Straight Talk on AEM Communities

Nov 25, 2015

By Saravana Prakash Sivanandham

Users are contributing content more than ever before, and I’m excited about what AEM Communities can offer. By taking a completely new approach, the ability to draw from user-generated content now becomes much easier for Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) customers.

Of course, the new platform provides everything you need to “socialize” your AEM website—helping you create online community experiences like corporate blogging, social calendaring, user forums, learning resources and other social features that are valuable to your customers, your employees and your brand.

Yet, unlike its predecessor, AEM Communities is built with some fundamental differences that are sure to impress even the most frazzled administrators.

One Major Departure: Common Storage for User-Generated Content

As you may know, AEM’s previous attempt at social capability software (Social Communities) had more than a few issues reverse-replicating user-generated content (UGC)—the mainstay of any social community. That’s because it was based on a CRX content repository and an author-publish approach to user-generated content. The content author creates content which is stored in the data store of the author instance. When the same content is replicated to numerous publish instances, each of which has its own copy in its data store, it is in turn served through a dispatcher to the external users. This approach worked well for business content but fell short for social use.

AEM Communities’ approach is radically different—and entirely better for social settings.

By revamping the underlying framework, AEM Communities introduced a new “common store” mechanism that eliminates independent data stores in author and publishes instances and hence the need for reverse replication. Today, user-generated content is stored in this common storage system, enabling all author/publish instances to draw from this one central store. This strategy eliminates the problem of reverse replication.

Deployment Options for Common Store

To power your common store in AEM Communities, two options are available: MongoDB and Adobe Social accessed through the Social Resource Provider (SRP) API, an extension of Sling Resource Provider.

The choice really depends on what you need.

  • MongoDB, powered by MSRP for high-volume UGC content
  • Adobe Social Cloud, powered by ASRP for high-performing pages

While using MongoDB as the content store, even though you have the option to use the MongoDB and Solr (indexing needs) for regular site content and UGC, for performance reasons it is recommended to use a separate instance of the Solr and MongoDB replica set.

On the contrary, you would need a separate Adobe Social license to use Adobe Social Cloud as a content store. For developers, it becomes a lot simpler with the ability to use JCR powered by JSRP.

Other Key Features

Beyond the centralized storage mechanism, AEM Communities’ new framework offers a variety of other interesting features, too:

  • Network Time Protocol (NTP) for Synchronization across time zones
  • High-level administration tools, including built-in spam scanners and moderation tools that give administrators complete control over syndicated content changes, thread comments and schedules
  • Full Unicode support for numerous coding languages
  • Built-in machine translation for user-generated content, which after translated, can be stored in central storage for future use
  • OAuth 2.0 support that enables sign-in with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn credentials
  • Compliance with Open Social standards, enabling information to be shared across social channels
  • Tunnel service that enables user-level moderation and gives trusted community members certain publish privileges
  • JSON endpoint and handlebar templates
  • Pagination

With the common store and client-side templating being used to power communities, it could possibly lead the way for AEM overall in the future.

AEM 6.1 Communities is more than just an improvement to the previous AEM Social Communities platform. It’s a completely different animal altogether.

TechAspect is currently doing a variety of Proofs of Concept including one of the biggest community initiatives using social media in India. If you’ve got questions about how AEM Communities could work for you, please let us know.

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