Portlets2008 and CampusEAI Annual Conference Recap

>ландшафт. the exhaustion that was the combined CampusEAI Portlets2008 and Annual conference is now behind us, and it seems like time for some reflections and observations. Hopefully some of these items will be items which I expand upon at a future date, but in no particular order, dumped straight from my brain:

* JSR-168 is here! Everyone really wants to write good standards compliant portlets. Architecture and engineering is a harder sell (or at least the time/cost trade-off) but there’s wide consensus that standard portlets are the way forward — at least excepting a couple of us widget fans 🙂
* SOA is something people are interested in, but that there’s been relatively little forward progress on. Some is governance. Some is tools (SOAP, WSDL, and what’s this REST thing?). Some is just that it’s big and strategic, and there’s many tactical must haves. I suspect some of it is also that much of our interesting data/services are locked in vendor platforms that have shown little interest in opening up. Though, a small trend does exist of creating SOA-style services to reach into vendor platforms and extract data from them
* Mobile wasn’t as big as I thought it would be. Not sure why. Most people seem to be interested in the abstract, but with few concrete plans. Maybe my iPhone has clouded my vision, but I do wonder if we’re going to get blindsided come fall — our target demographic is basically 18-22 year olds, afterall…
* AJAX in portlets is still hard. There are some tricks like wrapper divs, namespacing, and builtin support and integration patterns, but it’s still not a common practice.
* Identity Management is big. Governance is a big thorny issue, though many IT departments are rolling out vendor products from big players (Oracle, Sun, a little IBM) in the interim, tho ugh the exact scope of those items is somewhat unclear.
* Oracle is really putting portlets in lots of interesting places. Webcenter. Product mashups. Inside BI tools, and other GUI devices. I think they’ve probably embraced the architecture more than any other major vendor which is an interesting trend.
* Lots of awareness, and wanting to look at uPortal 3. Ooohs and ahhs over both the AJAX D&D, and maybe more importantly the new content adding UI — good going Jen!
* Really beautiful portals — some, though not all new portals really seem to be breaking out of the lots of boxes approach, or at least wrapping it in neat functionality like Boston College’s Agora design. Nifty trend. Sign of maturity?
* Community Development is hard. Aligning roadmaps, agreeing on implementation strategies, and putting all the pieces together is challenging. Even more so, justifying “doing it right” (and fit to share) versus quick and dirty, or getting a student up and running was a big trend. Makes my inner-engineer quail, but my inner-economist says that throw-away code lowers the barrier for solving problems, which is a good thing. Evolution isn’t always pretty and all that.
* Lots of desire for training, best practices, and advice on policy and governance. Real role for communities of practice, not just code and software.
* Increasing interest in “Enterprise Learning Management”. Lots of worries about migration, but the beginning of seeds wondering whether our current platforms are sufficient for a foundation for the next 10-15 years, and University strategic goals. Of course, some of this is the “enterprise IT guys” getting pulled into the LMS discussion for perhaps the first time in many places.
* Good beer is key to facilitating interesting non-session discussion. Content is king on the program, but largely only because it gets people in one place and produces interesting spontaneous interactions. Hands-on is something everyone wants, but it’s not clear a conference composed of many 1 hour sessions is the right format to deliver it.
* University IT teams wear many, many hats.
* British Universities seem to have a much richer and more abundent IT project management structure than (most) American schools. Really interesting thread about Imperial College in London blending ITIL and Agile methodologies.