Integrating WebCenter Services with WCI: Polls

One of the more useful additions to the WebCenter Interaction 10gR4 release is the tight integration with WebCenter Pagelet Producer (formerly known as Ensemble). Pagelet Producer integration allows for a number of new possibilities for leveraging WebCenter Services and ADF task flows into existing WCI portals. Over a series of occasional posts, we’ll explore some of the more interesting and useful combinations; in this first installment, we’ll look at a sometimes overlooked set of functionality that is often asked for and about in WCI portals – Polls and Poll Management.

The WebCenter Polls service and task flows provide the ability to create, manage, and deliver both simple and mid-level questionnaires and polling. As with many of the WebCenter Services, there are a few out-of-the-box task flows available for basic functionality, as well as the ability to develop more detailed implementations using ADF and the provided Data Controls as a back-end. Let’s take a quick look at some of the basic functionality that is available in WebCenter Polls that can be made available through WebCenter Interaction.

Poll Manager

The Poll Manager is the central administrative area for creating and managing individual polls or surveys. Polls can be created in different styles and broken up into multiple sections with varying types of question – single and multiple choice, matrix-style, and comment-box. Polls can be published immediately or on a schedule, and can be closed manually, automatically at a particular day and time, or when a specific number of responses are received. Taking the poll can also forward the user on to a Custom URL or ADF task flow, if desired – this can be useful in a variety of ways, particularly within the portal framework, if the standard Rich Text-style closing message doesn’t give enough leeway for design.

In a typical setup, the Poll Manager would be made available to users with some level of business or technical administrative roles, in addition to taking up a reasonable amount of space on a page; as such, this is typically a portlet that would be secured on a separate administrative page rather than being added as “hidden” administration functionality.

Poll View

The Poll View Task Flow is the typical delivery system for publishing a poll to the target audience. The Task Flow itself is reasonably simple: a single poll is displayed for the user, and the configured post-submission message/results are shown when complete. This will meet the requirements in many systems, but with the ability of Pagelet Producer to pass HTTP, URL, or REST parameters through to the back-end, there is the potential to leverage this in a more dynamic fashion. The Poll View flow takes the ID of the poll as a parameter to display, and by either placing some additional ADF logic on a page or page fragment, or building preference or rotation logic into a community/portlet preference, a single Poll View portlet can display multiple polls on a rotating, scheduled, or personalized basis.

Quick Poll

The Quick Poll Task Flow is something of a merging of the two primary flows. This is aimed for a quick poll design and delivery, and allows the more Content-like ability for administrators to modify/create a poll quickly and in the flow of the page. To a standard user, the Quick Poll is essentially identical to the Poll View (without the unseen back-end features of poll rotation, etc.); however, when placed in ‘Edit Mode’, the Quick Poll allows the single poll attached to it to enter design mode, although with distinctly limited functionality as compared to the Poll Manager. The Quick Poll allows for a single question (although it can be multiple choice, matrix-based, etc.), without the custom publish/close functionality; however, the created poll is then available in the Poll Manager, and can be both modified within the Poll Manager and displayed in the Poll View.

The Edit functionality is defined via an ADF variable within the task flow; so that in a similar fashion as we discussed in Poll View, it can be determined or set at the page/page fragment level—as well as via variable passthrough from WCI—to allow for access to Design based on page or delegated administration as the need requires.

Custom Development – Data Controls and Customization

A discussion of what is available through the Poll Service would not be complete without briefly mentioning the custom development options as they apply to the Polling subsystem. Data Controls are essentially specific APIs made available to ADF applications to expose the back-end storage – in this case, wrapping communication to the Polls database in a wide range of easily-consumed calls. The Polls services expose both a Polls Manager Data Control and a Take Poll Data Control – these allow custom ADF task flows (which can be consumed in the same fashion as the out-of-the-box ones listed above) to be built to specific requirements and deployed. In addition to the data controls, the task flows listed above each support the standard ADF/MDS customization approach for user interface modification if necessary.

The WebCenter Poll / Survey services are certainly a useful, if often overlooked component within the WebCenter Portal infrastructure; but it also fills a rather glaring need in WebCenter Interaction portals. If you have an interest in learning more about integrating this or other WebCenter Services into your existing WCI implementation, please contact TekStream Solutions to set up a discussion. This is what we do.