Eric Bowden has over 19 years of software development experience around enterprise and departmental business productivity applications.
Danny Ryan: Hello and welcome to the ThreeWill Podcast, this is Danny Ryan your host and today I have Eric Bowden here with me. Eric is a principle consultant for ThreeWill. Thank you for joining me Eric.
Eric Bowden: Well great, thank you for having me today Danny, I’m excited to be here.
Danny Ryan: Well I am excited about learning more about what you’ve been up to for the last couple of months. I have tried my best, oh Eric I have tried so hard to leave you alone. Unless it’s things like this wonderful podcast and stuff like that I try to minimize it.
Eric Bowden: That’s right, that’s right.
Danny Ryan: You know I do.
Eric Bowden: Yeah, it works out Danny, this is great. You’ve given me a chance to celebrate some of the things we’ve been working on lately.
Danny Ryan: That’s awesome, that’s awesome. The last time we had a conversation like this was for the App Exchange Podcast and we talked about a couple of products, one was Trove which was one where you could embed files into sales force, so for your accounts and opportunities you could have all the 365 files in there. The other one was Channel, which Channel allowed for you to embed, and I’m probably using the terms embed very loosely here, I should probably tighten that up but I’ll let you make sense of that in a little bit here.
Eric Bowden: Sure.
Danny Ryan: You could basically take chatter and put that inside of Microsoft 365 and embed it in there. What I wanted to find out was what you’ve been up to, what’s going on, I know you’ve been doing this for one big client of ours. Just give me an update on where things are right now.
Eric Bowden: Sure, yeah. Yeah, so we’re working on what will be the next version of Channel, that’s a customization for large enterprise client here in Atlanta. We’re real excited to be leading out this project and using what is Channel to really provide great value for them. You know as you described already Channel was initially intended to bring chatter to users to share point sites in Microsoft 365. For our first version of Channel it was a custom built integration for Share Point. This next version of Channel takes that a step further and it’s purpose is to bring Chatter onto any web based platform.
Danny Ryan: Okay, so before it was just focusing on Microsoft 365, now we’re talking anything?
Eric Bowden: That’s right, that’s right, yeah. We think of it as an embed client so a lot like users are accustomed to embedding YouTube videos, or other similar embed type components into a web application. Now you can bring Chatter into any web application using that same sort of embed strategy.
Danny Ryan: Is that any place you can put HTML basically is where you can put this thing?
Eric Bowden: Yeah, you got it. It’s a few blocks of HTMl, a little bit of Java script and you have really what is a very functional Chatter interface planted onto your web application.
Danny Ryan: There’s no like special tags or anything special that you’re doing in order to, it’s just Java Script and HTML?
Eric Bowden: Yeah, just Java Script and HTML. With the client that we’re working with now for this first release they’re targeting a specific web application, it’s Adobe Experience Manager is the application. This is our first target, and from there we’re expecting that it will be used on numerous web platforms, numerous web applications, and keeping that in mind you know this is really developed as an API. Our customer is, foremost it’s the users who will use Chatter but a key customer are the developers. To your point about is this special markup, or any special coding and so forth that you need to use to embed the next version of Channel the answer is really no. We’ve tried to make it absolutely as simple as possible so that web developers aren’t presented with too much additional challenge.
Danny Ryan: Well if I was doing this I would use an active X control.
Eric Bowden: Old school, old school, I like that.
Danny Ryan: Yes. You work on Internet Explorer, forget everybody else, what else is there?
Eric Bowden: Uh huh, we can pull of visual studio for you, code some C sharp and so forth.
Danny Ryan: Java Script and HTML, your skills must be getting weak nowadays huh?
Eric Bowden: Oh no, no.
Danny Ryan: No?
Eric Bowden: It’s interesting to think about the evolution of Channel because we saw this coming really from the first version. Even though it was targeted for Share Plan, Microsoft 365 we were using Java Script technologies that were sort of agnostic to, or not coupled to you know, Share Point and Microsoft 365. What we used was Angular, so Angular for those not familiar it’s a model view controller framework for you know, writing applications like this in Java Script. Since it’s written in Java Script it’s not coupled to any server side technology, we’re not even coupled really to any development technology, not to, you know, something like visual studio, or even specific build platforms.
Danny Ryan: Is there any C sharp code anywhere?
Eric Bowden: There is no C sharp, it’s all Java Script.
Danny Ryan: My goodness, and this Java Script, where is that hosted? The Java Script itself, is it on just some server Ajer or?
Eric Bowden: Exactly, it can be hosted anywhere, it could be hosted in Ajer, it could be hosted within servers on site. For this particular customer it’s actually hosted in Amazon, so it’s an Amazon S3 buckets if you’re familiar with that.
Danny Ryan: I’m very familiar with buying books off of Amazon.
Eric Bowden: Exactly. Yeah, we’ll try to put a link in there for you so you can get to your books.
Danny Ryan: Okay, thank you, I appreciate that. Talk me through this, you drop a couple pieces of HTML, some Java Script onto it. Is there a configuration? I guess security wise, what are you doing to configure it?
Eric Bowden: Yep, you know the next version of Channel which will be available to the public would be, the authentication would be directly to Sales Force.
Danny Ryan: Okay.
Eric Bowden: To configure that authentication you’re going into Sales Force and you’re configuring what’s called a connected app, which I sort of think of as an Olaf endpoint for Share Point developers, you can think of Apareg New where you’re making a new application, that’s how you do it in Share Point. What you’re doing is you’re configuring the Olaf connectivity from Channel to Share Point. For this particular customer we have coded a single sign on experience, so they’re using a third party proxy that serves as an intermediate between Channel and Sales Force. That intermediate proxy is responsible for the single sign on. It’s a custom in this case, and it’s the authentication for Channel is pluggable. We developed it for that purpose so that the same code base of Channel, it can authenticate directly to Sales Force or we can write custom authentication providers like we did for this client.
Danny Ryan: Gotcha, gotcha. I heard the security is stored in the registry.
Eric Bowden: In a text file, read me.text.
Danny Ryan: In a read me text file, nice. That’s in the cloud so it’s highly secured, right? Is it encrypted?
Eric Bowden: Yeah, but only so much until the FBI asks for access.
Danny Ryan: Okay, double hash, backdoor, slash … interesting. That’s probably for larger clients, a lot of the heavy lifting is around integrating it with whatever security they happen to use, is that probably where some of the time is that’s been taking to get this put into place?
Eric Bowden: That has been some of it, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that was the bulk of the effort. They were looking for quite a few additional features for Channel.
Danny Ryan: For instance what were some of those features?
Eric Bowden: Well one of the features is the ability to easily share a page with your feed in Chatter. When people think about bringing Chatter into another application they’re normally thinking about bringing in the Chatter feed. That’s what Channel did previously, but there are other integrations to think about. Such as one client I remember years ago, they wanted their integration to be a simple like button. They didn’t want to display the Chatter feed, they just wanted a like button on all of the pages in the web application. If users clicked that like button then it would share that page to that users feed essentially saying, “I like this page, so it’s going to show up on my feed.”
For this client the project that we’re working on now, it is somewhat similar to the like concept except it produces a popup window, what looks like module popup over the webpage and the users can type in a message and they can choose to which group, they can either share it to their own feed or they can choose a group that they would like to share that page to. What it ends up doing is posting a link to the page, either into their feed to their personal feed or onto the group.
Danny Ryan: Okay, just throw this out there that if you need help with your Java Script Tommy and I know about Window … what is it? Window.parent, we know about that so if you need any help with that at all.
Eric Bowden: That’s right.
Danny Ryan: Tommy and I are here for you.
Eric Bowden: Tommy helped me with that once, I remember that, window.parent, of course.
Danny Ryan: Whatever we need to do to help okay?
Eric Bowden: You’re quite the expert with CSS.
Danny Ryan: Oh I don’t know if I would say that.
Eric Bowden: With the ThreeWill, I’ve seen what you know with the ThreeWill homepage.
Danny Ryan: Have you ever looked at, have you ever done view source on our Word Press site? Oh my goodness, it’s probably because of the eighty two plugins I have running on it and each one has it’s own CSS. I just give up, I throw my hands up in the air.
Eric Bowden: You’re the king of that, yes.
Danny Ryan: I don’t know, I can see when certain things conflict, that’s about it. Enough about me, what about you? What are some of the other features that you’ve included in this release?
Eric Bowden: A couple of big ones are around file attachments, the most recent version of Channel doesn’t include file attachments. With this one you can either upload a file from your local PC or attach a file that’s already in Sales Force to both feed posts and comments.
Danny Ryan: Nice.
Eric Bowden: That’s a substantial feature we were working on just this past sprint.
Danny Ryan: Packaging this thing up, it’s just Java Script and HTML so I imagine there’s not an installer or anything like that?
Eric Bowden: Nope, yeah, there’s not an installer, you know when it’s in the wild it would be hosted on a shared server where everyone is accessing it, there’s no server side code, it’s all just, you know, gets, it’s just serving up HTML and images. In terms of a build process we’re using visual studio team services online and in the cloud for the build, pretty simple process again because there’s no server side code so it’s not compiling, it’s doing some minification and so forth of the Java Script and CSS but that’s about it.
Danny Ryan: I have a feeling if I told you ten years ago that during this time in 2016 you would be writing HTML with Java Script, I think if I told you that ten years ago that you would be doing that you’d probably punch me in the face.
Eric Bowden: Well I wouldn’t have believed you.
Danny Ryan: You wouldn’t have believed me?
Eric Bowden: I wouldn’t have believed you, see …
Danny Ryan: No punch me in the face, that would have been better.
Eric Bowden: No, I mean I readily admit that I’m in the camp of those who fully expected HTML and Java Script to have been gone long, long ago. It seemed like it was a fledgling technology much more than ten years ago.
Danny Ryan: Yeah.
Eric Bowden: It ends up being a good distributed good method for building distributed applications, so they just keep improving it. I’ve got to tell you, frameworks like Angular, Aurelia is another one that I’ve tinkered with a little bit, it just extends the life of Java Script greatly, it’s a pretty awesome way to develop apps.
Danny Ryan: Awesome. Anything else before we wrap up as far as updates? No?
Eric Bowden: I don’t think anything else comes to mind.
Danny Ryan: What’s coming up? I know this is done in phases, what do you have to look forward to?
Eric Bowden: Well we’re getting very close to the end of, the project was divided into two phases, two releases and we’re getting very close to the end of the second release. You know we’re really getting close to wrapping things up, we’re talking about …
Danny Ryan: You’re coming free?
Eric Bowden: I see more podcasts in my future.
Danny Ryan: No, no, I’m sure there’s other projects. I’ve been given the Heisman several times within the last couple weeks about resources. I’m ready for Bruce to say yes to something, he’ll say yes.
Eric Bowden: It could happen, it could happen.
Danny Ryan: That’s great, we’ve got plenty of mind for you my friend, you will not be bored at all.
Eric Bowden: I wouldn’t think so.
Danny Ryan: We also, I know we’re going to meet up with another large client to show this off to them later on this month, so you join me for that.
Eric Bowden: That’s right.
Danny Ryan: If you’re listening to this podcast and this interests you, I see on our website a lot of people hit the Chatter for Share Point page on our site. People are very interested in it, hopefully folks will also run into this podcast, and listen to this podcast, and maybe have some follow up questions, leave some comments on the page that this posted up to on the ThreeWill site and Eric and I will look at them and get to them. I answer any comments that people happen to leave on our website, I will also get a transcription of this as well done so we’ll put that up as well. I appreciate you taking the time to do this, you have been busy but it’s nice to hear you’re about to wrap up with this. It will be fun to see maybe also getting this packaged up into the App Exchange app. For folks who want to learn more about that app you can search for Channel on the App Exchange, it’s also posted up to the office app store. Actually that’s where the code resides right? It’s more on the Office App store side.
Eric Bowden: Right, yep.
Danny Ryan: Really the only thing that’s for the app exchange is just to pointer back to what you have on the Office App Store. That’s the only really place that the code resides. Go check it out there, thank you for doing this, I appreciate your time.
Eric Bowden: You bet, thanks for having me.
Danny Ryan: Absolutely. For folks we’ve got the podcast now up in a couple of different places, it’s up on Sound Cloud, it is on iTunes, and also on Stitcher for your convenience. We’ll also have the blog post up on our website as well, the world famous ThreeWill.com, so come drop by there, leave a comment, and we look forward to hearing back from you. Feel free to follow up with me, Danny, if you want to have further conversation about what we’ve done here with this Chatter integration inside of, really inside of any platform it sounds like, it’s not just Adobe. What’s the name of the Adobe product?
Eric Bowden: It’s Adobe Experience.
Danny Ryan: Adobe Experience, or it’s not limited to Share Point or Microsoft 365. It should work in those just fine, it’s really just the security that will change from client to client.
Eric Bowden: That’s right, and any client can use the out of the box experience, the only reason they would want customization is to prevent users from having to log in. With the out of the box experience the user has to click a login button and actually authenticate themselves to Chatter.
Danny Ryan: Great, thanks everybody for taking the time to listen. Have a wonderful day, bye.