Friday, July 14, 2006

File Cabinets and Solutions (JCR/WEBDAV)

I'm back with my first 'official' blog in the development realm. I'm a java developer, an open-source follower, and am a big fan of consistency and standards.

My off-coding time is actually spent as a CDIA+, certified document imaging architect. One of the problems that usually fall under this role is in the arena of Document Management.

Document Management: Very simply, look at file cabinets. There are documents (a document is a collection of pages usually either single or collected together by a staple or a paper clip). Documents are stored in Folders. The folders usually have tabs that 'index' the type of documents it contains. Drawers are labeled usually with a portion of the index (i.e. if by last name, maybe the first two letters) for faster manual lookup. Everyone understands filing cabinets.

So, how come transforming the manual filing cabinet is so difficult electronically? The information and idealogy is right there in front of us!

The answer, in my opinion, is that not one solution does it the same as another - they are all proprietary and, as such, not everyone understands how to use between different proprietary document management solutions.

Solution: I have been tracking a protocol that allows you to store documents, archive documents, index documents, and then search for those documents later in a consistent fashion. This protocol is HTTP-based and is not tied to Java/.NET/Ruby/Perl, but can be used and understood by all of them. It is documented and RFC'd a number of times. What is this magical protocol? An old one called WebDAV.

I have been anxious for a solid, working solution of a java-based open-sourced WebDAV server from Don't hold your breath - after two years, I still haven't been impressed enough to actually deploy it, but am using it as a learning tool for WebDAV. Last binary was from 2004, and I have had sporadic success with building from CVS (i.e. something that used to work would break - not fun).

There is a newly active content repository from is in development based on the Java Content Repository API (JCR), also known as JSR-170. I'm not overly excited about JCR/JSR-170 as it is language specific, but they are working on a WebDAV interface which I am very excited for. Come on apache, don't let me down a second time!

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