8th October 2013 Liferay UK User Group meetup – getting local!

A surprisingly local meetup this time, in Bristol! Thanks to Paul Brown of Jordans for organising this and his interesting talk on using Vaadin as a portlet MVC framework. It was great to finally have opportunity to meet the Gavin Beckett, Chief Enterprise Architect of Bristol City Council. Several of his team were present too, and I wish I had more time to speak to them. Bristol are doing some great work on redeveloping their online transactional services delivery platform and using Liferay Portal to achieve this. It is clear that they are taking time to understand citizen needs and using this knowledge to design a great citizen user experience. Prior to the meetup I had been approached by Digpen organiser Sophie Dennis who as turns out is helping project manage the Bristol on their Liferay Portal implementation. This was a really big surprise to me because I have known Sophie for some time from attending Digpen conferences and Exeter Web Dev meetups, but the topics of these have almost always been PHP or lifestyle related. Liferay user groups have mostly been in London, and a whole different group of developers to me. It is quite exciting that Liferay Portal projects are becoming more commonplace in the south west! A UK user group meetup may be hosted in Exeter in the not too distant future.

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The Portal Challenge: Integrating software developed in isolation

I have a strong interest in developing approaches where software is not only developed in a modular way, but also in a way where each module can be mashed up with other modules from other software that was developed in isolation. This interest was first sparked when I encountered the JSR286 Java Portlet specification for portals a few years ago. Portlets are a good candidate for software modules, though in order for them to become this, they need to communicate. JSR286 brought more standardised IPC (Inter-Portlet Communication) to the Java portal world, though it did not go all the way. I feel I have achieved some nice composite applications with reusable portlets by creating strategies on top of the events publishing & processing framework that JSR286 IPC brought. This approach is working well whenever a small team is developing all the portlets, but becomes more challenging when integrating portlets developed by other teams in isolation. By integrating I mean without writing code. This is where I feel the problem with JSR286 IPC resides and it is a major problem in a world where app stores are king and mashups are gaining popularity.

In 2010 I posted in this topic (Achieving a federated single view of the customer) and it remains a challenge. I still feel this is a good approach, but it does require a bit of code to be written for each integration. Can we do better?

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The fall and rise of XForms

Yesterday I gave a talk about the W3C XForms specification at the @Exeter_Web (http://www.exeter-web.org) web developer meetup. Unsurprisingly only 1 out of the 30 or so strong audience had heard of this specification and that’s why I called this talk “The fall and rise of XForms”. XForms really is one of the hidden gems of the web and there seems to be strong interest in learning more from many of those who attended. Hopefully we will have opportunity for more great conversations about this topic in the future and who knows, maybe next time you’ll be tell me about the great solutions you have been able to create using one of the many implementations of the specification. So if you found the talk interesting, why not leave me a comment below! The slides from the talk are available and linked from this post.

17th September Liferay UK User Group meetup in review

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). Continue reading

Reflecting on the Forward25 Data Mashup in Exeter, April 1st – 4th 2011

From the 1st to the 4th of April 2011, “Forward 25” hosted a Data Mashup event to look into new and innovative ways to visualise data from the UNFPA’s Upcoming State of the World Midwifery Report.  “Forward 25” Careers is a social enterprise promoting creative action on future work and careers; focussing on young persons aged 9 to 25.

I had never attended a mashup event before so this seemed like a really good opportunity, right on my doorstep! Continue reading

Achieving a federated single view of the customer

I am writing this post as I have just delivered a pilot implementation of a portlet driven web presentational architecture and it seems like a good time to reflect on the concepts that fed into its design to date, and also its long term prospects.

I would like to propose that modern portal and portlet technology standards as key to a realistic solution to the challenging problem of achieving a “single view” of the customer. The technique I will describe can be extended to any type of object whose information is spread across disparate applications of which the solutions architect has often very limited control. Continue reading