Last month I entered and won this year’s Liferay Marketplace apps contest with my latest Liferay Portal app! There were some really good entries and it must have been a tough contest to call. Social Apps Proxy was my entry. It’s an app for drastically simplifying the building of other Liferay Portal apps that need to integrate with the social graph of its users. For example it can be used to retrieve recent mentions of the user on Twitter. That’s about 10 lines of code to achieve, and the full source code for this can be found here.
Social Apps proxy can be downloaded here.
Social Apps Proxy – Now available
James Falkner (Liferay community manager) wrote a good blog on the contest results.
In reality I started building the app some time before the contest was announced, because I wanted to combine my knowledge of a few different technologies that I had been working with in recent years. Namely XForms 1.1, OAuth 1.0a, and all things Liferay Portal!
The link to XForms 1.1 may seem obscure, but it was possibly my experience with XForms 1.1 that triggered the idea to build the app in the first place. XForms 1.1 has no native support for consuming OAuth services or parsing JSON data commonly returned by such services. It is however a superb framework for rapidly building complex forms using its model driven approach and excellent support for consuming HTTP services. So the idea was to create a HTTP proxy server which would do all the OAuth and JSON parsing (transforming it to XML) stuff on its behalf without it even being aware! Liferay Portal’s plug-able architecture provided a great opportunity to put a face on the proxy server for easy configuration and deployment. And from a user experience perspective, allowing users to managing their OAuth tokens for a whole website (web domain) hosted on Liferay Portal instead of using something specifically put together for an individual form (or portlet) is going to be more aligned with the user’s expectations of OAuth itself.
Integrating XForms with Liferay Portal is not something I will go into detail with, but Orbeon Forms is the XForms 1.1 implementation I am most familiar with and it comes with out of the box Liferay Portal integration. I’m sure other XForms implementations can also be integrated quite easily and Social Apps Proxy will work with those too!
So does that mean that Social Apps Proxy requires a XForms 1.1 implementation to be useful? Not at all. Any kind of app that can be deployed as a portlet to Liferay Portal can use Social Apps Proxy. Once installed, all portlets will automatically receive a special token as a render request attribute which indirectly links the app to all of the user’s OAuth tokens. Using the special token the app can request any OAuth resource as if it requires no OAuth token. Whenever this requires user authorisation the Social Apps Proxy will provide a special HTTP response with an authorisation URL which the portlet should simply send the user to.
So what’s next?
I’m going to be at a few upcoming Liferay conferences; The North America Symposium, London Solutions Forum, and the DevCon in Germany. It would be great to discuss how Social Apps Proxy could be improved so if you’re going to be at any of those events then great. Or you can simply leave a comment, it would be great to hear from you either way!