We provide software for medium-to-large companies and government agencies that manages the distribution of news and high-value information. Using standards like RSS and ATOM the Attensa StreamServer aggregates content and can distribute that information to users based on content filtering rules called SmartStreams. Beyond just 'Enterprise RSS', our integrations to systems like SharePoint make it possible to monitor content that was not previously exposed via RSS. By bringing together internet and internal content, we can offer knowledge workers a complete 'information dashboard' with at-a-glance updates on your industry, competitors, and markets.
You can publish your own news streams using the built-in post editor, email-to-RSS, or rules that combine and filter a large number of feeds in real time to extract only information about a certain topic. We even have a full search engine built in.
Our main web user interface is built almost entirely using Ext JS. We also offer portlets that can be used in SharePoint or in Java-based portal servers like WebSphere Portal or Liferay; the user interface for these portlets are also implemented using Ext JS. For Windows users, we have a pop-up alerts application to let users know when new high-priority information is available.
Why did you choose Ext?
We evaluated a lot of different UI frameworks to find one that offered broad functionality and a good out-of-the-box appearance. We also wanted to have confidence that the framework was widely used to ensure it would be supported and extended for years to come.
Do you have any advice for developers just starting out with Ext for the first time?
The learning curve looks steep when you're first getting started. Stick with it! The developer productivity is great once you understand how Ext JS works. We wish there had been books like 'Ext JS in Action' available when we were just starting out. Definitely start with a book if you're new. Until you're comfortable with Ext, it helps to use a super-incremental development style. Make a small change, refresh the browser to see the change before making the next small change. When something breaks, you'll always know which change was responsible. Download the code for the demos and use them to experiment with the controls that you plan to use.
Also, always remember to search the forums. When we have problems at Attensa, it's incredible how often someone else has had the same issue before, and we find a simple solution is right there in a forum thread.
What makes Attensa unique?
Attensa provides the only solution to the Enterprise data silo problem. Knowledge workers in a large organization get information from many sources both on the internet (from internet sources like blogs and email newsletters, Lexis-Nexis which is widely used in law firms and large companies, and science journal aggregators like Ovid which are used by life science companies to support their researchers) and inside the firewall (from Microsoft SharePoint, content and document mangement systems, email distribution lists, and 'Enterprise 2.0' social software).
The Attensa StreamServer brings all of these sources together in an easy-to-use software package that gives your users awareness of the information they need, when they need it, all in one place.
What features could we add to Ext to make building a rich application like Attensa easier in the future?
Sometimes solving a problem in Ext requires understanding of its internal implementation, or debugging an unexpected error might require tracing through the Ext JS source code. This can be daunting for a newbie. Perhaps error-checking assertions could be added (to the -debug.js versions only of course) to help ensure that developers get an error message that leads them in the right direction. A nice bug-tracking system like Jira would be helpful. We'd love a tutorial about how to build our own stripped-down distribution.
Also we can't wait to try Ext Designer. It might be just the thing to make our development team even more productive.
The Attensa StreamServer's new user interface is attractive and rich, and it works well across all major browsers. A lot of the credit for this success goes to Ext JS. We have already upgraded the upcoming release to 3.2.1, and it's a solid release. For rich web apps that need complex user interface components, Ext JS is a solid choice.