Category: Web Experience Management

Web CMS Content Enrichment with OpenCalais, Crafter Rivet and Alfresco

Posted by on February 15, 2013

Content enrichment is the process of mining content in order to add additional value to it.  A few examples of content enrichment include: entity extraction, topic detection, SEO (Search Engine Optimization,) and sentiment analysis.  Entity extraction is the process of identifying unique entities like people and places and tagging the content with it.  Topic detection looks at the content and determines to some probabilistic measure what the content is about.  SEO enrichment will look at the content and suggest edits and keywords that will boost the content’s search engine performance. Sentiment analysis can determine the tone or polarity (negative or positive) of the content.

Content enrichment provides an enormous opportunity to improve the effectiveness of your content.  However, it is clear that detailed analysis and the work of adding additional markup and metadata to content can be extremely time consuming for authors and content managers.  Fortunately there are many free and commercial services available that can be used to enrich your content while saving countless hours for authors and content managers.

One such service is OpenCalais from Thompson Reuters.  Open Calais is a toolkit of capabilities that includes state-of-the-art semantic data mining of content via restful services.

In the video below you’ll find a short demonstration of how OpenCalais can quickly be integrated with Crafter Rivet’s authoring platform (Crafter Studio) to make it extremely fast and easy for authors to enrich articles and other types of content with rich, structured metadata.

Coupled vs Decoupled Web CMS Architecture

Posted by on February 10, 2013

Generally speaking there are two main types of Web CMS architectures: coupled and decoupled.  Coupling refers to the relationship between the authoring tools and content delivery of your live site.

The classic example of a coupled CMS architecture is a blog engine. In a coupled system, the underlying store for your content serves both authoring and delivery.  Your authoring capabilities are part of the live delivery system but are available only to those who have permissions.  In a coupled system, the process of making content live is typically a matter of setting a flag in the database.

Coupled CMS Architecture

A decoupled system by contrast is one that puts authoring and delivery in separate applications, and potentially, on separate infrastructure. In a decoupled system, the process of making content live is done through a publishing mechanism where content is pushed from the authoring platform (and underlying content repository) to a content delivery infrastructure.

Decoupled CMS Architecture

So which approach is the right architecture? The reality here there is no single right or wrong answer.  The answer depends on context: alignment with your requirements, your business process and your business goals.  The topic of coupled vs. decoupled is not a new one.  It’s a debate that has been going on for a long time and will continue to go on so long as there continues to be Web CMS platforms, “fan boys” and a perception that one size fits all.  The more appropriate way to approach the question is to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and then to consider these in the context your own specific use cases.  We’ll see that in different scenarios we come to different conclusions on which architecture to use.

Coupled Architecture

Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses for a coupled CMS architecture.

Strengths

  • Easy to set up and deploy a single instance.
  • Authoring and delivery are on the same infrastructure which can make it easier to build cohesive authoring tools.
  • Relatively easy administration of production system for single sites

Weaknesses

  • SLAs (Service Level Agreements) are coupled — meaning that authoring has to be just as available as the live site.
  • Coupled infrastructures are generally more complex to scale, as they typically depend heavily on database scalability.
  • Content is typically captured in a database schema meant for delivery on the site.  This can make integration and migration difficult.
  • Software complexity is higher because the code base contains both authoring and delivery concerns.  All but the most trivial CMS projects involve some development, and thus becomes an development issue.
  • Pushing content in and out of the CMS to and from third parties takes place in the same system that runs your live site.  Integration is not native to the architecture and it may impact the system’s performance.

Decoupled Architecture

Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of a decoupled CMS architecture.

Strengths

  • Easier to scale for high traffic websites, and to handle multi-site management.
  • SLAs are decoupled.  Authoring can be down for upgrades without impacting delivery. The reverse is also true.
  • Scale only the components that you need.  If you are not adding more authors then there is no need to scale out authoring.  This affects the complexity of the solution and also license costs where they are involved.
  • Code complexity is isolated within each of the two components (authoring and delivery).  Each piece can be as simple or complex as is needed without impacting the other.
  • Integration is a built in concept, as content is natively published to a the remote delivery system, it is generally straightforward to push to other systems as well. Also note, integration takes place on the authoring tier safely away from the live site protecting stability and performance.
  • Content migration and sharing with other systems is generally much more innate to the architecture.
  • Multi-channel support by nature, as publishing to mobile apps, social channels, and other digital channels is a natural extension of the native publishing capability.
  • Content sharing and syndication are more naturally supported.
  • When complexity is isolated and scaling is simple, it’s easier to develop and deploy rich features to your users.

Weaknesses

  • Setup has more components and can be more complex.
  • Publishing introduces additional points of failure.
  • Sub-division of components can go too far driving up complexity and driving down the cohesion of the user experience.

Making a Choice

It’s clear that each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses.  A coupled approach may work really well in once scenario while a decoupled approach may be much more appropriate in another.

Our analysis reveals that a coupled architecture can work well for websites that need to be set up and put on line in short order and that do not need to be able to scale quickly or to publish content beyond the website itself.  On the other hand, we see that a decoupled architecture is ideal for websites that require high levels of availability and performance, need a lot of tailored functionality, must be integrated with third party business systems and must publish to one or more digital channels beyond the website itself.

Build Engaging Web Pages with Crafter Rivet and Alfresco

Posted by on January 31, 2013

Today’s internet is a noisy.  Our customers are bombarded with content and messaging from all angles.  As a result they learn to filter our anything that is not directly and immediately useful to them.  Thus there is ever growing importance for our websites and services to be up to date with fresh content and on top of that for that content to speak as directly as is possible to any given user.

In this article we’ll explore a number of ways to leverage the Crafter Rivet WEM platform to create a dynamic website that can quickly and effortlessly to keep your content fresh and timely.  We’ll go beyond the basics to show how you can support complex requirements and content production processes and finally we’ll demonstrate how to target your content directly to the visitors on your site.

Author Selected Content

In many cases our authors want to make a specific editorial choice about what content to display on their site. For example, they may want to decide which promotions to show on the home page.

 

To begin let’s keep things simple and start with a use case that has a very basic set of requirements:

  • Authors manage a collection of promotional objects which can be assigned to the home page for display in a carrousel.
  • Authors make a daily decision about which objects to show on the home page from the collection or gallery of objects from within the CMS.
  • All site visitors see the same promotional objects.

To allow authors to hand pick content to be associated with a page, region, or component in Crafter Rivet we must create a content association between the target content and the object that will point to them.  In the case of our example above there is a parent child association between the home page and the promotions.

parent child 1 to many content association

To create this association we use the Content Type Editor in Crafter Studio, which is the authoring environment for Crafter Rivet.

First we create the promotion type.  You can see an example of the fields in the image below.

Next we update our home page type and add a item selector type field and child content data source.

Once we’ve updated our models you can create and link promotion objects to your home page by editing the home page.

Finally we edit our home page template to include code that will walk the list of the associated child content (the promotion objects) and render them.

<#assign promos = model.promos.item />
<#list promos as promo>
 <#assign promoItem = siteItemService.getSiteItem(promo.key) />
 <div>
 <img src="${promoItem.image!''}" />
 <div>
 <h1>${promoItem.headline!""}</h1>
 <p>${promoItem.subhead!""}</p>
 </div>
 </div>
 </#list>

Looking at the code above we see that what we’re doing is getting the key values for the promotional content associated with the home page and the looping over them.  For each item we load the actual content from the SiteItemService and then use the item to build out our markup.

Query Driven Content

Our example of promotional objects on the home page is very simple.  It assumes that every user will get the same content and also that authors will not want to stage more than a single scenario at a time.  This of course may work well for some organizations but it’s far too simplistic for others. Now that we’ve covered the basic mechanics of author managed content associations let’s imagine a use case with much more complex requirements:

  • Our authors need to create different variations of the home page that correspond to marketing campaigns which will take place throughout the year.
  • Editors choose the content that goes with each campaign.
  • A campaign may include a new offering and potentially other associated content that must go out at the same time.
  • Campaign content production doesn’t necessarily happen in sequence.  Each campaign is developed by a different team and may be more or less complex which in turn means campaigns may complete production at vastly different times.  Occasionally a content production will complete right before the campaign starts.
  • Once a campaign is ready it needs to be approved and scheduled for a deployment.  The team assigned to that campaign will move on to the next one.
  • When a campaign is over it needs to stop showing up on the home page

For a set of requirements like the ones we see above we’re going to rely on a number of features on both in both authoring and delivery.

First we need a content model that is going to support our use case.  We need a campaign that can be created independently. The campaign will point to promotional content, products and other relevant content.  Our content model might look something like the following:

We can imagine a campaign might have the following properties

  • A campaign code that matches a code tracked in our CRM system
  • A effective date that indicates when it allowed to begin operating on the site
  • A expiration date that indicates when it must end its operation
  • A disabled flag that would allow it to be shut down even if it is active
  • Associations to all of the content that are related to the campaign.  These content items will be selected by the author exactly as described in our earlier use case.

Next we need to update the home page template to use a campaign. Because a new campaign may come along at any time we will use a query to determine which campaign to show.  At a minimum our query will look at

  • All objects of type campaign
  • That are equal to or beyond the effective date
  • That are not beyond the expiration date
  • That are not disabled.

The template code would look something like the following:

<#assign queryStatement = "content-type:/component/campaign " />
<#assign queryStatement = queryStatement + "AND effective_dt:[TODAY TO *] " />
<#assign queryStatement = queryStatement + "AND expiration_dt:[* TO TODAY] " />
<#assign queryStatement = queryStatement + "AND disabled_b:false " />
<#assign query = searchService.createQuery() />
<#assign query = query.setQuery(queryStatement) />
<#assign query = query.setRows(1) />

<#assign campaign = searchService.search(query).response.documents[1] />

<#list campaign.promos as promo>
 <#assign promoItem = siteItemService.getSiteItem(promo.localId) />
 <div>
 <img src="${promoItem.image!''}" />
 <div>
 <h1>${promoItem.headline!""}</h1>
 <p>${promoItem.subhead!""}</p>
 </div>
 </div>
 </#list>

In the code above we can see above that we are creating a query statement, limiting our results to a single record and then executing the query.  You may recognize that the code after the query which processes the results and shows the promotional content associated to the campaign remains nearly identical to the code in our last example.

Now that we have our mechanics set up teams can begin creating content.  Once campaigns are complete they can be queued up for approval and deployment.  Because a campaign may require product updates that cannot be shown on the site before the start date content managers may leverage scheduled publishing.  Scheduled publishing allows the editorial team to approve content for publish but to delay the deployment of the content until a specific date and time.  Finally, editors can be sure all related updates from associated images to associated products will be deployed because Crafter Studio will seamlessly calculate and deploy the campaign’s dependencies.

Targeted Content

Targeting content is all about getting the right content to the right audience at the right time.  From our last example we’ve seen how facilitate a complex production process and more importantly for this topic how to add metadata to content objects and then how to use that metadata to dynamically determine which content to show on our site.  In essence we’ve covered the “right content at the right time” part of targeting. Now we want to extend our discretion to a specific audiences.  Let’s extend our use case from above with a few additional requirements.

  • All requirements from the previous section hold.
  • Authors may create one or more campaigns that are eligible to be active on the site at any given time
  • Campaigns may be specific to different audiences.  In other words content may be targeted at that audience.  For example: All users,  users of a specific gender.
  • Campaigns that match more specific criteria for a site user (are more targeted) should be preferred for use over less relevant content.

At this point all of our production mechanics will remain the same.  Addressing the new requirements will require the following additional steps:

  • We’ll  add criteria to our campaign definition and then update the content with the appropriate values.
  • We’ll add additional user specific criteria to our query.
  • We’ll provide the capability for our authors to review how well the targeting rules work through Crafter Studio.

Let’s begin by updating our content model for campaign.

  • We’ll add a new targeting section to our form definition for campaign called “Targeting”
  • To our new section we’ll add a grouped check box for Gender and a data source linked to the values: Female, Male, and All

Next we’ll update our existing campaigns with the appropriate targeting data.  Perhaps we mark all existing items with the All value for the gender field.

Now we can turn our attention to the template and our query.  We know we’re going to target some content specifically to women, some to men and some to everyone regardless of gender.  Let’s take a look at the code:

<#assign gender = profile["gender"]!"ALL" />

<#assign queryStatement = "content-type:/component/campaign " />
<#assign queryStatement = queryStatement + "AND effective_dt:[TODAY TO *] " />
<#assign queryStatement = queryStatement + "AND expiration_dt:[* TO TODAY] " />
<#assign queryStatement = queryStatement + "AND disabled_b:false " />
<#assign queryStatement = queryStatement + "AND (gender:\"" + gender + "\"^10 OR gender:\"ALL\") />
<#assign query = searchService.createQuery() />
<#assign query = query.setQuery(queryStatement) />
<#assign query = query.setRows(1) />

<#assign campaign = searchService.search(query).response.documents[1] />

<#list campaign.promos as promo>
 <#assign promoItem = siteItemService.getSiteItem(promo.localId) />
 <div>
 <img src="${promoItem.image!''}" />
 <div>
 <h1>${promoItem.headline!""}</h1>
 <p>${promoItem.subhead!""}</p>
 </div>
 </div>
 </#list>

In the code above we see two new lines of interest.  The first is <#assign gender = profile["gender"]!”ALL” />  This code gets the value for the property gender from the current profile and puts it in to a variable.

The second is line of interest is <#assign queryStatement = queryStatement + “AND (gender:\”" + gender + “\”^10 OR gender:\”ALL\”) />  In this line we see we’re constraining our query by the gender coming from the profile OR  records that have ALL selected.  The key here is that we have ^10 on match for the profile’s gender.  This ensures that any records which match that aspect of the query will be given a higher relevance and thus chosen for display.

As you can see it is quite simple to create solutions for driving dynamic content targeted at specific attributes in a visitor’s profile.

However, as we discussed previously, the other half of the issue is enabling the author to test.  The reality today is that content authors are creating content for different devices, market segments and all sorts of other facets.  With such a dynamic environment they need tools that will help them review and test their work.

Crafter Studio provides targeting tools for authors to address this issue.  The authoring environment can be configured with any number of predefined persona(s). A persona is like a profile, in fact it behaves exactly the same way but instead of setting up and signing in as specific users to test different scenarios authors can simply switch back and forth between the available configured persona(s).   Each persona has a name, image and a description to help authors identify the scenarios they represent.  Authors can also change the property values of a given persona once they have assumed it.

 

Extending Crafter Engine with Java backed functionality

Posted by on October 06, 2012

Crafter Engine is the high-performance website / web app delivery engine for Crafter Rivet Web Experience Management. Out of the box Crafter Engine ships with support for many of the types of engaging functionality you have come to expect from a WCM/WEM platform.  However, there are times when we want to add additional capabilities to integrate with internal and 3rd party systems to meet specific business objectives.  In this article we’ll demonstrate how you can create Java backed plug-ins for Crafter Engine.

To illustrate the integration process we’ll integrate a simple RSS reader based on the ROME RSS processing library
You can download this example (and others) at the following SVN location: https://svn.rivetlogic.com/repos/crafter-community/ext/engine

To begin let’s start with some background on Crafter Rivet, Crafter Engine and how a plug-in is organized structurally:

Crafter Rivet

Crafter Rivet is web experience management solution based on the Alfresco Content Management platform with a de-coupled architecture.  This means that the authoring environment and the production delivery environment are separate infrastructure integrated by workflow and deployment from authoring to delivery.  Crafter Rivet components power some of the internet’s largest websites.  A decouple architecture makes things easier to support, more flexible and very scalable.

Crafter Engine

Crafter Engine owes its performance characteristics to its simplicity.  Content is stored on disk and is served from memory.  Dynamic support is backed by Apache Solr. At the heart of Crafter Engine is Spring MVC, a simple, high performance application framework based on one of the world’s most popular technologies: Spring framework.

What is a Crafter Engine Plug-in

A Crafter Plug-in is a mechanism for extending the core capabilities of Crafter Engine, the delivery component of Crafter Rivet. Plug-ins allow you to add additional services and make them available to your template / presentation layer.

An example plug-in as we suggested above might be an XML reader which would function as specified below:

  • The plugin would expose a in-process Java based service like Feed RssReaderService.getFeed(String url)
  • Your your presentation templates would then simply call <#assign feedItems = RssReaderService.getFeed(“blogs.rivetlogic.com”) />

Anatomy of a Crafter Engine Plug-in

You will note from the diagram above that plug-ins are simple JAR files that contain both Java code, configuration and an Spring bean factory XML file that loads and registers the services with Crafter Engine.

Loading the plug-in

1. When the container loads the Crafter Engine WAR the shared classes lib folder is included in the class path.

2. When the Crafter Engine WAR starts up it will scan the class path for its own spring files and any available plug-ins. At this time the services described in the Spring bean XML file with in your plug-in will be loaded. Your service interfaces are now available in the presentation layer.

Interacting with your service

A. The user makes a request for a given URL

B. Crafter Engine will load all of the content descriptors from disk for the page and components needed to render the specific URL. Once the descriptors are loaded the templates for the page and components will loaded from disk.

C. The templates may now call your service interfaces to render from and interact with your back-end code. Your Java backed service may then do whatever it was intended to do, returning the results to the template for processing. Once complete, the responses are then returned to the user in the form of a rendered web page.

A simple Example

Now that we have a bit of background, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of the matter and build, install and configure our RSS reader integration.

The Java Service

/**
 * Reads a RSS or Atom feed from a specified URL and returns a data structure that can be accessed from a template.
 */
public class RssReaderService {

    public SyndFeed getFeed(String url) throws IOException, FeedException {
        SyndFeedInput input = new SyndFeedInput();
        XmlReader reader = new XmlReader(new URL(url));

        try {
            return input.build(reader);
        } finally {
            try {
                reader.close();
            } catch (IOException err) {
                // handle error
            }
        }
    }
}

The Configuration

/crafter/engine/extension/services-context.xml:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<beans xmlns="http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans"
       xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
       xsi:schemaLocation="http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans http://www.springframework.org/schema/beans/spring-beans-3.1.xsd">

    <bean id="rssReaderService" class="org.rivetlogic.crafter.engine.rss.RssReaderService" />
</beans>

Packaging and Install

The compiled class and spring configuration file must be found in the class path.  To facilitate this we build these objects and their dependencies in to a single JAR file.  You can find the build process for these at the SVN location above.  Place the JAR file that is produced by the build process in to your shared class path for example: /TOMCAT-HOME/shared/lib and restart the application.

Now that you have restarted the application your service is available to your presentation layer.  This means that in any template you can now add the following:

<#assign feedItems = RssReaderService.getFeed(“blogs.rivetlogic.com”) />

Using the Plug-in:

Web Ninja: Create a RSS Feed Component for Authors

Create a new content type as a component:

Create a template for the RSS Widget by clicking on the type canvas and editing the template property:

Author: create and configure a RSS Component

Modify the component properties through the content type form:

And insert the widget in to a web page:

Save and close and the configured component is now showing on your web page!

Personalizing and Targeting Web Content for Customer Experience Management

Posted by on August 28, 2012

Content targeting is all about getting the right content to the right user at the right time. While targeting used to be something large companies with big budgets did to make incremental improvements on transactions, it’s becoming increasingly important that organizations of all sizes start looking at content targeting.

Mobile devices have drastically changed the internet landscape, and the change they’re bringing is moving very fast as mobile use of the internet is expected to take over desktop use by 2014. And it’s not just about people visiting your sites on a different form factor, but also how they use your sites. People are online more often than ever before, but in shorter bursts for specific, immediate needs in the context of their daily activity. In order to hold the attention of this new type of Web consumer, we must speak directly to them with content that is relevant to who they are, where they are, and what they need or are doing.

So how do you tailor your website to deliver targeted content to specific audiences? Traditional approaches to handle audience specific content on websites include creating mixed audience pages with content that speaks to more than one audience on a given page, or creating stove-pipe websites where sections are dedicated to each audience, or a mixture of the two. These approaches make it difficult for users to get to the content they want and need efficiently, especially in a mobile context.

In our most recent webinar, we discussed in detail what content targeting is and how our Crafter Rivet WEM solution enables delivery of real-time, dynamic and personalized content based on visitor profiles, behavioral patterns, social graphs, and more.

To learn more, a recording of the webinar is available on our website, and the slides are available here.

Crafter Rivet & Alfresco How-To Demos

Posted by on August 02, 2012

We all know the importance of creating engaging and content-rich websites to keep up with the demands of the modern day user. New websites often need to be created quickly to satisfy a variety of business needs – new product launches, events, marketing campaigns, and more. The process should be hassle free, intuitive and user-friendly for content authors and publishers.

This is why we developed Crafter Rivet, our award-winning Web experience management application built on Alfresco 4. It provides business users with a powerful toolset for easily building rich websites.

In two recent webinars, we demonstrated some of the robust features of Crafter Rivet by showing users how to build a website from scratch with Crafter Rivet and Alfresco and how to migrate your existing website to Alfresco 4, both in just 30 minutes.

If you’re interested in seeing these demos, recordings of both webinars are available on our website, http://rivetlogic.com/resources/webcasts.