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Technical Session Highlights from the Boston 2013 Alfresco Summit

Several members of the Blue Fish team attended Alfresco Summit 2013 in Boston a few weeks ago. Alfresco Summit ran from November 12th to 15th. The first day was devoted to the annual “Hack-a-Thon”, training, and some partner events. The remaining three days contained a packed program of both technical and business sessions.

For this article, I’m going to focus on some of the technical sessions that were highlights for me. Every time I make the trip to Alfresco Summit, I pick up some great new ideas. This year was no exception, as there were a bunch of really good sessions to attend.

Alfresco Summit is set up so that there are several sessions that run in parallel. That way, it is easy for attendees to find a particular session that covers a business or technical topic that they are interested in learning more about. There were as many as seven sessions running simultaneously, so there was always at least one session that was of interest. I typically had to choose between a couple of sessions that I would really like to attend. The good new is, sessions are recorded, and some are repeated, so, if one session is missed, you can catch up on it later.

At this point, the slides and video recordings of the sessions have been posted. So, it’s easy to learn more about a topic even if you were not able to make it out to Boston.

Here are some of the sessions that I was really glad to attend. Everyone has a different area of interest, but these are the sessions that were really important to me:

This session highlighted the new database querying functionality that is being added to Alfresco 4.2. Rather than having to rely on Lucene (SOLR) queries for all searches, Alfresco 4.2 introduces the ability to perform some queries directly against the database. Here at Blue Fish, we have been wanting this ability for quite a while, so it is great that it has been introduced into the product. The session also provided some good detail on exactly what is and what is not currently supported.

This is a session that I was not able to catch live, but followed up with the slides and video recording once it was posted. Jeff provides a good introduction to CMIS, and an introduction to the CMIS Workbench. I am relying more and more on CMIS Workbench when I just need to do some quick querying of the repository, and I think it is a great tool to have. Check this session out, and get started with CMIS Workbench if you have not yet tried it out!

We use of the Bulk File System Import Tool quite often, so I always try to catch any sessions that provide an update on the tool. This session was interesting because it highlighted ongoing work with the ‘official’ version of the tool that exists in the product, as well as talking about the stand alone version that is still out there and being developed.

If you use Maven, then you should definitely check out this section. Gabriele provides the latest news about the Alfresco Maven repository (which houses both Community and Enterprise artifacts (accessible if you have an Enterprise subscription)), as well as demonstrating how Maven can be used as an integral part of the build, test, and deployment cycle.

This session was a lot of fun. In fact, it was one of the sessions that was repeated later in the week. Toni de la Fuente demonstrated his work on a backup tool, and this included a live demonstration of deleting and restoring various parts of the system (database, content store, etc.). It was a good demonstration of both the importance of having good backups, but also how custom tools can make backup and restore much easier.

Nathan did a really good job of presenting a variety of tools that can be used to inspect and analyze the different components of Alfresco. I learned about a couple of tools that I had not tried before, and I felt that Nathan did a really good job discussing the component parts of Alfresco and how each can be inspected and monitored.

Joram began by covering the latest updates to Activiti as part of the Alfresco 4.2 release. This includes not only new hybrid workflow functionality (between on-premise and the cloud), but also a move from Activiti 5.7 to 5.13 as the embedded version of the workflow engine. Then, he introduced the new “Project Kickstart”. This is a tool that helps generate all of the behind-the-scenes XML for things like forms. This demonstration was really exciting to see, as it should greatly reduce the amount of hand-coding of XML files that is required when creating a new workflow. I was really thrilled to see this project, and will continue to follow its progress.

Jeff provided a really enjoyable presentation on his role as “Chief Beekeeper” at Alfresco. He uses the analogy of a beekeeper to compare and contrast non-commercial open source software with commercial open source software; and, to contrast these with proprietary software. He did a really good job in stressing the importance of our (the partners, clients and end users) role as a member of the ‘bee hive’. Whether we help out answering questions in the Alfresco Forum, provide code to the public, provide technical materials, or do things like organize and host meet-ups, we can all play a role in growing the Alfresco community.

I should also definitely highlight the sessions that were presented by Blue Fish employees or a Blue Fish client. It is really a privilege to have the opportunity to present a topic, and we had several that we presented this year:

Even if you were not able to attend this year, the sessions have been recorded, and slides are available. So, check out the sessions on their web site!

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