OpenCms Days 2011 in retrospect
From May 9 2011 to May 10 the third OpenCms Days took place in Cologne. The topic of the conference was “The OpenCms 8 User Experience”, targeting the release of OpenCms 8 with its advanced direct edit (ADE) functionality. We at Synyx, being a sponsor for the third conference in a row, have been looking forward to both of these events, the conference and the release of OpenCms 8 for quite some time. In this blogpost I want to mention some of the highlights of the conference, in another blogpost I will describe some of the new features of OpenCms 8.
The conference again took place at KOMED which is suited quite well for the amount of people that are attending. There were two tracks, one showcase track where different companies from the community presented solutions they build around OpenCms and a workshop track that was exclusively held by Alkacon employees, mainly targeting new features of OpenCms 8.
The conference started off with the first public presentation of OpenCms 8 in Alexander Kandziors keynote. A lot of people have been looking forward to this moment as the development of the new version was conducted in a private version control system so this was the first time to see the new features. The new interface looks really promising and seems to be received well by the audience.
I will not go into detail on the workshop track sessions, the new features of OpenCms will be described in another post. In retrospect I think it was not ideal that on the first day I went to workshop tracks nearly exclusively. All the Alkacon team members prepared their slides in a way that makes it easy to take those as a kind of reference manual, which is good, as you can come back to the slides later and have a look at those to learn the new features.
I heard a lot of good things about the talk on optimizing OpenCms performance using Varnish but that’s one I didn’t attend. The single showcase track I went to on the first day was on Software AG and the modules they build together with Componio. Quite impressive how much work they seem to have invested into implementing a lot of modules and extensions.
The first day ended with the Get-Together at Kandinsky, a restaurant just next to the conference location. The food was really good, a nice location and nice old and new contacts to chat with. Also a big thanks goes out to Alkacon who in celebration of the release of OpenCms 8 supplied us with free (as in beer) beer :).
On the second day I went only to talks in the showcase track. Selver Softic of Infonova presented an Open Source module that they are using for implementing the website of Austrian telekom. The module makes it possible to use Velocity as the templating language for OpenCms. Velocity provides an easier syntax than JSPs and is better suited for a lot of web developers. I am not sure if we will use it in a project in the near future but it’s often handy to know that something like this is there when you need it.
Another interesting Open Source module was presented by Rich Cooley of Northpoint Solutions. The idea behind the module is quite simple but it can be very useful when dealing with large assets. You can declare some assets to reside outside of the Virtual File System which stores its content in the database. The assets are stored in the normal filesystem but parts of its content are extracted via the library Apache Tika and stored in OpenCms. This is definitively something I will try out in the near future. Also quite interesting that they are also using the search engine Lucene for content aggregation for example for the glossary on the website they implemented the module for. This is something where our Solr integration would probably also be a benefit.
Speaking of Solr, did I miss something? Oh yes, there was also my talk on our integration of Solr with OpenCms which is available as an Open Source module. Though there have been some technical difficulties (probably I can refer to those as “the slide incident”) the talk seems to be received really well. A lot of people confirmed that this is an interesting topic that will become more and more important in the future. I will try to enhance the documentation of the module in the next days and probably write another blog post going more into some of the details.
Finally, looking at the layout of the conference, I think the separation into workshop and showcase tracks is not as good as in the years before, where the split was between business and technical tracks. A lot of the showcase sessions had a rather technical content so there was no place to go for the business people. Also probably more people would have attended the technical showcase talks if they would have been aware that those might also be of interest to them.
All in all the conference was really worthwile as it has been the years before. Alkacon is doing a great job in organizing the conference and I hope it will become an annual event.