Webscene 2009 in 3 quotes and a coffee

webscene logoAs could be expected after having visited the event the past 2 years, I attended Webscene 2009 yesterday. I didn’t “liveblog”, as there really wasn’t enough “hard info” for my likings. Maybe Frederik Marain and Jo Caudron could have changed that perception, but I didn’t make it to their presentation (networking is a bitch).
Here’s the stuff I did write down, just some quotes really;

“[With Tridion] We’ve got a Rolls Royce, but when we need to cross the desert we prefer to use the SUV [which is Drupal]” (Bart Van Herreweghe about using Tridion for belgium.be and Drupal for smaller, web2.0-oriented fast-track sites)

“When you use Google Apps, which is “Platform As A Service”, you’re tied into their platform, you can’t just take your application and put it elsewhere.” (Terramark Terremark’s Kurt Glazemakers trying to position his “Infrastructure As A Service” virtualized hosting solution, forgetting Amazon or Akamai.)

“Web 2.0 was a bust, will web 3 succeed?” (the challenging title of Charles Chrouch’s presentation about the lack of financially sound business models in social media, he didn’t explain how Twitter could make money)

Not a lot more to mention, except maybe that the new Cultuurnet-database should become available (through an API I guess) for non-commercial use. Anyone want to write UiTmaps or UiT.mobi? And One Agency has its own mobile platform, GlowBox, which is Drupal with some custom-written plugins, integrated with Siruna.
While missing out on presentations, I met various people I know from past and present stages of my work-life (great to hear things are going well Tjorven, sorry to have mistaken Panoptic for Amplexor Igor) and that’s always nice. But I would especially like to thank Tom Remans. It’s always great to chat with Tom and -even more important- he provided me with real good coffee, which (for reasons I just don’t want to understand) was only available for exhibitors. Thanks mate, really!

Live from WebScene 2008

webscene logoI’ll be at WebScene 2008 today and if all goes well, I’ll be bringing you live updates of the event (as I did last year). So watch this space if you’re interested!
Being the commuter I am I took the train to Asse and rode my bike from Asse to Affligem (passing Asbeek and Edingen, very nice!) to arrive here at 9h00. So I’m at the conference center, scored Wifi-access and I’m ready to watch and learn.
Bart Van Herreweghe (blog) kicked off with a talk about the new Belgium.be. The Kanselarij van de Eerste Minister worked together with Fedict for the production of the new portal, which was build by a multitude of companies such as IBM, Amplexor, Panoptic, Netway and Internet Architects. Because of the large amount of information that is published on the portal, Internet Architects and Netway played a very important role in information and user-centric interface design, introducing the idea of “doormat”-navigation which could be compared to a (part of a) sitemap being displayed on a (theme-)homepage. Technology-wise, belgium.be uses Tridion as WCMS with templates that contain validated XHTML, with a strong focus on accessibility which aims at Anysurfer plus compliance. The search-module, which will spider a great number of federal websites, is based on Lucene and developed by Panoptic (Cronos) with LBi.
Panoptic’s Ines Vanlangendonck (blog) talked about the importance of usable web content management. Choosing a good foundation (WCM product) and customizing it to the (backend) users’ needs (e.g. adding or removing DAM-functionality, rich text editor functionality, online translation, …) should help get your users (content-owners, editors, …) on board. Looking at the poor adoption rate of the web content management tool chosen at a certain telco company a few years ago, she couldn’t be more spot-on.
Ex-colleague Philip Achten from The Reference presented the implementation of the new Thomas Cook-website. This travel website is an e-commerce business platform first and foremost, with on average 15000 unique visitors/day in 2007 and an estimated growth of 50% in 2008. One of the main goals of the new website was to allow the content team (15 people) and the travelling reporters to manage web-content decentralized. The Reference implemented Sitecore 5.3 for this purpose, a powerfull Microsoft ASP.NET-based WCM-solution, deployed on a loadbalanced environment (2 webservers with IIS and 1 MS SQL databasesserver). Next to the pure content management, a number of applications have been build like the destination search, newsletter, user registration and personalisation and off course the crucial booking application (connection to backend booking engine). In a next phase, building on the user authentication application, user generated content functionality will be added allowing regsitered visitors to add text, pictures and video.
Ektron‘s Norman Graves held a talk titled “Key Technologies and how they impact some real world examples”. He talked about taxonomy and how it’s used in search, geomapping, personalisation in Ektron CMS 400.NET.
Lunchtime has come and gone, time for the afternoon tracks. I started with the presentation about Arte+7, the Arte mediaportal. The website and presentation were done by CoreMedia, who also provided the CMS and DRM-infrastructure. Video’s are published in FLV and WMV-formats, with geolocalisation to limit the countries from which one can watch the content. The same technology is also used in the Arte VOD-site, for which Arte+7 is a teaser. Kinda nice, but lots of javascript and flash in that site, not really accessible.
For the 2nd session I moved to track 5, where U-sentric‘s Tara Schrimpton-Smith talked about “Guerilla Usability Tests? User testing on a shoestring”. Her advise: use friends of friends, somewhere between 2 and 5 users (with 2 testers you should be able to find 50% of usabiltiy issues, with 5 users 85%) and limit the amount of tasks you’ll be testing. She concluded the session with a live example, someone shouted the name of her website, someone else volunteered and the task was ‘what is the address of the headquarters’. Judging the time it took the testperson to find this information, there are some usability issues on barry-callebaut.com. A fun session!
Next up; Robin Wauters (blog) about “Social media is not an option”. Not much stuff to learn here (Robiin talked about technorati, attentio, involve ‘influential bloggers’, blog to showcase knowledge, “dell hell”, buzz, virals, …), but it’s nice to be able to put a face on the guy behind plugg and edentity.
And we’ll finish off with AGConsult‘s Karl Gilis with “9 tips to help users find what they’re looking for on your website”. So let’s create an ordered list for that purpose:
  1. ensure the accessibility of your site (should work on all common browsers/os’es, don’t misuse technology, make sure Google can crawl your site)
  2. speed up page load times, the user decides in half a second if (s)he’ll stay or not
  3. make navigation easy to use (structure, terminology, placement)
  4. provide clear overview pages (example; belgium.be and it’s doormats)
  5. your search should be as good as google (depends on technology and content!)
  6. use an intuitive page lay-out
  7. make your text legible (Verdana 10pt, Arial if you’re adventurous)
  8. write for the web
  9. make sure the info is there (do user needs analysis)

A fun session as well, those usability-guys and girls know how to entertain!
My conclusion: this was not an uninteresting day, but the focus was clearly less technical then previous year’s edition. Content Management -around which much of this event was focused- is slowly but surely becoming a commodity and vendors are having a hard time differentiating themselves from their competitors. It is my feeling that the bigger changes and challenges with regards to “the web” are more on the application-front, where backend-integration (SOA, webservices, …) and RIA’s (using ajax, GWT, flex, …) are today’s hot topics. The fact that webscene2008 did not explore these new frontiers (and their implications with regards to business, marketing, usability, accesability) is a missed opportunity really. Let’s hope they reconnect with the webtech-trends next year! And maybe I’ll be there to let you know?

Levend vanop Webtech2007

Zit vandaag op Webtech 2007, een congres dat door cms-channel.be wordt georganiseerd. Heb er al een paar presentaties opzitten en terwijl Philip Achten de toehoorders de BIAC-case door de strot duwt, even de highlights tot nu toe opsommen:
Luc Van de Velde Director Developer & Platform group Microsoft Belgium had het over “Merging design and development in a 2.0 world”. Slotsom: MS biedt framework om aan alle behoeften te voldoen. Interessantste vond ik eigenlijk MS Silverlight, vroeger WPF/E, een browser-plugin (voor Windows en Mac, MSIE, Firefox, Opera, Safari, …) en vooral flash-killer. Maar daar kon/ wilde de man nog niet veel over vertellen, volgende week was het een grote conferentie daarover in Las Vegas.
Volgende spreker was Edwin Mol, freelance webdeveloper, zijn firma heet Siteware. Hij had het over de keuze van een framework en focuste daarbij op open source oplossingen. Naast Ruby on Rails had hij het vooral over een paar Java-frameworks, waaronder Google Web Toolkit, OpenLazlo, Wicket en Rife. Hij was vooral enthousiast over Rife, nadien nog even met hem gebabbeld en dat is een open source project van een Vlaming (moet nog opzoeken wie). Rife is stateless en component-oriented (in tegenstelling tot struts dat dan response/request-based is). Door middel van metadata die je aan je classes toevoegt, kun je -als ik het goed begrepen heb, ge kent mij- database-schema genereren en ook client-side validatie automatisch uit laten voeren door het framework. Veel meer info over Rife features staat hier. Wicket zou ook interessant zijn, is een open source framework van een Nederlands bedrijf blijkbaar, de volgende spreker had het daar ook over.
Voor de koffie-pauze hadden we nog een Nederlandse Apache en Java-guru op het programma; Ate Douma van Hippo. Hippo is een Nederlands bedrijf dat een open source CMS heeft en sinds kort ook een Portal oplossing. Moet hem straks nog eens aanspreken over wanneer hij vindt dat Portal-technologie ingezet moet/ kan worden. Zijn voorbeeld was alleszins ook weer voor een typisch intranet. Hij had het ook over de nieuwe portlet-specificaties (maar eentje onthouden; portlets asynchroon laden via ajax).
De mannen van Javablackbelt hebben ons hier op 20 minuten een cursus Hibernate gegeven. En straks proberen ze dat opnieuw, maar dan met Spring. Waarom ze dat doen? Omdat ze eigenlijk een developer knowledge website hebben, gratis voor developers maar betalend voor normale mensen. Ik snapte er geen bal van en toen ze kwamen vragen of ik een testje wilde komen afnemen (waarmee een blauw t-shirt te winnen viel) heb ik vriendelijk bedankt. Thomas en ik gaan pachten wel verplichten om zijn (verstofte) java-kennis te bewijzen 😉
Microsoft probeert ons nu, bij monde van Gunter Staes, te overdonderen met het gemak waarmee met Xaml, WPF, Ajax, Blend (een editor voor rich internet applications, beetje tegenhanger van flash/flex. De demo’s zijn straf, die Silverlight lijkt een krachtige plugin. Maar waarom naast Flash nog iets anders gebruiken? Beats me..
Terwijl de wireless hier wegviel, verliet Gunter Staes het podium en nam Noel Jaffré van Fatwire over. Hij had het over sattelite caches. Eigenlijk beschreef hij hier een door Fatwire gepatenteerde oplossing waarbij op ‘sattelite servers’ pagina componenten gecached worden ipv hele pagina’s. Niet helemaal duidelijk, maar lijkt erop neer te komen dat die sattelite servers eigenlijk minimale Fatwire presentatie logica bevatten en dat die, als een component niet beschikbaar is, dat aan het achterliggende systeem gaan vragen. Niet slecht, maar geen rocket science ook?
En dat was het voor mij, ik laat de Spring-cursus (zijn zelfs 2 sessies over) aan mij voorbijgaan. En de slides over GWT krijg ik wel, hopelijk.