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Apache Rave Hackathon

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Last Wednesday was the first Apache Rave Hackathon in Utrecht, The Netherlands. We started with a little exercise because the fire alarm went off. There was a small accident in the railway station, so we had to leave the adjacent office building. Luckily we were allowed to enter it again.

After defining the schedule and introducing ourselves I gave a short presentation and demo of Apache Rave. One of the new features is sharing a page with other users. In the demo I showed the chat widget in a shared page. Both users had the same set of widgets now, but they used them under their own name.

This was a nice bridge to the next presentation by Dominik Renzel and Sten Govaerts of the ROLE project. We were happy to hear that the ROLE project members are going to contribute to Apache Rave. They showed widgets that were able to communicate with each other using XMPP. This made it possible to play a (Youtube) movie at the same time in different browsers (or on different computers) or cooperate on documents. They also showed their meta-data of the events in the portal by which we could trace who was making fun of the Netherlands — Germany football game in the drawing gadget.

Niels van Dijk (SURFnet) presented a comparison of several portals and web applications that are using OpenSocial gadgets like Liferay, Atlassian Jira and Sakai. Although Apache Rave is a relatively young project, it supported most of the features the Dutch universities and research institutions want.

Matt Franklin, PMC chair of Apache Rave, is also heavily involved with the OpenSocial specification. OpenSocial was initially driven by social networks like MySpace and Orkut, which left its trails in the specification. Now the enterprise is using OpenSocial to exchange data about persons and groups it’s time to clean up and simplify the specification.

A new addition will be the so called “embedded experiences”. As an example your activity stream can contain gadgets which can be rendered aside from the activity stream. Sometimes a video can say more than a thousand words.

Matt finished his talk with examples how The MITRE corporation will use Apache Rave as their intranet solution. It was a mix of data displayed directly on the page and gadgets. Some of the gadgets were seamlessly integrated into the page design.

Ard Schrijvers showed how Hippo solves the issue of page management. In many MVC frameworks like Spring MVC a controller has to collect all the data and then calls the view. A lot of elements are shared among different pages, while only a few “blocks” on a page change per page template. The Hippo Site Toolkit breaks up the configuration of a page into a hierarchy of components which can be reused in different page templates. In the future Apache Rave can profit from this model.

After the lunch my colleague Alle Veenstra showed the extensions on top of Apache Rave to run it on the SURFconext platform. He has built an OpenSAML module for Spring Security which makes Apache Rave a SAML service provider. If the visitor isn’t authenticated yet, he is redirected to the SURFconext Where Are You From (WAYF) page from which he can choose his own IdentityProvider to log in into the portal. New users are automatically provisioned. He has also made a well documented example project that uses this module.

Scott Wilson showed the edukapp white label widget store. It is using Apache Solr to index and query the available widgets and suggest other widgets that are similar to the chosen widget. It uses JSON to expose widget meta-data which makes it possible to exchange widgets between organisations. This can be a very valuable addition to the existing widget store in Apache Rave.

After all these talks about projects that are related to Apache Rave it was time for a talk about the Apache Software Foundation. Matt held an enthusiastic talk about the Apache Way. A project cannot exist without a community and contributions from the community. Questions (and answers) from users can also be valuable contributions. It’s important to see those questions and answers on the public mailing-list, so others can profit from them as well.

After Matt’s talk it was time for discussion in smaller groups, helping others set up their development environment and even applying patches. It was a great day and a pleasure to see the faces behind the email addresses on the Apache Rave users and dev lists.