TOGAF: fetch me a 27b stroke 6

I’ve been attending a course on The Open Group Architecture Framework or TOGAF down in London. The aim of TOGAF is to provide a methodology for effecting change in the IT capabilities of an organisation by taking a consistent (though perhaps rather top-down) approach to structuring everything through analysing the business needs and processes…

The course run by Architecting the Enterprise was pretty power-point-heavy and by the end of the first day we were all getting pretty sleepy. There was plenty of terrible clip art and bullets bullets bullets. The second day was slightly better as we were all that little bit more awake but still there was a general consensus that the balance could be more on the workshopping of the case-study as a means to teach the method rather than the endless transmission. They are doing the job of giving us an understanding of the methodology – my criticism is simply a question of style.

The first principle of TOGAF is to put in place an architecture process – or Architecture development model – mapping out the business needs, applications, data and infrastructure which go to make things work. Simply thinking about the architecture you’re planning to put in place, who the stakeholders are, scoping it out sensibly, getting the right solutions and planning the migrations in a structured, iterative manner, considering risks etc etc should clearly help organisations to run a more efficient and tight ship in terms of alignment of IT with the actual business needs. The daisy below shows the model, each petal representing a core element of the process, all feeding the central requirements. In this diagram one petal is expanded to show the sub-process within….

Togaf’s Architechture Development Model (as exploded by

The question for us in Education is of course how does this gel with the constraints in which we work – how we get the buy in from both the top and bottom of the organisation to such an approach. Can it be applied in a more light-weight way, how do we deal with the technological shanty-towns that exist in academia. Ultimately we figured out that going through the initial stages of the methodology would probably serve to expose a lot of cultural issues and barriers to change within the organisation.

By way of context, the other participants of the course are mostly working on JISC Enterprise Architecture projects and actually have responsibility for applying these things in their own organisations.

There are a range of certified modelling tools for TOGAF – but it should be noted that there are other “un-certified” tools which could concievably be used to model and manage the togaf process. As ever with these kind of things they will all havetheir specific uses, affordances, personal fans, strengths, weaknesses and so forth. We were not given a specific push towards one tool within the training course but we were given some criteria by which to evaluate them; Core questions – does it support the ADM process, deliverables, models and how the tool handles import/export and extensibility. Most significantly though is probably usability and cost of ownership – which varies wildly across the available products from circa $100 per seat to thousands and thousands.

To be continued…


A year has passed since I started thinking about the redesign of the CETIS website, and inevitably now that the whole thing is creaking into some semblance of what Scott and I had originally intended it has been time to go back to basics and re-examine what we thought we were doing, why we are doing it, whether it is working and what on earth we are going to do next.

There are a few processes going on; Mark, Sharon and Adam have been conducting a review of the community wiki aspects of the web presence and the e-learning focus team are considering where to go next with their magazine-style site with a view to merging it together with the JISC-CETIS page. The Communications team has been discussing the whole show from start to finish and back again.

My thoughts

1) You are in a twisty turny maze

There is a tendancy for people to get lost in the site. Removing some navigational elements (especially in the wiki) and applying some others (breadcrumbs, menus etc) in a coherent way will make a difference I hope – but the main proposal is as follows:

Merge the www.cetis page, the jisc.cetis page and the elearning focus site into one coherent magaziney all-singing portal.

Front page mockup v3

(old versions: v1 v2)

The mockup (v3) shows the main elements we have identified – with a monthly editorial, regularly changing “features”, and constantly changing “news”. It also gives prominence to the SIGs with a prominent bar on the left hand side…

To start off with, the news and features would actually be drawn from the blogs as the current aggregation is – only the editiorial process will be stepped up – with lead-ins and article filtering-selection done by the focus team. As is done with e-learning focus, articles may also be commissioned by external writers.

V2 has a horizontal-slice approach; Banners | Navigation | Editorial | News etc (3 streams) | Other stuff (4 streams)

V1 is an earlier attempt – and is more like the aggregation as it stands at the moment.

2) Re-work the SIG entry points

We made a decision quite early on that the SIGs would simply have a protected wiki page each to serve as their main site – giving them total flexibility to do whatever they wanted. Of course this approach led to inconsistency and an extra learning curve for staff. The result was certainly not easy to follow for the outside observer and generally quite unsatisfactory to my mind.

I have in fact started working on it

So the plan would be coherent entry points combining the main details of the sig, good quality linkage with the events system and drawing in content from the main aggregation and wiki (by tag naturally). Crucially the co-ordinators need customisable space to do with what they wish whether it be posting up some powerpoints or pointing to some interesting resources online somewhere – I need another pass of Mark and Sharon’s work as well as a round of discussion with co-ordinators to figure out exactly what really needs to be done.

3) The project tracker

Already discussed somewhat in my post about doap and ohloh I have a chunk of time set aside for re-working the project tracking system so we can reliably keep tabs on what is going on with JISC projects. Again this needs to be nicely integrated.

Example Project page

One last thing

There is one last thing. I propose removing all traces of rounded corners in favour of the infinitely superior square corners. Trendy design at it’s best don’t you think ;)

Mediawiki LDAP headaches part 6

Mediawiki has a useful LDAP Plugin. We have been using it on the CETIS wikis for some months now and it has been fine. The time came when we needed to promote various staff members to the rank of administrator so they can do things like import content and protect pages. In all honesty it wasn’t a hard thing to achieve: I created a new groupofnames entry called sysop in the LDAP directory and populated it with the names of our staff members. Adding the appropriate lines to the mediawiki configuration scripts after some trial and error resulted in the groups being syncronised and the appropriate people becoming appropriately powerful.

This is fine. BUT I’m not totally satisfied. What I really wanted to do was give all members of the staff ou (organisational unit) the sysop privilage – so I don’t have to start assigning more groups to people than they already have. There isn’t an easy way as far as I can see to make a group containing all children of an ou. Or at least if you can define the ou as a member of the group, no self-respecting implementation is going to realise quite what you’re getting at.

I’m left with the prospect of adding everyone to the group (which I’ll automate I suppose) – or hacking the plugin. Or I could re-structure the whole directory putting everyone in a single ou and using groups as the primary means of differentiating people. I don’t really want to do that.

Other ideas are (of course) welcome.

ePortfolio 2006: Plugfest

Walking along the River Thames this morning to the ePortfolio 2006 Plugfest in the middle of a serious thunderstorm was perhaps not the smartest of plans – but it didn’t take too long to dry out. I attended the plugfest last year and it was excellent, the day was packed with demos and slinging around of data between a variety of eportfolio solutions and this year it was just as interesting.

ePortfolio Systems Integration

This session follows on from the previous year where there was a lot of focus on using xml (mainly IMS-ePortfolio and IMS-LIP) to move portfolio data from one system to another. Only this time the collection of standards has expanded to cover HR-XML and Europass initiatives.

We started off with ePet and EPICS projects – the projects are based in the north-east of England and in use at Newcastle University as well as several other HE and FE institutions in the region. They have been using IMS-LIP for data transfer – which was demonstrated last year, but have now added Europass XML to the list of capabilities – for both import and export of data.

KiteCV is a plugin to add eportfolio creation and export capabilities to several other systems; wordpress, elgg and dotclear. I had a good go with this particular tool (compiling it on my Mac with the developers looking over my shoulder) and indeed it successfully created a europass conformant CV from within WordPress. Using it as a plugin though feels slightly odd – yes it lets youembedd a CV within a blog entry but I’m just not sure why you might wish to do that!

Selwyn from Phosphorix showed iomorph, a generic transformation engine for they have added europass – hr-xml to their list of available formats (the officially supported list is IMS-Lip, UKLEAP, and XCRI – but the toolkit is also capable of supporting custom xslt transforms and CSV data). For the demo they took the newcastle data in hr-xml format into their icebox system – merrily generating nicely formatted CVs.

Giunti Labs stepped up with exact Portfolio – trying to import and export IMS eportfolio. This wasn’t so successful however they assured us that it did work and that they are working on creating plugins and transforms to get the data in and out of other formats too.

Pebblepad (and their lovely flash-based interfaces) showed their export cv functionality. A user chooses one of their many cvs (they can of course generate them for different purposes) and dumps it out in some exchangable format. Their focus is on making all the technicalities as invisible to users as possible – so importing a webfolio from an external site is just a matter of pasting in the url and the software does the rest.

This got me thinking – how do you expose and discover an eportfolio on a public website – could it not be done in the same way as RSS feeds are exposed on via link-rel tags? Perhaps one to develop for next year.

Sarah Davies from JISC asked a sensible question as to what happens if the concepts don’t map? If one system does actionplans and someone else does goalplanners – the fields encoded in the xml _should_ map sensibly even if the semantic meaning is slightly different – but the general consensus was that your milage may vary.

Sample xml files from this part of the plugfest are all available on the eifel website.

Fitting LDAP to WordPress-mu

One of the major bits of infrastructure for the new CETIS websites is a WordPress-mu based blog server. The point of this being that everyone in the organisation gets to have their own blogs and thereby feed the general production of cetis news through what they write in said blogs. Look I’m doing it now! Enough with the meta-blogging though. The serious technical challenge was to integrate WordPress-mu with our LDAP directory so as to give staff rights to sign on using their standard password and create as many blogs as they each fancy. WordPress of course doesn’t quite do this out of the box but I’m not the first person to try this.

It being a small world, Alistair Young from UHI made this plugin for WordPress 1.5 Pat Cavit took it onward somewhat and then William Gray did some some more work taking it to 1.5.2. Of course this is all single-user WordPress, a year-old (WordPress is up to version 2 now) – and inevitably mu is slightly different again….

These efforts now seem to have coalesced into a single WPMU plugin – available at:
I’s suggest that people start with that stuff.

So I took some code – I think it was Pat Cavit’s and started working. As with many system integration projects I started out being hopeful that it would just work. It didn’t. Then I thought perhaps there was a nice clean way it could be hooked in. I couldn’t see one. Then I thought I’ll just step myself through the code and hack it into place. This approach paid off and we now have a working installation.

And it works a treat. CETIS staff can now go to and sign themselves up. A user entry is created in the wordpress database – used for keeping profile information and so that the rest of the tables have a user id number to key to – but the password is always queried from the directory. With this done, the user can create as many blogs as they jolly well like. Pretty good if you ask me.

The modified files are:

And some new files added:

Once the dust has settled on on the servers and everything here at CETIS is properly behaving I’ll spend some time re-factoring and trying to get my work in line with the likes of Alistair, Pat et al. for both WP2 and WPmu.

MEANWHILE due to popular demand here is a zip file of the work I have done so far:

From a wider point of view having this kind of plugin available should be a boon to system administrators of organisations large and small looking for a nice reliable blogging solution which they can roll out to a whole bunch of users without having to create yet another authentication nightmare. Great!

CETIS Site Redevelopment: A proposal

CETIS (Custom PHP)
Mainly: A lightweight aggregation of the various blogs
Events aggregation

CETIS Blogs (WordPress-µ)
Individual (and group) blogs for all cetis staff members
Also includes general contact info for public use, staff profiles etc
Items may be public or internal-only or private
Items can be associated with the relevant Community and/or Team
Items may be elevated to front page status.

CETIS Communities (MediaWiki)
A big wiki for the SIGS – covering specs
Can be contributed to by sig participants

CETIS Events (Custom PHP??)
Events/calendaring – single click sign-up for registered users!
Covers Public Cetis events, registration
Private CETIS calendaring
Aggregated events from elsewhere

CETIS Intranet
Internal groupware – work planning, project management
TEAM views of what is going on – team blogs
Private wikis? (MediaWiki)
Staff management
Events/calendaring (again)
Control centre for it all…

Other requrements
Common authentication!


A blog, a wiki, a tracker, a subversion
TRAC and Subversion and WordPress?
Or they do it themselves

Based on my database??
Tracks all the projects and aggregates their blogs
can be contributed to by members
Tracks standards used
Full-on doap support

Implications for old sites

Move to new structure
Deal with old content –
redirections and THIS IS OLD messages

mostly archived
Framework moved into big e-framework
PROJECTS and so forth moved into hosted stacks
and/or project/software/standards directory

elearning Focus
Move to wordpress/wiki
old articles to be moved

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