BeeCon 2017

Bee Con 2017 has just finished in sunny Zaragoza, Spain.  For those who do not know Bee Con is the independent Alfresco developer conference organised by the Order of the Bee. The organisation is dedicated to keeping Alfresco as a free to use open source platform.

Perhaps most remarkable is that the conference exists at all, that the Alfresco community is strong enough to go ahead on its own after Alfresco itself decided to turn the yearly Alfresco developer conference into a sales event and subsequently lose focus and cancel it altogether.   What’s the point if Alfresco does great stuff but it never gets used because nobody knows about it?

The Rallying Call

The conference started well with Jeff Potts reminding us that it was an opportunity for the members of the Alfresco Community to renew, refresh and reconnect with each other. Then John Newton, joint founder of Alfresco, gave one of his better keynote features featuring the ‘A team’ as a thread to tie in his thoughts about the future of the company, focusing upon the opportunities for Artificial Intelligence to enhance content management and business processes.

That was followed by three days of talks and demos, conversation, tapas and beer.

Alfresco Developer Framework

Of note was the arrival of the Alfresco Developer Framework which although still very early in its lifetime is perhaps at the point where it can be used for real applications.   The arrival of the new SDK 3.0 seems to have removed a few frustrations with the previous version of the SDK, with its emphasis on hot reloading and working in a more standard way with IDEs. The old SDK packages projects as AMPS (Alfresco Module Packages) which cause problems for most java IDEs which don’t know about the format.

A greater emphasis on the Alfresco APIs and Alfresco as a platform is now a reality rather inconsistent legacy approach where the under the covers stuff was not given the attention it deserved or needed.   There is a new Java Script API binding library that should ease writing client applications for Alfresco.  It’s no longer necessary to roll your own wrappers for the alfresco REST API.   And an additional welcome addition is that this new stuff is well documented so no need to read Alfresco’s source code to see how to use a web script. 

Humorously the Alfresco Search Service has been split out of the main repository.    Let’s see how long that name persists in the product.    There were many contrived jokes about the acronym for the search service.   On a more useful note Mike Suzuki presented a SQL interface for the search service which should be a game changer for using the search index in SOLR6 and enable standard ODBC reporting tools to run against alfresco rather than using the cryptic solr query language. 

Effective Demonstrations

Gethin James won a prize (an order of the bee mug) for his talk featuring Camels.   His subject was novel uses of Alfresco.

David Webster very effectively used the example of his volunteer work with the Oxford Search and Rescue to illustrate how the new Alfresco Governance API can be used to write a records management application for the emergency services to manage a case for a missing person.

Looking forward there were several demonstrations of useable Artificial Intelligence solutions.   That perhaps is one of the next big things, the technology seems to be ready for mainstream use after many, many years of false starts.

Sharing of ideas, even between commercial competitors is valuable since we realize that we as an Alfresco Community are stronger as a community as we share knowledge, we stand on each other’s shoulders.  

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