JBoss jBPM Book on its way from Packt – Java Business Process Management (Workflow)

In a previous life, I’ve been lucky to work with two very good JBoss Products – JBoss jBPM (Workflow) and JBoss Drools (Rules). Just in case you missed it; slides from the IJTC conference (jBPM), Rules presentation to the jBPM conference and of course not to forget the Rules Book. The lines between jBPM and Drools have blurred slightly, but the competing open source teams just enhance the quality of both products, and which one is best very much depends on the problem that you have at hand.

jBpm Java Business Process Management book cover

jBpm Java Business Process Management book cover

So, I’ve been asked by Packt (the guys how published my book) to review the new jBPM Developer guide book. So, not only do I get to help a fellow author (Good Karma), I get the catchup on features of jBPM I may not have used yet in my professional capacity, and I get a free book. What is there not to like?

Disclaimer – getting free copy, but am otherwise free to write good / bad / or completely off the wall ideas about it. Watch this space.

Advertisements

Collective Intelligence in Action

Don’t you hate it when you spend months (or years) working on a pet project / book / mad take over the world idea, then somebody comes out with something even better?

Yep, it’s just happened to me. Years working on the idea of the ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ (even prior to web 2.0 in the shape of Red-Piranha). Month’s working on a Masters Dissertation on applying Web 2 techniques to the Finance industry (pdf link). And somebody comes out and does it even better.

Not just better. But much much better.  The sort of better as in ‘If I had this earlier, I’d have just copied it and changed the words around a bit’. The book is available from Manning as ‘Collective Intelligence in Action‘. A free, first chapter (Understanding Collective Intelligence) is available here (pdf).

Collective Intelligence in Action

So what’s it about? We’ve all heard about the Wisdom of Crowds idea. But what if you need to actually implement it on your website? This book shows you how to (using both concepts and practical code, as well as the theory behind all of it that I was missing). It includes

  • Intelligent, learning search, using Lucene.
  • Extracting data from blogs using web-crawling.
  • Executing Real time feedback on facebook-like sites.
  • Scalable data-mining techniques to manage the torrent of information
  • Making personalised recommendations based on all of the information.

Disclaimer:Manning provided me with a free review copy of the book – but no strings attached. And , maybe if I’m nice enough to the Author (Satnam), I can persuade him to talk about making millions using JBoss Drools and Complex Event processing in the book.

How to combine Workflow and Business Rules – in 5 easy steps

Tom has a good post on the jBPM (JBoss workflow) community day held at the Guinness brewery in Dublin. Warning – slides may contain pictures of people drinking beer.

Drools jPBM Business rules presentation

How to combine (jBPM) Workflow and (Drools) Business Rules – here’s the summary. Slideset is available on this blogpost.

  • Workflow (e.g. JBoss jBPM) is great – it allows you to take spaghetti code and draw it as a workflow diagram (flowchart) so that it can be reviewed by the business (the nice people who pay our wages). You then attach standard (Java) actions to these steps.
  • Only problem is when you come to a decision node (the one circled in red below): How do you decide to go left or right (in the workflow)? Normally this is coded in Java – good for us, but hidden from those nice business people (which means that this is more room for errors-in-translation).
  • Business Rules allow you to keep those decision making rules in Plain English: When something is true , then do this. That’s it. The rule engine does most of the hard work.
  • Integrating Workflow and Rules is easy. Use JBoss Seam (link) or do it by hand (link). And it works on non-JBoss web / app servers such as Websphere, Oracle Application Server, Tomcat and Weblogic.
  • Repeat x6 : Use workflow and rules. Use workflow and rules …

Simple Workflow

In a maybe related development, Tom Baeyens is now using strangely Rules-y like examples over on his workflow blog ….

JBoss workflow invading Dublin (Free Community Conference)

I’m not going to explain what workflow is as I’ve probably blogged enough about it already. But the JBoss Workflow (jBPM) guys are coming to Dublin on June 6th. If you’re into workflow (and if you’re doing any sort of software for large business you should be) then this is a do not miss event and we’re privileged to have it in Ireland.

The JBoss workflow guys are dream guests. They just asked for a couple of venue suggestions and they finally went for the Guinness Hopstore where Barcamp ran last year. Next thing we got was an email saying that the JBoss Workflow event was go. So for the benefit of people flying into Dublin, here’s the information we gave on where to stay and things to do if you’re making a weekend of it.

(More information on the event on Tom Baeyens Blog)

Workflow

How to get there

Dublin is pretty well served by direct flights from Europe and the US. Aer Lingus and Ryanair are the two biggest airlines flying into Dublin – but there are plenty more (list at FlightMapping.com).

Things to do

  • Tour of Guinness brewery and visit the Gravity bar (one of the highest in Dublin)
  • Dublin Pub Tour and general social scene (it’s a coincidence that the first 2 items are drink related!)
  • Tour of Scenic Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough
  • Liffey River tour by boat
  • Dublin Bus tour – including it’s Georgian buildings and coastline
  • Newgrange – 2000 years older than the pyramids, in the stunning Boyne valley
  • Windsurfing , Kayaking or Rock climbing in Viking Carlingford Fjord.
  • Trinity College Dublin, 400 years old university , right in the city centre including the 1000 year old ‘Book of Kells’
  • For the more curious , Belfast is 2hrs away by express train in Northern Ireland.
  • Get lost in Phoneix Park, the worlds largest city centre park.

Places to Stay

I don’t tend to say in Dublin hotels too much (!) but the following I know are reasonably good value (and quiet / clean)

  • 3 of the Jury’s Inn (Christchurch is just down the road from the event location, but the IFSC and Parnell Street are also good)
  • Academy hotel is ok, if slightly more expensive , if you’re stuck.
  • If you want an airport location (about 20 mins / 20 Euro Taxi from the city centre) the Premier Inn chain are pretty good.
  • Hotel Isaacs is budget but decent , central and near the main bus / train stations.
  • Morgan hotel is where the presenters were put up for the Dublin Java conference. Central but Slightly more pricey.

For people from the community, there’s also plenty of ‘budget’ backpacker type accommodation.

Business Users Creating Rules – BRMS Guide Preview (JBoss Drools)

Just looking for the Drools BRMS – Business Rules Management System Guide? – click here (pdf)

The aim of JBoss Drools (or any other Business Rules Engine) is to get knowledge out of business user’s heads and into a format where it can be copied , edited and peer reviewed , then run 24/7. Ideally, business users should be able to write these rules directly (a) to save time and (b) to reduce errors caused by a 3rd party having to to ‘translate’ these rules into code..

Drools Brms Screenshot

Drools BRMS (Business Rules Management System) is such a tool. Easily deployed into almost any Java Web or App server, it allows users to write and validate business rules that you can then pull into your Enterprise Java Application.

Because it uses the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) , even though it is a web application (i.e. zero install on client machines) it behaves and performs as fast as a desktop one. And unlike some other (Commercial) Rules Engines, it’s free to Download and use (under the Apache licence) from the JBoss site.

And now there is a guide available online. Shortly to be integrated into the existing JBoss Drools documentation a preview of the JBoss Drools BRMS guide (pdf) is now available.

More Information

British Midland's – BMI – Dirty Little Online Checkin Secret

Flew Dublin – Heathrow again last week – this time with BMI (British Midland International). It’s what all Java consultants do – pop on the plane to London to see a client. Now I like BMI, not least because they provide a bit of competition for Aer Lingus. I like Web Checkin. A lot. See my post on how to use Web Checkin to solve Dublin Airport’s problems. But BMI have a (bad) secret about their online check-in that they don’t tell you until after you have paid for your flight.

BMI Logo
Online or Web checkin means you print your boarding card before you leave home. It means you arrive at the airport , walk straight through security and enjoy a coffee while waiting for your flight to board. For Aer Lingus it’s great on a day trip; print both boarding cards the night before you leave. For BMI there’s a glitch; you cannot print your return boarding card until after you arrive in London.

What? On your busy-day-with-client-not-one-second-to-spare you are expected to start printing pieces of paper. What is worse, you only find this out after you pay your money. Called the Flight Helpdesk ‘we have a lot of people complaining about that Sir’. Mail to BMI customer service, no reply.

The moral of this story is not to complain about BMI (although here’s my Ajax related Rant about Scandanavian Airlines if that’s your thing , or Mulley’s lost baggage saga if you prefer). And yes, I should be glad of a choice of flights to Heathrow (see Limerick Bloggerand Bock the Robber)

No, the moral of the story is that IT systems (yes the geeky bits) can have a huge impact on customers in traditional business (you know, the ones that pay you money). Being the helpful people we are, we’ll even show BMI how to fix this using Business Rules. Somewhere, deep in the bowels of the BMI system code, Someone, a long long time again decided ‘no one will ever want to check in before they leave’ . And now that it’s spaghetti code, it can’t be fixed, leaving a lot of unhappy customers.

Save time – become a Gmail / Outlook / Thunderbird power user

I was asked a question on how to become a more effective user of email , so I thought I’d share what works for me …

Microsoft office Logo
Don’t read your emails first thing, or you’ll spend the rest of the day following somebody elses priorities. Organize your day first, then read your emails.

– When reading emails , try and touch each email only once. Delete it, forward it , respond to it or diary a time to deal with a specific issue.

– If you don’t already have an email address , sign up for Gmail. Not only does it automatically stop a lot of Spam for you, but it allows you to organise your emails by search , pretty much like you do on the web.

– If you’re a small business , you can also switch your email hosting to Gmail (and leave your web site where it is) using ‘Google for your domain‘. You keep your existing emails (e.g. johnmurphy@firstpartners.net) , have the same excellent anti-spam filters and are still able to use Outlook to get your email. While you sacrifice some privacy, it means that your email is available even when your website is not. It also gives you web and mobile access to your email when you are on the road.

– If you own your own webname (domain, e.g. firstpartners.net), setup a ‘catchall’ email address that forwards mail automatically your own email account. This means that you sign up for a new website (e.g. newcars.ie) you can use an email address of newcars@yourdomain.com. Not only does it make it easier to block spam , if they try selling your information to a3rd party, you’ll know straight away.

Get to know RSS (news feeds). They’re integrated into the latest browsers and Google has a version called ‘reader’. You choose when you want to read the ‘latest news’ from websites, instead of newsletters polluting your inbox.