Posts tagged "workflow"

FIRST Robotics uses DPS for its Game Manuals

One of the great benefits of working at Adobe is that Adobe believes strongly in community involvement and volunteering. Every Adobe employee is encouraged to use their skills and passions outside of their jobs as volunteers and board members for nonprofits and other community organizations. I take this to heart as a volunteer with FIRST Robotics.

James working as a Game Announcer at the Granite State District FRC event in Nashua, NH, 2015

James working as a Game Announcer at the Granite State District FRC event, 2015

FIRST Robotics offers programs for elementary, middle school and high school students around the world. These programs expose students to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) through sport-like competition. Students receive a challenge at the beginning of each competition season and then build robots to address the challenge. Depending on the age of the participants, the challenge may be to solve an important problem such as water quality or delivery of affordable health care, or it might be to play a game that requires careful planning of both robot design and gamely strategy.

The elementary school program is called Junior FIRST Lego League (Jr.FLL). In Jr.FLL, students prepare a presentation to address the challenge. As the students get older, the programs become competitive and the teams must design, build and program a robot to address the challenge.

The middle school program is called FIRST Lego League (FLL). In FLL, the robots are made of Legos and use Lego NXT or EV3 controllers. The robots always operate autonomously, and there is only one robot on each side of the playing field at a time. The robots perform tasks related to the challenge, but do not generally compete directly with another robot.

In high school, teams compete alongside other teams called Alliances to try and outscore other alliances. There are two high school programs: FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). In FTC and FRC, the robots operate autonomously for the first few seconds of the match, and then the students drive the robots for the remainder. There is usually a period at the end of the match, known as the “endgame,” where the rules change or an additional challenge becomes available. There is not always an endgame.

FTC uses Lego NXT robot controllers on larger robot frames, but they are transitioning to Android controllers for the next season. FTC matches consist of two robots per alliance and two alliances on the field at a time. FRC uses a National Instruments roboRIO controller and frames up to 120 lbs. FRC matches consist of three robots per alliance and two alliances on the field at a time. There is a ton of YouTube video out there; just search for FLL, FTC or FRC. I volunteer with FRC as a play-by-play announcer at competitions and occasionally as an event judge.

The FIRST App home screen on an iPad

The FIRST app features a home screen with sections for each program.

Common to all FIRST programs is documentation. Each program has a range of program-specific documentation, including but not limited to:

  • Rules for each competitive season
  • Coach and mentor guidelines
  • Team notifications
  • Curriculum help
  • Change logs for all of the aforementioned documentation

Managing all of this documentation is a challenge, as the documentation changes regularly with real consequences for teams. For instance, it is common early in the competition season for game rules to change that might impact robot design. Also, teams are encouraged to ask questions about the rules, and those questions and answers are often summarized in the game documentation. Teams need to be informed in a timely manner so that they don’t proceed with designs that might not align with the game rules.

Another challenge is timing. Game rules are announced to the world at specific times on specific days. This is done through global simulcast so that no team has an advantage over another team when it comes to the game rules. Traditionally, documentation has been provided via password-protected PDFs on the FIRST web site. At the end of the simulcast, the password would be revealed and the teams could begin to read.

When we started talking about DPS with FIRST, these two challenges were topmost in our minds, and when I say “our,” I mean the Adobe team. I can’t speak for what was topmost in FIRST’s collective mind. We all believed that DPS could solve the update problem as well as the timed release of content problem very well, so we put it to the test in January of 2015 with the reveal of the 2015 FRC Game, Recycle Rush.

You can download the FIRST app from iTunes or from Google Play. You can also read the FRC Admin Manual, Game Manual, Team Updates in the DPS web viewer.

For FRC Kickoff, I went to a local college with most of the teams from Maine to watch the simulcast together. Many of the mentors and students had their mobile devices, and many had the FIRST app on their device ahead of time. As the game was revealed and as the password for the PDF was shown, the game manual for Recycle Rush appeared in the FIRST Game Manual app right on schedule. One of the mentors sitting next to me watched this happen. He looked at me and asked if he needed a password. I smiled and asked him to open the manual and find out. He tapped on the manual and began to read. Smiling, he looked up and said, “Wow. That was cool!”

A text push notice about a Game update.

The next test came a week later when the first updates were to be published. The manuals are made in InDesign, so the team at FIRST was able to make the adjustments and publish those changes from InDesign. Once published, teams needed to know that the changes were available, so FIRST used the built-in DPS push notification service. I and my team all received the notices on our iPads and our iPhones, and swiping or tapping the notice took us right to the updated content.

As we moved through the competition season, I watched how teams used the manuals. Many teams had it on their phones as well as their tablets, as they frequently returned to the manual to confirm design choices. Later, as the season progressed, they were looking carefully at the conditions which might lead to penalties. Even through the District Championship event, with teams having competed in two or more precursor events, teams still made frequent use of the manuals.

The design of the manual is as important as the content, and FIRST produced a clean, readable, and highly functional tool to help teams play the game and ultimately to be better competitors. Kudos to the FIRST documentation team, who produce manuals for all of the FIRST games.

I’m headed to the FIRST Championships in St. Louis, Missouri this week to volunteer some more and to see all of the FIRST programs draw to a close for the 2014-2015 season. It has been a pleasure and a delight to help bring the manuals on DPS to fruition and then to see the positive reaction and real world usage of the tool. I’m looking forward to helping the manuals evolve as the 2015-2016 season gets underway.

 

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Creative Workflow Specialist seeking data on, well, creative workflows!

I recently became a Creative Workflow Specialist here at Adobe. In this role, I spend a lot of time working with customers, helping them understand how Adobe’s diverse technologies knit together as an end-to-end content development to syndication to monetization to measurement platform. I also spend time learning about how customers have developed their own workflows using our tools, and that is the subject of this post.

In almost every meeting I attend, Bridge appears as a critical part of the workflow. This was the intent of Bridge when it was released back in the day, but it amazes me at how differently people use the same tool. Some use it simply as a file browser. Others use it for managing metadata on assets. Still more use it to interface with their Digital Asset Management (DAM) system. I have even encountered customers who built custom plugins for Bridge to allow users to interface directly with the company’s project management and product lifecycle management solutions. Wow!

I want to thank everyone who responded to the survey that I had posted here earlier in the year. We have completed our information gathering and will present our findings in another blog post shortly. To all of you who responded (and there were a LOT of you who responded), thanks for your insights, and keep on being creative!

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I’ll be speaking at Adobe MAX this year!

I will be presenting a session on Variable Data Design at Adobe MAX this year. While I’ve presented at MAX previously, recently it’s been all DPS or AEM-related discussions. This talk digs deep to my roots in Data Driven Marketing and Variable Data Publishing. From the abstract:

Learn how to take personalized communications beyond email. Before email, there was data merge, which enables you to create personalized print materials using the design tools you already know and love. Whether for mailing campaigns, photo books, directories, business cards, or even t-shirts, you can use data merge to personalize your projects.

In this session, you’ll discover how to:

  • Unlock the potential of personalization in InDesign
  • Use Illustrator and Photoshop to generate personalized assets to use with InDesign
  • Manage personalization on a large scale with popular third-party variable data printing (VDP) solutions
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Considerations for using Secure Content with DPS

In Release 30 of the Digital Publishing Suite, Adobe introduced a feature for Enterprise customers that lets a publisher encrypt folios. This feature arose out of many requests from Corporate customers who wanted to use DPS for sensitive content but believed that the DPS Service did not offer robust content protection for folios in the Distribution Service or in flight between the Service and a Custom Viewer. While Device Content Protection is an effective method of protecting content on the device, it does not offer protection for content in the DPS Service. In Release 30, a publisher can now opt to publish encrypted folios to the Distribution Service, which satisfies many customers’ requirements for using DPS to deliver sensitive content to their tablet-enabled workforces. Enabling encryption impacts the content creation, publishing, and reading experiences, however. This article will explore the changes to each of those experiences.

Enabling Secure Content

The DPS Help Document for Secure Content provides instructions on how to enable encrypted folios. It’s not just about folios, as you’ll discover when you read that article. Your app must be built to enable the device’s Secure Content mechanism, which means that you will need to rebuild your existing app. My Protecting content on an iOS Device with DPS article in DevNet outlines the hows and whys of enabling secure content on your iOS device. Of course, your custom Viewer needs to be at R30 or higher to use encrypted folios, so you can use this as an opportunity to update your Push Notification tokens as well as add in some other App features like the Welcome Screen.

In conjunction with updating  your Viewer to R30, you also need to enable Secure Content in your Application Account. This requires administrative access to the Account Administration tool.

Enable Secure Content in DPS Account Administration

Enable Secure Content in DPS Account Administration

Once enabled, the account will now have some limits applied to it, which we will explore in some detail.

Limits enhance security for content creators

Secure content has some important implications for workflow. From the content creation side, customers expect that it should be hard for content to escape the control of the Enterprise. For content creators, it means that they will be restricted in how they can proof or share secure articles.

Preview options for Secure Content

Preview options for Secure Content

Proofing

Proofing folios in a Secure Content account is limited to either desktop or tethered proofing. This means that in order to proof a folio, you need to either test it on the desktop from InDesign or connect your iPad to your Mac and turn on the Content Viewer. Once connected, you can click on the Preview… menu in the Folio Builder panel and choose your iPad. For customers using the Media Publisher in Adobe Experience Manager or another Web CMS for managing folio content, this presents a unique challenge.

When publishers use Media Publisher or other CMS, the expectation is that all folio creation is done in a browser and that InDesign is not usually part of the workflow. It is not uncommon for there to be hundreds of contributors in a large organization, and those contributors tend to be business users or knowledge workers with no access to InDesign. For accounts without Secure Content enabled, this presents no problem, since content creators can always push their content to the Folio Producer, turn on their iPad, open Content Viewer, and sign in with the Application Account credentials to proof content.

One potential workaround is to create content using a “dummy” account that does not have Secure Content enabled. This “dummy” or staging account can be an Application account or an individual contributor account that will never have an App associated with it and will only be used as a staging account for the Secure Content. As a best practice, the Enterprise should develop a policy around these staging accounts so that content will be auditable by appropriate regulatory or brand authorities within the Enterprise. In addition, the Enterprise should establish review and approval workflows within these staging accounts and a workflow for migrating content from the staging account to the deployment (Secure Content) account. Authors will create and proof their content in the staging account. Once ready for review and approval, the author would start the review and approval workflow and reviewers can review content on their iPads with Content Viewer. In cases where the Enterprise does not want any content to be viewable unless on a tethered iPad, then authors and reviewers will need access to InDesign on their desktop machines in order to proof their folios.

Article Sharing

All article sharing from a Secure Content account will be disabled. This means that if you currently share content between accounts, you will need to consider the flow of that content. It is possible to share an article from an account that does not have Secure Content enabled to a Secure Content account, though, as described in the previous paragraph in the staging account workflow. The expectation is that content in a secure account should remain in the secure account, and limiting sharing from that account reduces risk. As stated above, customers may need to adjust their workflows to consider the secure account as an endpoint for content rather than a source of content in situations where folio sharing is common.

In order to publish shared content in the secure account, a person with appropriate authority will need to log into Folio Producer and copy the shared article. Once copied, the original folio can be deleted from the Secure Content account, which will break the sharing relationship with the staging account. Unless there is a reason to keep the original shared folio in place, it may be best to remove the shared folio to reduce confusion and clutter in the Folio Producer.

Publishing encrypted folios

Enable encrypted folio upon publishing

Enable encrypted folio upon publishing

Once approved, it’s time to publish the folio. Once all of the required metadata is in place, you can push the Publish button in Folio Producer. You will notice a new checkbox: Encrypt Folio. This needs to be enabled for your folio to be encrypted in the Distribution Service.

In addition, there is an expectation among Enterprise customers that secure content needs to reside behind authentication. As a result, readers need to be entitled to any secure folios in order to view them in a Custom Viewer. This means that all encrypted folios need to be Retail folios, and the Custom Viewer needs to leverage Direct Entitlement or, more granularly, Restricted Distribution. The Enterprise will need to manage the relationship between the authenticated reader and published folios in its Entitlement solution. Once you configure the folio as Retail and enable Encrypt Folio, you can Publish the folio.

Reader experience for Secure Content

Having reviewed how Secure Content constrains the content creation workflow, let’s turn to the reader experience. From the reader’s standpoint, they should not be able to tell the difference between an encrypted folio and an non-encrypted folio. While this is generally true, there are a few differences that readers may notice when using Secure Content.

Complete download required

In a traditional workflow, DPS offers progressive downloads for content. This feature allows a reader to begin reading an article while other articles are loading. In a Secure Content workflow, the entire folio needs to be present on the device in order for it to be decrypted. As a result, secure folios may appear to take longer to download. You may want to adjust your strategy with respect to folio organization if you routinely make very large folios if the download experience is disruptive. For most Enterprise customers implementing Content Protection, this delay should be communicated to users so that they are prepared for longer wait times when they first download a folio.

Once downloaded, the folio is ready for reading and will behave like any other folio, with the exception of Social Sharing.

Mitigating social sharing risk

One of the ways that content can escape the control of the Enterprise is through a reader socially sharing the article. When you enable Secure Content, any encrypted articles will not be able to be socially shared, regardless of the settings in the Application Account. This also means that no Web renditions will be created from any articles in encrypted folios, regardless of whether they are Protected, Metered or Free. It is a best practice, therefore, to disable Social Sharing in App Builder when making apps for Secure Content accounts. For many Corporate use cases, social sharing is inappropriate, since the content in the app is usually intended to be viewed in the secure context of the Custom Viewer. If it is necessary to mix Socially Shareable articles with encrypted articles, then the user may be able to generate a “dead” URL for the encrypted article by tapping on the Social Share button, which would be a jarring user experience. In that instance, it is best to warn the reader that an article is protected and that it is not intended to be Socially Shared.

Use cases for Secure Content

Secure Content is inappropriate for most traditional publishing use cases, and it was not designed as a Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme for folios. It is intended to offer Corporate publishers a method of protecting sensitive content while that content is in the Folio Distribution service and to limit the pathways for that content to escape the control of the Enterprise.

Common use cases for Secure Content include manuals, Board of Directors packages, regulated content, proprietary documentation, sales material, and other sensitive materials. Knowing that all encryption is susceptible to attack, Adobe uses very powerful encryption technology to protect the folios in the Distribution Service. Nevertheless, each Enterprise needs to evaluate whether its content requires this level of protection. For many customers, unencrypted folios are perfectly acceptable. For others, encryption will be a requirement. Encrypted content expands the reach of the DPS service for Enterprises and offers those customers a pathway to distribute sensitive content to tablets.

 

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Sending email and email attachments from DPS publications

Many of my customers have asked how to send an email from within a DPS publication. For instance, in a sales enablement situation, it’s often necessary to share documentation after the salesperson has discussed the products or services with their clients. In an earlier blog post, I detailed how to display PDFs and other document types directly in your DPS applications. While this is good, it’s not a leave-behind that many sales people require. I wanted to explore some ways to send email from DPS publications, and here are a few of the ways I concocted this afternoon. (If you have my DPS Examples app installed on your iPad, and you’re reading this blog on your iPad, then tap here to see examples of sending emails from a DPS folio.)

Just send it!

Often, it is necessary to just send an email to a specific address. This is easiest to achieve with a hyperlink or a button with a URL destination that uses the mailto: tag. For instance,

mailto:someone@example.com?cc=someoneelse@example.com&bcc=andsomeoneelse@example.com&subject=Summer%20Party&body=You%20are%20invited%20to%20a%20big%20summer%20party!

is a URL that will fire off an email in the device email client. This email will be addressed to someone@example.com with CC to someonelse@example.com and BCC to andsomeoneelse@example.com. Its subject will be Summer Party and the content will be You are invited to a big summer party! It will be sent by the default email account on the device’s email client. Copy that URL into a button URL action in InDesign, and presto, you have an email button.

You can get creative with the content, of course. You can include links to files, so long as the link is a fully formed URL path. For iOS Mail, use the <br> tag to go to a new line. For other mail clients, you’ll have to experiment. Here’s how I set up my email button.

The URL destination:

mailto:someone@example.com?subject=Tax%20Time&body=Pay%20your%20taxes!<br>http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf

sends an email to someone@example.com with the subject Tax Time and

Pay your taxes!
http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf

as the message. Most email clients will interpret the link to the PDF as a hyperlink and will allow the reader to click or tap on the link and view the tax form.

Let’s get a little more sophisticated with this now. In InDesign CS6, we can insert HTML directly onto our layouts via the Object>Insert HTML menu. I have created a little form that has two inputs: email address and a menu to choose which file to include as a link in the body of the email message.

Copy and paste the following into your InDesign layout using Object>Insert HTML and preview on your iPad. If you have InDesign CS5 or CS5.5, you can save this as a .html file and point at it in a Web Content overlay.

<style type="text/css">
.emailform {
 height: 100px;
 width: 350px;
 font-family: Verdana, Geneva, sans-serif;
 font-size: 16px;
 font-style: normal;
 text-align: center;
 white-space: normal;
}
</style>
<script>
function sendMail() {
 var link = "mailto:"+document.getElementById('emailAddress').value
 + "?cc=myCCaddress@example.com"
 + "&subject=" + escape("Pay your Taxes!")
 + "&body=" + escape('Use this form to start the onboarding process.<br><a href="'+document.getElementById('chooseFile').value+'">Download your W-4 form now</a>')
 ;
window.location.href = link;
}
</script>
</head>
<body>
<div class="emailform">
 Email address:
 <input type="text" name="emailAddress" id="emailAddress" />
 </br>
 <select name="chooseFile" id="chooseFile">
 <option value="http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf">Federal W4</option>
 <option value="http://www.maine.gov/revenue/forms/with/2012/12_w4me.pdf">MAINE W4</option>
 </select>
 <button onclick="sendMail(); return false">Send email</button>
</div>
</body>

 

Of course, you will need to modify it to meet your use case, especially whether you want to include the CC line and which files you want in the menu.

Set the InDesign CS6 will automatically create a Web Content Overlay for you, and you need to configure it to your taste. Since I set my background color in CSS to match the background frame color in InDesign, I have set mine to transparent and to autostart with a slight delay so that it will only fire when the user actually views it. You must enable user interactions if you want the user to be able to fill out the form. Note that with iOS Mail, you can use HTML formatting in your message, so have fun with the message body. I believe that this technique only allows about 2000 characters in the body, so you might need to keep your messages short. Also, this javascript method will force the user to agree to be sent to the Mail application from the folio, while the direct URL method won’t. Nevertheless, this is a very flexible and robust solution for creating email forms within your DPS application.

Here’s what my example looks like on the iPad.

Now I tap the Send Email button…

Now I return to my folio and enter some info in the email form…

Pretty neat, eh?

Links to files are OK, but what about attachments?

If you need to send attachments to your email, then you are out of luck with a URL. You will need to implement another method. I’ll describe two of them here.

The easiest to make is a web form with an emailer server-side application as its action. Remember that you can insert HTML forms directly into InDesign CS6 with Object>Insert HTML or by putting the form in an iframe and copying and pasting the iframe code into InDesign CS6. Like my example in the previous section, include a few text fields for To: and From:, and perhaps even a menu to choose which file to attach. You can get fancy and have check boxes or menus that attach multiple files to the email, too. Then, in your emailer server-side application, compose and send an email using the information in the form. I have done this with PHP and MySQL hundreds of times over the years, and it is a rock solid method for sending email attachments. Of course, you should obfuscate that URL or put it behind some kind of login, ideally attached to your company’s LDAP or Active Directory, if you need security.

While I usually turn to PHP and MySQL, there are myriad ways to implement this on your server. Check to see what server-side capabilities are available to you and give it a whirl.

Thinking outside the (Mail)box…

So, what happens if you are offline? The online form won’t work, and you’ll need a different solution. On iOS, you can write a custom app with XCode that can leverage Custom URL schemes to transmit information between apps. The mailto: tag above is an example of one that’s built into iOS. Also included are sms:, tel:, and http:. You can build an app that can respond to a custom URL scheme and deploy that app to all of the users who need to send emails. Here’s an example of XCode projects that, when built, communicate with each other. http://mobile.tutsplus.com/tutorials/iphone/ios-sdk-working-with-url-schemes/

Let’s say the app named Enterprise Email that has an ID of com.adobe.jameslockman.emailsenderapp has the registered the custom URL scheme sendemail: in its plist. I can then construct a URL using either of my methods shown above in DPS that will tell iOS to communicate with Enterprise Email using URL encoding, such as: sendemail://someone@example.com&from=me@mycompany.com&file=filename.pdf This URL is easy to populate as the result of a form with or without javascript in a web content overlay.

It’s up to you to determine how to parse the incoming string in your custom app. In addition, you should probably have the app check in to a central file repository from time to time and pick up the list of available files and store them internally. The app should also have the ability to cache email sending requests so that it can wait until it gets a network connection to send its emails. This method completely bypasses Mail and will require the app to enable its own email sending methods. I do not have an example of this in action, but I’m considering building out a simple XCode example. If I do, I’ll post it as another entry and link to it here.

This method will only be applicable to an Enterprise who can manage deployment of apps to its installed base of devices through a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution or other deployment method such as manual sideloading.

It’s in the mailbag

Remember that your ability to actually send email is dependent on your reader actually completing the email task in Mail. Also, the email will always be sent from their default account. They can always choose not to send the message, but in a sales situation, the sales rep will definitely want to send the message. Also, this provides an offline protection, since Mail lets you cache emails until there is an active network connection. If you need to send attachments, then you will need to look at an always online solution or the helper app solution. Your use case will dictate how far you need to go down the development road, but start simple with a URL or an embedded form. It just might be the all you need.

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