September was an interesting month packed full of interesting meet ups and opportunities to put into practice concepts that I have been evolving over the past couple of years. In this post I will cover the Liferay UK User Group (@LiferayUKUG) meet up on the 17th September hosted on LGA (Local Government Association) premises in Westminster (London). LGA is the organisation behind the Knowledge Hub public sector collaboration platform and Michael MacAuley (project lead) was at hand to provide the user group with an overview LGA’s role and the platform itself. It was an informative talk even though I have previous awareness of the LGA’s role and my on-going experience helping facilitate an community of solutions architects on the Knowledge Hub.
The second talk was by Francois Mounier (integration & development manager) from the London Borough of Camden. Over the course of the past year my team at Devon County Council have had regular discussions with Francois and his team to validate the approaches we are taking with our own SOA architecture and also establish opportunities for code sharing whenever possible to drive down cost for both authorities. Camden have invested significant effort in shifting the focus towards the end user (members of public & business clients) in order to encourage users to transact online rather than via more costly channels. So his talk was especially interesting from an identity management perspective and learning what open and de facto standards Camden used to achieve this (Facebook authentication for and SAML).
After the talks the conversation shifted towards how the user group should organise itself for maximum effectiveness. The user group now consists of approximately 30 individuals spread across all sectors. Because of the steady growth that is being witnessed, the group stands the risk of becoming less relevant to those who are there for a specific need. So we discussed if segregating the group might be useful, and also what collaboration tools could be used to assist with the organisation.
We were quite fortunate because Bryan Cheung (CEO of Liferay Inc.) had made an unexpected appearance at the meeting and he was able to provide us with a demo of what support the recently released Liferay Social Office 2.0 CE could bring. Social Office is a separate but related open source project which uses the Liferay Portal as a platform. It deploys as a set of Liferay Portal plug-ins that can be deployed to an existing Liferay Portal instance. It became obvious that this is a very rich collaboration platform and Liferay Inc. use it themselves for internal staff collaboration. The only concern was that the user group could get detached from the greater Liferay community that is primarily presented on liferay.com . Especially so because general Liferay Portal adoption in the UK is a recent endeavour. On liferay.com each user group is provided with a wiki, shared calendar and Message board. The user group felt this was an inadequate set of tools to encourage members to keep the conversation in one place. However, the benefit would be that a search on liferay.com would yield results from the joint collaborative assets of all user groups and that of the general community, primarily surfaced via message boards. We concluded that we should explore both approaches to determine which one works best for us.
There is audio and video coverage of the user group meetup available here .
The evening was wrapped up by most members of the user group heading to a local Westminster pub. Unfortunately I had pre-purchased train tickets to get me back to Devon so missed out on this. I guess you live and learn!
For those who are interested to learn more about Liferay Portal adoption in the UK and more generally what this great platform can achieve, why not attend the next user group meet up on Tuesday November 6th 2012? Later this month I will be attending the Liferay Europe Symposium 2012 in Wiesbaden (Germany) which will be my first Liferay symposium and I am excited to have an opportunity to be there. Hope to see you there!