BEAParticipate: Adrian McDermott and Jay Simons

The general sessions finished with Adrian McDermott and Jay Simons from BEA engineering and product marketing to talk about — no surprise by now — the new Enterprise 2.0 products. This conference is starting to look like one big launch party for Pages, Ensemble and Pathways, although I can understand their excitement.

They describe Pages as “Studio on steroids”, which would make much more sense if I knew what Studio does. It’s a tool for easily building static web pages, but also allows the inclusion of more dynamic content via RSS feeds. It can be used to create blogs, wikis and other situational applications. (I just got a mention from the stage — obviously, someone’s been reading my blog this morning.)

We then had a demo of Pages; I’ll have more details after a more in-depth demo that I’m expecting to get at some point, but this shows some of the capabilities. Demo’d in Firefox, I’m pleased to say.

To start, you can create a new DataSpace, using data from back-end systems, RSS or web services, or using some pre-defined templates such as a blog DataSpace. The blog functionality looks pretty basic: a WYSIWYG editor, but it’s not clear if there’s support for categories (for auto-tagging) and other more complex blogging constructs. Cute, they just create a new DataSpace from an RSS feed: my blog is now live in their demo. Fabulous way to score points, guys, I’m loving it. What’s interesting is that they can take my posts and augment them with other unstructured information, although by replicating my posts in their entirety onto their own site, they’ve violated my copyright and the principles of fair use. 🙂

He demonstrated a nice quick mashup between a Google map and addresses of employees from an internal database, then added in the blog that he created originally and filtered the blog posts by the expertise of the employees.

Next in the demo was Ensemble, which is for creating mashups (although I’d consider what he did with Pages to be a mashup), and handling authentication, provisioning and analytics for web applications and portlets that were built without those necessary bits of IT deployment services. They showed an event calendar application built in Ruby on Rails, then showed how Ensemble can be used to create a wrapper around that application to turn it into a portlet (or pagelet): it created a friendly URL, added security (authentication, access policies, auditing), and made it accessible for including in mashups and portal environments.

They finished up with Pathways, which is a social bookmarking/tagging environment, like del.icio.us within the enterprise. It also allows for people to be tagged as well as content, making it act a bit like a social networking environment like LinkedIn or Facebook. All of this feeds into searches, so that results can be ranked based on it either being authored by or linked to by experts in a certain field. It uses tag clouds to display tag relevance (you can read my friend Tom’s opinion on why tag clouds suck and how they’re both a hallmark of Web 2.0 applications and a “sordidly abused miscarriage of functional information design”), but I’m sure (I hope) that’s not the only way to display tag relevance. There are a number of controls over how search ranks are calculated, based on both the content and people involved.

These products are all in beta now, and will be released in GA in July.

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