefacts and ended up putting Alfresco war into local repository on my own and then use WAR-overlay to make modifications.

Third session running in the first slot was about Alfresco iOS application design. The cool thing about the session is that they announced that the source code is opensourced, so you can go and fork it yourself!

Crafter studio

Now for the second presentation of the day I managed to select something really interesting.

Crafter studio is a website authoring solution to be used with Alfresco and Crafter Rivet-framework. As it has started as an in house framework and only recently started – as far as I know – to get more community participation, there is quite likely lot’s of work to be done to make the learning curve easier for outsiders.

Have to see for myself someday: http://wiki.rivetlogic.com/display/Crafter/CStudio+1.7.0

In any case the demo of the Crafter Studio was impressive and got me really interested!

Slides are here: http://www.slideshare.net/alfresco/rivetlogic-crafter-studio

At the same time other options would have been:

Advanced training had the good CMIS in the real world session – so that would have been bad choice for me. Similarly Share Extras-session seemed like something that I could check out on my own better, once back at home.

Third and fourth sessions on the second day were spent with networking and participating in Westernacher’s presentation of their transformation server.

Sessions that were other options for the third session:

What is next in CMIS could have been interesting, but as I am just looking my first applications where CMIS would be used – I am not in position to start yet running. I have patience to wait. Integration with publishing tools is out of my scope and current interests — even though it would have been fun to see Ixxus publishing platform in use. Similarly Global federated search session would have been really interesting – or at least the slides give me the impression that there might have been some gold nuggets said between the lines.

For fourth session options were:

Repository customization best practices looked extremely valuable, but at the same time it looked like quite similar as last year. Alfresco the clojure way would unfortunately just confused me – as I am not familiar with Clojure, nor a big fanboy of functional languages. But Andy’s presentation on transition from Lucene query syntax to FTS would have been good to see.

However – like I said – I chose to see something else and network with people.

Transformation server

What is the big thing here. Why would anyone want a separate transformation server?

Well it turns out there are multiple good reasons:

  • Quality
  • Scalability
  • Performance and robustness

Westernacher guys showed excellent examples from SAP, where OpenOffice did a dirt poort job compared to the quality of doing transformation on the Windows transformation server with the Office tools. Difference was like day and night.

Naturally having transformations in separate servers / tier helps in scalability, as the work is not done on the same node as everything else. That also helps in situations where there are problems in the transformations – providing robustness to the whole solution, as the server / servers do not suffer from crashing open office or Microsoft office if you happen to throw a really spicy document to be transformed.

What makes the transformation service work is not rocket science – but it is enough work to warrant the licensing fee that Alfresco take for it. The solution is sold and supported by Alfresco, Westernacher providing updates and help if there is something strange going on.

I was thoroughly impressed.

Tackling a complex user interface

Ashley Ward from Surevine did a splendid job presenting his presentation and doing live coding in front of an audience. I had met Ashley and his colleague Simon on the previous day and spent some time chitchatting in the afterparty. This was business.

It is always impressive, when someone does live coding – as so many things can go horribly wrong. Ashley managed to pull everything through just wonderfully and proved that writing your own Share components is not rocket science, but requires some discipline and effort.

Code available in Github.

Other sessions would have been:

Last year I saw presentations about forms – and this year the session seemed to have lots of same information, so that was main reason for not watching that. The case study would have been quite interesting to see, especially on how to integrate Orbeon — but I assumed that the key principles would be in the slides, and was right.

I have my own experiences with Orbeon and did not like about what possibilities there were to integrate Orbeon into your own app. What the presenters did was really nice implementation by rewriting the Orbeon forms storage service api on top of Alfresco.

Apparently they will also publish the implementation in any day soon:

http://orbeon-forms-ops-users.24843.n4.nabble.com/Alfresco-Integration-td4079910.html

So all and all it was good option to see what Ashley did live, as it takes away my personal reasons of not doing Share UI work myself anymore. Come on, he did it live there. I should be able to do it myself without any audience, shouldn’t I?

Performance tuning

Last year’s Scaling your Alfresco solutions was a superb session so I had really high hopes for this talk.

However as many of the scalability issues had been already discussed during the other talks, this session was not a total mind blower, even though it was extremely professional and informative. What I especially liked was the fact that Gab started from the beginning going through defining what scalability means with ECM and from what kind options you have to choose to get the perfect solution to your needs.

Gab also did perfect job discussing how Alfresco 4.0 changes many scalability problems reiterating what where problematic things before – and how 4.0 will address those issues. Similarly Gab discussed interesting ideas for the future, including a proper benchmark test – which would be taken to be used more regularly to get better insights on how new developments and changes to the Alfresco code will affect basic performance.

Looking forward to it!

Other options at the same time would have been:

As I don’t really care about Grails – and I already had seen a lot Share-related presentations it was easy to see why Gab’s presentation was most interesting to me.

Building Alfresco Prototype in a Few Hours

I should have gone to see ”What new is coming in Records Management”. But I wel to see this.

I mean it was interesting idea, but the as the demo worked only so and so – I really did not buy into the value proposition, or not at least at this stage. When talking about Alfresco projects with customers, we are not in a hurry to do a sucky demo in just mere hours — and if we were, I am sure that we could do it better with some own Python scripts that generate boilerplate configurations to the share.

This was a little disappointment, but then again I was also a little tired by then and looking forward to see the end of the conference and get some sleep.

Conference wrapup

The last thing for the conference was the wrapup, which included Alfresco rockstars being ready to answer community questions. Jeff Potts and others also recruited people from the community to pledge to do things for the community in coming months. Attractor for that was cool Alfresco t-shirt you could get. I pledged to organize an Alfresco meetup in Helsinki area next year – as well as do these blog postings, like any good community member should😀

I didn’t get a shirt, nor did I get lucky in Alfresco survey raffles – where one happy person won extremely cool noise canceling Bose headphones and another lucky person won 500 pounds of hard cash. It was just like last year, when I did not win an iPad at DevCon. It was like a christmas that never came. So close, but so far.

Last year I wanted the iPad so bad that after the conference finished, I went to Louvre Apple Store and got myself one. I was able to justify it as an essential purchase to myself as well as to my spouse. I am not sure whether same reasoning would have allowed me to spend more than 300 euros on headphones. Most likely not.

So instead I did the next best thing:

Got myself a double whopper. ( Yes, I live in a country without a Burger King )

I would have loved to mingle more with people and have a pint or two after the conference, but unfortunately was way too tired to be of any company or form any comprehendible sentences. But next year again!


Big thanks to all the organizers of the conference as well as all the people who I had the pleasure of meeting at the conference! Hopefully we will see again next year!

Some mental notes for next year

To prevent any major disappointments, check out beforehand if there are any major parties in the conference location before or after the conference – so that you can plan your trip accordingly.

My biggest regret related to this conference trip is that I did not do my homework and check out from Timeout and other sources what is happening in London. Who cares about LMFAO, top notch art galleries, west end shows or even Red, Hot, Chilipeppers performing on O2 arena — this was something more important. As it happened that on 8th of November, Steel Panther was performing in Camden and naturally the show was sold out.. and I did not have time to get a ridiculously expensive black market ticket from eBay in time.

So I had to settle to listen the latest album in Offline mode from Spotify on my iPhone and walk along the streets of London thinking that I will see them live in Helsinki next March.

If you are scratching your head and asking yourself what on earth is Steel Panther, allow me to elaborate with some multimedia.

However I must warn about immature and sexist humor, explicit language and excessive references of 1980’s glam rock and heavy metal. If you are all grown up and have already forgotten your rock’n’roll youth – do not, I repeat, do not click videos below.

’Documentary about the band’:

Few samples:

”Death to all but metal!”

If a band gets Sarah Silverman to their video, that band must be good.

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