Trends in Web engineering: my 4 takes from ICWE 2012

At this point of the year, just before vacation time, it makes sense to me to think to Web Engineering practices at large and draw some trends and outlook for the field after this year.
As a PC chair of ICWE 2012 (International Conference on Web Engineering), this year I can claim I had a privileged view over the entire event and I think this was a good test for assessing the field.
Furthermore, being directly involved into the organization of MDWE workshop, I have been directly exposed to the specific aspects of the model-driven field for the Web.
I see the following trends in the field:

  • still limited attention to non-functional aspects in Web application development. Honestly, this doesn’t make any sense to me and makes me think that this is one of the reasons why Web Engineering is still seen as a niche sector, both in industry and academia. Actually, at least some awareness starts appearing (e.g., some works on assessing the productivity of model-driven approaches have been discussed), but actual results are still very preliminary. And the Web is ALL ABOUT NON-FUNCTIONAL ISSUES!
  • mashups are still getting a lot of attention, as demonstrated by the successful ComposableWeb workshop too. However, I think we need to rethink a little bit this field. My feeling is that traditional mashups are no longer interesting per se. Even very well known solutions like Yahoo Pipes! have reached a limited audience, and in general mashups have never reached the maturity level that let them be used for producing enterprise-class professional applications. So, am I claiming that mashups are a complete failure? Not at all! They actually represent an important step that enabled the current trends toward Web API integration, which are probably used in most of the existing Web sites. I think that the mashup community in the future should look at the broad problem of Web API integration at large.
  • the role of model-driven approaches seems to slowly move out of its original position, strictly related to modeling of Web user interfaces. The MDWE workshop raised a very interesting discussion on the role of MDE and Agile approaches (thanks also to the support of the nice Instant Community system provided by University of Trento). Some activities, including our work towards integration of WebML modeling with social networks or towards integration with Business Process Management, try to broaden the applicability of the approaches, but I think more effort is needed to revitalize the field.
  • Finally, content and social analysis (both syntactical/textual and semantic) is getting more and more interest in the community. This is demonstrated by the wide set of well-attended ICWE tutorials that addressed these issues (The Web of Data for E-Commerce, Epidemic Intelligence for the Crowd, SPARQL and Queries over Linked Data, Natural Language Processing for the Web).
If you see some other interesting trends in Web Engineering, feel free to share your thoughts!

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Much ado about nothing? — reconsidering IBM Blueworks Live

I’ve been quite excited at the announcement of IBM Blueworks Live by  Phil Gilbert at BPM 2010 last September, and the expectations kept growing until the last weekend.
The I read the blog post by Sandy Kemsley and I thought: all right, that’s a preview, let’s wait for the final site. Then I went through the official site in the weekend and I thought: all right, that’s a placeholder.
Other bloggers came out with their comments too (for instance, see Mike Gammage‘s one here).
But today it’s Monday again and here we are.  Is that it?

The demo shows you a pretty nice interface for:

  • a twitter list on #bwlive and not much more
  • a BPMS log in the shape of a twitter feed
  • an old-fashioned shared project repository
  • a form based editor just enabling trivial processes
  • execution on the cloud
  • .. what else? and in particular, what’s new?

I sincerely hope IBM has much better plans for the future than this. I wouldn’t dare call #bwlive Social BPM in any sense: no flexibility, no real social relationship exploitation.
Please contradict me, I really need it!

Praise to IBM for one thing though: they have enough courage for pushing the end user design of simple processes. Not a big product feature, but a big shift in how to approach problems. Btw, this is a bold attempt also considering the failures of several end-user oriented design approaches such as the visual mashup composition tools (ever heard about Microsoft PopFly, Google Mashup Builder, and so on? maybe not, they are all dead and buried, only Yahoo! Pipes survives:).