Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Overview of "Profile" and "Folder" in WebCenter Content

In this post, I will go over the basics of two features in WebCenter Content (WCC) - Profile and Folder - and then talk about their own design considerations and usages, and finally discuss their differences.

In WCC, the Profile (a.k.a metadata profile or content profile, to differentiate from user profile) is an approach of metadata modeling. The profile is a powerful tool that can be used to manage the metadata fields to achieve efficient processing of content items, such as check-in, update, search, etc.

Essentially, content profiles consist of set of rules that manage the display of the metadata fields of content items. Through content profiles, you can control what metadata fields should be displayed/hidden, required or not, read-only/editable, initialized with default value or not, and grouped based on the action to the content – whether you are viewing the content information, checking in, updating or searching. Profile provides the capability to customize the user interface of the metadata presented to the users. This is important as the profile can not only improve the user experience but also improve the data quality and accuracy. If a user is presented with too many irrelevant fields when dealing with a content item, the experience could be daunting and very likely the user would not provide quality data input. It doesn't need to take long before your content system filled with more and more irrelevant data and is abused in a sense. Bad profiling could definitely hurt searching experience as well. Consider a profile is defined in a way that captures irrelevant and inaccurate data, the overall search output would be misleading.

One of the frustrations I heard from customers was users wanted multiple profiles on a content item. In WCC, only one profile can be associated with a content item. You may find it a drawback from your unique business use cases or the way you handle the content processing. However, it’s designed in this way for a purpose. You can consider the profile is to define the type of a content item. Any content item belongs to a certain type but not more than one types. The capability of aggregating multiple profiles into one content item could very much likely lead to data abuse and subsequently many other undesired outcomes. Another frustration was “specific resources are required to build or update the profiles”. From what we have discussed, a new profile should be created only if there is a new type of content item required in the system. A profile should stay as static as possible and be updated only if the type of the content item changes with your business context. If the business context doesn’t require any new types of content or any existing types to be retired, the profile should not be built or updated frequently. You may need to look into the initial design and definition of the profiles to match the business needs. Since profile is the approach of metadata modeling, the proper metadata design is essential for daily content management. Metadata in WCC should match your enterprise taxonomy to achieve best outcome on content organization.

Speaking of the number of the profiles, there is no good or bad number. It just needs to fit your business needs. The 50-100 range is the average number of profiles for all US WCC implementations (the statistics is not published anywhere but from a technical summit with Oracle WCC team). The extreme case I have seen with a client is over thousands of profiles in the WCC system and it works just fine. There is a performance caveat with very high number of the profiles in the WCC system. I encountered such performance issue in one of my WCC implementations and the issue has been addressed by Oracle team. For details, please check here.

Folder, in WCC, is a way to structure and organize content items. It’s worthy to note that in WCC the folders are standalone “virtual” structures. Content items are not physically stored in any folder. Every content item in a folder has a metadata field (xCollectionId) to store a numeric folder ID that links the content item to a folder. It behaves like a symbolic link in WCC system.

Content folders offer a conventional hierarchy structure that provides easy access to a content item in WCC. They are just like the directories on your local laptop that point to virtual locations of the content system. With folders in WCC, you can just perform actions like you do in the conventional file system. Quoted in Oracle documentation, “The familiar folder and file model provides a framework for organizing and accessing content stored in the repository. Functionally, folders and files are very similar to those in a conventional file system. You can copy, move, rename, and delete folders and files. You can also create shortcuts to folders or files so you can access a content item from multiple locations in the hierarchy. You can think of the files in the Folders interface as symbolic links or pointers to content items in the repository. The operations you perform in the Folders interface, such as searching or propagating metadata, effectively operate on the associated content items.” 

The hierarchical folder interface is achieved by a component installed in WCC. This component is called FrameworkFolders. It is a scalable enterprise solution and is intended to replace the earlier Contribution Folder interface (called Folders_g component). For a comparison of FrameworkFolders and Folders_g, you can visit this link for more details.
  • There are different types of folders can be used to organize content to fit your different needs. Traditional Folders: it’s the general folder we have discussed that you use to organize your content just like the one you use in your computer.
  • Query Folders: it’s a folder you can create based on a search/query result. It contains collections of document based on the search criteria you defined. You can save the query folder just like you create a regular folder.
  • Retention Folder: it’s a type of query folder with retention rules.


Conceptually, the Folder and Profile are distinct on their functionality and their design purpose. Profile can be considered as a way to define a content “type”. Folder, like the conventional folder in your laptop, is a way to aggregate and organize content. You can store content items with the same profile in the same folder or different folders. You can have a folder containing content items with the same profile or different profiles. I will use an example to better illustrate the usage of the profile and folder.  Say in your company you have the following types of content items: legal document, sales document, and reports. You also have the following departments: HR, IT and Sales. All departments may have their own legal documents and reports. Sales document would almost fall into the sales department not the other two. In this case, you may want to take the content types as the profiles and aggregate the content into folders as per the departments. You don’t want to create profile based on departments because the department can have all kinds of content items and it’s not just one static type. If somehow you define the profile as per department, you will find yourself in a way that has to create/update profiles all the time.

Folder and Profile do reveal some similarities in ways that how content is managed. You can manage content items based on a folder or a profile.  For example, you can search content items either by a folder or a profile; you can batch process content items in a folder or a profile, such as manage workflow, govern security, update content information, etc. On the other hand, folder and profile do have many differences from the way they are designed.
  • Folder, just like a file, can have its own metadata. You can also propagate metadata from a folder to the subfolder and the content items within it. But for profile, it is a way to manage metadata and you cannot apply metadata on top of a profile.
  • Folder has its own security. Each folder has an owner who can modify its metadata and delete it if needed. But the folder owner doesn’t have any additional privileges over the content items inside the folder. Profile has little to do with security directly. But since Profile is to manage the metadata, it could manage profile indirectly. The “Security Group” and “Account” metadata can be used to manage security of a content item.
  • With folder, you can perform basic content retention scheduling by creating a retention query folder, assigning retention attributes to the folder, and then configuring the retention schedule. There is also a specific folder type – retention folder in WCC – which is based on query folder with rules for content retention. Since Profile is to manage the metadata, it has little to do with retention directly.
  • In workflow, actions can be applied on top of content items either within a folder or associated with a profile. In this perspective, folder and profile have similar effects.
  • WCC doesn’t have standalone tagging service. But you can create custom metadata for this purpose. Folder has its own metadata, so you can apply the custom tag on top of a folder. Profile, again, as a way to model metadata, can be used to manage any metadata field, including the tagging.
In a quick summary, Profile and Folder are two different concepts in WCC. Although they may reveal some level of similarities in how content can be managed, their design basis are quite distinct. Profile can be considered as a way to define the "type" of a content item and provide a customizable user interface for users to manage their content. Folder provides a virtual hierarchical structure just like the conventional file system in your computer to help to organize and manage content. They should be used and designed as per the essentials of their function, to avoid inefficient content management.


Jonathan Hult said...

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