Explore Your Alfresco Social Network

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Explore Your Alfresco Social Network

Alfresco Employee
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Written by Richard Esplin


Almost two years ago, Alfresco released version 3.4 with the tagline "social content management". The My Network dashlet does a good job of showing off those capabilities with nifty looking visualizations. The dashlet was written by Charles Le Seac’h (@) for the 2012 Dashlet Challenge. Due to a misunderstanding of the submission deadline it was not included in the judging, but we were impressed by the tool and wanted to increase its visibility. Charles is a ten year ECM veteran. Having deployed solutions on top of proprietary software, he started following Alfresco in 2006 and was very enthusiastic to find "a real professional open source ECM solution". His first Alfresco project was at a bank in 2007. Now he works for an ECM solutions company deploying Alfresco when it meets the customer's needs. He also uses Alfresco 4.0.e to store his project management documents. From 2007 to 2010, Charles maintained the Image Finder project on the old Alfresco Forge. At the time he was looking for a nice representation of images according to their "proximity". This lead him to investigate libraries for expressing relationships between data in a nice way. A few months ago he found the sigma.js library which is built for exactly this purpose. Displaying the relationship between people in Alfresco seemed like a good test project for the library, and it turned out to be more useful than he expected. The most complex part was finding time outside of his duties as a dad to work on the dashlet. We want to thank Charles for contributing this add-on, and equally thank his family for letting him use his August holidays to put together the project.

Main Functionality

Screen shot of dashlet displaying graph The My Network Dashlet visualizes the network of followers in an Alfresco repository. Each user that is connected to you through the follow relationship is displayed as a colored ball. You can traverse the network of who follows whom by successively drilling into the balls. Highlighting a ball provides the profile information of the user. Once you have identified someone you would like to follow or unfollow, the dashlet makes it very easy to perform that action. You can zoom in and out with the mouse wheel, and drag to view different parts of the network.

Install and Configuration

The installation and configuration of the dashlet is as painless as possible: download the amp, install it in Share, and restart the server. The dashlet will then be available for your users to add to their dashboards. After they add the dashlet, they can select whether they want to visualize who they follow or who is following them, whether straight or curved edges are more interesting, and the number of levels deep the visualization should go. Screen shot of configuration options and help text The project page for the dashlet has clear and easy to follow instructions with good screen shots and some simple videos. The source code is available on that page as a zip package. There is currently no formal issue tracker. If you want to report a bug, contribute an enhancement, or provide other feedback, you should leave a comment on the project page in Charles' blog. The text is translated in English and French, and it is easy to insert your own translations into the message files and webscripts of the AMP. The dashlet was written for version 4.0 of Alfresco, and I tested it in version 4.2.b of Alfresco Community Edition. It should work in either Community or Enterprise edition. It is made available under the terms of the GNU GPL v3.

Development Example

This dashlet is a good example of how to build and package Share customizations. The code is well organized, commented, and easy to follow. Since the behavior of the dashlet is interesting yet simple to conceptualize, it is a great illustration of the concepts behind constructing a Share dashlet. The client side javascript used by the dashlet gets complex, but it is clearly isolated from the other parts of the package. The author points out that the same approach can be taken to express other data in Alfresco in terms of nodes in a graph: content associations, folder trees, tags, and more. The dashlet is a starting point that hopefully people will build on to produce these other visualizations. Hopefully they will also be willing to contribute their add-ons to the directory for others to benefit. If you try out the add-on, remember to leave a rating on the entry page in the add-ons directory.