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Vignette Village 2008

Vignette, the Austin-based Web content management company,  has an annual show called Vignette Village.  A whole crew went from our company; Mark and I represented the Web Admins.

I got a lot out of Village though I wasn't expecting to.  There was excitement in the air and clear commitment to continued development of their core Vignette Content Management (VCM V7) product and other products which had been lacking for the last couple years.  To be honest, I had begun to expect that it was a matter of time unti the Plone/Drupal/Joomla crowd outstripped VCM, but they seem to be making the changes required to keep the product as the true enterprise choice.  We already moved off Vignette Dialog, which was a very good email marketing package, because of the lackof support and new development.  I don't know the details, but basically Vignette went all meathead and turned away from their core products to chase medical/legal document management money a couple years ago, combined with financial problems and layoffs, and so the products started to suck.  They seem to have turned that around, though, and everyone I spoke to inside Vignette is excited about their new leadership, especially Bertrand de Coatpont, the new VCM product manager.

The new Vignette Recommendations (OEMed from Baynote Systems) looks really good, and will expose some new data to us that I think can be used in a lot of different and innovative ways.  From previous descriptions I had thought "Yeah, whatever, BazaarVoice but from Vignette, which doesn't necessarily inspire confidence in me" (frankly, we Web Admins have learned to be suspicious about additional offerings from Oracle, Vignette, HP, etc. as they will try to sell you crap on the strength of their brand name and alleged integration).  But the reality, which is an extremely elegant way of collecting and immediately reusing usage info, is brilliant and especially with their social search aspect to it, I feel like they have an actual vision they're working towards.  So two thumbs up there!

Also two thumbs up on the Transfer Tool, which allows you to easily clone VCM installs to other servers - it'll allow for frequent and efficient refreshes.  We had to have that working, so we Web Admins had devised a complicated two-day process to clone an environment; this should be much better.

VCM 7.6 is planned to be complete this year, and it has a lot of compelling features - you can migrate Content Type Definitions (change a CTD and the content changes inside the VCM to fit), lots of performance, availability, and console GUI fixes...  Then "Ace," which everyone knows is VCM V8 but they don't want to own up to that yet, has a total GUI overhaul.  Most of the issues we have with VCM are content contributor usability, so that's great.

All in all, two days well spent.  It definitely exceeded my expectations (and I've been to Village in years previous).


Why is the Vignette Content Manager GUI Stuck in the 90’s?

Dear God, not another Vignette post?!?! What can I say? It's all I've done for the past two-and-a-half days. For anyone who has used VCM, you know what I'm talking about. It's a fairly powerful tool for content management, but it's slow to the point that it's almost unusable and the GUI design (web interface) is like something out of the late 90's. While I've had plenty of on-the-job-training with VCM, I never really had the opportunity to ask questions of an "expert" like I have during this class so I started asking questions about alternate ways to do things. For example, a lot of the work that we do with VCM is done during a golive in the wee hours of the morning. It would be really nice if you could do some sort of scripted input instead of point-click-wait over and over again. So I asked the instructor where the GUI configuration stuff for VCM is stored. It turns out that they store it in the database instead of in some sort of configuration file. So, if you want to do something like add capabilities to a role, the only "supported" method of doing this is through their GUI. The slow and painful point-click-wait GUI. A task that should take seconds ends up taking an hour if you're adding several roles with varying capabilities. The reason why I say that the GUI is stuck in the 90's is because it seems like there are several technologies that have come along in the past 10 years that seem like a better way to do thing.

  • Batch Import/Export: Through the use of a text file, csv, xml or any other format it would be really easy to devise a method of being able to batch import and export roles and capabilities.
  • AJAX: Short for "asynchronous javascript and xml" Vignette could very easily adapt this technology to make a drag-and-drop sort of interface. This would come in especially handy when moving items up and down in a CTD definition.
  • Typeahead: The ability for me to begin typing a word and have the browser be searching for matches to autocomplete it. This would be a nice addition to Vignette's "find" features.

Anyway, according to my instructor the 7.5 version of VCM won't be making any major GUI improvements. There's one addition from 7.3 to 7.4 that is slightly interesting and that's the new "My Page" feature. As far as I can tell it's the only place where Vignette has made any improvements based on web technology from the last 10 years. It's usability issues like these that have more and more people opting for open source content management systems like Joomla these days. Vignette may be the 800 pound gorilla in the content management market, but if it continues to push slow and outdated web technologies, it's days are surely numbered.