Friday Jan 08, 2010

Publisher Analytics - the feature that almost made it

The Sun Software Library team always subscribed to Agile development practices.  We've adhered to the "Deliver working software frequently" principle by pushing new software to production every two weeks.  As soon as we finish developing a feature, we make it available to our users, so we can get feedback, and make the feature even better (Tim Bray says it, and quite a bit more, quite eloquently.)

Some stuff happened that forced change.

There is one feature in particular that almost made it.  We called it Publisher Analytics - the ability for each publisher to see how many page views, visitors, and click throughs they got through the Sun Software Library for their particular entries.  The usual approaches (e.g. google analytics) don't work for Rich Internet Applications, so we had to devise our own approach.  To implement this feature, we first built a set of web services for accessing the data (which is available in production), then used EJS Chart's excellent JavaScript based charting package for implementing the front end.

This image shows the feature as developed.  This feature is currently only available to the super user.  In the screen snapshot below, we are actually showing production data.  The actual name of the publisher data rendered is blurred out.  The snapshot was taken in early December 2009, hence the lack of December data.

Sun Software Library Publisher Analytics

Ray Maslinski, Sree Vidya Allada, and Jonathan Leone did a great job on this implementation.

Monday Nov 30, 2009

Continuous Integration with embedded API and browser testing

A "good" software release is one that has more features and fewer issues than the previous one.  Yet, Agile software practices stress the importance of frequent and iterative software releases.  Do these two statements contradict each other?  For example, doesn't it make sense that if you want a quality release, you should spend more time testing software, so you can discover more issues, and hence have more time to fix them?  This seems to imply that waterfall based software development practices make more sense than Agile based ones.  What's going on here?

Turns out, for a variety of reasons, that the above statement is actually not true.  This blog entry dives into one specific aspect of how Agile helps produce better software.  There are others that I'll explore in other blog entries.

Through many personal experiences, as well as papers that I've read, it's actually best from a quality and time to market perspective to know about an issue as soon as possible after its been introduced into the software.  There are many reasons for this, but the most intuitive one is this: the developer still has the context for the buggy code fresh in their minds, so they can find the issue and fix it faster.  If months or years elapse, the developer will need longer time to regain the context (assuming the same developer is still even involved with the software), and have far less confidence that the fix actually improves the software without introducing even more issues.  Comically, the same thing happens with computers: if a memory page is context switched out from main memory, it takes longer to retrieve it.  Perhaps the human mind works the same way, where short term memory is somehow "faster to retrieve"?

Anyway, detecting issues as quickly as possible after they have been introduced into the code base seems like a good, logical idea.  But how do you actually implement this?  Agile gives us several different tools to help us here: this blog entry describes the tools that we, the Sun Software Library engineering team, has embedded into our continuous integration cycles, and some of our thoughts around them.

Since videos are worth a thousand words, we first share our Continuous Integration Process in a screen cast.  For those of you looking for slick screencasts, please look elsewhere - we're engineers, not marketing people.  It's the content that matters to us, not the polish :-)

We use Hudson, for actually managing our Continuous Integration ProcessHudson polls our repository periodically, and kicks off a build if anything new has been checked in.  We also do a build once a day overnight at a fixed time each night.  This ensures that we get at least one build a day.

We have a custom Ant based top level build script, that goes and builds the roughly dozen or so NetBeans projects that together form the Sun Software Library.  The screencast above runs this top level build script manually for demonstration purposes.  We developers also run this script before we commit any code, to make sure that our build works.  The top level build script follows these steps:

  • Build all the projects.  This is a basic check - does the code even compile?
  • Some of the NetBeans projects have been modified to include embedded testing and/or automation tools.
    • Our Web UI project build script has the following tools integrated into NetBeans' build.xml script:
    • Our CQS (CatalogQuerServer) Project, which is the component that implements our web services interface, has the following:
      • A set of jUnit based unit tests that exercise our code directly
      • Modified build instructions, so the code can be instrumented to support Cobertura.  Our code coverage measurement for our backend includes all of our tests, including jUnit, API Functional, and Selenium based Web UI tests.
  • Reloads the database with a known set of reference data (this data is needed and used by the various tests).
  • If deploying to GlassFish, configure the necessary GlassFish resources.
  • Deploys all the projects to an environment dedicated for continuous integration.  This environment has both a Tomcat instance as well as a GlassFish instance in it.  Even though we only use GlassFish for our production environment, we still validate our builds against both Tomcat and GlassFish - this doesn't cost us much, and has helped us resolve some issues.
  • Runs a set of API functional tests, written using the Apache Commons libraries
  • Runs a set of Selenium based tests, these drive the browser to exercise our JavaScript based Rich Internet Application (RIA) UI.
  • Runs schemaspy if the database schema has been changed

Is this all perfect?  Of course not, nothing ever is.  The following issues still exist:

  • The automated testing that is integrated into our continuous integration environment only uses FireFox for testing.  We have deployed several Windows based environments into our lab using virtualization technologies, and are intending to integrate IE based testing in an automated fashion, but we're not there yet.
  • We still do some manual Q/A testing before each release, since there are coverage gaps in our automated tests (for example, our automated tests only cover our primary applications, not our customer help center).
  • We still haven't fully analyzed the cost/benefit aspect of this.  There is definitely a cost of implementation (though it's not that much, especially not since you can replicate what we've implemented).  For us, we intuitively feel that the implementation has saved us more than it has cost us, but a more formal study may be worth while.
  • There may also be alternative tools that are better/easier to use, we haven't really researched this.

PS While writing this blog, I ran across these blog entries, written by John Morrison, one of my colleagues at Sun, which describe testing in an Agile world.  They are interesting reads, and restate much more elegantly and precisely my own personal thoughts on this matter.


Wednesday Sep 30, 2009

Improved communications between users and publishers - Builds #81 and #82 deployed

Yesterday, we deployed build #82 of the Sun Software Library into production, and two weeks ago, we deployed build #81 into production, enhancing the library functionality in the following areas:

  • New Artwork: We have some new artwork:
    Sun Software Library artwork
    Other sites that want to link to the Sun Software Library can use this artwork.

  • Request to be a Content Manager includes a message: One of the reasons we had to change our Terms & Conditions is to allow the users to better communicate with other users.  In this release, we have added the ability for a content management requests to include a message, enabling the user to tell the current content administrators why they are requesting access. ⁞ For small organizations, "where everybody knows your name", this may not seem like a useful feature, but for large organizations (e.g. think of companies the sun of Sun Microsystems), this is especially useful.

    Sun Software Library Content Management Request Message

    The next few releases will include more functionality, enabling users to communicate with one another via the library.

  • New Terms & Conditions: As mentioned earlier, we wanted to add new functionality in the Sun Software Library, enabling users to anonymously contact publishers (and vice versa).  If you log into the Sun Software Library, and have previously accepted the terms and conditions, you'll see this popup, informing you that new terms and conditions are in place:

    Sun Software Library Terms and Conditions have changed

    Click "Accept" to continue.

    We've added this language to the Privacy section (section 6).  You can view the entire terms and conditions at https://library.network.com/terms.html.
     “You acknowledge and agree that Site Offerings may enable You to
    allow to be contacted by Sun other Users, and may enable You to
    submit personally identifiable and other information to other
    Users.   You consent to such contact by other Users (unless Sun
    expressly gives You notice and an ability to opt-out from such
    contact), and to the unrestricted, non-exclusive use by such
    other Users of any such information You choose to submit to them,
    and You assume (and Sun disclaims) all liability and
    responsibility arising therefrom or related thereto.”
  • Internet Explorer support: IE is our most popular browser, some 55% of our users use it.  As such, we need to support it - all 3 versions of it (IE6, IE7, & IE8).  However, we do pay for that support, in terms of engineering time, both in testing, and in fixing bugs.  Primarily because of Firebug and our Mac desktops, Firefox continues to be our primary development and debug platform, with Safari being a close second.  We do fully test on Windows platforms, but find that what typically works on the other two browsers breaks on IE.  Recently, we've spent a significant amount of time debugging IE8, while maintaining functionality for previous versions of IE.

    It's hard to estimate what our actual cost is for supporting IE6, but it is relatively high.  As such, we support efforts to get users to migrate away from IE6.

  • We are 100% JSLint "The Good Parts" compliant: After we integrated JSLint with NetBeans, we got to work making sure our own Web UI (written in JavaScript) passed JSLint.  This took us a while, given the amount of JavaScript code that we have.  The first decision we had to make was what options we wanted to JSLint to enforce - we decided to leverage The Good Parts, written by Douglas Crockford.  Given that this is our entry in build.xml:
            <jslint4java haltOnFailure="${cqs.build.jslint.failonerror}" options="${cqs.build.jslint.options}">
              <formatter type="plain" />
              <filelist id="jslint.filelist" dir="${basedir}/web" files="${cqs.js.jslint.files}"/>
            </jslint4java>
    
    We then set this option in our project.properties file:
            cqs.build.jslint.options=white, onevar, browser, undef, nomen, eqeqeq, plusplus, bitwise, regexp, strict, newcap, immed
    
    After we cleansed our JavaScript code, we set our builds to fail if JSLint detects any errors:
            cqs.build.jslint.failonerror=true
    
    This approach has already paid a dividend: One of our developers wrote some code that worked perfectly on Firefox and Safari, but would have created issues on IE, due to IE's more stringent syntax checking.  Normally, we would have caught this error during our Quality cycles, but JSLint picked up the issue by causing our Continuous Integration build to break.  The issue was fixed in minutes at a relatively low cost, rather than in hours at a much greater cost at a later period in time.

    This incident alone has validated our investment in integrating code inspection tools into our Continuous Integration builds.

    And, no, our feelings weren't hurt!  Humbled, maybe, deflated our egos a bit, definitely, but not hurt.

  • Cobertura integration: In the spirit of integration of code inspection tools into our environment, we integrated Cobertura into our Continuous Integration system.  We've run Cobertura before, but always manually, on an as needed basis.  Now we always have an up to date code coverage report.  Combined with Hudson's Cobertura Plugin, we configured our builds to measure code coverage taking into account all of our automated testing: Web Services based functional tests, Selenium based Web UI tests, and jUnit based traditional unit tests.  This way, we can measure the effectiveness of our testing strategy in realtime.  We still have some work to do in this area, but at least we know where we stand:

    Sun Software Library Code Coverage

  • And as always, lots of bug fixes and minor enhancements here and there...
There are more improvements in store, keep the feedback coming!

Tuesday Aug 25, 2009

Improved advanced search and better context sensitive help - build #80 deployed

Yesterday, we deployed build #80 of the Sun Software Library into production, enhancing the library functionality in the following areas:

  • Additional search options: you can now limit or filter search results based on a tag.  For example, you can now search for all entries that have a particular keyword and are tagged with a particular tag.  To do this, when you open up the "more options" dropdown right under the main search area, you'll notice a new input field titled "Tag".  In this field, you can type in a tag name that you want to use to filter the search results.  This field is "auto-completing", if you type in the first few letters of a tag name, you can select the full tag name from the dropdown list.

    You can see this additional functionality in action:

    Sun Software Library Combined Keyword and Tag Search capbility

  • Improved context sensitive help: We have also improved our context sensitive help functionality in the add/edit popup.  Specifically, we've automated the functionality of copying the FAQ questions from our Sun Software Library help center to this panel, improving the overall quality of the context sensitive help available.  This is another example of how we strive to automate as many of the manual processes that we have, so that we can provide a better service at a reduced delivery cost.

    This image displays the help you get when you edit a publisher entry.

    Sun Software Library Context Sensitive Help

    This image shows the help that you get when you select the "tags" tab.

    Sun Software Library Context Sensitive Help

  • Bug fixes - as always, we fixed bugs.

There are more improvements in store, keep the feedback coming!


Monday Aug 10, 2009

Most viewed date range and support for new browsers - build #79 deployed

Earlier today, we deployed build #79 of the Sun Software Library into production, enhancing the library functionality in the following areas:

  • Most viewed date range: You can now select which time period should be displayed in the "most viewed" area of our home page, so you can see what's popular over different date ranges. 

    library most viewed date selector

    The default setting is "all time", so you'll see what's popular since the beginning of the Sun Software Library, since this is the view that was presented all along.  If you want to see a different date range, simply change the setting.

    There are two aspects of this date range that are worth noting:
    • The data for this is updated once a day.  Our "most viewed" data does not change all that often, and we didn't think it warranted the extra processing required to make this more real time.  If you disagree, tell us.
    • We keep the data for month boundaries only, so when you select "Current Month", you'll be seeing the "most viewed" entries for the current calendar month, not the past 30 days.  For example, if you select "Current Month" on August 10th, you'll see the most popular entries for the month of August (e.g. the last 10 days only).
  • Upgraded our Web UI to ExtJS 3.0: As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, we use the Ext JS Cross-Browser Rich Internet Application Framework widget set for developing our Web UI.  Ext JS recently released version 3.0 of their library.  We upgraded our Web UI to this new version, found some bugs along the way.  The new library enabled us to support more browser types.
  • Support for IE8 & Chrome: We now officially test and support Internet Explorer 8 and Google Chrome browsers for our web site.  IE8 has some significant improvements for JavaScript developers, to quote Joe Hewitt (creator of Firebug): "I couldn't be happier that Microsoft completely copied Firebug for IE8."  We agree, debugging JavaScript on IE8 is finally reasonable.
  • JSLint: We have incorporated JSLint, the JavaScript code quality tool written by Douglas Crockford, into our NetBeans and Hudson based development process, as described in Ari Shamash's blog.  I typically agree w/Douglas Crockford, but JSLint did not hurt our feelingsWe are human after all, we welcome tools that make our lives better and our development more efficient, as I've mentioned several times in this blog....
  • Lots of bug fixes, as always.
There are more improvements in store, keep the feedback coming!

Thursday Jul 30, 2009

Context sensitive help for publishers - build #78 deployed

We recently deployed build #78 to the Sun Software Libray, the focus of this release was to improve the experience for publishers in a couple of different areas.

Here is what we added:

  • The primary feature is Context Sensitive Help while managing content.  This feature is easier to describe via a short screencast (less than 2 min), so please press the play button, below.
  • We also fixed numerous bugs associated with logos on the web site, for example, logos of multiple different dimensions are now handled properly.
Usage for the library continues to increase dramatically, we want to thank you for all of your support and kind words.  Please keep the feedback coming.

Monday Jun 29, 2009

Build #76 deployed - numerous UI improvements

Earlier today, we deployed build #76 to the Sun Software Library.  For those of you keep up with our numbering scheme, you'll notice a jump in our build numbers.  We were occupied with a side project, one that hopefully we'll be able to show at some point, but since JavaOne, we've been back working on improving the Sun Software Library full time.

Here is what we added:

  • Browser Based WYSIWYG editor for descriptions & reviews: we've finally joined the 21st century in implementing this functionality.  To prevent various cross-site scripting security issues, we only support a subset of HTML for the description field:

    Browser based WYSIWYG Editor

    Formatted reviews can easily be created:

    Browser based WYSIWYG Editor

    For those of you that want to still edit the HTML, you can easily switch back to that mode using the rightmost button in the editor toolbar.  As an aside, we also fixed a bug in the logo preview section of the "Basic Information" tab.  Previously, under certain circumstances, the log was being distorted.

  • Tag Management improvements:  Tagging entries with the right tags in the Sun Software Library will make the entries easier to find and use.  Based on user feedback, we've revisited the "Add Tags" section of our Web UI and improved it as follows:
    • You can now add a "most used' tag directly to your page:



    • The "other tag" field is now easier to navigate, as the search results all show up in one list:



  • Most Recently Updated section of the home page is now more accurate.  Previously, an entry was considered "most recently updated" only if the entry itself was updated (e.g. the description field was updated, or the name was updated, etc.)  Now, an entry is considered "updated" if it or any of its associated data is updated.  For example, if somebody adds a software version to a software record, or if somebody writes a review, that entry will be considered "updated".  Kudos to the "Tech Tracker" team for making this request.



  • Help Center UI improvements: Our help center finally got a much needed face lift, including styling to make it look like our primary site, as well as an embedded screencast orienting new users to our app.



We've also fixed numerous bugs, etc.  There are more improvements in store, keep the feedback coming!

Thursday Jun 18, 2009

Recent Feedback about the Sun Software Library

I thought I would anonymous share some of the feedback we've received recently regarding the Sun Software Library:

  • "Very good looking user interface, I mean the Sun Software Library webpage, congrats." and "Site is well laid out and easy to use." - these are the ones I'm most proud of, especially given all the flack we've received along the way regarding our Web UI.  This is somewhat ironic, since we initially designed the site to be purely a set of web services that others would use to build UIs - we never planned on building a real UI.  Our initial UI's were really just "reference implementations", which many mistook to be production quality Web UI's.  Funny how things evolve.  You can read a bit about our original ideas here.
  • "It would be cool if the user can access to an application live demo, obviously web based apps." - the publisher can always associate a screencast with the software demonstrating how the software works, this screencast would show up at the bottom of the software detail page.  But even better, we're working on a feature that would allow the publisher to upload a Virtual Machine Image (e.g. VMI in OVF format) that users can instantiate and use (either on their desktop, e.g. via Virtual Box, or on a public cloud).
  • "i am regular visitor of this site" - awesome, we like to hear that!
  • "in the morning i regularly checks this site." - so do I, but only after my coffee fixes (most days, one cup just doesn't do it).
  • "This site keeps me Updated."
  • "i can get all the news and technical stuff from here."
  • "I want to wirte a review to get a free T-shirt, but I found the web  did not work!I try serveral times.The System always  displays  a error mesg  saying "a inner error please try again the later" when i set my screen name. you know I can not write review unless i set my screen name." - looks like there is a bug in the section of our WebUI that enables setting the screen name.  We are working on a fix.  Until then, you can use this page to set your screen name: https://reg.sun.com/createscreenname.

Keep the feedback coming, folks, we always want to hear from people who are using the Sun Software Library.

Wednesday May 27, 2009

Sun Software Library Overview Screencast

Bob May on the Sun Software Library team put together this overview screencast, demonstrating how to search and publish using the Sun Software Libray.  It is very nice, and in less than 10 minutes, shows all the prominent features.

Of course, this screencast is also visible directly inside the Sun Software Library: https://library.network.com/app.jsp#resource/5236

Friday May 01, 2009

Home page upgrade, making logos easier, and more - build #71 deployed

Our latest version - build #71 - was deployed into production yesterday.  Here is what we added:

  • What's New: This new panel on the home page takes a subscription feed from our blog at http://blogs.sun.com/thelibrary  and displays the three most recent entries right on our home page.
    What's New and Featured
  • Featured: This new panel on the home page allows us to highlight specific publishers, software, or resources directly. Want to be listed here? Give us feedback.

  • Searching for a specific tag: We have a lot of tags in our system - approximately 3000 of them.  The vast majority do not make it into our tag clouds.  We now allow you to search for a specific tag, or set of tags, using the same mechanisms as keyword search.  This way, if you create a tag that is interesting to you, but doesn't make it into the other tag clouds, you can find it.  The output is a little different, however - we display tag search results in a custom tag cloud.

    Searching for Tags

    Please note that this feature is different than using a Tag to search for entries in the library, which has been in the system since the very beginning.

  • Logo Preview in add/edit panel to improve usability of logos: Previously, many entries in the library did not take advantage of our logo mechanism, we always wondered why, since after all, an entry with a logo looks better than an entry without a logo.  We always wondered why our users do not take advantage of this feature.  Other users tried to take advantage of this feature, but put in invalid URLs.

    Many principles in User Interface design teach that if the user does something wrong, the sooner you inform the user, the more usable your application becomes.  As such, we now display the logo preview directly in the panel that allows you to edit that particular field.  The response is in real time - if you type in an invalid URL for your logo, this is what you'll immediately see:

    Invalid Logo URL

    Type in a valid URL, however, and you'll get some instant gratification!  Ah, the sweet site of success ;-)

    Valid Logo URL

    The circled annotations above were created manually using an image editing tool - the app does not try to figure out what is wrong with the URL, that's a pretty hard problem to solve, we'll save that one for the next iteration. ;-)

  • Improved content management requests and authorization emails: The emails that we used to send whenever a user requested to be a content manager, or when that request was approved or denied, needed some improvement.  We paid some attention to them, and now they are significantly more user friendly.  Our application has direct URL's to many portions of the app, we take advantage of this by including a URL in the approval emails directly to the approval section of the application.  This is typical in traditional web applications, which have a URL for each page.  Our app is a RIA - which exists on a single HTML page, making this issue a bit more complex from an engineerign perspective.

  • Prettier URL: While we're not that vane, our old system used to include "CatalogQueryServer" as part of the URL structure.  CatalogQueryServer is the web context at which our application is deployed.  This used to leak through sometimes in our URL's, making them less user-friendly.  Specifically, our system used to redirect users from http://library.network.com  to https://library.network.com/CatalogQueryServer  (note the HTTP to HTTPS transition in the redirect), and the web context used to leak through the automated redirect.  We have fixed that.  So now we have a nice pretty compact URL structure.

As always, feedback (either positive, constructive, or what the weather is like where you) is always welcomed!

Tuesday Apr 21, 2009

Improving RIA / JavaScript startup performance in latest deployment - build #70

On Monday April 13th, 2009, we deployed build #69 of the Sun Software Library.  This blog entry details the additions we've made.  If you've been following this blog, you know that the Sun Software Library engineering team does a great job of deploying a new build every two weeks, but the blog entries typically trail the deployment a bit.  That's completely because the writer of this blog is a slacker.  No other excuse can be made.  All sorts of gimmicks were tried, apparently to no avail.

This release completes, for now, all of our startup performance improvements associated with our RIA.  As you know, the Sun Software Library user interface is written in JavaScript, and accesses the data in the library using Restful Web Services.  Our Web UI currently has:

  • 12,000 lines of JavaScript code written by us, in 17 different files
  • 2,000 lines of CSS code (I guess you can call CSS code, right?), in 4 different files
  • Oodles of images
  • Many 3rd party libraries (for example, we rely heavily on the Ext JS toolkit for web UI components)

When we initially deployed the application many many months ago, the browser had to download each and every one of these components separately, requiring approximately 20 seconds to load the entire application, and that was on a fast Internet link in relative network proximity to the web site.  Performance from distant parts of the world was atrocious, and that's putting it mildly.  We made things a bit better by building an "index.jsp" home page that loaded relatively quickly (e.g. approximately 8-10 seconds), then transitioned to the "app.jsp" main page (which took approximately 20 more seconds to load).

So we looked for tools to help us improve performance.  After all, we're not the only ones in the world writing RIA's in JavaScript.  But amazingly, we didn't find any tools that fit our way of doing work:  we're LAZY, and we're HUMAN!  Being lazy means we abhor labor intensive, manual processes since they are typically very error prone, whereas being human means we like using tools.  Since we couldn't find the right tools, we went about integrating/building various components.  We'll include details in a future blog entry.

So where are we today?

  • A single "app.jsp" page that contains our entire application.
  • A single CSS invocation,  which is automatically generated with a unique file name containing a timestamp, so it can be cached by the browser but also updated in real time.
  • Two JavaScript invocations, one for Ext JS and one for our entire application, each of which have unique file names similar to above.
  • Most of our images are integrated in to a Sprite, automatically generated.  The only remaining images that are distinct come from the 3rd party libraries we are using.
  • All of our content has a "far future cache expiration date".  A browser with a primed cache only requires 8.3 KBytes of new content to render the application (that's the web services call to retrieve the "most viewed" and "recently updated" entries).

Net net, our entire application loads in approximately 2.5 seconds.  And since it is JavaScript based - once the application has started - only web services calls are made to retrieve data to display.  While there is still some work to do to improve performance even more, we're pretty satisfied with where we are.  The only caveat to the home page load time is that the logos for the various entries are not (yet) cached by our service, we retrieve logos from the 3rd party sites on each invocation.  This makes our page load time dependent on services other than our own.  We measured the page load time w/remote logo loading turned off, using yslow.

 So what else is new? 

Sun Software Library Home Page

Our home page now links to three key Sun organizations that we work with daily:

  • Sun Developer Network: Becoming an Sun Developer Network (SDN) member makes you part of a vibrant worldwide community of developers, and gives you access to cool stuff and exclusive offers.
  • Sun Partner Advantage program: The Sun Partner Advantage Program connects Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to free or deeply discounted offerings as well as sales relationships, so they can deliver solutions/services to an expanded market.
  • Project Kenai: Sun's new foundation for its connected developer experience of tomorrow.  Freely host your open source projects and code as well as find and collaborate with developers of like mind and passion on this site.

Also, we fixed numerous bugs..  Nothing new here, we are always fixing bugs.

As always, feedback (either positive, constructive, or what the weather is like where you) is always welcomed!

Wednesday Apr 01, 2009

Sun Software Library build #69 deployed - finalizing our tag vocabulary & folksonomy

On Monday March 30th, 2009, we deployed build #69 of the Sun Software Library.  This blog entry details the additions we've made.

This release completes our work with Tag Clouds and Tag Controlled Vocabularies / Tag Folksonomies, which we started a few iterations back.  The approach we use is as follows:

  • We chose a set of tags that we display in our tag clouds.  While this list is fixed, we are open to any feedback to add or remove tags from those clouds.  A future release will allow personal tag clouds.
  • Any logged in user can tag entities in the library with those tags, causing them to be visible through the tag clouds.  This is the Tag Folksonomy aspect of the library.

This particular release enables users to quickly add tags that are in the tag clouds.  The new Web UI enables this as follows:

  • Clicking on the "add tag" displays the following (if the user is not logged on, they would be prompted to log in first, since only logged in users can add a tag):

    Add Tag

    Each of the dropdowns displayed corresponds to the list of tags in a particular tag cloud.  The user can select a tag from the list:

    Add Tag

    Then press the "add" button to actually add the tag:



    If the user wants to add a tag that is not in one of those lists, they can type it into the "other tag" field.  This field displays a list of matching tags corresponding to what is typed in.  The user is not limited to the list of tags displayed:



  • The editor can click on the "myLibrary" link on any of the Sun Software Library pages, click on "edit", then select the "Tags" tab, and add tags, as follows.  First the editor clicks on "myLibrary", then clicks on the "edit" button corresponding to the entry they want to edit:

    MyLibrary Add Tag

    The editor then selects the "Tags" tab:



    The editor then adds a tag, similar to the way tags are added in the detail page above:



    The editor can also add a custom tag:



    Finally, when the editor clicks the "add" button when the editor has selected the tags to add.  The tags selected are added to the tag list on the left side:



    Note that the tags are not actually published or saved until the "Publish" button is pressed:

That's pretty much it for this release..  We fixed a bunch of bugs, etc., but what else is new there?

Send us feedback!

Monday Mar 16, 2009

Sun Software Library build #68 deployed - browsing the library via Tag Clouds

"The Ides of March has come"
"Aye Caesar, but not gone"

On Monday March 16th, 2009, we deployed build #68 of the Sun Software Library.  This blog entry details the additions we've made.

This is the second of a series of releases that will significantly enhance the way we use tags to browse the data in the Sun Software Library.  In this release, we have introduced the concept of multiple Tag Clouds, each with a different vocabulary. 

Here are the new features in this release:

  • Multiple Tag Clouds: This is the major new feature in this release, it's been in development for a while.  This feature enables you to browse the data in the Sun Software Library in different ways.  To see it, click the "view tags" button on the home page.  This is what you will see:

    Sun Software Library Tag Clouds

    The "Most Used" tag cloud represents the tags that are most frequently used in the Sun Software Library, arranged alphabetically.  The number next to each tag name represents the number of entries in the Sun Software Library that are tagged with that tag.  The font size of the text is also relative to the number of times a tag is used (larger font equates to a tag being used more often).

    Clicking on the "Locations" tab, for example, displays a tag cloud of the various location tags in the Sun Software Library (shown below).  For a list of locations, we've standardized on the ISO list of countries.

    Sun Software Library Location Tag Cloud

    Similarly, the other tabs display other tag clouds.

    These tag clouds can also be browsed in the "skinny tag cloud" that is displayed next to the search results.  Simply pick the tag cloud you want to see from the dropdown menu.

    Sun Software Library Tag Clouds

  • API support for tag clouds: We added the following APIs in support of the tag cloud feature.

    GET https://library.network.com/CatalogQueryServer/api/tags?cloud_id=2 will retrieve the TagList for the "Industries" tag cloud.  The following tables maps between cloud_id and Tag Cloud name.

    Cloud ID
    Cloud Name
     2  Industries
     3  Locations
     4
     Solution Area
     5
     Sun Technologies

    If you want to see a list of tags in a particular Tag Cloud, run the following CURL command.  Of course, you are using Solaris, right?

    $ curl https://library.network.com/api/tags?cloud_id=2

    The output will be (the list below is truncated):

    {"TagList": {
      "items": [
        {"entity": {
          "updatedAt": "2008-08-28 03:15:36 GMT",
          "id": 6856,
          "resourceCount": 0,
          "totalCount": 373,
          "description": "Auto Created",
          "createdAt": "2008-08-28 03:15:36 GMT",
          "newsCount": 0,
          "name": "Financial Services-Banking",
          "publisherCount": 373,
          "softwareCount": 0
        }},
        {"entity": {
          "updatedAt": "2008-08-28 03:15:37 GMT",
          "id": 6857,
          "resourceCount": 2,
          "totalCount": 1706,
          "description": "Auto Created",
          "createdAt": "2008-08-28 03:15:37 GMT",
          "newsCount": 0,
          "name": "Financial Services",
          "publisherCount": 1702,
          "softwareCount": 2
        }},
    ...
      ],
      "itemsReturned": 111,
      "itemsFound": 111,
      "totalItems": 2581
    }}


    If you want to see just the Tag names, you can run the following command:

    $ curl -s https://library.network.com/api/tags?cloud_id=2 | grep '"name":'
  • Performance improvements: In our never ending mission to improve the performance of our Web UI, we continually take steps to improve performance.  This time around, we have automatically concatenated all of our CSS files into a single CSS file, improving page startup time.

And that's all for this particular iteration, folks!  Next application deploy will be in two weeks (assuming the additions we've made in the last two weeks pass our QA tests).

Question for you: Did we get our vocabulary list right for each of the tag clouds?  Send us feedback!
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