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Speed dating with 15 candidates for eZ Publish

Tuesday 26 January 2010 2:50:39 pm

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Hi all, I wanted to share with all of you the 15 open stories for future eZ Publish requirements discussed during the great event we had in Geneva last Thursday and Friday. Those 15 stories, that are actually considered for future releases of eZ Publish (along with others not discussed at that occasion), were quickly introduced during a « speed dating » session at the community day. The goal was to pick the brain of the attendees and try to see if any 'perfect match' existed between the candidates and the community.

The candidates

The following potential features were candidates:

1st: Improved Meta Data management

A new system that enables complex (in number and in structure) metadata to be associated to content objects and users. Including an easy management of the metadata and a capacity to preserve speed and performances with very complex and loaded setup.

2nd: User Subscription Management module

A module that allows the simple implementation and management of user subscriptions in online portals. This module should provide the tools to manage periodical subscriptions for users of the website (for instance, for subscription based paid content access) including ordering process, renewal process and minimum CRM and self-care as well as multi level subscriptions support.

The management of the different content and services available for each level of subscription should be made simple and consistent with eZ Publish role and permission system.

3rd: Native Support for Semantic Web via RDFa

Add in eZ Publish support for RDFa, an emerging standard for Semantic Web (see http://www.w3.org/TR/rdfa-syntax/ ). This support would extend the websites generated by eZ Publish to manage and include RDFa XHTML attributes to the published pages. This would turn eZ Publish website in a «semantic web» site, whose content would be machine readable and understandable, open and ready for semantic discovery in the open Web.

4th: Built-in Video streaming

An HTTP streaming solution (aka flv streaming) integrated with eZ Publish offering the best of the Streaming (for non live streaming) without the constraints of pure streaming protocols like RTMP. The module should offer such a system, integrated with the eZ Publish Content Engine (as an optional delivery mode for any video to be played in the eZ video player)

5th: Improved publishing workflow

Bring a significant improvement to eZ Publish publishing workflow, leveraging as well Object States, to enable more realistic workflow setup (multi-level, multi-channel, multi-user validation, pre and post publishing) and simpler management and running of the workflow, including a dashboard

6th: Phone App for Content Management

An iPhone app (and potentially an Android app) to access to a subset of eZ Publish Administration interface functionalities on your mobile phone: basic content management (create Image, Video, Content) and basic administration.

7th: Automatic loading tools

A tool to enable loading large set of assets from one instance of eZ Publish (for instance a preproduction environment) to another (for instance a production environment) in a simple and safe way. This shall includes Content Objects, Content Classes and associated templates.

8th: Better UGC management

Improve UGC (User Generated Content) management providing specialized tools for approval workflow, moderation, automatic detection of inappropriate content, dashboard and productivity features for bulk management of UGC.

9th: IPTC enabled native Image Import

Extend the current functionality of importing image (via multi-upload or webdav) in order to natively handle IPTC metadata and transform it in eZ Publish attributes,

  • By default: Image Content Class, IPTC object name, IPTC caption, IPTC name for alt. text, IPTC keyword
  • Extendable for other attributes and content classes.

10th: DITA content publishing

Enable the import and the publishing of DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) XML content in eZ Publish. The use case would allow: copywriting in your preferred DITA editor, simple push to an eZ Publish server for online publishing of the documentation. DITA is an OASIS standard for technical publications and other types of documentations (cf. http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/dita/).

11th: Built-in Accessibility check and guide in OE

Extend eZ Publish Online Editor (and Webin) to include an Accessibility Check tool providing: Accessibility checking «as you go» on Links, Images, Tables and other XHTML elements to control the respect of accessibility guidelines, Reports generation.

12th: Tools to enable multi-variant testing

Provide a platform tool that enable progressive deployment of templates and features on various user segments, and reports on those campaigns to assess their value. Deploy per section, per siteaccess, per user group …

This is today possible with 3rd party solutions but could be provided as a built-in functionality of eZ Publish.

13th:Toolkit for Indesign content export automation

Provide a toolkit (API or SDK) that can easily be used to implement Indesign exports of content stored in eZ Publish.

  • Template based.
  • Integrated with Front End editing (ala OOo extension).

14th: Better eZ Find SolR management User Interface

Provide a better User Interface for all administration and configuration tasks to be managed on a SolR server and on all related module. This user interface should be integrated into eZ Publish administration interface.

15th: Toolkit for PowerPoint and ODP presentation export

Provide a toolkit (API or SDK) that can easily be used to implement automatic generation of PPT and ODP presentation from eZ Publish templates. This tool should be template based, and should be extensible.

Every attendee was invited to fill a survey where he would rate each candidate, give his Top 3 and potentially mention if he would be interested in contributing in a way or the other on the considered story.

What the community thought?

Collecting and aggregating the results from 32 of the attendees who participated in the session, the result gives a very interesting insight on what is expected by some of you. Some strong trends were quickly established.

For instance, the 5th candidate, « Improved publishing workflow » ranked 85% as a feature the community “would die for”, or a feature that was “definitely needed”!

On the other side, candidates bringing support for some industry standards did not generate a lot of interest: enabling import of documentation written with the DITA standard was not mentioned in any of the « Top 3 » of the participants, and the support for RDFa only 4 times (though for some, at the 1st place!).

While not being an expert in statistics and survey, I have combined the average ranking (from 1 to 4) and 'how expected the feature was' (meaning, how much it was placed in participants top 3, weighted accordingly to the position) and I think this gives a good idea of how the feature would be expected.

The graph below shows the overall results.

My main conclusions, looking at those numbers in details, are the following:

No breaking news, the will for an improved publishing workflow in eZ is very strong, even more than we could expect it. This echoes the feedback of community users, developers and integrators, no doubt it would be equally or even more happily welcome by normal users. This is the 'big win' of the session.

A range of 3 features can be grouped in 2nd position: Improved Metadata, User subscriptions and Automatic loading tools. Another set of 3 features could complete the podium: Built-in Video streaming, User Generated Content management and multivariant testing. This is just playing with criteria, and you could get a slightly different result by tweaking the weighting and formulas, but no doubt those one shows a strong interest.

Managing user subscription has turn into a very common practice on the web, whether it is to offer services to social network or communities based on a subscription model (like Linked In and many other professionally oriented social networks) or simply to setup a subscription based business model for selling content online, a model more and more revisited when the 100% ads based model is less and less the one- fit-all! No doubt enabling such a user subscription system to be natively handled by eZ Publish raises a lot of interest.

The result reflects also the importance of tools related to deployment (not a surprise for our community which is quite professional and thus made of folks working on customer projects on a daily basis).

We can also say that the result shows also a demand for more features specialized for rich types of content like Video, UGC or Metadata. Not a surprise, as we all know eZ Publish is known has being able to store and manage any type of content, which is a strength, the natural next step of that is to develop some specialized and optimized interface to source, edit and deliver those content (video. UGC or any content based on rich and complex set of metadata).

As a last word of my conclusion, I will also highlight the fact that the results are really well in line with eZ Systems product vision and strategy: Making eZ Publish as the reference Web Content Management platform to manage any kind of content, for any kind of user on any kind of channel is definitely fitting pretty well with the result of this survey. While the opposite would have been strange to me, I think it is important to keep an eye on this good adequacy.

Of course, while working on our roadmap for the next versions (September 2010 and March 2011), we will look at many other criteria, and especially the feedbacks from our Premium customers as well as our analysis on the market. Thus, the result of this survey should not be understood as a promise or even a decision, but no doubt that this strong feedback from the community will be considered with all the care it deserves!

In the coming months, we will try to develop more and more this kind of interaction, offline or online. It is extremely valuable, while being still simple and not too much time consuming for all. Please stay tune to hear about future surveys and other dating occasions!

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