Dave Johnson on open web technologies, social software and Java
Ten years ago on this day, O'Reilly published an article that I wrote called Building an Open Source J2EE Weblogger, the article that introduced the Roller weblogger (now known as Apache Roller) to the world. It changed my career and my life in a bunch of nice ways and 10 years later I'm still benefiting from my choice to create Roller and write that article. So you can get a taste of the times, here's the intro:
Building an Open Source J2EE Weblogger: As a Java developer, you should be aware of the tremendous wealth of open source development software that is available for your use -- even if you have no desire to release any of your own software as open source. In this article, I will introduce you to some of the most useful open source Java development tools by showing you how I used these tools to develop a complete database-driven Web application called Roller.
Roller fits into the relatively new category of software called webloggers: applications that make it easy for you to maintain a weblog, also known as a blog -- a public diary where you link to recent reading on the Web and comment on items of interest to you.
The Roller Web application allows you to maintain a Web site that consists of a weblog, an organized collection of favorite Web bookmarks, and a collection of favorite news feeds. You can define Web pages to display your weblog, bookmarks, and news feeds. By editing the HTML templates that define these pages, you have almost total control over the layout and appearance of these pages. Most importantly, you can do all of this without leaving the Roller Web application -- no programming is required.
I've written and talked about Roller and the history of Roller numerous times. If you're interested in learning more about it here's my most recent Roller presentation, which covers Roller history in some detail:
These days, Roller isn't really thriving as an open source project. Wordpress became the de facto standard blogging package and then micro-blogging took over the world. There are only a couple of active committers and most recent contributions have come via student contributions. Though IBM, Oracle and other companies still use it heavily, they do not contribute back to the project. If you're interested in contributing to Roller or becoming part of the Apache Software Foundation, then Roller needs YOU!.
I'm going to break blog silence now to tell you about Apache Roller and Google Summer of Code 2011, which just wrapped up about a week ago.
This year we were very fortunate to get a another highly motivated and smart student, Shelan Perera, and an good proposal as well: Mobile-enabled Templates. Over the summer Shelan designed and implemented a new feature for the Roller blog server, one that enables theme authors to provide an alternative "mobile" template for each page template in a Roller blog theme. You can see a screenshot of the new Edit Template page in Shelan's blog How to change template codes in Roller.
Now, when a page request comes into Roller, Shelan's code determines if it's from a mobile device and, if it is, switches to a mobile template, if one is available. There's also an easy way for template authors to create a button to allow users to switch to the "Standard" site instead of the mobile version. The screenshot on the right, of Roller with a mobile theme comes from Shelan's most recent blog.
It was an honor to act as mentor for this project, and fun talking to Shelan via Skype most Fridays. I'm looking forward to getting this on my blog, and getting this cool new feature into an Apache Roller 5.1 release sometime soon. Thanks, Shelan! And, thanks to Google for running the most excellent Summer of Code program.
Here's some more happy Roller news. Apache Roller 5.0 has been released!
The major new feature in Roller 5.0 is Media Blogging, a set of enhancements to Roller's file upload and management capabilities. Also included in 5.0 are simple multi-site support, OpenID and OAuth support for Roller's AtomPub interface. All major dependencies have been updated and Roller now uses Maven for build and dependency management. You can find a summary of Roller 5.0's new features on the Roller wiki.
The road to Roller 5.0 has been a long one and if you are interested the history, you might want to check Dave Johnson's What's New in Roller 5.0 presentation from ApacheCon US 2009. Roller 5.0 includes contributions from contributors from Google Summer of Code, San Jose State Univ. and the usual case of Roller committers. Thanks to all who contributed to Roller 5.0 over the years.
To download Apache Roller 5.0 and documentation, visit the Apache Roller download page at the Apache Software Foundation's website.
A couple of weeks ago, I made a second release candidate available for Apache Roller 5.0. Here's the announcement (also available at http://s.apache.org/apacheroller50rc2):
Apache Roller 5.0 Release Candidate RC2 is now available for testing. Note that this is NOT a release of the Apache Software Foundation or anybody else; this release candidate is for testing purposes only and not recommended for production. What's new in Roller 5.0: https://cwiki.apache.org/confluence/display/ROLLER/What's+new+in+Roller+5.0 Roller 5.0 JIRA change list: https://issues.apache.org/jira/sec ... sion=12313828 Signed binary and source files http://people.apache.org/~snoopdave/apache-roller-5.0/ Issues resolved since RC1: http://bit.ly/9eWjJk If you would like to help out then please test RC2, discuss the problems you encounter here and file specific bugs with steps to reproduce in the Roller JIRA bug tracking system.
I'm running RC2 on this site and it seems to be holding up just fine so far.
Here's something I've been closely involved with during my entire IBM career (almost 9 months now): making software development more social by integrating Rational Team Concert and Lotus Connections.
In case you don't know, Team Concert is Rational's "complete agile collaborative development environment" with integrated source code control, issue tracking, build management and very slick Eclipse and web-based client UIs -- it's a collaborative environment for software developers. Lotus Connections is IBM's comprehensive social software suite with blogs (Roller based!), wikis, social bookmarking, forums, file sharing, social networking and more -- an environment for more general collaboration.
IBM partner Mainsoft has developed an integration between Team Concert and Connections and it's now available as a tech preview. The product makes it easy for developers to hook a a software development project up to a Lotus Connections and enable software developers to collaborate with the much wider community of folks involved with a software project including end users, subject matter experts, executives and other stakeholders. As you can see from the list of features, it's a pretty tight integration.
If you want to learn more about the integration, check out the links I referenced above. There's also a short podcast available at Developer Works and there will be sessions at Lotusphere 2010 this month and (with luck) at Rational's Innovate 2010 Conference in June.
Here's my report from ApacheCon US, focusing on the projects I'm involved with: Roller, Shindig and SocialSite.
In my session, I covered the new features in 5.0, Roller history and sort of a Roller state of the union. I explained that nobody is working full-time on Roller these days, it's an all volunteer effort with about three people active and if folks want us to keep on making official Apache releases then those very same folks had better step-up and get involved so we can knight some new PMC members. I also did a demo of the new features in Roller 5.0 including OpenID and the file upload and management improvements.
After my Roller talk and in the same room, I attended Paul Lindner's talk on Apache Shindig. Paul has worked on OpenSocial implementations at Hi5 and LinkedIn and he's also a committer on the Apache Shindig project.
I'm familiar with Shindig so this was mostly review for me. I liked Paul's assessment of Shindig quality, saying that they have good processes in place, use code reviews and have good test coverage. Paul acknowledged problems with Shindig's developer friendly-ness and said that the community is working to fix them. I've heard similar complaints from multiple source and seen myself that it's not as easy as it should be to understand the codebase, figure out how to plug-into it and understand which parts are really required for OpenSocial and which are just sample code.
Paul also talked about the Open Stack concept, a set of open standards that enable social networking interoperation including OpenSocial, OAuth, OpenID and portable contacts. He said that Shindig is the best way to implement the stack and keep up with the evolving standards. He had a nice quote about "Shindig is to OpenSocial as Apache HTTPD is to HTTP"
On Thursday night, I attended Social Widgets / Gadgets meetup which brought together members of the Apache Shindig, Apache SocialSite and Apache Wookie Communities.
There were about 25 people there including folks from Google, Atlassian, Yahoo, Ning, LinkedIn, Hippo (CMS/portals ISV) and, I'm guessing, a bunch of SF bay area startups. The meetup started around 8PM and lasted over two hours.
I presented a lightning talk on Apache SocialSite using a couple of slides from the JavaOne talk and including a quick status report. Status is this: still waiting on Sun to come through on code grant, Globant is having some success with SocialSite in production and work is almost complete in converting the build over to Maven. I also did a quick talk about the Enterprise 2.0 OpenSocial panel, which occurred the day before.
After that Paul Linder did a quick talk on the Open Stack idea and revised his Shindig quote to "Shindig is to the Open Stack as Apache HTTPD is to HTTP." Then we broke up and folks stuck around to talk about APIs, projects, possibilities and everything else for quite some time.
That's all I've got for now. I hope to document some of my experiences on the "Enterprise OpenSocial" panel at Enterprise 2.0 later, possibly in a blog post on the OpenSocial blog.
On Monday Nov. 2, I attended Social Web Camp at Sun's Santa Clara campus. There were about 40 people in attendance. The event was organized by Sun's Henry Story, an expert in semantic web technologies and inventor of the FOAF+SSL approach to implementing Social Networking features (relationship based privacy). Unfortunately, Henry was not able to attend the conference because he was detained by US immigration.
During the camp, I lead a session on OpenSocial using my "What's up with OpenSocial" slides from BarCampRDU. Surprisingly, very few people were familiar with OpenSocial, so this was an introductory level discussion.
I participated in a session on enterprise social networking and shared a little about we do with micro-blogging inside IBM, mentioning BlueTwit and the new features in Lotus Connections. A couple of folks from Boeing were present and described the home-grown social networking and micro-blogging system.
John Panzer of Google pitched his new Salmon protocol, a distributed commenting system that allows comments made on items in downstream systems (e.g. aggregators, social networks, FriendFeed, etc.) to find their way back upstream to the source item. The protocol is based, in part, on AtomPub. Comments are signed and posted back upstream. Seems like this could be useful in both Lotus Connections river of news feature, Jazz-based products and Roller; so I'll going to track this one closely. It might be fun to try to implement Salmon for Roller.
I missed a little of the conference because I had lunch with some of my former co-worker from Sun and I left a little early to return my vacation rental car and make my way to Oakland for ApacheCon US 2009. More about that later...
It's been a while since I have blogged about it, but I haven't completely stopped working on Roller. In case you're wondering what's up in Roller-land, here's an update based on an email I recently sent to the Roller dev mailing list.
I've been doing some weekend and evening work on Roller 5.0 to get it ready for release. Ganesh and Tanuja did great work on the new Media Blogging features, but there were a couple of significant pieces missing such as data migration and I18N. I had hoped to finish that work during the summer, but life got in the way. Now I'm scrambling to wrap things up. I'll be speaking at ApacheCon US 2009 in November on the topic of What's New in Roller 5.0, so I'd really like to have a 5.0 release candidate ready by then.
Just as a reminder, here's what's currently on the 5.0 feature list:
- Media Blogging Support
- Externalizable User Management
- OpenID Support
- Tag Data API
- OAuth for AtomPub
- See the full list on the Roller wiki
Except for Media Blogging, all of those features are complete. My plan is this. I'll do some more cleanup work on Media Blogging, which is the major new feature in 5.0, fix some bugs and then I'll cut an RC.
From the Roller project blog:
Ganesh Mathrubootham has been doing great work on the Media Blogging for Roller project and helping out in other ways in Roller development and support. So in January we nominated and voted him in as Roller's newest committer. Welcome Ganesh, we're very happy to have you on the team.
I've really enjoyed working with Ganesh and his project partner Tanuja over the past six months, so this is great news. I'll tell you a bit more about the Media Blogging for Roller project in one of my next blog posts.
The other day I got the happy news that my one of my proposed sessions was accepted for ApacheCon EU. ApacheCon and Amsterdam are definitely among my favorite places to be, so I'm thrilled. You ought to go too; here's the information on the conference, which will include training, the hackathon and a BarCamp.
My session is titled Shindig for Blogs and Wikis. I'll cover different approaches to adding social features to blogs and wikis and I'll zoom-in on OpenSocial related options Shindig and Project SocialSite. Here's the abstract, with some formatting that is missing from the ApacheCon site:
Blogs, wikis and feeds helped to make the web more social by making it easy for folks to read, write and have conversations on the web; and now social networking technologies are making the web and even more social.
- Quick introduction to OpenSocial and Shindig
- Overview of products/services that leverage OpenSocial
- Benefits of social networking in blogs and wikis
- How to support Google Gadgets in Roller and JSPWiki via Shindig
- How to enable social features in Roller and JSPWiki via Shindig
- How to add comprensive social graph support to Roller and JSPWiki via SocialSite
- How to create an OpenSocial Applications that access Roller and JSPWiki
I'm already working on the demos and slides for this as it's going to be quite a bit of work. Fortunately, I'll be able to recycle some of the material in some other upcoming gigs.
Nice stuff. Have you got any Roller hacks to share?
Believe it or not, I've never created an XHTML theme for Roller and I didn't even notice the XHTML declaration when I put my new theme (which I'm calling Fauxcoly) together. I did notice when I got over 400 validation errors from the HTML validator. So, I worked for a couple of hours last night to fix the errors both in my new theme and in my most recent weblog entries. I also had to fix a couple of Roller bugs, which need to be reported.
Now the main pages of my blog validate and I'm brave enough to put this in the theme's footer.
Having a theme that supports XHTML isn't enough, of course. You also have to ensure that each blog entry is well formed and comments too. Unfortunately, we don't have great infrastructure for that in Roller (yet).
I still plan to release the theme in packaged-theme form, but only after I XHTML-ize it too.
Happy New Year 2009 to one and all! I took a nice long break from work, complete with a Florida vacation, hot tubbing, theme parks and a mini-vacation to rest-up from the main vacation and now I'm back. I think I'm rested and ready to restart some things including work, of course, and this blog.
Restarting a blog is not easy, or so I've heard. Here's what I did. I drew a big diagram on the white board with multiple colors, circles and arrows. I did some calculations and eventually figured out that what I need is a new theme. A little bit of eye candy for the couple of folks who end up here after a search gone wrong or accidentally clicking through as they skim over my blog in Google Reader; that's just what will re-ignite my blogging activities. My problems all have technological solutions. Funny how that works.
So, if you've clicked through to my blog then you're looking at my new theme and newly restarted blog. Thrilling, huh? It's a simple faux-column deal like my old theme, but this time I'm taking advantage of Roller's new 'action' pages, I'm using YUI Grids CSS to define the layout and I'm including content from my other sites (Twitter, Flickr, Delicious, etc.) via aggregation. I'll provide some more details about the theme and it's features (and a download) in a subsequent post, after I've gotten some real work done.
Meena Vyas, Murthy Chintalapati and Allen Gilliland just published an article on BigAdmin that describes the architecture of blogs.sun.com, a Roller, Sun Web Server, Memcached and MySQL based site that averages 4 million hits a day with its two SunFire T2000 servers at 97% idle. You can get the article for free (registration required) here: Sun Blogs: A Sun Java System Web Server 7.0 Reference Deployment
We demonstrated the Project SocialSite widgets in Roller at JavaOne, but we didn't show much other than just the basic widgets. We modified a Roller front-page theme to include a people directory, added a profile page for each user and slapped the widgets on the page. It was pretty rough, as you can see on the right, like our other SocialSite demo vehicles.
This week, I'm working to put together a much better demonstration, something useful enough to deploy to our internal blog site at Sun. Since I have limited time and I really need to get back to working on the SocialSite widgets and web services, I've been thinking about minimum set of features needed to add some value. Here's what I think we need:
Most of the above items should be pretty easy with the SocialSite widgets, but I'm sure I'll run into a snag or two at least. I always do. I'll post again next week and let you know how far I got.