On this part, we'll talk about the:
- Embedded Social computing and "WOM" capabilities
- Integrated faceted navigation and guided search
- Content orchestration and delivery tools
- Reporting and customization engine
One of the things I really like about Sitecore is it's focus on CMS technologies and practices. There are other CMS's out there that only get market share only because they provide out-of-the-box applications that popular sites have such as blogs, forums, etc. What happens is that companies that look at those other CMS's tend to change their focus from keeping their site business/customer-oriented to something that's dictated by the technology. I believe that one needs to know technology to make better decisions but they should not hinder or refocus a plan but rather supplement as a means. So, when I saw Sitecore releasing an embedded social computing and "WOM" framework, I was initially taken aback. But after the initial shock, I've come to realize that it is time for Sitecore to show what its platform can do. The CMS is solid and there's no question about it. The only thing I request is that Sitecore do not redirect their efforts to creating "extra" stuff for marketability only but to keep pushing what a CMS should be. I'm excited that Sitecore has a "Twin Peaks" release that makes the CMS more scalable and reliable. These types of enhancements tell me that Sitecore has not lost its vision of a true Web CMS.
Outside of that little editorial, the embedded social computing should help in delivering some of the popular features now almost common on various sites. I've used Community Server and have integrated it with Sitecore and it's a gem. I know that Sitecore's Forum module is based on the ASP.NET Forums which turned to Telligent's Community Server...so I'm assuming that I' see some similarity in the future. Since I like CS, I'm hoping that the embedded framework does not prevent us (or make it harder) for us to integrate a stand-alone third-party system. We'll see if Sitecore implements the OpenSocial standards which MySpace, LinkedIn, imeem, Plaxo, Oracle, and others already implement. If so, then integration will be easier. (Side note: At the time of this writing, there's no .NET client library yet...any volunteers?)
What's Faceted Search? Some people might know this...and actually, you might know it or seen it. When you go shopping for a digital camera (just to be in line with the Nicam demo), you might like to shop by price, and then maybe by megapixels, and then by lenses. Another person may actually want to shop by brand, then color, and then price. This is now pretty common on big e-commerce sites that has a lot of products. This is faceted navigation. It essentially helps you to filter things down to something that's easier to navigate but it doesn't restrict you on how you do the filtering. It's almost categories but more of a dynamic grouping that reacts to your choices. So, if Sitecore can get this for us out-of-the box, then WOW!!! I can imagine a library of thousands of resources (articles, books, DVDs, etc) that is much easier to navigate. I would even suggest that this particular navigation be available on the CMS itself as part of a new Manager to find content items faster.
I know that some advanced faceted navigation systems out there even do the taxonomy for you. That requires some artificial intelligence in some neural network or genetic algorithm but I don't expect that here (yet). If this does become available, just imagine, you can automate some of your SEO processes.
If you're not aware of this, you can read up on Derek Roberti's article from a year ago about Sitecore as an aggregation engine. He explains orchestration and how Sitecore can actually do it (even before v6). He does indicate that it's not that easy to do orchestration only because of the definition of business rules and how customization becomes part of the implementation. With that said, I'm hoping that some of the challenges cited by Derek have been addressed (at least some of it). I'm sure new tools will make it easier for us make decisions on how content should be delivered based on some industry practices. Some companies don't really know what are the efficient way of doing things, so I expect that these new orchestration tools will have built-in best-practices already. By the way, these tools even become more important because the more Sitecore becomes more powerful and scalable, the more targets and sources we have.
Finally, Sitecore promises to deliver a reporting and customization engine. Let's start with the customization engine. Well, Sitecore is highly-customizable but does require technical knowledge to fully customize it. I'm not entirely sure if this is on the UI side or on the application behavior. Either one or both would be great. For the reporting, I'm excited about this. We created a while back a reporting XAML application for tracking purposes. It serves its purposes but it does take time to create one. I like the idea of allowing content editors/admins to be able to create ad-hoc reports similar to SQL Server Reporting Server. This will even simplify views for custom applications that use Sitecore as its data storage such as answers to surveys. For me, I'd like to see better administrative reports. If I can have something similar to the Event Viewer in Windows, I'm in heaven. Just a thought.
We have a lot to look forward to with Sitecore. Everything is going in the right direction and as a partner, I have to be thankful to Sitecore folks for moving the product forward. I just hope I can keep up with them.