Broadband Video News Powered by RedDot at Summit 2007

Talked to these guys last night. Heavy duty RedDot users. Don’t use the built-in publishing system — wrote an entire export using RQL. Publishes are down to 1 minute, and they’ve got at least 100 times the content (and pages) that we do. Automatic publishes (with cache clearing) to Akamai. Drag-and-drop components in SmartEdit — no Open Page red dots.

I got high hopes for this session…

More of a limited market — Toronto area mostly. Provides content to the world through Akamai (within 8 minutes). 1 million unique users per month. 100 million page views in 2006. Website tied 24/7 to news network. Video is a cornerstone of the website.

Needed RedDot to reduce development costs, provide consistency of interface, robust publishing of multiple sites, had to be extensible (extremely critical requirement). 28 websites all running on a single instance of RedDot. Aggressive publishing 24/7.

Video content paramount. Heavily cached and architected for traffic spikes. Editors have access to 95% of homepage, 100% of supplementary pages.

Use a service called FeedRoom which provides its own media player. CMS workflow calls User-Defined Job write out a note to asynchronous log (RDAsyncQueue.xml). Custom CHUM code reads the log for page ID and related info, and uses RQL to pull content from the CMS, assembles the XML and pages for the page, and sends the material to the broadband processor via FTP. There’s a separate feed for the video, and the two merge at the vendor. Returned video for deployment has XML metadata and put into an import list of published assets. While this happening, RedDot publishes the page to the website. The text appears before the video (lag of about 20 minutes), but the page always checks (custom CHUM code) for the video’s presence. When the video is ready, all is available.

Everything indexed off Page ID.

CHUM has a dedicated RedDot administrator. Several of the larger projects here use dedicated administrators.

Target audience are news writers. Not technical “web people”. Simplication of RedDot experience was and remains necessary (constantly re-evaluated). Custom dots to streamline process.

Interface allows content blocks to be dragged and dropped to any place on the page (ala google.com/ig). (Functionality courtesy of the YUI libs.) Sorting updates asynchronously. Disconnects from the page is super-fast, being prompted only with dialog box. Not having to open the page allows multiple people to edit content items on a page without locking the page. Adding a dynamic anchor done completely through AJAX calls to avoid the difficulties of managing links.

Wanted to create a gallery, adding lots of images in batch/bulk. The original RedDot implementation was tedious. New one FTPs images into an Asset Manager folder. Add a new gallery (through a RedDot), select an Asset Manager folder. RQL pulls the images out and inserts into a list with metadata. Images sort drag-and-drop. Outputted through a Flash app. Works inside SmartEdit. Development was done within two weeks, start to finish.

RedDot publishes are too slow. Had a requirement to be fast. To improve, they dug into the code and learned exactly how RedDot does publishing. Trick is to always think of optimization FIRST, not afterwards. Avoided using the publishing queue entirely.

An ASP.NET cache control on the production environment checks the CMS on every request to see if the CMS has more recent information. If so, pulls updated content from the CMS, or goes to the cache.

These guys are killer. I feel utterly humbled in their presence. I could only hope we might even attempt some of these things that they make sound like normal practice. This is what we need to be like. (And yes, Andre, I intend to hold to our gentleman’s agreement — no poaching.)

They write using Homesite in Dreamweaver and also with Notepad 2.

The key thing is that subsequent projects are all learning from earlier projects. Innovations in later projects are then back-engineered into earlier projects.

It is critical to understand the core RedDot foundations in order to scale out capabilities. (CHUM had Michael M. out for a day to help them through the understanding.) RedDot is an enterprise-class piece of software, and CHUM does not rapidly update their software base. Updates treated like an Oracle update. If RedDot cannot publish, they “do not have jobs”.

CHUM may be open-sourcing their solutions. (Google Group will be listing any specifics.)

Killer session. But don’t take my word for it. Check out the goods for yourself.

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