Master Series: Nothing “Vain” About Vanity URLs

Business users of IBM WebSphere Portal version 8.5 can offer customers better digital experiences by using Vanity URLs.

 

by David Wilkerson

Let’s face it URLs are important. However, difficult to remember URLs are often so cumbersome that they must rely on alternative mechanisms for delivery.  Perhaps you, like me, have had the misfortune of pasting a long URL into the browser locator bar only to discover that you are missing the final characters of the string.  Microblogs, such as Twitter, have introduced an era of the shortened URL and with it the ability to communicate concisely. However, it is important to remember that a shortened URL is not always the most effective.

 

For example a terse url such as http://wp.me/1ll9G, offers the recipient no hint of the link’s meaning.

 

Previous versions of WebSphere Portal relied upon some combination of Friendly URLs, URL Mappings, and HTTP rewrite rules.  We’ll continue this discussion by reviewing the function of each of these.

 

Friendly URLs have been around for a while and provide a simple mechanism for page creators to assign a “url” to their page. As with many solutions friendly URLs should probably have been named something else; I believe they should be called “Friendly Paths”.

 

 

For example if you have a hierarchy of pages such as Home with a child page named Sales, the complete URL to the page would be /wps/portal/Home/Sales.  In turn, if a child of the Sales page exists with a Friendly URL page named “Northeast”, the actual URL would be /wps/portal/Home/Sales/Northeast.

 

There are two key points to keep in mind with Friendly URLs. If the page is moved to another location in the portal page hierarchy its path changes and bookmarks pointing to the page will no longer take the user to the intended target. Also Friendly URLs can become long if the page hierarchy is several nodes deep.

 

URL Mappings were a popular mechanism for solving the key limitation of Friendly URLs. A URL mapping could be created for any page in the node hierarchy and doing so meant that each page could have it’s own unique URL that wouldn’t need to be updated if the page were moved. The URL syntax of a URL mapping for the Sales page could be wps/portal/SalesPage and the child, Northeast, could be wps/portal/NortheastPage. URL Mappings had their own limitations. First, if you noticed something “odd” about the URL mapping example, the use of the name “NortheastPage” was used because URL Mappings could not have the same identifier as a Friendly URL assigned to a page. A second limitation was that only users with access to the administrative tools were able to define URL Mappings.

 

URL Mappings are no longer recommended in WebSphere Portal 8.5 but there is no need to worry. Vanity URLs are an improvement. They are available to page creators and incorporate some remarkable features to leverage managed web content as well.

 

What can a Vanity URL do for you? Instead of passing along a URL with the long encoded portal state information or a URL with a “brittle” Friendly URL path, you can forward URLs that reference the vanity URL servlet such as /wps/vanityurl/Sales.

 

As wonderful as it seems that business users are able to define their own URLs there are more benefits. Suppose, for example, a user needed to provide a different URL for various demographic sectors. Using Vanity URLs we are able to create a URL such as /wps/vanityurl/OurCompany and /wps/vanitryurl/AboutUs while serving the same page.

 

Even if this is not enough, there’s more. User’s can specify a language such that the page displays “in the language that the user has configured for the portal.” To do this, select a specific language to display the page and it will be encoded in that language in the Vanity URL.

 

Finally, to top off the features, users can associate content with each of the Vanity URLs associated with the page. Doing this will require placing the Vanity URL into “edit mode” and then navigating to content using, for example, a WCM Menu Component or Navigator that has been placed on the page. Once content is selected the user can return to the page properties and select the relevant radio button choice for content.

 

Here’s a tip: When examining your Vanity URLs the “path” or “site area hierarchy” is shown on the left but the actual content item is named on the right of the Vanity URL properties.  See the screen shot for more information.

 

Vanity URL

 

One more tip for Administrators: Vanity URLs are not managed using XMLAccess. Instead, they are managed through Web Content Manager library syndication. This is another powerful aspect to the feature. As a WCM artifact, they are subject to project/draft management as well.

 

I hope that this article has illustrated how business users can benefit from this powerful IBM WebSphere Portal feature.

————————————————————————————————————————————

David WilkersonAbout the Author: David Wilkerson’s professional career spans multiple disciplines with a consistent emphasis on discovery and implementation of solutions geared towards achieving objectives of strategic importance. In 1993 David established his consulting practice providing automation of business processes. In 1996 he joined Jacob Solutions, Inc., predecessor to Davalen, LLC where he served as Principal Application Architect and Solutions Engineer. His project management and implementation skills have been put to work in sectors such as manufacturing, health care, banking, and insurance. The tools he employs include Microsoft DCOM (now known as .NET) and J2EE. His practice is to prefer technologies that leverage international standards. For this reason much of his development and implementation has been based, since 2001, on Java-related technologies. David’s professional accreditations including certifications as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and an IBM Advanced Developer. A popular orator, David has been asked to speak across the United States on a variety of topics, including many java related topics, document management and web content management. His academic background includes a BA in History from The Citadel, an MDiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and post-graduate studies in data communications at Boston University.

————————————————————————————————————————————
Want to see other articles?  Visit our eNewsletter feed for past articles.

Want articles delivered straight to your inbox? Text DAVALEN to 22828 or sign up here.

Mail Next, Shifting Focus from In-box Clutter to Work Accomplishment

by Art Whorley

It most likely will come as no surprise that workers spend a lot of time trying to manage their email in-boxes. When you add other notification and collaboration tools, the task becomes overwhelming. The resulting issue is workers become distracted by all the information coming at them and have trouble discerning what’s important and what’s not. How often do we ask ourselves “Which email contained that information and where did I put it?” Perhaps the best quote I have heard on the subject is:

“Remember that email you sent asking someone to do something? Me either.” —Dom Nicastro, CMSWire.

The following statistics, from recent studies, quantify the problem very well.

Improving Collabroation by Adding Social Capabilities to Email

The solution is to deliver a new user experience that empowers the workers, allowing them to narrow their focus to what’s of value across all information sources. They can now prioritize the streams of information coming at them so they can react to the more important items (tune in), and ignore those which are of little to no value (tune out).

IBM’s “Mail Next” is not merely a band aid, or as some have termed it “putting lipstick on a pig.” Mail Next is a revolutionary step forward. With the integrated approach the worker can:

  • Focus on top priorities
  • Quickly search and find anything from the streams of information, regardless of the source
  • Effectively manage to dos

It is delivered in the cloud so there is no infrastructure to maintain and it is optimized for mobile and web access.

While the exact look and feel of Mail Next may vary slightly on IBM’s official announcement date, this is a graphic representation of how the Mail Next home page may appear.

IBM graphic representation of Mail Next homepage

 

Another new innovation with Mail next is the inclusion of Team Analytics. How often are you copied on emails, receive invitations, etc, where you have no idea who the people are or what their relationship may be to you? With Team Analytics, you can quickly view, and understand how they relate to you from an organizational perspective or even in your own extended network.

Team Analytics IBM Mail Next

For a more detailed look at Mail Next and its benefit to users, read the blog entry at the link below:

Blog entry: Inbox, meet IBM Mail Next

Contact Davalen today at (800) 827-8451 for more information on planning, implementing and administrating Mail Next. Davalen sales and technical resources are IBM certified experts in cloud implementations and migrations, and stand ready to work with you to empower your employees.

————————————————————————————————————————————

About the Author: Art Whorley helps companies grasp the business value of becoming a Social Business. He partners with clients to determine the specifics of a solution and then leads the effort to drive adoption. Before Davalen, Art’s career with IBM spanned 33 years and incorporated experience cooperatively working with customers to identify and meet their specific business needs, promote solution adoption and assist with problem resolution. Recently, Art has focused primarily on Social Business Networking, Messaging and Collaboration, IBM SmartCloud, Mobile solutions, and Web Experiences.

————————————————————————————————————————————
This article is from our eNewsletter. Visit our eNewsletter feed for past editions or if you want to receive our monthly newsletter in your inbox, simply enroll here.

Do You REALLY Know IBM Big Data? Then We Want You!

ibm-insight-980x220-jake-porway_V2y

Managing Partner, Len Barker, will be attending IBM Insight  10/26 – 10/30 in Las Vegas to search for a new team member to lead our exciting new IBM Big Data practice!

Davalen is extending our product and service offerings at Davalen from our traditional collaboration focus (Portal, WCM, Connections, Domino, Sametime, etc) to include IBM Big Data offerings.

Reach out if you are interested or know someone!

Email: info@davalen.com

Phone: (800)827-8451

Twitter: @Davalen

Master Series: Digital Experience 2014

kevin-wilmeth by Kevin Wilmeth

After a few years of being away from the conference circuit, I got the happy chance not only to present at the 2014 IBM Digital Experience conference in Anaheim, but also simply to attend it.  I’ll fully admit to being a bit of a kid in a candy store with that sort of thing, but I still think there is a great deal of useful takeaway to discuss.  Here, I’ll highlight some of that which should be of interest to developers.

The value of Portal is going up

One thing I had to keep in mind, personally, is that being away from conferences for a few years means that what others have been seeing incrementally, I got all at once.  On one hand, I’d have to watch out not to confuse the revolutionary for the evolutionary, but on the other, having a bit of a gap does tend to illustrate more clearly which trends are lasting and which ones stall.  And the one that seemed biggest and starkest to me is that the business value of using Portal is going up noticeably.

The 8.5 releases illustrate this pretty neatly.  WCM continues to mature.  Forms Experience Builder should prove to be a very effective tool, making forms-based-app development accessible to an ever-larger universe of developer skills.  The new Script Portlet may prove even more revolutionary in that regard, even if its mechanics appear to be simple.  WEF solidifies much of what was new in 8.0, migrates to a better embedded test platform, and provides a convenient path to tap into the same embrace of the JavaScript Web developer as Script Portlet does.  And administratively, core Portal is moving to a much more streamlined update architecture.

I took all this to mean that 1) Portal skills are going to become even more valuable than they are now, and also that 2) they are probably going to change in a few significant ways.  Keep that in mind as we spin through a few of the development highlights.

Forms Experience Builder (FEB)

The new Web-based tool Forms Experience Builder 8.5 (wiki for both traditional IBM Forms and FEB is here) promises to be a very viable way to produce simple portlet apps centered around forms and built-in data capture, and its extension points (including a REST consumer interface) suggest that one could quickly get into non-trivial applications as well.  I got to go through a lab and put hands on it, and was suitably impressed.  I suspect that a whole lot of simple portlets are going to come from considered use of this resource.

Script Portlet – a new landscape for developers

FEB hints at this a bit, but Script Portlet veritably screams it:  Portlet development is now simply and viably available to the mainstream Web developer.  It’s a very clever and simple idea, really:  in each instance of the Script Portlet, a “single-page” application is captured (as configuration) using a JSFiddle-style interface, the application source is stored as a content object in WCM, and the view mode of the portlet runs it.  In coding, there are hooks and shortcuts for REST services known to Portal, and streamlined referencing to other WCM artifacts.  And it is designed to be friendly to whatever JS framework(s) you may wish to use.

The implications here are potentially huge.  Just consider, for starters, that the deployment model does not have to involve anything from administrators, other than allocating Script Portlet instances.  With application source stored as WCM content, the upgrade/enhancement/versioning model is nearly a tabula rasa of creative possibility. The separation between (REST) service development and consumer development is a by-the-book illustration of functional independence on both sides.  And the available universe of competent Web developers simply dwarfs the number of traditional, dedicated Java portlet developers.  Along with the support for existing and future JS frameworks, all this is going to add up to be an enormous help to R&D, PoC and prototyping/demo efforts at the very least, but I’d be surprised if it stopped there.  One could also envision a great deal of interest for mobile-Web apps as well, and others we haven’t even thought of yet.

WEF 8.5 and Liberty Profile

With all the excitement about everything else in the stable, there are still several significant things to report about WEF 8.5.  The “client-side application” builders are more robust now than in their first release in 8.0, as is mobile and responsive design support.  There are some significant new builders such as XSLT Transform, and even some (welcome) re-introduced builders from the old Dashboard Framework, now available in the core product.  The Samples directory grows more robust.  Updated Eclipse, of course, and now you can do WEF development on Mac!

The most significant change for everyone, though, is probably the switch from WASCE to Liberty Profile for the embedded development environment.  It really is luxuriously fast to start up, and all in all is much more what an embedded dev environment should be.  It’s definitely a bit different for someone long accustomed to WASCE, particularly in administration, and documentation can feel a bit sparse, but it certainly seems better aligned with where everything is going and should at least theoretically prove more migration-friendly to other WAS and Portal platforms.

One thing that really stuck out at me, and which I’m still on the fence about, was an important consideration for those of us who have settled in to certain WEF design patterns that deliberately avoid some of the highest-level builders such as View & Form, for their historic tendency to be inflexible when we need them to be flexible.  In short, I got the distinct impression that the improvements being made to the builder set, especially on the client-application side, are now happening fast enough that continuing to avoid these patterns now seems to carry a measurable risk.  (Nobody told me that–it just seemed obvious that a great deal of the new features seem to depend on some of the builders that have proven frustrating enough that we sometimes pattern around them.)  And some of these new features do seem conspicuously powerful, especially in the mobile space.  It’s something I intend to pay some close attention to for a while, and it may be that it is time to reassess some of what have become classic patterns.

WEF Script Application

New for WEF is a nifty builder called Script Application.  Essentially, it uses the Script Portlet’s approach of encapsulating a “single-page Web application” (source references for HTML, JS, CSS and libraries) and integrates that with available WEF service providers.  Especially given WEF’s profiling capabilities, this could be a very powerful way of integrating straight Web development into WEF projects, in much the same way that Script Portlet enables portlet development with basic Web skills.  WEF is already fairly well recognized as an effective rapid prototyping environment;  it can only be the moreso with the ability to integrate WEF services and function with framework-based front-ends.

What does all this mean for a developer?

In coming to grips with this “democratization of portlet development” idea, that Script Portlet so dramatically promises to achieve, I was strongly struck by a parallel I remember personally from (yeesh!) just about a generation ago.  This moment in time, now, seems very much to me like the moment when Lotus Notes really took off as a development tool–which it did for exactly the same reason as we’re seeing here.  Back then we talked about making application development available to the “power user”–folks that weren’t necessarily schooled in hard-core development, but who could assemble the patterns they needed and who also understood the business, and in the bargain they often turned out to be highly creative types as well.  Lots of people were horrified at this idea, but it worked so well that things just exploded, and a surprisingly robust set of business apps popped up out of nowhere, many lasting far beyond their expected obsolescence.  What’s happening now may be different in terms of the technology, but the mechanism for success seems just the same to me:  the stage is now open to a new and untapped creative mass, and I suspect that we’ll see dramatic things from it again.

Of course, this is a little foreboding if you’re looking at these events as having suddenly to compete with every JS/HTML/CSS Web developer out there for work.  Sure it is!  Probably, you’ll have to change at least some of your attitude or approach, but I don’t think that the valuation of portlet development skills is going to go down so much as it’s going to change.  One of the things I certainly hope happens with all this, is that Portal/portlet development actually starts to take off because of all the new possibilities.  (That’s exactly what happened with Notes, and the boom lasted for some time.)  In that event, I suspect that people who already understand traditional (or WEF) portlet development are going to become even more valuable than they are now, not only because they’ll need to advise and mentor this new group as they find ways and needs to tap further into Portal, but as applications get more complex and greater in number, there will actually be further need for complex portlets and apps that go beyond the limitations of Script Portlet, FEB, etc.  The net effect may well be that you don’t do as many simple portlets as you used to, but you may do more complex and interesting ones instead.

I suspect, too, that WEF developers in particular may find that they spend more time working on the service providing end than on the consuming end.  It may be that out of 100 apps that would previously have been done in WEF or RAD, now half of them (to pull a number out of the air) will migrate to Script Portlet (or WEF Script Application), or FEB, or something similar…but they’ll all still need service support.

Conferences are good for developers

Finally, I was reminded how much benefit there is for a developer to attend a conference.  In my own case, three self-observations stuck out in this regard.  First, I got specific information that will help me with my own work, and there is of course obvious value in this.  Next, I got re-introduced to what I call the wide.  It’s easy to get so involved with the specifics of what you’re doing, on a day-to-day basis, that for all the obvious and valuable expertise in that area, one can get lost in the deep at the expense of the wide.  A conference such as Digital Experience can do wonders for re-establishing the right balance for that.  Lastly, and perhaps because of the aforementioned, I also got recharged.  For the kind of personality that gravitates toward development, it is important to see new and shiny things, and to get excited about them.  Not only does it improve one’s general attitude, it also improves the creative process.  In hindsight of course I recall this pattern in myself and many others from a number of years ago, but we are forgetful creatures, and it is useful to have reminders.

————————————————————————————————————————————

About the Author: Kevin Wilmeth has been working with IBM Web Experience Factory (WEF) since 2001 as a field developer, trainer, coursewriter, mentor, and architect. He came to the Factory from a prior career with Lotus Notes/Domino, where he served the same roles in much the same depth, and for a while specialized in integrating the two technologies. Kevin has also spent some time in the education technology industry, bringing both the technology and the education to people and places that just didn’t have it before. He lives on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, where the fish laugh at him and musical instruments shudder at his very approach.

————————————————————————————————————————————
This article is from our monthly resource e-Newsletter. Did you miss it in your inbox? Visit our eNewsletter archives for past editions or if you want to receive our monthly newsletter automatically, simply write to Ruth O’Keefe and request to be added to our E-Newsletter list. You can also view the Master Series Archives.

Master Series: Essentials for Delivering Empowering Digital Experiences with IBM Web Experience Factory

David_Wadeby David Wade

IBM ExperienceOne solutions aim to “Deliver real-time flow of insights and interactions—at scale.”   IBM Web Experience Factory is a part of the IBM Customer Experience Suite. With Release 8.5 the product continues to evolve as a framework that can build a solid application that integrates with the many layers in the Digital Suite. The ultimate goal is to deliver solutions that empower the customer across the digital experience.

A lot of what we discuss around Web Experience Factory is about the technical aspects and that is very important. There are times new (or old) developers hit road blocks in the learning curve and need technical guidance. IBM and the WEF community have some great information available and at Davalen we have the Master series along with our consulting experiences. Once you begin to “master” building applications, I believe that Web Experience Factory’s strength is not just the first time you develop a digital experience. It’s the second, third, and later times that you come back to update the application and how it maintains all of the integration points with other applications.

For those of you that travel, you reach a time where you know exactly what you need to pack for four days away from home and generally pack it the same way. When I unpack at the hotel there is confidence that I have everything I need.  For this article I would like to summarize some essentials that I believe are important to “pack” for your solution. The emphasis will be on Web Experience Factory with the mindset no application is an island to itself. My challenge to you is to give feedback some of your experiences in these areas and some essentials that you may have in your WEF suitcase. Together we can help Web Experience Factory as it continues to mature into a world-class framework.

Essential: Coding Standards

Even though a large part of Web Experience Factory is builder based, we still need to establish coding standards. The table below is a list of some standards we have used in the past.   In Agile fashion, our standards can and have changed as we worked through their implementation. Some examples are:

  • Project Names and Project Folder Structure
  • Model Names and Folder Structure
  • Builder Names / Setting
  • Java Objects
  • Custom JavaScript

Besides the naming conventions, you need to establish what patterns are required. We came into one project where there were no output variables in the providers. It turns out that the developers were new to WEF and they used Shared Variables in the provider and consumer models to pass data. It worked but it broke the standard separation of layers that the provider / consumer pattern provides. Another important area is the balance between using a WEF builder and custom JavaScript. Our policy is to always try to use a builder first and then resort to custom JavaScript if the builder did not fit the requirement.

The standards established above should be published. You could use a wiki or a document, but the developers and leads need to know the standards.

Essential: Code Reviews

Standards are of no use unless they are followed and that leads to code reviews. Depending on the size of the team, the review can be very formal or just having a peer review. Code should be reviewed as it is being released to the Development environment so that it will be corrected before moving up to higher environments.

Note that you need to review not just the models and builders, but you also will have Java code, JavaScript, and Html to review.

Essential: Application Documentation

Documentation has many different levels and layers. This article is about documentation located in the WEF project

One common way to document models is using Comment Builders to organize builders.   We have established a basic outline of comments for our service provider and consumer models. A shell model is used for each one in our common folder. This allows the developer to just copy and paste the comments into a new builder. You also can create your own builder based on the Comment builder where you formatted the comment pane based on the type of Comment.

Experience Factory has a “Model Report” that can be run from the Eclipse designer. The information is good, but we want to pull out key information that can help us analysis or debug our application. For example we want to know all of the “Post-Action Behavior” selections in a model since one incorrect selection can affect the whole page. Peter Wilkerson (Davalen) has done some great work in this area.   He has created documentation of the model directly from the generated XML.

Any decision made in the project that is not a “normal” setting should be documented. For example if it is decided in a Service Consumer builder to check the “Use Request-Scoped Result Variables”, this is something that needs documented for future developers. One way to do this is to put a short comment in the builder itself and then use the technique in the previous paragraph to pull out the comments into a summary document.

One other area of documentation to mention is any integration points with other applications. That would include products of the Digital Experience Suite such as IBM Connections and IBM Web Content Management. Those “integration points” will be important for the next essential.

Essential: Testing

Testing is also one of the essential items in the success or failure of your digital experience. An application with many integration points becomes a challenge for the developer to test as changes and updates are made. Those often become “points of truth” when the application has errors. You may be told “Portal is down” when it turns out that the “point of truth” is that the Connections server is down or the Web Services have been changed.

One tool that we use is Selenium for automating our application. Using the tool we were able to automate the successful “happy path” and over time add alternate paths. This allows the developer to quickly regression test the latest changes.

For applications that use SOAP services we use SoapUI to setup the valid requests to the services. As we setup the application we can test the services and then later if something is down then we can first test the service and then work up if it is working.

Overall for testing, we try to maintain the loose coupling of layers so that each layer can have its own set of tests.

This has been a brief look at some essentials for your application. They each have much more depth. It’s the customer and the solution that are the focus. The essentials help us to “deliver exceptional customer experiences.”

————————————————————————————————————————————

About the author: David Wade is a Portal / Web Experience Factory Consultant with expertise as a developer, team lead, and architect. Before joining Davalen, David was an employee of IBM as a Senior Specialist and as the Portlet Factory Lead for GBS and recently an independent consultant. He has worked on major Portal projects across the United States.  David’s Portal / Portlet Factory background began as a consultant at a manufacturing company in SC. After IBM purchased Portlet Factory from Bowstreet in 2005, he developed and implemented a complete production line system using Portlet Factory on WebSphere Portal connecting with the iSeries. Prior to his Portal experience David spent 20+ years as an iSeries Applications consultant delivering solutions in the manufacturing, education, and media industries.

————————————————————————————————————————————
This article is from our monthly resource e-Newsletter. Did you miss it in your inbox? Visit our eNewsletter archives for past editions or if you want to receive our monthly newsletter automatically, simply write to Ruth O’Keefe and request to be added to our E-Newsletter list. You can also view the Master Series Archives.

Come Discuss Your “Kneads” with Davalen at IBM Digital Experience 2014

digital_exp2014We all know a full day on your feet going from presentation to presentation can be invigorating for your mind but sore on the body! As 7 time sponsors and attendees of the IBM Digital Experience event, Davalen is all too familiar.

 

How will you combat your fatigue? With a free massage and thinking putty of course!

For the third year in a row Davalen will be providing free chair massages (and the massage therapists to go along with them) to all attendees during open expo hours!

First come, first serve you won’t want to miss this chance to grab a bite to eat, get some relaxation, and discuss your business and technology needs! It’s a win-win!

Don’t have time for a 5-10 minute chair massage? Come grab some Thinking Putty and let your fingers work out during your sessions!

photo

 

 

 

 

 

Look for the complimentary ticket in your conference bag OR simply show up to our Booth #101 – It’s the big one in the expo hall, it should be hard to miss!

 

Massage/Booth Hours:

MONDAY, JULY 21: 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM Welcome Reception and Solutions Expo

TUESDAY, JULY 22: 12:15 PM – 1:45 PM Lunch and Solutions Expo

TUESDAY, JULY 22: 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM Reception and Solutions Expo

WEDNESDAY, JULY 23: 12:15 PM – 1:45 PM Lunch and Solutions Expo

 

And don’t miss the Davalen Presentations:

How ANICO Brought Subsidiary Systems Together to Communication with Policyholders & Claimants in IBM WebSphere Portal

BUS-S05

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

11:15 AM – 12:15 PM

Pacific Ballroom A, Hilton Anaheim

Learn how this organization developed the business case and implemented the project to build an integration solution between disparate systems to more effectively communicate with policyholders and external claimants in their Property and Casualty subsidiaries of American National Insurance Company.  Understand the achievements of this multi-channel solution, best practices and lessons learned, and future directions.  Read more.

 

PDF Generation and Linked Java Object Management in IBM Web Experience Factory

TECH-D23

Tuesday, July 22

03:15 PM – 04:15 PM

Pacific Ballroom B, Hilton Anaheim

This session will use an example scenario to illustrate multiple best practices and general approach to two development problems: generating PDF documents from application data, and how to manage Linked Java Objects (LJOs) in a Web Experience Factory application. The session’s primary focus will be more at the architecture level than at the coding leve, but we’ll certainly be looking at code directly as well. There should be plenty to get your idea factory churning! (Level: Intermediate). Read more.

 

Davalen – Your Platinum Sponsor
800-827-8451
http://www.davalen.com

Booth #101

Come Discuss Your “Kneads” with Your Award-Winning and Trusted Solutions Advisor of 20+ Years

Come visit us at Booth #101 for a complimentary chair massage and thinking putty to help work out the kinks and discuss your business needs.

Award-winning, certified staff, IBM Business Partner for more than twenty years, and a reputation for excellence, Davalen is recognized for leadership among advanced IBM technologies and the practical application of that technology in a business environment.

Davalen takes burdensome business processes and replaces them with a modern Digital Experience that creates competitive advantage. This transformation is facilitated by a service layer design that exposes business Big Data to user experience designers in a way that makes new approaches to online business processes possible.

Specializing in Web Content Management, external and internal portal implementations, mobile solutions, Web Experience Factory development, search and analytics, and SmartCloud for Social Business integrations, when it comes to IBM technology, Davalen’s consultants and contractors have been project managers, architects, mentors and developers on the largest projects cross-industry.

Senior Consultant, Kevin Wilmeth, to Present at IBM Digital Experience 2014 on PDF Generation and Linked Java Object (LJO) Management in IBM Web Experience Factory (WEF)

kevin-wilmethKevin Wilmeth is a senior consultant and instructor at Davalen and has been working with IBM Web Experience Factory (WEF) since 2001 as a field developer, trainer, coursewriter, mentor, and architect.  He came to the Factory from a prior career with Lotus Notes/Domino, where he served the same roles in much the same depth, and for a while specialized in integrating the two technologies.  Kevin has also spent some time in the education technology industry, bringing both the technology and the education to people and places that just didn’t have it before.  He lives on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, where the fish laugh at him and musical instruments shudder at his very approach.

 

Tuesday, July 22

03:15 PM – 04:15 PM

Pacific Ballroom B

 

Track 5: Developing Exceptional Digital Experiences

TECH-D23 PDF Generation and Linked Java Object Management in IBM Web Experience Factory

This session will use an example scenario to illustrate multiple best practices and general approach to two development problems: generating PDF documents from application data, and how to manage Linked Java Objects (LJOs) in a Web Experience Factory application. We will look at how to push application data through XSL-FO stylesheets to generate PDFs dynamically, how to render generated documents in the application, and how to delegate different component tasks to the service and UI application layers. We’ll also take a look at how to construct a friendly and understandable LJO architecture to support integrations that use lots of LJOs. The session’s primary focus will be more at the architecture level than at the coding leve, but we’ll certainly be looking at code directly as well. There should be plenty to get your idea factory churning! (Level: Intermediate).

Master Series: Improve User’s Digital Experience by Extending Their Profile

DWilkerson by David Wilkerson

WCM and portlet developers can benefit from a sandbox where the LDAP configuration matches that of their production environment. This is especially true when the LDAP schema of a production system has been extended.  This article explains why and how to implement an enhanced LDAP configuration on a sandbox portal environment. 

 

In IBM WebSphere Portal a user’s experience can be driven by many factors. Among these is their profile. A user’s profile consists of data known about them through attributes defined and populated in the user repository. One extraordinarily popular repository is an LDAP server. The Lightweight Directory Access Protocol provides a standardized schema by which each member can be identified. The simplest use of LDAP is for authentication in which the user’s name and password attributes are evaluated through a challenge mechanism managed by the IBM WebSphere Application Server. 

 

Name and password are just two of many attributes that describe a user and these attributes are members of the user’s profile. Other attributes may include email address, department, country, state, etc. As members of a portal, these attributes can be employed in personalization rules to drive content to the user and further enrich their experience. 

 

Sometimes an organization may choose to extend their LDAP schema to include additional attributes. A company, for example, may decide to add a new attribute in order to describe each user’s testing id. Another example might be an organization’s decision to capture a user’s auto registration for the purpose of managing parking permits. 

 

When an LDAP schema is extended it isn’t automatically recognized by IBM WebSphere Application Server or by IBM WebSphere Portal. In order for personalization rules to have access to these new profile attributes the configuration of the application server and the portal must be updated. 

 

When IBM WebSphere Portal is installed an application for adding attributes was delivered but not installed. The first step in configuring support for the new LDAP attribute is to execute a ConfigEngine script to install it.  The application, wimsystem.ear, is installed by opening a command prompt or terminal, navigating to the ConfigEngine directory, and executing the following command:

 

./ConfigEngine.sh wp-la-install-ear -DWasUserid=<youradminuser> -DWasPassword=<youradminpassword>

 

On Windows the command would be:

ConfigEngine.bat wp-la-install-ear -DWasUserid=<youradminuser> -DWasPassword=<youradminpassword>

 

You should inspect the console and confirm that the message, “BUILD SUCCESSFUL” appears. If not, examine the ConfigEngine logs located in the log folder of the ConfigEngine directory and determine the root cause of the failure. Typically it is due to incorrect or missing credentials. 

 

Next you will need to confirm that the application started. You can do this by logging in to the IBM Integrated Solutions Console. The URL will vary but on a stand alone system it will be https://localhost:10032/ibm/console.  Search for the wimsystem application and, if it is not started, start it.

 

Next you will need to prepare a property file for execution of another ConfigEngine task. Locate the wkplc.properties file and make a backup copy. The file is located in the profile root ConfigEngine properties folder. On my Windows system this is C:\IBM\WebSphere\wp_profile\ConfigEngine\properties.

After making a backup, open the file with a text editor and locate the following properties: la.providerURL=corbaloc:iiop, la.propertyName, la.entityTypes=PersonAccount, la.dataType.

In my example I updated them to match my environment goals. The first property identifies the SOAP port for the configuration interface. The second is a list of new attributes (in this case I have one-TESTINGID), the type of entity being modified PersonAccount. Finally, the data type is String.

 

Once the wkplc.properties file is updated you need to run another ConfigEngine task, wp-add-property.  As with the earlier example, you will need to include credentials for the application server administrator. In order for the changes to be effective you will need to restart the portal. 

 

The configuration work is complete but it is important to confirm that the changes were successful. Run another ConfigEngine task to obtain a list or available attributes and verify that the TESTINGID attribute is in the list. No parameters are needed for wp-query-attribute-config. The script will simply provides an output of the current state of the configuration in the logs directory of the ConfigEngine directory.

 

Now you can proceed to develop solutions such as JSP components for WCM, custom portlets using the PUMA (Portal User Management API) with RAD or WebAppAccess with Web Experience Factory.

 

————————————————————————————————————————————

About the Author:  David Wilkerson’s professional career spans multiple disciplines with a consistent emphasis on discovery and implementation of solutions geared towards achieving objectives of strategic importance. In 1993 David established his consulting practice providing automation of business processes. In 1996 he joined Jacob Solutions, Inc., predecessor to Davalen, LLC where he served as Principal Application Architect and Solutions Engineer. His project management and implementation skills have been put to work in sectors such as manufacturing, health care, banking, and insurance. The tools he employs include Microsoft DCOM (now known as .NET) and J2EE. His practice is to prefer technologies that leverage international standards. For this reason much of his development and implementation has been based, since 2001, on Java-related technologies. David’s professional accreditation’s including a certifications as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and an IBM Advanced Developer. A popular orator, David has been asked to speak across the United States on a variety of topics, including many java related topics, document management and web content management. His academic background includes a BA in History from The Citadel, an MDiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and post-graduate studies in data communications at Boston University.

————————————————————————————————————————————
This article is from our monthly resource e-Newsletter. Did you miss it in your inbox? Visit our eNewsletter archives for past editions or if you want to receive our monthly newsletter automatically, simply write to Ruth O’Keefe and request to be added to our E-Newsletter list. You can also view the Master Series Archives.

Davalen Managing Partner to Present at IBM Digital Experience Conference

 

Davalen is proud to announce that IBM has invited Davalen managing partner, Dave Jacob, to present at the upcoming IBM Digital Experience event in Anaheim, California July 21-24, 2014.

 

DJacobIn his 21 years at Davalen, Dave has managed numerous IBM WebSphere Portal projects. Most recently he was the Davalen architect and Project Manager on the American National Insurance Company (ANICO) project coordinating the Davalen development effort with the ANICO team.

 

AbrahamFarrisAlongside Dave, Abraham “Abe” Farris, Lead WEF/Portal Developer of Field Systems at ANICO will present. Abraham has been in the tech industry since 1998 and joined ANICO in 2001.  In 2010, ANICO brought in WebSphere Portal and Web Experience Factory.  Abraham is responsible for the portal architecture and WEF best practices.

 

 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

11:15 AM – 12:15 PM

Pacific Ballroom A, Hilton Anaheim

 

BUS-S05 How ANICO Brought Subsidiary Systems Together to Communication with Policyholders & Claimants in IBM WebSphere Portal

Learn how this organization developed the business case and implemented the project to build an integration solution between disparate systems to more effectively communicate with policyholders and external claimants in their Property and Casualty subsidiaries of American National Insurance Company.  The presenters will share details including requirements to implement a secure integration strategy to authenticate through and communicate with third party systems, including Guidewire ClaimCenter® and IBM Resource Access Control Facility (RACF).   Moving forward, specific design considerations included Single Sign On (SSO) capabilities from the P&C systems to IBM WebSphere Portal. Additional considerations required use of claims system data via web services to capture all relevant data about the claim, and an imaging system, CM8, to store the relevant claim information and documents as the source of record.   Understand the achievements of this multi-channel solution, best practices and lessons learned, and future directions.

Master Series: Integrating Active Server Pages (ASP) Applications with WebSphere Portal using IBM Web Application Bridge

Len Barker Davalen

by Len Barker

Portal technology is used to aggregate data from many sources behind a single “pane of glass’. This is done by creating portlets to retrieve the data from several data sources and then massaging the data so it can be presented in a way that is useful and attractive to the user. The architect of a new portal project must decide what combination of new pages and portlets must be created to best meet the needs of the customer.

In some cases it may be best to integrate an existing web application into the portal rather than building a new one. This choice may be made for a variety of reasons: the cost of re-writing the existing application is too high, the old application must continue to be maintained and you don’t want to maintain two systems, or the project schedule would not accommodate a re-write. After the decision has been made to integrate the application into portal, the question of how must be answered.

Web pages or web applications can be integrated into IBM WebSphere Portal using standard iFrames or the IBM Web Application Bridge (WAB). In a recent project, I’ll refer to as the Insurance project, our client elected to use WAB because of the additional security that it provides. In this article, I will show you how to create a framework to allow the application that resides in the web dock portlet (a WAB component) to communicate with WebSphere Portal.

The WAB is an integral part of IBM WebSphere Portal 8.0 and above. Prior versions of Portal required the components to be downloaded from Greenhouse. There is an excellent article (http://www-10.lotus.com/ldd/portalwiki.nsf/dx/Integrating_the_Web_Application_Bridge_(WAB)_with_IBM_WebSphere_Portal_8.0_A_step-by-step_guide) on the IBM Portal Wiki that explains what WAB is and how to configure it.

Critical to the decision about whether to use WAB as a method of integrating an existing application into a Portal site is whether or not you can make the contained application look the same as any other portlet on the site and whether or not the application can participate in Portal communications.

Styling of the contained application can be handled by importing Portal theme files into the contained application. The contained application cannot make direct reference to the Portal theme because the application resides on another server and therefore wouldn’t understand the reference to Portal artifacts.

Selecting a method of communicating between Portal and the application contained in WAB must take into account the needs of the application. It is possible that there is no communications required. In the case of my Insurance project, the contained application needed a “publish and subscribe” framework where either Portal or the application could request or receive information at any time. I conducted a proof of concept to test various ideas for accomplishing this. One idea was to use the Portal event support that is built into WAB. This method was not able to handle all of my required use cases. The second method was to use some sort of javascript pub/sub framework. I selected a jquery framework (https://gist.github.com/cowboy/661855) as starting point. Since I needed a framework that needed to be able to listen for events published in the past, I ended up using the slightly modified version suggested by Sam Tsvilik:

 

Figure 1

Figure 1

To make this all work I created a utility portlet that I called the Communications portlet and put it on the same page as the Web Dock Portlet. All of the javascript and logic needed to enable communication between the contained application and Portal resided in the Communications portlet. IBM Web Experience Factory was used to create the Communications portlet.

Both Portal and the application had data or action requests that they listened for. For example, the contained application in Figure 2 listened for client data from Portal when the page loaded so that the input fields could be prepopulated with client data in memory:

Figure 2

Figure 2

 

The code in Figure 3 resides in the Communications portlet. Its function is to retrieve the client information from a server side variable and publish it when the page loads. The application in the Web Dock Portlet uses code like: parent.$.subscribe(“ClientAttributes”,handleClientData(‘clientdata’)) to listen for changes to ClientAttributes and update the UI when that happens.

Figure 3

Figure 3

The contained application in my Insurance project has buttons that launch dialog boxes in Portal (portlets) and return data back to the contained application. For example, the button onclick event calls parent.$.publish(‘showBenefitCalculator’). The Communications Portlet in Portal subscribes to this event and when it sees it triggered opens the dialog box and calls its own publish to send back the results. This is accomplished using the code in Figure 4.

Figure 4

Figure 4

Portals aggregate information from many different sources, usually by creating custom portlets. Web Application Bridge provides an option for adding an entire existing application to your portal. This has been a high level look at using WAB to expose an ASP application inside of WebSphere Portal illustrating just how seamless this integration can be.

————————————————————————————————————————————

About the Author: Len Barker spent 15 years in the nuclear industry managing complex, multiple system projects before founding Davalen’s predecessor, Barker Consulting in 1998.  He is a certified IBM instructor and is well versed in web technologies, system administration and collaborative technologies.  Responsible for the operations side of the house at Davalen, Len makes sure that our employees have the resources they need to provide the service our clients expect.  He holds an Electrical Engineering degree from the United States Naval Academy, an MBA from Auburn University and is a licensed professional engineer.

————————————————————————————————————————————
This article is from our monthly resource e-Newsletter. Did you miss it in your inbox? Visit our eNewsletter archives for past editions or if you want to receive our monthly newsletter automatically, simply write to Ruth O’Keefe and request to be added to our E-Newsletter list. You can also view the Master Series Archive feed here.