Tag: community

Building Engaging Customer Experiences Powered by MongoDB

Posted by on July 08, 2014

This spring and summer, the MongoDB Road Show stops in over 20 cities across the country to educate users on how MongoDB can be used to build modern business apps to improve the customer experience and accelerate time to market. Rivet Logic sponsored several of the cities and presented on the topic of building engaging customer experiences with MongoDB, discussing how a modern database can be used to better leverage existing data to derive business value. The next MongoDB Road Show is this Thursday, July 10, in San Francisco!

What Organizations Need

Organizations seeking to build engaging customer experiences on the Web often have a similar set of goals. To start, they want to increase user adoption by providing an engaging experience that brings value to the end-user. This can lead to increased customer retention, allowing organizations to create loyal customers who can then become their own brand ambassadors.

Moreover, organizations want to capitalize on their customers’ and users’ creativity and innovation by seamlessly weaving in the ability to collaborate, interact, and share into every aspect of the user experience. Businesses find the quality of this type of engagement to be particularly beneficial, due to its unpredictability. However, to enhance the value of these interactions, users need a motivator, meaning organizations need to create high quality content that’s personalized and targeted to each user’s needs.

While personas are great and have worked well to capture general types of users, in reality, users think of themselves more as individuals, with evolving interests over time. Organizations are now faced with delivering personalized experiences beyond a persona level and at an individual level.

What’s the Problem?

However, many organizations are having a hard time with this fine-grained personalization, and it’s largely due to the limiting technology they’re working with. IT teams are often faced with seemingly “impractical” features that business teams are requesting.

Organizations today are using separate systems like standalone content apps – blogs, forums, wikis, – commenting engines, traditional databases, and BI tools to enable user interaction and collect and analyze information about them. The quality of user interactions is largely driven by the quality of the user-generated content being collected and analyzed. However, since much of this valuable customer data is silo’d in disparate systems, it’s not allowing businesses to effectively leverage their existing data.

While many have attempted to find workarounds for this, there hasn’t been any real success in creating a coherent rich user interaction data set that brings value to all the delivery use cases available. For example, when a user joins the comment thread of a blog entry, they are unaware of the possibility of a forum thread that is discussing the same topic. In addition, these solutions are typically backed by traditional databases, which requires changing of the infrastructure to accommodate new use cases, posing a challenge.

The fact is, the various types of interactions that exist today are disjointed, resulting in redundancy and little chance of connecting and leveraging them. It’s critical that we make these interactions context-aware, and the only way of effectively doing so is to have a holistic view of all the user-generated content that’s being collected, while also allowing the interactions to cross application boundaries.

Pillars of a Good Solution

Successful solutions that meet these challenges must adhere to the following pillars:

Flexibility – The solution must be implemented using technology agnostic building blocks. Being a certain type of shop (.Net, PHP, Windows, etc.) constrains organizations from using the right tools for the job. Using technology agnostic building blocks as the underlying infrastructure allows organizations to innovate and improve their business without being held back by technology.

Scalability – The solution must be scalable without sacrificing performance. There are many platforms out there that claim to be scalable, but what good is that when scaling means long page load times?

Visibility – It’s also extremely important to be able to know and see the overall picture and have a holistic view of user interactions that isn’t so low-level where it prevents you from seeing what they are doing (as is the case with auditing services).

Insight – Lastly, when you have rich, contextual data available in one place, organizations need to be able to leverage that information, innovate and provide new features, capability, and value to their customers.

Case Study – AT&T Developer Community

Now let’s take a look at how a solution like this might be used in the real world. AT&T is currently undergoing an initiative to build a solution to enhance the user experience of their developer community site. The existing site’s collaboration tools are traditional in nature (i.e. blogs and forums), where user engagement is fragmented, making it difficult to find interesting content and reducing collaboration value.

To resolve this, Rivet Logic is implementing a solution that enables user-generated content to cross application boundaries and reside in one location via Crafter Social, while also allowing for better personalization by using Crafter Profile to maintain a dynamic customer profile.

Crafter Social easily adds social engagement features – user-generated comments, likes, ratings, blogs, discussion forums, and more – to a website by attaching social features to any content item or page. And Crafter Profile provides user profile and account management to help create personalized experiences.

For example, in the current site, if a user comments on a blog entry and another user participates in a forum discussion about the same topic, these interactions are not associated in any way.

With the Crafter Social solution, we were able to turn the blog entry’s comment thread into a virtual forum, thus connecting the two threads of discussion into one. This simple approach is extremely powerful, satisfying all four pillars of a good solution focused on enhancing customer engagement.

Even more, due to Crafter Social’s flexible architecture and underlying data model, it can easily be extended into other use cases, made possible by MongoDB’s document-based data models. In addition, the ability to easily embed Crafter Social into any site using any technology makes it an ideal part of any developer’s toolkit.

As illustrated in the diagram below, Crafter Social is broken into two parts. On the client side, it can be embedded on any site page regardless of what technology was used for implementation. And on the server side, Crafter Social collects various data from different sites and use cases, maintaining a holistic view of the user data. All of this helps enhance the quality of business intelligence information generated.

With this solution, AT&T is able to achieve their goals of increased user adoption and enhanced user engagement and retention. MongoDB plays a key role in the solution’s success by enabling:

  • Flexibility – Create new apps without revisiting infrastructure
  • Scalability – Ability to store large amounts of data and query without hurting performance
  • Visibility – Data is structured in an intuitive way allowing easy translation from raw data to something actionable
  • Insight – Flexible data structures and queries pave the way for creativity and innovation

To download a copy of the slides, click here.

Liferay Portal Used in Team Beachbody’s Social Community Platform

Posted by on June 03, 2010

We recently released a new case study, Team Beachbody: A Large-Scale Social Community Platform Built on the Open Source Liferay Portal, which highlights how Rivet Logic utilized Liferay Portal to build a revenue-generating social network for Product Partners and the business benefits derived from the solution.

Product Partners, LLC, an exercise and nutrition market leader, launched the Team Beachbody program as a membership-based online support community that offers a wide array of fitness programs. In order to generate revenue growth, Product Partners decided to harness the existing community around its products and combine it with the power of social networking to turn the site into a revenue generating resource. By offering active community members a percentage of sales of Beachbody products that they refer to new members, it encourages increased community participation.

Liferay Portal was selected as the development platform for its flexibility and scalability to cater to evolving business requirements and future growth, as well as its low total cost of ownership. Rivet Logic was chosen as the system integrator to implement the solution, and in particular, the WOWY SuperGym application, a featured element of the overall Team Beachbody experience. The WOWY SuperGym application has resulted in stronger customer loyalty and recurring revenue opportunities through a set of social collaboration features that encourage use and membership retention.

Click here to download the full case study.

Alfresco Community Conference

Posted by on October 11, 2008

Today I am back in Boston after spending most of the week in Washington DC. I was there for the Alfresco Community Conference and also to spend some time at Rivet Logic’s new headquarters. We have a lot more room for our team in our new digs. Every time I have a chance to spend time with the group in Reston I am reminded of what an awesome team Rivet Logic has put together and why joining this team was such an easy decision.

The DC Conference was absolutely awesome. I left DC with the same excitement I had for Alfresco the first day I read about it on the web back in early 2005. This coming release is a Landmark release for Alfresco and a springboard for really big things in the future.

Last year Alfresco gave us Web Scripts. Web Scripts was raw functionality / capability for binding web-based functionality hosted in the repository to a parameterized, ReSTful URL. Web Scripts allowed Alfresco to easily integrate with other platforms, participate in mash-ups and to some extent get around the issues with the traditional alfresco web client (it’s much slower to develop for and a bit “click” intensive.) Web Scripts by it’s very nature is AJAX friendly which leads to better, more rich user experience and the javascript / freemarker construction makes building Web Scripts a whole lot easier than writing, compiling and deploying heavy Java code.

This year Alfresco gave us:

  • A better core repository
  • SURF
  • Alfresco Share
  • A peek at SURF Development Studio
  • CMIS

It’s clear that without the foundational work of Web Scripts and the capabilities in the WCM product the items above would not have come to pass in a single year. Web Scripts has enabled an explosion of capability. Last years release of Web Scripts may have seemed like a powerful but merely additional capability but it laid the foundation for a huge growth explosion. The game board was set up with last year’s release and it is evident with 3.x that the game has changed.

As Alfresco’s application architecture is refactored they are also able to refactor their team a bit and more cleanly dedicate resources to specific areas of the architecture. We now have a dedicated team of strong developers with a focus on repository scalability and stability. This week we were told we can expect better performance, scalability in both the DM and WCM repositories. We also heard that harmonizing the APIs and capabilities for these repositories is a goal and is underway. Alfresco has also added a new remote interface to the repository that allows Microsoft Office to use the Alfresco repository as if it were a Share Point server. Something good just got better. I like the direction the engineering is heading by cleanly separating the repository from the applications that work on top of it. I also like what I have heard about the focus on key areas like performance and scalability. New features are always important but are a distant second to improved performance and scalability of something as core and foundational as the repository and its content services.

SURF is an application platform for aggregating and delivering Web Scripts (and other components.) SURF is an MVC for site / application composition. Alfresco has taken Webscripts, templating, and URL addressability and parameterization capabilities out of the core repository, combined them with a set of new capabilities and re-organized them in a entirely separate framework. In essence SURF is entirely independent of the Alfresco Repository. The key here is that while SURF is entirely separate, creating Alfresco client capabilities in SURF is a snap.

Alfresco Share is a new application that Alfresco has developed, which, for many people will eliminate the need to use the traditional Alfresco web client for anything other than repository administration. Share is a collaboration platform similar to something one might expect from Share Point but with much more Enterprise 2.0 and social features. Share is really impressive and it demonstrates what can be built with SURF and how quickly and easily one can build it. Share was developed in less than a year but has features and capabilities of other systems that have been under development for years. Best of all, Share will continue to get better at a similar rate and because it is so easy to write new components with Web Scripts the community can contribute and accelerate this growth.

Development Studio is a SURF based application that integrates with Alfresco WCM, the Alfresco Network and your SURF application to provide you with a visual (WYSIWYG / drag and drop / edit in line) environment for developing SURF applications. I truly believe that Alfresco WCM is an awesome platform with advanced features and capabilities not found anywhere else in Open Source and in some cases even in the world of the proprietary giants. WCM is a new platform with groundbreaking capabilities but without a something like SURF or the Development Studio to demonstrate these capabilities, it was hard for customers to recognize the value sitting right in-front of them. Early on in WCM, Rivet Logic had developed similar capability to what you see in SURF for the exact same reason. SURF and the Development Studio help to round out the Alfresco offering and will really help to highlight the unique and powerful value in Alfresco WCM.

CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Standard) is a new standard for ECM platform interoperability. Today it is in DRAFT status with OASIS but according to John Newton, CTO of Alfresco there is a strong probability of its adoption with the backing of the like of Microsoft, Documentum, Open Text, Alfresco and several other key players. CMIS supports both Web Service and REST based protocal bindings making it very easy to integrate in to an existing platforms. Alfresco’s REST implementation provides nearly full coverage of the specification. Web Scripts played an important role in the lightning-fast turn-around time for this implementation. Again we see the foundational work of Web Scripts delivered last year providing big results less than a year later. CMIS will allow developers to write repository agnostic applications that will work against any repository which supports CMIS including Alfresco. CMIS also specifies a SQL like query language. Unlike previously proposed standards that pushed XQUERY and XPATH, CMIS is adopting a well understood paradigm which I believe will only encourage its adoption.

It was a fantastic week and an exciting conference. If you have not looked at Alfresco lately it is definitely time to take another look. This is truly an exciting release for this product! I really enjoyed the opportunity to see everyone in the community, Alfresco, and at Rivet Logic HQ.