Monthly Archives: November 2005

Vignette Migration – Launched!

Well the launch went off rather well… The website publisher and his staff have a lot of issues, some of which we cannot resolve because we had to make decisions based on the entire corporate data, not just theirs. Luckily, we’ve been able to resolve most of their issues…

Most importantly, the CDA code is handling the traffic extremely well and is performing very well. We had to add some caching on the java server so it wasn’t querying the database for every user request. The Vignette piece is doing ok, although it seems rather slow if we have any type of migration script going at the same time as we’re trying to use it. We only have about 10 users on that part of the system, but the migration scripts are fairly intense with their calls to the Vignette API to insert our data from v6 (we try to run them at night most of the time).

We’ve also had some issues with our Google box crawling the new site properly. We tracked it down to an issue where our CDA was giving a response code other than what it expects for a redirect. If your page gives a 302, then Google indexes the redirect page but stores it at the original location. If you give a 301 instead, Google will follow the redirect and store the information at the new location. Normally this wouldn’t really matter for search results, but we have a contextual ad system which relies on the locations being in the proper place for ads to show up correctly.

Now we get to focus on the really difficult part… launching the rest of the sites, one per day, by a January 31st, 2006 deadline. Wish us luck!

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Vignette Migration – T-1 Day to Launch

The site is really coming together now. We have all the XSLTs in place and are in final review stage – what we’re calling NitPick. We’re tracking all the issues in a bug/issue tracker and then going back through the XSLTs to fix issues that surface. We still have a few systems that we won’t really be able to test until the website is launched – namely the Google crawl and our contextual ad system. But those are both based on the Google crawl which should work correctly.

Of possibly more concern, the VCM is taking up to 5 mins to publish items. We have several more publications worth of data migrated over, so hopefully it isn’t a function of how large the database is. We asked VPS point blank if this was a problem, and they said no, the only issue would be without how many concurrent users on the VCM itself (we’re under 10).

This past week we worked heavily on improving the performance of the CDA. We reindexed and analyzed the Oracle tables, which reduced the response time by half on the home page. We also implemented jboss caching on the Production stage, with a time to live of 5 minutes. We’re going to do a last round of load testing today to see how well the caching is doing. There are more places the code can be tightened up in the next few weeks and we also have some options for clustering and server enhancements.

Launch is looking like a go, so keep your fingers crossed for us….

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Vignette Migration – T-One Week to Launch

We’re hoping to launch our first website in the new hybrid Vignette v7 system at the end of next week. Our custom CDA (Content Display Application) seems to be running well, and we’re just coasting on bug fixes as we find them. The team is focused on finishing the XSLTs so that we can display the different content items properly and we actually have what looks like a proper website coming together. We should have all of next week to hammer on the system and work out any bugs, plus have layout review to make sure all the content is displayed properly. We also have to integrate and test some of current systems with the new website, including our Google crawl and our new NetTracker software.

Our SysAdmin is going to be running some bandwidth/traffic testing to see how the system holds up. We had done intial testing awhile ago, but we want to make sure it still looks steady before launch. We have setup the system to allow for clustering of the various systems for scalability.

Currently I am also working on the list of features we will be putting into version 1.1 of the system, as we are implementing a much tighter versioning/daily build type of mentality to protect the asset we have coded.

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A Blog Vacation

Sorry about the lack of content… after we got back from the Web 2.0 Conference, things started happening so fast around here that I haven’t even had a chance to digest everything from the conference or to write anything about it. We also got a welcome break with a week’s vacation in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. If you have a chance to get up there in the fall, I highly recommend it.

Vignette Migration – Current Thoughts on v7

Anyway, my opinion about v7… I’m not really very happy with it right now, but let me address why we chose it. I looked at completely replacing Vignette as our CMS solution instead of going to v7 or renewing our v6 support. However, all the solutions that were out there just were incredibly expensive for the number of sites we have (they had a per site licensing usually) or for the initial investment we would have to make. So we decided to go with v7 because it was a “free” upgrade.

Initially I was fairly impressed with the VCM and their Portal. However, as we dug deeper into the design and our own requirements for the redesign, we decided to design our own CDA on top of their VCM (it saves licensing costs as well). Now we’re in a situation where our own CDA is working fairly well, but we’re having a lot of problems with serious limitations of the VCM. Some of the major problems include having to use widgets to extend the functionality that should be there our of the box – you either have to pay VPS for these widgets (which are expensive and they only support for one upgrade) or you have code them yourself (or have someone else code them). The VCM API is very hard to use and there are a lot of hidden functions and functionality that VPS does not release out to the world (we happened to get them from former VPS employees).

We just rolled out the VCM to some of our employees to train them on content entry. They almost rebelled! The system was so much more difficult for them to use than v6 that they didn’t want to even try to learn it – and these were some of our more technically savvy users. So, we’ve come up with some compromises to make their lives easier, but we are considering the possibility that we may write a layer above the VCM for content entry work. This will probably lead to us completely removing Vignette from our systems when we write our own CMS as well.

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