assetload name=Fatwire to assetsave name=Oracle

July 15th, 2011

In the recent move by Oracle to acquire Fatwire has kept people guessing around Fatwire’s future. It is interesting to see how some people favour the deal while others thinks an end of another product . Some of the interesting readings are:

Here are my thoughts based on various Fatwire modules, though it comes a little late in the day :):

Content Server: Content Server is the heart of Fatwire product suite. Content Server provides content creation, management and delivery platform, providing basic and flex asset models to design content types. Basic, in a simple term is a row in database table while Flex is managed across various tables, thus providing complexity as well as flexibility. I think the core CS will remain though we need to look out which development and improvement model Oracle adopts: basic (rigid) or flexible. One area to watch out for cs is its integration with Oracle’s Enterprise search engine.

Engage: provides personalization and merchandising features, enabling organizations to gather information about site visitors and customers, evaluate it and provide personalized promotions, offerings. Could Fatwire’s Engage will engage Oracle not to use Oracle CRM on demand? My guess is that we will see more of rules and promotional offerings being evaluated through Oracle CRM on demand with Engage becoming more of gathering engine.

Community Server: Community server is the social offering from Fatwire which includes setting up Blogs, commenting and rating system. This is the biggest area of threat as Oracle already have social collaboration platform in the form of WebCentre. And as I understand, Oracle always wanted to push WebCentre and likely scenario could be tight integration with Webcentre which will become the social collaboration platform for Oracle’s WEM.

Gadget Server: Fatwire’s Gadget server helps organizations to expand their capabilities for delivering a personalized, interactive, web 2.0-style online experience to engage customers, partners and prospects. Not sure what’s going to happen with it. But I think Oracle will try to do everything around web 2.0 through WebCentre.

Content Integration Platform: Offers powerful capabilities for accessing content of all types from EMC Documentum, Microsoft SharePoint, and Windows and Unix file systems, for fast and efficient publishing online. EMC bit will be cut off with Oracle plugging in UCM to manage documents and we can see more of integration modules evolving in the long run.

Satellite Server: Remote caching engine which brings site near to users. Do not see much change happening with it as it complements core content server.

Content Optimizer: Is the measuring tool which helps business users and marketers to measure the effectiveness of online content and campaigns. FatWire Content Optimizer works with FatWire Content Server and FatWire Engage to enable real-time tracking and optimization. It will be interesting to see if Oracle’s Content Analysis tool : Oracle Hyperion Web analytics gradually gets pulgged in Fatwire.

Digital Asset Management: Digital Asset Management (DAM) Solution is provided by EMC Documentum to manage DAM assets. With Oracle, we can see DAM solution integration with UCM and Fatwire-EMC solution and will gradually die off.

Fatwire’s CS 7.6: Content Server Developer Tools (CSDT): review

June 13th, 2011

Fatwire recently released 7.6 version of the product with one of the interesting addition is CSDT (Content Server Developers Tool). Accoridng to Fatwire,

CSDT enables developers to work in a distributed environment using tools such as the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and version control system (VCS) integration. CSDT does not interfere or integrate with other development models. Using CSDT, a development team can manage Content Server resources and exchange those resources with other members of the team

One of the important factor which comes along with CSDT is file system representtion of CS repository. What CSDT does is convert the native CS asset representation to .mail.xml files and vice-versa.
This enable developers to work either in CS or in eclipse. Once the resources are in filesystem, its much easy from management and deployment point of view.

Positives

  • Easy to setup and get started
  • Finally a development tool to make developers life easy with more controlled release and code management
  • Develop JSP elements with standard Eclipse features such as tag completion, syntax highlighting, debugging, and so on
  • Command line utility to export, import ,list both CS and workspace artefacts
  • Manage most of the CS work from within eclipse, including log level changes, access to log files etc.

After playing a bit with the development tool, here are my findings around CSDT OOTB usage:

  • While exporting/importing data from CS using command line utility, there is no way to specify absolute path for datastore. It is always relative to export/envision within CS directory
  • CSDT import requires workspace to be present on the server before running the script within export/envision. There is no way to specify remote workspace/zip file, though you can start the process remotely
  • Incremental builds, for example, only changed files from CVS, can’t be achieved using import command line utility as the utility looks for all the dependency files to be present in workspace even though they have not changed
  • “modifiedSince” option on command line only works for Assets and not for other Fatwire artefacts
  • Logging available is limited
  • Listing commands (listds, lisrcs) doesn’t check for dependency
  • There is no option to see if the existing artefacts within a workspace meets all the dependecy checks before importing in an environment, though when you run import it log errors of not locating the dependent files
  • There is no support to export/import workflow artefacts from CS and vice-versa
  • There is no option available to export users association to sites

So, typical steps for moving a new site from one CS instance to other includes:

  1. Export/check-out from CVS @SITE, @ROLE, @ASSET_TYPE, @TREETAB, @STARTMENU, @ELEMENTCATALOG, @SITECATALOG, @ALL_ASSETS for a site
  2. Import all the exported artefacts in a specific order with @SITE first and maintaining all dependencies
  3. Manually setup workflow in the new environment (assuming there is no connectivity between the instances)
  4. Manually configure users to site association

And Bingo, new CS instance is up and running with the latest managed code.

WCM & Configuration Management

June 10th, 2011

As highlighted recently by @irina_guseva from Real Story Group, C stands for complexity in WCM, one other reason to add for this complexity is around availability of development tools and the whole process of configuration management and continuous integration. Lots of CM systems are repository based and they love to manage content, content types and presentation templates within the repository than on file system. As most of the CM system provides versioning, all the configuration managment, whether to do with content, content types or presentation are all buried within them.

Over the period of time, the above approach has lead to many CMS implementation failures or the thought of using CMS at the first place. Configuration and deployment process is the least which is talked about during product demo’s and presentation but always is an area of concern. One, there is no way to manage your configurable items in a Concurrent Version System. Two, deployments are hand-crafted than any automated tools. Three, there are lot of manual processes required to be in place to manage change control and many such reasons. And if you have a big team, anything more than five, it is really a nightmare. Resolving conflicts, managing communication around changes, keeping track of the changes etc. adds just new dimension to complexity.

Many CMS vendors have realized the problem area and the result is inclusion of development tools/ IDE’s with the product. Adobe’s Day CQ comes with CRXDE which is custom-built,pre-packaged, stand-alone Eclipse application specifically for CQ and CRX and thus enables to efficiently develop project. Fatwire’s 7.6 version now comes with CSDT (Content Server Developer Developer Tools) which enable developers to work in a distributed environment using tools such as the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and version control system (VCS) integration. Both of these developer tools expose the repository structure in file system which enables all the doors for configuration management.

Once the files are available on a file system, it is pretty straight forward to integrate with a CVS system for config management and providing a much cleaner development environment for big teams. It also enables for continuous integration plus automated delpoyments. Config management becomes managable and the complexity suddenly dis-appears.

I think going forward, we will see more development tools evolving for products, enabling customers to focus of real CMS issues than management and release processes with these tools.

140 characters communication, the next big thing?

June 1st, 2011

Social media has been continuously changing the way we communicate, especially the 140 characters syndrome. For those who are wondering what that is, it’s our own Twitter. Why it is restricted to 140 characters only? Here is a snippet from Twitter FAQ:

140 Characters

140 Characters

We like to keep it short and sweet! It also just so happens that 140 characters is the perfect length for sending status updates via text message. The standard text message length in most places is 160 characters per message. We reserve 20 characters for people’s names, and the other 140 are all yours!

Recently, the 140 bug has hit China’s most popular microblogging service, Sina Weibo. China’s highly competitive job search happens through micro blogging where Chinese job seekers, both new and experienced, have to summerize their work history in 140 characters or less againsta job post on the site… Wondering if I can really do that :).

There are conferences which happens around 140 characters. One of them being 140 Characters Conference which provide a platform for the worldwide twitter community to: listen, connect, share and engage with each other, while collectively exploring the effects of the emerging real-time internet on business.

140 characters are opening new doors to the way we communicate. 140 characters is making the Communication more crisp and to the point with creation of new acronyms every time to communicate. These acronyms are becoming part of our every day talk. Newer generations entering the workforce will seek these types of communication mediums than traditional way. The communication tradition is moving from

mail ============> email ====================> 140 characters

Some other interesting area’s I came across:

140 characters is currently a new container for ideas. I could imagine this effect to expode in various forms and shapes soon.

Adobe’s Day CQ 5.3 – My view of the product

May 26th, 2011

Day CQ has been in news ever since Adobe decided to acquire the company. Firstly, it was around providing a WEM platform along with Adobe’s online marketing suite and than as highlighted by @irina_guseva from RSG, CQ5 WCM development skills are hot — and scarce. I recently had some hands-on experience in exploring the porduct and we launched three websites in the space of five months, which clearly highlights one of the main strengths of the product i.e. quick time to market. There are lots of positives about the product. To list a few are:

Strengths

Strengths

  • Easy to setup and get started
  • Architecture (Open source + standards)
  • Sling framework is pretty cool ! .html to .xml to .json etc
  • Jackrabbit, Felix OSGi bundles JCR 283 Standards compliant
  • Default cluster of one, so easy to add remove new instances
  • Syndication/ content sync is pretty fast
  • Packaging architecture is neat
  • System backups
  • Blogs (reverse publishing)
  • etc

And there are lot of sites which talk about its positivity. There are always two sides of the coin, and product does have some not soo good aspects as well. Find below the list which might be useful for users who are trying to evaluate CQ. The below list is based on my experience and I am happy if any of the CQ guru’s want to correct me:

Weakness

Weakness

  • Separation of component and content: The component model doesn’t really highlight the real value of a CMS product. Most of the components which comes out of the box doesn’t really separate content from presentation and I fould it hard until we adoped the approach of data components and presentation components. For more details, please refer to my old post: Adobe’s Day CQ : Separation of content from components
  • Multi Vendor and issue with CSS /Divs: CQ requires HTML, CSS to be defined in specific formats, as it adds a number of divs on its own to establish its paragraph system. If you are working in multi-vendor environment, where a creative agency is developing designs and mock-ups without any clue of CQ, it may sometimes be really hard to adopt it in CQ. It is better to look for some guidelines from CQ around the structure of HTML, CSS to be defined.
  • Thin Documentation: Even though dev.day.com has basic set of documentation available, it is really hard if you want to customize even a small bit of it. The architecture is pretty open but unless there are pointers to explore its really a big hinderance. The google groups CQ forum has more of queries than solutions, but recently it has been pretty busy.
  • Authoring WCM User Interface: UI for authors is Ajax based, and so it is an issue in organisations where JS is disabled. With JS disabled, the interface comes back as blank page.
  • CRXDE: Popular tool for development is CRXDE but we had troubles in its integration with SVN. The updates didn’t work as expected and you can’t check-out a single file. There is no proper guidelines to merge and resolve conflicts apart from doing it outside CRXDE
  • Reporting: Out of the box reporting available within CQ 5.3 is pretty thin and you need to write custom code to extract most of the required information. This has changed significantly with V 5.4.
  • Package Manager: New package manager with CQ 5.3 has number of issues and in my experience it is better to use the old package manager which is more reliable. Also, the UI for pacakge manager doesn’t refesh and hangs for ages.
  • Multiple interfaces: CQ comes with number of interfaces including WCM, CRX, Apache Felix, servlet engine administration. Some of the functionalities re overlapping across interfaces. It will be better to consolidate into one.
  • CQ Corruption: We have seen a situation where CQ stopped working just because someone switched off the machine while CQ was running. It happened to be that CRX repository was out of sync on local and shared directories which didn’t allow CQ to start again.
  • Sidekick is sleak but annoying and does page refresh for each action

If anyone wants to share their not so good experience with CQ please drop a comment or mail me and I will consolidate as part of the above post.

HTML Mockup and Content

May 24th, 2011

In my previous post, I wrote about HTML mock-ups and their importance. To extend on the same point, it is really important that sample of the actual content that needs to go on the page needs to be part of mock-up as well. In my previous experience, I have encountered various situations where lourel ipsum content works fine but when we replace with the actual content the mock-up starts breaking up. A classical example is usage of RTE (Rich Text Editor) where authors think that anything can fit in and will work but in reality creative agencies never have a view of which all styles to be defined in CSS so that content appears right. In the recent example. authors started inputting tables within RTE, the styles for which were never defined as part of CSS which lead to confusion and frustration on everyone’s part.

HTML Mockup

HTML Mockup

Actual content requirements

Actual content requirements

Another classical examples is management of headings (h1, h2, h3 etc.) within a page. When the creative agency define mock-up, they try to follow a hierarchial pathern for the heading from top to bottm with H1 (heading 1) appears first on the page and than H2’s, H3’s and so on. When the content is written, either in-house or by third party, they never has visibility of the format that needs to be followed i.e. whether to use H1 in their content or H2, H3 and this all leads to confused page with headings floating all around.

I think as part of mock-up testing and sign-off, it is important that we use sample of the actual content with all variations possible to be part of those pages. So, I think as part of the mock-up testing and sign-up, we should also include the right content to make sure of such scenario’s. Has anyone had such experiences to share?

Are you a good CMS User?

May 20th, 2011

Are you a good CMS user? CM instinct are part of our day to day life. The thinking about CMS usage starts from our day to day job. Think about what all you do as a normal day for a moment and read on.

I am into consulting and spend most of the time using a PC, laptops, storage devices etc. I am sure most of the users who will read this blog will be in the same boat. The managment of day to day work is a CM. Whichever operating systems we have on our laotps, it is providing the basic framework to manage your conent.It provides features like setting up heirarchy, setting folders, files templates, basic and advance search, content creation through adding apps in the framework (creating word doc, spreadsheet, pdf etc.), management of digital assets etc.

How to make use of the framework effectively is left in the hands of the user and that’s where your CM thinking cap goes on. Some of the users manage their documents effectively creating a folder hierarchy, adding meta information etc. while others leave it in the hands of search engine.Some users version the document to manage history while others doesn’t care about it, and many such examples can be included.

If you are good at managing your day to day work, in anything you do, I am sure you will be much better in using a CMS product. Bacause the same thinking will apply behind anything you do in CMS and you will be as good a CMS user as any CMS greek out there, if not better :)

Bundled CMS with Portal: Are they an option?

May 16th, 2011

Most of the well known Portal products in market comes with some form or shape of web content management systems. The supplied WCM tools are very basic while other are funcionality rich. For example:

IBM’s Web content Manager (previously called Lotus WWCM) is very tightly integrated with WebSphere Portal. The product was originally was acquired by IBM and over the period of few releases it has move forward from just being a simple WCM product to more rich functionality. The support for personalize content and integation with portal’s personalization engine adds new dimension.

Liferay has built in product called Liferay CMS (previously known as Journal) which is tightly integrated within Portal and let you perform basic CMS functionalities though it is not as rich as IBM’s WCM. It does provides integration with jBPM to manage complex workflows. No personalization of content that I am aware of.

Oracle’s UCM is a true WCM product and could stand on its own (not the once mentioned above). It is far more complex and provides a wide range of capabilities – document management, versioning, document collaboration etc. The newest version provides a tag based architecture, allows you to embed services in content regions, runs and scales on WebLogic Server, and has some interesting web app functionality to create content driven web applications without a lot of coding. However, it is not as tightly integrated with any portal in the WebCenter Suite.

Lots of time people have an opinion that bundled CMS are not capable to handle requirements and they start buying bigger CMS products and start integration work. In my experience, it is worth to evaluate bundled option first before even looking out for CMS. Evaluate how much of the requirements are met with the current bundled version and if the percerntage is significantly high stick with it. Integration with other CMS will not only create inegration nightmares but will also add high cost to licences with the gain not in proportion to spending.

Setting the right Expectations

April 19th, 2011
Expectations

Expectations

Expectations = :

  • the act or state of looking forward or anticipating.
  • something expected; a thing looked forward to.
  • the degree of probability that something will occur.
  • Statistics . mathematical expectation.

Yesterday I was playing with my son and he was behind me to get more and more chocolates from me. And I was trying to set his expectations. I had two ways to set him right, easy and faster was to set his expectations as per his needs. Other was to make him understand with all proper explaination and setting his expectations which could have been long and painful process. Lets not get into what I finally did :)

Setting the right expectation is important on any front and CMS world is no different.

I have been part of few sales demo’s and it is really amazing to see how the sales people try to promote their product by just agreeing that they can do whatever client needs, setting wrong expectations. Well, I think it is very important to set the right expectations at first place. Because all the other expectations are relates to each other and they can blow aways pretty quickly.

Lets take an example, in one of the CMS demo, there were queries from client around workflow capabilities to understand the level of granuality available OOTB (Out of the Box). As usual, the sales team provided sales pitch highlighting all the positives and agreeing with client that their needs for workflow could be fulfilled by this product better than any other in the market. All went out happily out of the room. Client went back with certain expectations that building any custom workflow within the system is easy (drag and drop) and so they started working on requirements. Time passed and development phase arrived and so did the troubles. The defined requirements could not be matched with the OOTB workflow and it ended up with lots and lots of customization and thus adding all the upgrade issues along with it.

Reality-Expectation-Gap

Reality-Expectation-Gap

So, if you set the expectations right at the first time, though it might be painful and not the melody music to people who are listening to you, but it is going to help in long run.

Have a I set the right expectation about my blog with my 100th post?

Scarce Skills responsibility: Service Providers or Vendors or both?

April 13th, 2011

Recently there was post from Irina Guseva from Real Story Group around CQ5 WCM development skills are hot — and scarce.

This is not the case just with CQ but with an niche product. I have worked in Fatwire during its Open Market and Divine days in India and it was soo tough to get a single resource with any Fatwire experience. There was a time that in IT driven country like India, I was in touch with all the people with Fatwire skill which is not usual. :).

So why are these skills scare? And how does that impact products like CQ, Fatwire and others?

From IT service providers view, they build such niche skills in a reactive mode i.e. once they get a project they start engaging with product vendor for trainings and do not really invest pro-actively till they see a big pipeline of projects in same product. And there are cases where people work on one project to acquire such niche skills but than are moved to completely different project and the acquired skill gets lost. So, is IT service industry responsible for building such skills pro-actively and make these skills more readily available?

Service providers could really differentiate themselves from others by specializing in such niche skills but it could very well add a risk for such providers and more balanaced approach needs to be taken based on service providers position.

I think apart from IT service industries, product vendors as well need to focus on developing skills but working with IT service industries and/or clients. From the product vendor point of view, they should pro-actively provide trail versions (downloadable or cloud), free training, service providers specific seminars and try to partner with a number of service providers. This will not only help in building skills required for their product implementation but will also drive their product forward. In most of the cases, vendors focus more towards client needs than a providers which is helping client to achieve the goal. I think product vendors should focus towards service providers equaliy as they could be reliable networking partners to promote product through various seminars, part of RFI/ RFP response etc.

I was in one of the conference couple of weeks back which had a mix of people from vendors to implementors to clients. It was really amazing to hear from vendors that because they are not close to service providers, they do not have a view of what all diffent case studies a product can be implemented. And some of the cases fall well outside their own imagination of using the product.