Social Computing – understanding BEA (part 4)

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Continuing my investigation of BEA’s product line I will now look at the new Social Computing products: Aqualogic Pages, Ensemble and Pathways which I mention in passing in part 2 of this series.

These products are a new departure for BEA as they are primarily designed to be used by end-users rather than professional developers.

Aqualogic Pages enables an end-user to quickly create web pages that can bring together a variety of information for that user’s team. The pages can be created without any knowledge of the underlying technologies. The user drags widgets onto a canvas and then, without any coding, wires them together. For example a webpage could start with a particular client and could then show a list of products installed, further it could be connected to a mapping application showing the locations of the client and connecting that to the nearest sales representative. The wiring is done by specifying what information the widget should broadcast and what it should listen for. The client widget could broadcast the client id and postcode, a product widget can then listen for the customer id and show a list of products, whilst the mapping widget listens for the postcode and displays the map.

Behind the scenes the Pages system keeps track of the development and versions of the end-user application so that the user can easily revert to a previous version, so making it much easier for the user to create the application they need by trial and error and an iterative design. In fact more than one user can be involved in the development so creating an application that meets the needs of a team.

The end-user can only do all of this if they have access to a set of widgets. The widgets will either be developed by professional in-house developers or will be available over the web providing functions such as mapping, weather or stock information. Aqualogic Ensemble provides security and activity tracking functions to register and manage widgets and other web resources and enables developers to easily reuse widgets in other web application mashups.

The third social computing product, BEA AquaLogic Pathways, helps users discover information and expertise by extracting information about how information is actually used. AquaLogic Pathways combines search, content tagging, bookmarking and activity analytics to deliver a better way to discover information and people.

AquaLogic Pathways lets users “tag” content and people, describing items to the system in a way that is meaningful personally and to the team. AquaLogic Pathways builds its collection by scanning existing enterprise content systems such as SharePoint, Documentum, OpenText LiveLink, and Lotus Notes.

For content and people, AquaLogic Pathways creates a unique rank—called ActivityRank—that it develops over time. This rank is based on a number of adjustable factors derived from the frequency and value of individual activities including authorship, tagging, bookmarking, reading and editing. For the users, BEA AquaLogic Pathways provides more accurate search results, pointing directly to the content and people that are likely to be the most valuable and relevant.

Although these Social Computing products are designed to enable the end-user to do more themselves, Bloor can see that professional developers will start incorporating the technologies into mainstream applications. The speed and ease of development and the functionality available will appeal to the professional developers as well as being insisted on by their clients. This is an impressive first release and we look forward to significant extensions in future versions.