Forum OpenACS Development: Re: Preliminary vision statement open for discussion

Posted by Peter Marklund on
Jeroen, thanks for taking up the dotWRK initiative again - this is exactly the kind of leadership and visions that we need to take OpenACS to the next level.

I think the current ETP, new-portal, bug tracker (configured as ticket tracker) and workflow applications are strong candidates for going into a dotWRK configuration.

In some items below I may very well be pointing out the obvious, however I still want to highlight those ideas and tasks so that they are not overlooked at this important point when the dotWRK project plan takes shape.

  • Positioning ourselves in the market. It might be worth spending a few minutes glancing at the competition to borrow good ideas and find our niche. An example - Documentum divides the market into different industries for their Eroom product. I just tried the online demo, and what first seemed like a very impressive system (mostly because of the neat design) turned out to be mainly the usual collaborative apps that OpenACS also has (forums, calendar etc.). All that changes across their verticals is the names and structure of document folders provided. Until I realized this I thought they had some kind of KM ala ShareNet functionality going.
  • Mockups. It would help clarify the common goal that we are working towards if we had a number of well designed mockups displaying the dotWRK applications and how they are related. Lars's dotWRK demo server is a great start here.
  • It is not entirely clear to me what kind of functionality all applications in the list above are supposed to have. Coming up with a fictious but representative company that would deploy dotWRK, along with a couple of employees using the systems, and how the system helps those employees accomplish their day-to-day tasks would be immensely useful (see Lars's user-centered design documents for inspiration).
  • Branding and look-and-feel. I think it is important that the dotWRK project has a logo and a look and feel. Design matters a lot to how web applications and websites are perceived. Just to name one example, I was pretty blown away when I first tested a demo of the SuSE Linux Openexchange online demo. This was primarily because they had such a nice and professional design. When I pushed myself to look deeper under the hood much of their functionality seemed quite shallow to me, but this is something a layman may not have noticed. Another example is that an important reason the new Ticket Tracker is so pleasant to use is that it's UI was so nicely designed by Lars. What I'm talking about here is using colours and icons to make the user experience pleasant and to enhance usability. A secondary objective would be to make the UI design configurable through the consistent use of CSS across our applications. An excellent example of such configurability is the web UI.
  • Online help. User, developer and admin documentation is great, but unless it is linked from within the UI (with the conventional question mark) chances are it will never be read. We need to start adopting this convention.
  • dotWRK should have a professional project page and should point there. We should maintain a list of dotWRK like sites that are already deployed on OpenACS. The dotWRK project page should have a logo and a blogger with status updates.
  • Search. Applications in dotWRK just has to make their content searchable. ETP and the bug tracker use the CR so they should be in good shape in this respect.