Playing with the Camunda workflow engine (and PHP)

A generic workflow engine, configured via a graphical diagram editor on top of an XML syntax – that’s what I tried and failed to develop more than 15 years ago. I did help build three generations of a simple “workflow” component integrated in our DAM product to drive asset ingestion and export, kept reading (see The State of Workflow and Decoupling Application Logic) and writing (Workflow awareness of DAM systems) about workflows – and hoping that one day, a powerful and beautiful workflow management system would make my work easier.

That’s why I was thrilled to discover Camunda, a workflow engine with an open source, free community edition. It is standards-based, written in Java, and comes with a Web UI, REST API and graphical process diagram modeler. Here’s a screenshot of Camunda Modeler:

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Sat, 01 Sep 2018 22:55:00 +0000

What to put on a DAM Admin dashboard

Imagine you introduce a shiny new Digital Asset Management (DAM) system in your company which can feed all kinds of metrics into the brightly-colored Grafana dashboard hanging on your wall.

What would you track on that dashboard to help you manage, grow and troubleshoot your DAM system? Off of the top of my head, these metrics could be important:

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Thu, 14 Jun 2018 13:34:00 +0000

The “X” in JSON stands for Extensibility

While I do use JSON, I still think XML is superior for some important use cases (long-lived data that may be exchanged with other systems). So here’s a quick “rant” – prompted by Dan Brickley’s response to Bob DuCharme’s Reification is a red herring – aimed at those (younger?) folks “dissing” XML :)

Over time, requirements and technology inevitably change. Extensibility (the “X” in XML) is the property that helps us adapt and keep pace, letting us evolve technology from simple to advanced without having to throw away and reimplement existing functionality. Here’s two reasons why XML is better at it than JSON:

From one to many

Cardinality (whether data has one or multiple values) is a common problem in data modeling: In a relational database, you need to change the schema (creating an additional table) to turn a single-valued into a multi-valued field. Programming languages distinguish between scalar values and arrays or collections.

Not so in XML; I can move effortlessly (on the producer side, at least) from single…

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Thu, 31 May 2018 12:22:00 +0000

Digital Asset Management Reading List Feb./Mar. 2018

This time, I cover two months at once: Here’s the Digital Asset Management (DAM) articles from February and March 2018 which I recommend reading. I picked them from the constant stream of blog posts you can see float by on Planet DAM. For more curated DAM links, see the weekly Digital Asset Management.com Links and Tracy Wolfe’s 10 things on the 10th.

I’m happy to see people write and talk about my pet topic, DAM interoperability. On DAM News, Ralph Windsor publishes The Politics Of Implementing Digital Asset Supply Chains: Parking The Enterprise Service Bus. Emily Kolvitz and Brian Kavanaugh present DAM Integrations 101 (video, 30 minutes). Matthew Patulski announces the “Advancing Findability” DAM NY conference session hosted by the W3C DAM schema.org community group.

More thoughts on the future of DAM come from Ramon Forster – Dropbox Is More Than a DAM – and from Dave Jones: What is a Content Services Platform? Jarrod Gingras hosts a webinar on the 8 DAM trends to watch in 2018.

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Wed, 11 Apr 2018 20:34:00 +0000

For better software, keep talking

In my experience, things diverge quickly in software development when people stop talking to each other. It’s costly if we notice too late that priorities or needs have changed, schedules slipped, or features evolved in the wrong direction.

Developers, users, managers (product, project, or people managers): Keep talking – all of the time – to each other about priorities, requirements, possible solutions, schedules. (Yes, I’m convinced that every developer needs to talk to users directly.)

Even after you’re “done”, keep talking about whether the software is actually helpful (“delivers value”) and what to improve next.

Developers, keep talking to your colleagues in “ops” and customer support to learn how the software is behaving in real life.

Keep talking to other developers and your boss – share what you’re working on, what you’ve learned, whether you’re stuck, ask for their feedback and ideas.

This was one of the main points of the agile movement: In “waterfall development”, there’s no communication between developers and users about changing requirements or intermediate results. It’s why the Agile Manifesto talks about “interactions”, “collaboration” and “face-to-face conversation”, and states that “business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.” To keep talking is the purpose of Scrum ceremonies (daily scrum, review, retrospective).

If your (agile) process gets people talking, great. Whatever stops people from communicating – “that’s the product owner’s job, not mine”, “this doesn’t belong in the 'daily'”, “just look it up in Jira” – might be a sign that things could be better.

We’re in this together – it’s called a “company”, after all. Nobody has all of the information, and every perspective matters, so we need to work things out together. Again and again. Keep talking!

Mon, 05 Mar 2018 19:33:00 +0000

Digital Asset Management Reading List Jan. 2018

Here’s the Digital Asset Management (DAM) articles from January 2018 which I recommend reading. I picked them from the constant stream of blog posts you can see float by on Planet DAM. For more curated DAM links, see the weekly Digital Asset Management.com Links and Tracy Wolfe’s 10 things on the 10th.

The big news in January was Mark Davey and company launching The Codified DAM Consultant™. He introduces it in an interview led by Nora Gehin, and positions it against vendor selection on the golf course or via G2 Crowd. I like the focus on the Ten Core Characteristics of a DAM system.

Congratulations to Ralph Windsor for becoming the new DAM Guru Program director! Ramon Forster introduces him in an open letter.

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Tue, 06 Feb 2018 21:05:00 +0000

Linked Content: 8 steps toward content system interoperability

The single, central content repository might exist somewhere, but the businesses I’ve seen employ a dozen or more content-focused systems: ECMS, WCMS, DAM, search, publishing systems… All of which need to be integrated for content and workflows to cross system boundaries with ease. (For example, to search and select images in the DAM system and place them in a Web CMS gallery, or in a print layout tool, without having to download files from the DAM to manually upload them into the WCMS.)

Bespoke point-to-point integrations between each of those systems are way too much work. (More on this in Improving DAM Interoperability In 2017.) I think Linked Data is a good model for making systems interoperate well, minimizing the amount of integration work required. Here’s eight “Linked Content” steps towards better interoperability, embracing Web architecture:

1. Each content object has its own Web page (“details page”)

First, every photo, article, or video needs its own permanent URL (see Cool URIs don’t change). Example: some random Flickr image.

Your system might already have such a details page URL. If not, start with this step even if you’re not ready for the rest; people will enjoy being able to share links to content via Skype or mail.

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Mon, 22 Jan 2018 12:44:00 +0000

Digital Asset Management Reading List Dec. 2017

I’m experimenting with the Reading List format: Instead of providing an exhaustive overview of the last month’s Digital Asset Management articles, it lists just a few links (from November and December 2017) which I highly recommend reading. As always, I pick them from the constant stream of blog posts you can see float by on Planet DAM. For more curated DAM links, see the weekly Digital Asset Management.com Links and Tracy Wolfe’s 10 things on the 10th.

For a look into the future of DAM, read the two Ralph Windsor pieces What it Will Take for Artificial Intelligence to Become Useful For DAM and Blockchain And Content DAM: Myth, Reality And Practical Applications.

“What is the organization's vision for DAM?” Michael Shattuck challenges us to “dream bigger”.

From animal species detection to similar images matching, Peter Krogh explains the various capabilities of computational tagging, i.e. “AI”-powered image recognition.

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Sat, 30 Dec 2017 21:36:00 +0000

Digital Asset Management Reading List Nov. 2017

Here’s the last month’s Digital Asset Management articles which had a lasting impression on me – picked from the constant stream of blog posts you can see float by on Planet DAM. For more curated DAM links, see the weekly Digital Asset Management.com Links and Tracy Wolfe’s 10 things on the 10th.

Sadly, I currently don’t have much time to read about DAM. If you do, here’s lots of links from October:

Industry and product news: Ralph Windsor reviews the Elvis-based Swivle “DAM Lite” system. Acquia creates its own DAM system for Drupal. Northplains licenses CHALEX SmartFlo. Razuna 2.0 is delayed. Extensis Portfolio is named “Leader” and “Trend Setter” by G2 Crowd and KMWorld. Bynder is working on GDPR compliance. Webdam has a new Salesforce connector. Active Logistics partners with Picturepark.

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Thu, 30 Nov 2017 22:52:00 +0000

W3C DAM Group kick-off today! Why I’m interested in schema.org for DAM

Today’s the first telco of the new W3C DAM Group (official name: Digital Asset Management Industry Business Ontology Community Group). A big thank you to Emily Kolvitz for starting it! There’s still time to join in…

The group currently has 31 participants, including several experts well known in the DAM community.

Its mission statement is “to extend schema.org to increase the expressiveness, utility and interoperability of digital media assets.”

I’m participating because DAM interoperability and Linked Data are among my pet topics – but also because I’m now working for an organization that runs maybe a dozen content focused systems: DAM, WCMS, content production, workflow systems etc., each of which need to be able to exchange and/or link content items. Having a simple standard for core DAM metadata exchange should help us identify and link assets, migrate them, and build an “enterprise search engine” and “content picker” (think “File/Open” dialog or the “Dropbox Chooser”) on top of all those content stores.

I wrote about schema.org for DAM here:

See also:

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 12:20:00 +0000