Integrating Discussions, Wiki, and Blog with Oracle WebCenter

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Web 2.0 Solutions with Oracle WebCenter 11g

Web 2.0 Solutions with Oracle WebCenter 11g

Learn WebCenter 11g fundamentals and develop real-world enterprise applications in an online work environment

  • Create task-oriented, rich, interactive online work environments with the help of the comprehensive Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g
  • Accelerate the development of Enterprise 2.0 solutions by leveraging the Oracle tools
  • Apply the basic concepts of Enterprise 2.0 for your business solutions by understanding them completely
  • Prepare development environments that suit your enterprise needs using WebCenter applications
  • Define collaborative work environments for the members of your organization

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The Oracle WebCenter Discussions Service provides a forum tool that can be used within the organization to share information and foster collaboration. Forums are one of the most popular information exchange mechanisms used on the Internet. We are all familiar with the power of forums to create user communities and disseminate information.

If you have used the Oracle Technology Network Forums, the WebCenter Discussions Service will look very familiar to you—both use the same powerful forum software.

(Move the mouse over the image to enlarge.)

Some of the common challenges we have found with implementing forums for the enterprise have been related to the following:

  1. Integration into the existing technology stack
  2. User and group administration using existing LDAP
  3. Support
  4. Cultural adoption

With Discussions, Oracle has successfully minimized the technical level of effort required during implementation by addressing the main technical challenges (numbers 1 and 2 above). And with formal support offered, as well as the general idea that forums integration using Discussions will not be unique for each implementation, organizations can feel more comfortable about viable long-term support. Given how well Discussions addresses the first three challenges, we now view the cultural adoption as the largest challenge, which can be overcome with effective training and strategic management decisions. Forums in general have become increasingly popular within organizations and Oracle has implemented an intuitive end-user approach.

The Discussions Server is installed as part of Oracle WebCenter installation. It can be accessed directly at the default location http://hostname:8890/owc_discussions. While Discussions in itself is a useful forum tool, the real power comes from the Discussions Service that enables us to embed, view, and interact with the forums as part of custom WebCenter applications where forums can be used as a means to obtain and share information by the enterprise from within the current application being used.

A Wiki is a website that allows a group of editors to easily create web pages in a collaborative manner using simple markup language. The markup language helps to organize and format the web pages. Many corporations use Wikis to create documentation internally. Each employee of the company has easy access to edit the information within the wiki, and can therefore incorporate new information for the entire community.

A Blog is a website that allows an individual author to post a stream of content for a community to view. The word “Blog” is derived from the contraction of “Web Log”. Each item in the Blog stream can be viewed as an article. An article can be something as simple as a video or image posting, or something as formal as a newspaper article. It is up to the author to decide what content to post. Typically, authors allow members of a community to engage in dialog related to the blog article by allowing them to post comments on the article.

Both the Wiki Service and the Blog Service depend on the WebCenter Wiki and Blog Server. Both services use a single connection to the single backend server.

Discussions configuration

Our application is built with JDeveloper 11g and connects to the Oracle WebCenter Discussions Server. Ensure that the Discussions Server is running by connecting to the Discussions Server URL (http://hostname:8890/owc_discussions). It is a good idea to populate the Discussions Server with some example users, categories, and forums. The Forums Admin Console is used to create new users and forums. The admin console can be accessed at http://hostname:8890/owc_discussions/admin.

The default admin username is weblogic and the password is weblogic. This is irrespective of any username/password specified at installation time.

You can configure a wide variety of settings in the Admin Console, including but not limited to the following:

  • Content Structure: Categories, Subcategories, Forums
  • Users and Groups
  • Permissions
  • Filters and Interceptors
  • Moderation
  • User Interface (Colors and themes)
  • Reports and Metrics
  • System Settings (Cache, e-mail, locale, and so on)
  • Plugins

The following is a screenshot of the admin console home page:

We will not focus on configuring all aspects of the forum, but instead the main pieces required to get started and integrated into WebCenter. Specifically, we will focus on users/groups, and the overall forum content structure.

Content structure

The general structure for Discussions is as follows:

  • Categories: logical grouping of discussions content
    • Subcategories: optional subgrouping(s)
      • Forums: Lowest-level grouping where end users can create discussion threads
        • Threads: Entries made by end users, which contain the original entry as well as replies

Within the Forums Admin Console, you can define a structure that makes sense for your organization. The same principles that apply to other forum software will apply to Discussions content structure.

For the purpose of this demo, we have created a Marketing category and a Marketing Ideas forum.

The following is an image of that Category Summary that reflects the new Marketing Ideas forum that was just created:

User and group structure

We have worked on this Discussions Service as an independent service, and hence created our users and groups manually. In an enterprise solution, you will likely hook this into your LDAP (like Oracle Internet Directory) using Enterprise Manager. Following is a screenshots of the users we have configured within the Discussions administration:

As shown previously, we have added two users— amit and jimmy—with the appropriate privileges to post to the Marketing Ideas forum.

Integrating Discussions with WebCenter

During the remainder of this article, we will create a custom WebCenter application, which will integrate with the Discussions Server and in which we will expose a view of the forum that allows you to interact with the forum using task flows.

Oracle exposes multiple task flows for the Discussions service. We have listed all the out-of-box task flows in the following table and bolded the ones we will drop into our WebCenter application:

Task Flow Description
Discussions Forums This task flow shows all the topics associated with a specified forum. Users can create, read, update, and delete topics based on their privileges.
Discussions – Popular Topics Shows the popular topics under a given category ID or forum ID.
Discussions – Recent Topics Shows all the recent topics under a given category ID or forum ID.
Discussions – Watched Forums Allows users to see all their watched forums under a given category ID.
Discussions – Watched Topics Allows users to see all their watched topics under a given category ID or forum ID.
Discussions Sidebar View This shows a combined view of the Popular Topics, Recent Topics, Watched Topics, and Watched Forums task flows.

The main steps we will complete are as follows:

  1. Ensure the Discussions Server is running
  2. Create a WebCenter application
  3. Create a connection to the Discussions Server
  4. Create a JSF page
  5. Select appropriate Discussions Service Task Flow and embed it in the page
  6. Deploy, run, and test the application

Ensuring the Discussions Server is running

Before we start developing the application, ensure that the WebCenter Discussions Server is running. If the Discussions Server is not running then start the WLS_Services managed server. Using a browser, open the URL for Discussions (for example, http://hostname:8890/owc_discussions).

Log in with the newly created users and post some sample articles.

Creating a new WebCenter application

Using JDeveloper, create a new application, selecting the WebCenter application template.

Web 2.0 Solutions with Oracle WebCenter 11g

Creating a JSF page

Next, we will create a JSF page to host the view for the Discussions Forum. In the Application Navigator, highlight the ViewController project, right-click on it, and from the context menu select New. In the New Gallery, select JSF Page to create a new JSF page.

Web 2.0 Solutions with Oracle WebCenter 11g

In the Create JSF Page dialog, select a name for the page and create the page.

Web 2.0 Solutions with Oracle WebCenter 11g

Creating a connection to the Discussion Forum

In order to use the Discussions Service in our application, we need to create a Discussions Forum connection to the Discussions Server. This connection will be used by the application to connect to the backend Discussions Server. Note that it is possible to modify the connection after the application is deployed to the WebLogic server by using the Enterprise Manager Fusion Middleware Control.

To set up the discussions connection, right-click on the Connections node in Application Resources pane and select New Connection | Discussions Forum.

Web 2.0 Solutions with Oracle WebCenter 11g

Select a unique name for the connection such as MyDiscussions. Ensure that the Make this the connection default checkbox is ticked. Next, we have to set the property values for the forum.url and admin.user. The value of forum.url should be the URL of the Discussions server. The default admin user is weblogic. Click on Test Connection to ensure that the connection is set up properly. Click Finish to complete this step.

Web 2.0 Solutions with Oracle WebCenter 11g

Click on the Resource Palette and open My Catalogs. You should now see the WebCenter Services Catalog. Expand the catalog to view the various task flows available.

Web 2.0 Solutions with Oracle WebCenter 11g

In the task flows shown, you see the various discussions-related task flows such as the Discussion Forums, Discussions – Popular Topics, Discussions – Recent Topics, and so on. We will use these task flows in our application to create a view of the Discussion Forum.

Web 2.0 Solutions with Oracle WebCenter 11g


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