Recently I was having a conversation with Alan Weintraub, Principal Analyst at Forrester. We were discussing the importance of building the right taxonomy for managing content. Both of us have been in the content management business longer than we cared to remember, and both have worked on systems that needed to create hierarchical type taxonomies with metadata held at different levels. Spending many hours trying to decide the most appropriate place for a certain attribute.
Enter Alfresco Aspects. An aspect is a collection of attributes that can be overlaid on to any file, irrespective of type. The system may have a number of types defined – Contracts, Reports, Issue Logs and Case Files. If I create a contract and then want to identify it as a customer contract I just add the customer aspect. Aspects can be applied manually, with the user choosing to add an aspect, or automatically – applying an EXIF aspect to hold extra photograph information once a JPG is uploaded. Of course multiple aspects can be applied to a file.
Using aspects makes it much easier to deploy Alfresco; it simplifies the metadata model and makes content much easier to find for the end users. I just wish it had been invented 20 years ago!