Shove over old codger, the next generation are here!

I recently saw a tweet about how we should teach our kids to type even though they probably will not need it. Well for the most part they won’t.

My eldest daughter has just started to learn to code through coder dojo in Cork. It is amazing to watch the excitement of getting hello world to appear, and it reminds me of my first experience of coding learned from my own father over 30 years ago.

Of course things are different now, and despite working in IT my whole career, I can still learn from a child. When it came to searching for pictures in google, I explained that she should type the question into the box. She simply clicked the microphone icon dictated her question and asked me “why do you type it dad?”

The answer, I’m ashamed to say is because I assumed it would be rubbish at voice recognition, a 7 year old in 2013 assumes she can talk to the computer!

The end game is that voice recognition is still not perfect because “this is stupid dad, I asked for a colouring picture of a fairy and an angel under a mushroom and there was none” epic fail google 😉

The pain of public sector tendering

Times are hard. They are hard everywhere, and everyone is working harder for less money. I get that. New ways of working are needed. We must work smarter not harder – so why has it taken me 2 days to complete a Pre qualification Questionnaire for an Irish semi state company? I am not tendering to do a complicated job here – in fact I don’t even know what they want done. Truth be told, I don’t even know if I will have the resources and skills available within the company if (big if), and when I do pre qualify.

No The last 2 days have been spent preparing and assembling, in the precise order requested, basic information and declarations that allow us, as a company, compete for public sector work. I know we can compete for public sector work – we are already doing public sector contracts.

For those lucky enough not to have had to do this process, it goes a bit like this:

We are not restricted by any of the elements contained in Article 45 of EU Directive 2004/18/EC: –  so I’ll fill in your version of the declaration to confirm that, print it twice, and sign it, and include it as an annexe, and note in your document what annexe number it is, and make sure that I scan it, and file it so that I can include it in the 3 CD (CDs! it’s 2013) copies I have to provide you. Excellent, requirement number 1 completed – oh sorry no, I now need to find your checklist and work out a way of marking within Microsoft Word (proprietary format – not very inclusive, but we’ll let that drop for now) how to say Yes (or is it no check the wording for a double negative, would be foolish to fall at the first hurdle) in your Yes [ ]  No [ ] piece of text neatly formatted with the use of 300 spaces, formatting which goes completely mad when I add anything into the [ ] and knocks out all subsequent page breaks in the document.

Right, get a coffee – it’s going to be a long day.

Now repeat the above process for:

Conflict of interest, Insurance cover, Turnover, Company Background, Tax clearance Certificate, corporate safety statement, Quality manual – the list seems to go on for ever.

I get that to be eligible for public sector work you need these things – that is not the issue, the issue is that two weeks ago I filled in the exact same information in a slightly different format and order for your “colleagues” in a different department, and again last month, and 3 months ago and…

Last week I attended a very interesting presentation, organised by IT@Cork. Irelands new CIO, Bill McCluggage (@BillMcCluggage) was giving an insight into his first 100 days in office. He has a great vision for a reformed, digital first, public service – I have a pile of notes and hope to get a post written on the talk in the coming days. I came away energised and hopeful that this small country so adept at punching above it’s weight in so many arenas would lead a new digital public service revolution. When during the Q&A Bill was asked would his role include, in any way, making the tendering process easier, there was a collective groan of “please” from the audience.

To his credit Bill did say that he saw technology as being vitally important in the work being done by his colleagues in the Office of Public Procurement. That technology has to work both ways if there is to be both better engagement from the SME sector and lower prices for the public sector. SME’s of ireland let’s reinforce that point – the public procurement process needs to become more cost effective and efficient, not just for the public service but also for the bidders.

So here is a deal. I’m prepared  to create a web based system that returns a PDF declaration for  Article 45 and Conflict of interests, which the tenderer could then print and sign (forget digital signatures we are MILES away from that!). It won’t solve all the problems by any means but it might just knock a hour or so off the tender preparation marathon – it’s a big elephant, so take it one bite at a time. I am prepared to do this for free if the Office of Public Procurement will give the nod that the produced documents will be satisfactory for ALL tender cases. Why am I prepared to do it for free? Because it would take me longer to bid for the job (assuming it was ever advertised) than to do the work.

So we will dispatch the 3 trees and 3 CD’s and wait, not with bated breath, for the response. I really want to do work for this particular organisation, they are a major operator in Ireland,  down the road from the office, and the potential is there for a long and prosperous client supplier relationship, but boy oh boy the tendering process nearly made me walk away before even trying!

Document collaboration is not the same as document review

Recently there has been much debate in ECM circles on the death of traditional ECM systems because the users are self serving their requirements using the new breed of Cloud platforms. I have followed the ebbs and flows with interest, there is no doubt that enterprise IT is faced with a huge challenge. The user community are far more aware of IT in general outside of work – there is an App for everything – and they want the “at work” experience to match their personal and social IT realities.

Lawrence Hart (@piewords) in this piece I think put’s his finger neatly on why the  “new kids on the block” are gaining momentum with the end users – usability. I think that the improved usability bonus for their day to day work is what appeals the most. As “information workers” we now have too much “local personal” data to be able to keep track of it with simple folders or in “My Documents” or by e-mail collaboration. Right now I think that the cloud providers are providing a massive improvement for part of the process, the part the users see most, but there is more to a complete ECM. Let’s take two area’s for an example:

Document review – the process of another person (usually further up the chain of command) reading a document for accuracy and peer review is a task that has long been in the ownership of the traditional document management sphere. It requires the data to be “secured” and the ability to establish an audit trail of when the document was sent, and if it was considered accepted or not. This process is where the traditional Document management solutions excel with rules and workflows and auditability. the actual interaction with the system are minimal, so the fact that for the most part the usability is poor is less of a turn of – though improved usability would certainly help.

Document collaboration is another whole domain – this is the brave new world where 10 people spread across 3 continents are all collectively working to shape the document that will be sent for review. This is the arena of the cloud upstarts, and this is where they offer so much more than their traditional rivals. The real breakthrough here is not just in the area of ECM, but more in the area of document composition. Track changes in Microsoft word seems so woefully underpowered as a collaboration tool when you have seen text appearing in a different colour form a different user on your google doc in real time, or when the though you had at lunch and typed into the document on your phone is there on your PC screen when you come back from lunch.

My view is that in the short term the 2 players will continue to sit comfortably side by side with the new players offering a brilliant usable multi person ability to create and collaborate on content, and the traditional industry taking to product of this collaboration and putting it through the corporate business rules for publication. In the medium to long term, will the existing cloud providers create sufficient functionality to take over the “business rules” end of this market without losing their end user appeal? Or will a new breed of cloud providers emerge – ones that will replace the second half of the process, providing the level of control and security required, but with reduced licencing and implementation costs? The one certainty as I see it is that traditional on premise solutions are history.

The market is huge, and growing and there is in my opinion, a number of major disruptions still to come – interesting times for those of us in the game.

The rest of the day!

Unfortunately due to connectivity problems I was not able to upload throughout the day, so this post is an amalgamation of my notes for the day. All in all a good day, I’m looking forward to the training day tomorrow.

UI Frameworks

Having missed a session on Continuous Integration, due to having to do some real work, we are back for the presentation on UI Frameworks

UI divided into areas for Actions, Forms, content view etc, with a theme for overall look and feel.

Key design strategy for the UI framework:

  • Consistancy
  • Plugability
  • Re-Usability

UI can be configured through Nuxeo Studio

After a quick overview there was more of a deep dive into the different aspects of the framework:

Theme: Defines the branding of the application (logos, overall colour scheme etc.) and the overall layout of the pages.

Layouts & Widgets: Display Meta data in forms, available in different modes for View and edit to re-use the same form. Forms can provide validation & feedback to guide the user. Developed using JSF and facelets.

Actions: Actions handle navigation and call functions. Display of actions is dependant on user, selected document type etc.,

Content Views: Show forms for meta data and documents / content that match query in a single view. Ability to show lists from external data sources.

Tabs: New feature for Nuxeo 5.6, allows tabable UI for all of the above

The talk wrapped up with an overview of what is coming next, which includes:

Adding more widgets natively to the platform for Tree views etc., Live validation widgets, easier native support for mobile access.

Nuxeo Roadmap

Thierry Delprat

First session after Lunch, always a difficult one! Thierry Gave us an overview of where Nuxeo was going technically. He started by indicating that OSGi /CDI was still the long term goal but they would not implement it for the sake of it, The plan is to have version 6 fully OSGi / CDI compliant.

We then moved on to the Webservices. The plan is to extend the Webservice model, particularly generating WSDL’s automatically. Also there will be methods of accessing webservice functions from within Nuxeo Studio. Thierry also filled us in on the nuts and bolts upgrades that would be implemented in the Nuxeo Core, again the key here is improved speed.

In terms of UI elements, it was pointed out that many people want a “simpler” solution than JSF, but there seems to not be many clear alternatives. For version 6 JSF2 is still the most likely framework.

For cloud based deployments, here are 2 current flavours, Amazon for which Nuxeo is currently looking to deploy using RDS for the SQL database elements. The second solution is Azure, and work is on-going to support Nuxeo on Azure. Work is also going on to build an application factory that will allow Nuxeo to be able to deploy itself on the Cloud, provisioning Virtual machines as required for load.

There followed a number of slides covering the tools available both to the community members and for the Connect customers. One of the main improvements for Studio was to allow multi user studio projects, using the power of the Git repository on which it is built

On the client side, improvements incude Nuxeo Drive (already mentioned this morning) which is a multi platform desktop client. It will be extensible on the client side. Aldo HTM5 and Mobile UI improvements

In terms of the “packaged solutions” like DM / DAM etc, there is a convergence of these projects bringing them all under a single look and feel. The exception is the Case management Framework (CMF) which, while good for very complex case management applications, is too complicated for the average simple case management applications.  The answer to this is to allow CMF mailboxes within DM which will allow “simple” case management applications to be built on DM.

Next release targets are 5.7 to be released Q1 2013, and 6.0 in Q4 2013

Content Routing & Workflows

Alan Escaffe & Floriant ?

Originally Nuxeo used jBPM as a workflow engine. The new content routing has been in development for 2 years, originally as part of CMF.  The content Routing 2.0 is now available within the platform.

Workflows are designed within Nuxeo Studio graphically and them deployed to the application. Workflows can be assigned to documents, folders or groups of documents

Alan gave us an overview of basic BPM functionality, emphasising the business advantage to having managed process, especially in terms of reporting and visibility of the process.

Floriant then gave a quick presentation of why Nuxeo decided to write their own Workflow engine rather than using an existing engine. Primarily there was a desire to have seamless integration to prevent having to parse data backwards and forwards between the platform and the 3rd party engine. The current workflow engine is basically an extension of the content automation process that was always available, but with the ability to build arbitrary graphs, i.e link any task to any other based on conditions.

Lightening Talks

The Lightning talks format is one of my preferred formats for conferences, providing a brief overview of a specific subject. The subjects covered in the first Lightning talk session were:

Support – A presentation on how Nuxeo deal with the customer support calls, covering how the calls are triaged, escalated and called, also covering the general increase in volume of support calls as the number of customers increases

Scalability – This talk covered the ability of Nuxeo to deal with large data volumes, in general large quantities of content files are not considered and issue, with the system being load tested to 100 Million documents, however the real scalability issues come in where the database queries are concerned. We were given some advice on streamlining queries and using group based security models to reduce the load on the database. Also there is the possibility to run multiple instances and load balance the request.

Semantic content enrichment and indexing – A very slick demo of the ability of the semantic engine to pull references from Wikipedia, and to show all documents which reference this entity. Specifically the semantic analysis that was language independent, showing the semantic analysis working against an Arabic document (This demo was very similar to one given last year at Nuxeo World). The next part of the demo showed a new development where video content was uploaded and automatically transcribed to allow semantic entity analysis automatically on video content, including multi lingual full text queries of the transcription of the video, the demo that was used was a video in Arabic, the searched using a search term in French (very cool!).  Apache stambol and temis are used as the Semantic engines linking to DBPedia & Freebase and others. Speech to text transcription of video done using VOCAPIA research plugin for Nuxeo.

After a quick coffee we are back for more Lightning talks…

Brazilian e-government project – Document imaging and workflow process that used to have 200 Tonnes of paper moving annually through the system. Improved business compliance and all captured paper properly managed. 1600 users working daily on Nuxeo platform. Includes SMS interaction to communicate with the citizens that were using the services.

Mobile framework – It started with 3 apps, Android SDK, iOS SDK, Fully HTML based application. Only the HTML app is currently fully functional, the other 2 are staged awaiting sponsors. The HTML based application was enhanced with Apache Cordova. Cordova adds the ability to interact with native mobile functions while only having minor device specific code. Nice demo showing the Mobile app working or document preview and uploading content and images from the mobile device into the Nuxeo document store

Nuxeo Drive – Desktop / ECM integration. Neat demo of the Nuxeo Drive which is currently in development, to allow a platform independent desktop integration to allow you to edit the documents locally and sync the content with the Nuxeo Document store. Ability to synchronise complete workspaces.

Disclaimer

All information in this post was gathered from the presenters and presentation. It does not reflect my opinion unless clearly indicated (Italics in parenthesis). Any errors are most likely from my misunderstanding a statement or imperfectly recording the information. Updates to correct information are reflected in red, but will not be otherwise indicated.

All statements about the future of Nuxeo products and strategy are subject to change at any time due to a large variety of factors.

 

 

The Power of the Platform

Brendan Covney

Brendan started by describing his view of what makes a platform as distinct from an application with some API’s that allow developers extend it. A true platform allows for the development of a custom content based application using the API’s

Naked content “platforms” are really only file shares, real content platforms must support a rich combination of content and meta data, allowing the 2 to interact. By using the API’s from the platform, application designers should be able to build their own extendable applications.

A technology platform should provide 2 levels, in the first instance there should be immediate benefits, with the ability to extend it without breaking the original functionality.

Brendan spoke very well on the subject of standards and not being a “standards Junkie”, know what the standards are and why you are implementing them – they must really be a logical fit for your requirements, don’t just follow slavishly the latest standards.

The wrap up of Brendans talk came back to the issue of what makes a platform successful, the final part was that a good Content Management platform allows the development of applications that solve business requirements in a timely and efficient manner, both now and into the future.

Disclaimer
All information in this post was gathered from the presenters and presentation. It does not reflect my opinion unless clearly indicated (Italics in parenthesis). Any errors are most likely from my misunderstanding a statement or imperfectly recording the information. Updates to correct information are reflected in red, but will not be otherwise indicated.

All statements about the future of Nuxeo products and strategy are subject to change at any time due to a large variety of factors.

Nuxeo World Keynote

Eric Barocca, CEO Nuxeo

Eric started by giving the helicopter overview of the Nuxeo platform and the Nuxeo company the highlights of which are:

  • Nuxeo Platform – Platform for building Content centric applications
  • Software is fully open source
  • Nuxeo company supports customers that wish to create and deploy applications using Nuxeo
  • Company  Growth in last year:
    • Doubling of connect subscriptions
    • Tripling of Downloads
    • Tripling of community activity
    • Release of Nuxeo 5.6
    • US revenue grew x3 in 2012

After the overview there was a drill down into a number of customer Use cases:

  • Generali – Worldwide procurement system aimed at saving $50Million per annum by sharing content
  • Netflix – Store manage, and distribute all Movie images and trailers for the Netflix site. Includes image approval with Movie studios before publication
  • FICO – Case management system for Credit card fraud. Once the automated system picks up suspicious activity a case is created and managed by humans. This business process is handles in Nuxeo
  • Michelin – All images and point of interest information for publication in guides and oin the web. Management of collaboration and workflow of the content
  • NFI (Netherlands Forensic Institute) – real world CSI! Case management system for forensic evidence content. Collaboration across areas of the policing system
  • Jeppesen – Flight information for pilots. Distribute pilot information for Airport details and other vital information. Nuxeo system to enable easy update of content and delivery to 200,000+ iPads. Live updated when Pilots are in airport so they always have the latest information.
  • US Navy – Nuxeo back end for 60% of applications. The platform stores the content securely and content delivered to applications using Web services

Emphasis that Nuxeo is not a file store, it is a platform for building content centric applications.

After the use cases, Eric give an overview of the newest Nuxeo release 5.6

The Figures

  • Project now over a million lines of code
  • Platform is made up of components, only use what you need
  • Auto testing on each change, full build run daily
  • API fully backwards Compatible

New Features

  • Content routing – workflow engine complete with Forms UI designer and visual designer
  • Visual Page designer – build custom data centric forms
  • Improved social collaboration, enable a wall to follow activity on a case for example
  • Content diff – able to visually see differences between versions of content, both Meta data and content
  • Document templating – create template in office app, and insert properties from Nuxeo
  • Multi tenancy at the application level, this passed me by somewhat!
  • Major core re-work to further improve the speed of the platform which scales to very large installations

The roadmap:

  • UI Level features
  • Cloud controller for managing cloud apps
  • Nuxeo Drive – Sync part of the repository to a local offline store to allow offline editing
  • Mobile framework

 

Disclaimer
All information in this post was gathered from the presenters and presentation. It does not reflect my opinion unless clearly indicated (Italics in parenthesis). Any errors are most likely from my misunderstanding a statement or imperfectly recording the information. Updates to correct information are reflected in red, but will not be otherwise indicated.

All statements about the future of Nuxeo products and strategy are subject to change at any time due to a large variety of factors.

Nuxeo World conference

It seems that despite my best intentions this blog idea has faltered! I have plenty of post ideas sketched out, so I must get round to posting them!

Anyway for now I am going to take my lead from @piewords as he is not in Paris this year for Nuxeo World and I am going to try live blogging the event.

From the get go I should point out that I am not a Nuxeo customer or partner, but have attended this event for the last three years because I enjoy the Nuxeo style and people, so much more engaged than the average sales pitch. I do feel that in the near future I will be implementing Nuxeo as you can’t ignore progress and keep flogging the same old cat.

Anyway all posts from the conference will contain this disclaimer which I have shamelessly borrowed from @piewords, I hope he does not mind! If the disclaimer is missing it means I forgot to include it *not* that it does not apply!

Disclaimer
All information in this post was gathered from the presenters and presentation. It does not reflect my opinion unless clearly indicated (Italics in parenthesis). Any errors are most likely from my misunderstanding a statement or imperfectly recording the information. Updates to correct information are reflected in red, but will not be otherwise indicated.

All statements about the future of Nuxeo products and strategy are subject to change at any time due to a large variety of factors.

The Joys of engrained “systems”

I am always amazed by the acceptance levels of management in organisations of a lack of standardisation amongst the documents produced under their watch.

I could be considered a bit of a freak about standardisation of look and feel – but I really strongly belive that where a single department is producing large volumes of similar (or let’s face it identical) documents that they are then distributing, a casual observer should have a good chance when looking at a number of them of knowing that they came from the same place. This week I was involved in launching a new ECM and BPM system which included as a pivotal part of it the fact that the content and the look and feel were, for a large part, going to be separated. We had been given a great steer by one of the ultimate end users, the project had progressed really well, and there was very strong management buy in – all good ingredients for a successful launch – but then the rub. The system was to be used to collate points for agendas, something this organisation had been doing for years, and the team of 5 secretaries that managed it were all extremly proficient, but each of them and their own unique way of doing it.

Now local variation is nothing new, but when it applies to all aspects including point numbering, fonts, layout, cover page etc. for a series of documents all approved and signed by the same management it does seem a bit farcical. The level of re-work being done here by each of the different secretaries managing all aspects of each of the agendas they look after is amazing.

In this case all was well that ends well as everyone has agreed that in fact the new standard look and feel is a big step forward – but management should really grasp the fact that by imposing easy to follow standards for their documents they will free up huge amounts of their knowledge workers time – after all the real purpose of hiring intelligent people is for their content knowledge not their MS word formatting skills!