IBM Lotus

Create the infamous Pretzel Cookie at Home!

Lotusphere Pretzel Cookie

Lotusphere Pretzel Cookie

Alrighty, my awesome wife found a recipe at cookiesandcups.com that emulates the taste of the infamous Lotusphere Pretzel Cookie almost perfectly.  It requires the following:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, melted and browned
  • 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed pretzels
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

How to Make

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan melt 1 cup butter over medium-low heat. When butter is melted continue to cook, swirling butter constantly until it becomes a golden brown color. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. In bowl of stand mixer mix butter and sugar together until combined. Add in eggs, extra yolk and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
  5. Add in baking soda, salt and flour. Mix on low until incorporated, then mix in crushed pretzels.
  6. Finally stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Using a large cookie scoop, drop dough on baking sheet about 2 inches apart, baking until just golden at the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Centers might not seem done yet, but remove the cookies and allow them to cool for 3-4 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

I hearby declare my love for Shelly over at cookiesandcups.com.  If you want to see everything step by step, it can be found here.  My wife made them as shown in the tutorial, and the taste is perfect.  The size of the cookie is still off though, so we will have to experiment with that to get an exact duplicate.  That said, they taste the part, so I’m not sure they have to look the part at all :-)

Some other beginning’s end…

Some other beginning’s end…

I spent the past week at a conference in Orlando Florida like I have fifteen times prior.  IBM Connect (Lotusphere until last year) is an IT conference that focuses on IBM software and technologies.  It’s been a place where I’ve networked, met lifelong friends, learned all about the software that manages our business, engaged with IBM and had some fun along the way.

I think this might be the last time I’ll make the trip.

Don’t get me wrong, I thought the conference was great this year for the most part.  Having a host (Jay Baer) run the keynotes helped keep things moving.  Online a-lister Veronica Belmont hosted a bunch of events in the social cafe, and that was excellent as well.  American Authors opened the show and rocked the house, Seth Meyers shared some laughs with us, and Scott Adams of Dilbert fame gave a great session as well.  It wrapped up with a really inspiring session from NASA’s Dave Lavery and how the Mars Curiosity Rover came to be.

All of those things were awesome, but didn’t really speak to my business needs.

The opening general session showed a fake bank increase its fake profits with its fake website.  And while for a demo that’s fine, I would have really liked to have seen something demoed from an actual customer.  Call me crazy, but nothing ever works as well as the pie in the sky demos.  Seeing real world use would have made me happier.

And you could tell the old time Notes and Domino crowd hungered for something more tangible.  Hell, when the loudest cheers came for the brief time Ron Sebastian graced the screen, I don’t think that bodes well for your demo.

Next was yet another re-branding.  We’ve been through this before, and I don’t have a huge problem with it, but I really wish IBM would pick an angle and stick with it.  Changing Sametime’s name back in the day worked out so well, why don’t we try it again?  So it will be Connections Chat, Connections Meetings, Connections Mail… and will Connections be Connections Connections?  Is there a Connections Notes?  A Connections Domino?  It wasn’t as clear as it needed to be, and I bet downloading software from Partnerworld will now be so much easier right?  Right?

Next, let’s get to the technical tracks.  I saw a lot of really great stuff, and two of my team presented this year.  That said, my staff could really teach a lot of the XPages classes themselves, so I’m not sure those help us that much when considering paying again for another year.  I know I’m blessed with a particularly excellent team, so other companies probably get a lot more out of those classes.

In past years, almost every timeslot required a decision as to what session to attend.  Sometimes you could find three or four you wanted to see.  It was much easier last year to choose slots, and this year it was particularly trivial.  Other than a few minor exceptions I only had one session that would really stand out to me.  In fact there were several timeslots that didn’t require my attention at all.  I’m just afraid that the technical classes will continue to dwindle, and the HR, marketing and other Kenexa type stuff will slowly take over.  I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

One of the reasons I doubt it were rumors of long time folks responsible for the show stepping aside after this year.  I also spoke to several speakers who said they were done as well.  And these weren’t small name draws either.  People whose sessions you may have attended for years might not make the trip next year.  I just expect that after this year, there will be a precipitous drop off in the amount of things I want to see.

And you know what, that’s okay.  Things change over time, and I’m not really that upset.  Maybe it’s me growing up, the hair getting pointier, or simply getting old.  But I had a great week, and it seems like a great time to move on.

It’s not that we are moving on from IBM Technologies.  Far from it.  We just put in Connections, and will look to roll that out by mid-summer.  We already have Sametime 9 (Er, Connections Chat) in place.  Our business runs on XPages apps on Domino.  All of our mobile devices connect via Traveler.  I’m really interested in the new IBM Connections mail that was shown off (as soon as it’s available on premises.)  So we’re still very much an IBM shop, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.

All in all, I felt that is was a very nice IBM Connect.  I learned a lot, was entertained and got to hang out with people who are genuinely like family to me.  I love this community of people and always will, but the community isn’t tied to one event, or one location, or one week throughout the year.  These friendships will survive whether or not we all migrate to Orlando once a year.  With all the good memories I’ve had of this conference, I’m going out on a high note, and these sixteen years will always be an awesome memory.

Like Semisonic says “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Indeed.

*I completely reserve the right to change my mind and go again next year, but I don’t think I will :-)

#ThanksBruce for your work at OpenNTF

SaveYourHairToday my good friend Bruce Elgort ends his tenure as president of OpenNTF.  For those not in the Notes community, OpenNTF.org is a repository of open source software solutions for IBM Notes and Domino.  These free software offerings have helped thousands of people and companies implement great solutions, and inspired many developers to learn techniques for programming for the platform.

This community would not be where it is today without Bruce.  His enthusiasm and dedication have really helped keep OpenNTF afloat and in the public eye for many many years.  He deserves every bit of praise he’s getting from all over the world today.

Thanks again for all of the hard work my friend.  Don’t be a stranger :-)

The Ongoing Notes “Legacy” problem

On an IBM WebcastLast week I was honored to part of a webcast that announced the worldwide launch of IBM Notes 9 Social edition.  I was able to speak about how our company uses custom applications built on XPages and Domino to run our business.  I also spoke as to how Traveler has helped our workforce be more connected, and how we are looking forward to integrating Connections into our Notes investment via Activity Streams and embedded experiences.

As the Director of IT for our company, I’m always trying to work with the best technologies to meet our needs.  Those are not always IBM technologies.  We use vendors like Microsoft, EMC, GoToMeeting, Salesforce.com, Basecamp and Box.com.  I tend to choose the best platform to fit our specific needs, whatever they may be.  I’m not simply an IBM fanboy.

That said, we’ve built the software that runs our business on XPages and Domino because it’s a great platform.  We can’t buy off the shelf software to manage our business, it simply doesn’t exist.  We could buy project management and warehousing programs, but it would be very hard to bend them to work the way we need.  That’s why Domino is such a strong platform.  I have a very small staff of very skilled developers who have built amazing applications that our business relies on to manage every bit of work we do. We have built it to fit our business processes exactly, and we can add in features at a very rapid pace.  We integrate everything including our Microsoft ERP system, and I couldn’t be happier.

So why am I writing a blog post mentioning “legacy” on the day the brand new IBM Notes 9 Social Edition is released?  Well, it’s because the market still sees it as legacy.  There has really been no discernible marketing to the contrary.  I’ll give you three quick examples that have all happened in the last couple of weeks.  All were manageable, but I can’t believe I even have to deal with them.

First, a client of ours had been auditing our warehousing software.  A German IT Auditor questioned (with much disdain) why were were using Lotus Notes instead of a “pro” warehousing system, and stated that the fact that we used Notes was a red flag.  This was from a very large, very well known organization, yet this IT Auditor considered Notes legacy and worthy of disdain.  It was even insinuated that nobody used Notes anymore.

I explained our reasoning for using Notes and Domino much like I did above, and then touted a brand new release of the product as well and over 100 million users worldwide, yet I feel that it fell on deaf ears.

The second one was an executive asking one of my employees what our “exit strategy for Notes” was?  When the exec was talking with people from other companies, and some of our clients, the general consensus was that Notes was dead and people couldn’t believe we were still on it.  So the executive assumed we had to be moving off of it soon.

Part of that is on me, and I need to continue to do a better job of internal marketing, but the reason I HAVE to do so much in the way of internal marketing is because there is little to no external marketing.  You really don’t know that Notes exists unless you deal with IBM on a regular basis.

The last thing that happened was a simple offhanded comment on the This Week In Tech podcast.  I don’t remember the context but the host Leo Laporte stated how he hated Notes and would never use it again.  Granted, this man hadn’t touched the software in over seven years, but he was still attacking it.  I’m sure he has no idea how nice the new client is, or how good the development environment is in XPages.  Yet, he still made that statement that was heard as fact by tens of thousands of listeners.

Those of you that know me, and have read this blog for nearly a decade know that I will take IBM to task when it’s warranted, and I will give credit where credit is due.  Obviously I believe wholeheartedly in Domino as a platform.  I wouldn’t use it otherwise, and I wouldn’t take time out of my busy schedule to record customer testimonials or get interviewed for quotes for press releases.  I am very publicly on record with the fact that Notes and Domino is the platform from which our business is run.

Today is a watershed moment.  IBM Notes and Domino 9 Social Edition has been launched and it’s the best the product has ever been.  It’s truly a great piece of software with so much potential in the right hands.  It would be really nice if the tech universe starting seeing it that way. I would just like the perception of Notes to get better in the marketplace, because right now perception doesn’t match reality, and hopefully IBM can work on changing that.

IBM Connect 2013 Recap – The People

IBM Connect 2013 Recap – The People

In my last post, I spoke of the IBM Connect show itself, and what it meant from a show and technology perspective for me.  That’s only part of the story.  The real value in Lotusphere for me has always been the people.  The business networking is invaluable, but the enduring friendships are what truly stand out.  These folks have become family over the years and this conference has always been our family reunion.

That’s what I would really miss most if I decided not to come.  Not seeing these friends and colleagues in person would cast a definite sadness over my January.  It’s obvious that other friends feel the same way.  There were at least a half a dozen friends who no longer come to the conference who still traveled to Orlando to be able to hang out and see everyone.  For some, like my good friend Tom Duff, it was a very sad experience to call it his final Lotusphere.

But like Tom referenced in his blog post, Volker nailed it:

“Let me tell you something: life is about people, not about technology. Your friends will be your friends. And you will see them again. And again, and again. Technology changes, friendship lasts. In change, there lies opportunity.”

And I know these friendships will endure.  I can go all over Europe, or Australia, or pretty much anywhere in the US and I know someone I want to visit with, have a beer and a good meal with.  You people are special, no matter what color you are wearing or what code compiler you are using, or how pointy my hair gets.  I’m very happy to call you my friends.

I’ve always thought of us as a very welcoming group too.  You can see it in the yearly Blogger photos growing in size year after year.  We love to welcome new people in, and this year I was more encouraged by seeing some younger talent coming around.

It’s not a lot, and maybe not nearly enough, but I spoke with several people who were new to the IBM technologies in the last few years.  That’s a great thing, and we need to encourage more to do the same.  The only way our species can survive is if we breed more of us. :-)

In addition, I was really touched by a post by a new blogger named Monica Mora   who had always wanted to go to the conference, and this year she made it a reality. It’s a great post on the real power of “social” in our community.  I’d love to hear more of these voices in the future.

Speaking of hearing voices, one of the best things to humanize Lotusphere are the Nerd Girl Spark Ideas talks.  If you want to really get to know the kind, caring, artistic folks of our community, this is a wonderful place to start, and it’s not about our technology choices at all.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the week started with a tragedy to our Lotus family.  A Danish gentlemen named Kenneth Kjærbye passed away after a freak accident during the annual motorcycle ride that many of my friends and a co-worker partake in.  By all accounts, everyone from the police, to the motorcycle shop, to IBM were very supportive and responded warmly and wonderfully given the situation.  I could only offer my condolences, hugs and support to all of my friends who were deeply affected. They carried on with brave faces, but I know how much they were hurting.  Once again, this community came together to help however they could, and I’ve heard from the folks affected how much is was appreciated.  My thoughts are with all of you, and especially Kenneth’s family.

These are the extremes of this family.  We grieve together, and we enjoy life to the fullest together, and celebrate everything in between.  These people, you people reading this, are what makes this conference and our community special. Big virtual hugs to you all until we meet again.

IBM Connect 2013 Recap – The Show

At the end of January I took my annual pilgrimage to Orlando, Florida for the IBM Connect (formerly Lotusphere) conference. It’s something I’ve looked forward to every year for a decade and a half.

This year I approached it with some trepidation. I was afraid that IBM was changing it away from the conference I loved to something… well more corporate. I wasn’t wrong, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The change was pretty evident in the Opening General Session. IBM did a great job, but was showing off technologies that are more apt to the Fortune 100 than companies like mine.  In fact, I think someone said that the upcoming Notes and Domino 9 only got a total of a 56 second mention during the two plus hours.

For my team, who runs our company on XPages, based on Domino, that was kind of a bummer. However, the real travesty would have been if the technical tracks fell flat, and that couldn’t have been further from the truth. XPages had an incredibly strong showing (40+ sessions.)  The Best Practices track was as valuable as ever, and I think the content was even stronger than years prior.

Outside of the tech content, there were a lot more things offered for the pointy-haired bosses, and HR and Marketing professionals.  They are definitely offering more to bring those folks to Orlando, and that’s fine. They didn’t lose focus on the technical side despite the lack of sessions on some things like Quickr.  It makes sense as they are trying to migrate everyone to Connections, and that product continues to get even more compelling.

The conference in general made reference to Lotuspheres past with a wall of photos and a great video of highlights through the years.  The one thing they also promised to do was have a party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Lotusphere.  This is the one IBM screwed right in the ear.

You see, our session booklets said this party was to happen on the Product showcase and it was at a time during sessions.  So if you wanted to attend, you had to skip out on content which I did.  I got to the floor and started looking around.  I found lots of other friends doing the same thing.  What did we find?  Nothing.  Well unless you count one thing of balloons and some cupcakes.

Don’t get me wrong, the cupcakes were FABULOUS, but that wasn’t really the point.  I expected an homage to the past, and kind of a passing of the torch from Lotusphere to Connect.  I skipped actual content damnit, I wanted my goodbye.  But much like we’ve felt about Notes and Domino over the years, it seemed like IBM just forgot about it.

At least on Twitter we made the “party” seem worth it, what with our piercing stations, the llamas, the live performance by Psy, and the tattoos upon nether regions.

Despite that particular shortcoming, IBM Connect seemed to maintain the things that made Lotusphere great in years past.  I really had gone into this whole process feeling that this could possibly be my last year, but when all the dust settled I felt a lot better about things.  So will I be back next year? I guess we’ll see.  One thing I would really miss is the people, and I’ll talk about that in an upcoming post.

Goodbye Lotusphere Hello Connect

Goodbye Lotusphere Hello Connect

The end of this month I’ll be attending a yearly technology conference in Orlando, Florida for another time. How long? Well, If I had birthed a child way back when I started attending, that kid would be in high school. It’s a long time to do anything in this world, and as with anything you do this long, change is inevitable.  Up until now, that conference had been called Lotusphere. This year, the moniker has changed to IBM Connect.

For the first time in nearly a decade I’m not working the show as press, or as a technology blogger, or as a speaker.  This year I’m just going as a customer.

It’s actually a nice thing for me.  In the recent past I’ve always had interviews, and press briefings and blogger “nachos and news” events that I had to attend.  I missed a lot of session content and even some parties because I was sequestered away in a back hotel hallway interviewing executives and writing articles and blog posts (sometimes on a deadline.)  Last year, I didn’t have writing responsibilities, but I had to speak on stage twice.

This year I just have to attend sessions and soak up all the information I can.  I still may take as many pictures as always, but I might not even write a word about the event until well after it’s over.  That’s a fairly seismic shift for me, but quite frankly I’m looking forward to it.

The event is obviously changing in other ways too.

Most notable is the fact that the Lotus branding is being deprecated and everything is now true blue IBM.  I agree with the decision on the branding point, but not seeing thousands of bumblebee backpacks will be a sad departure from years past.

In addition the conference has really expanded to include more managerial, strategy and big picture business tracks and the focus isn’t quite as strong on the technical ones any longer.  I’m wondering how this might affect it’s usefulness to myself and my team.

I’ll miss some of the people who will be absent this year too.  Some staples on stage giving sessions, and staples on stage singing karaoke at Kimono’s.  This saddens me for many reasons, not the least being that some of these people no longer make their living based on IBM software.  That means chances to see them in person are far less likely.

Lotusphere has always been a family reunion for me.  Reconnecting with the people who bled yellow and had the same passion for the software that I had.  We would talk tech, network, learn, party and become close friends.  It was the recharge I needed to kick off the year in high gear.  WE were social business long before anyone coined the term.  This year, I’m just not sure it will be the same.

That said, I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt, and reserve judgement until I’ve seen what IBM has to offer.  I just can’t help having a nagging feeling that is my last yearly trip to Orlando.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

Sharepoint is the next generation of Lotus Notes

I got an email from a sales rep at a company called HexaCorp in Somerset, NJ.  In my role I get emails from vendors trying to get my company’s business all the time.  Most of the time I delete them and move on.  Once in awhile I’ll respond and let them know that either we don’t need their services, or we don’t use the software they are shilling.

So this exec, let’s call her Marilyn (because that’s her name) left me a voicemail and sent me a message stating that they were a Sharepoint partner and if we were planning any Sharepoint implementations or upgrades, that they would like to help.  Instead of just deleting it, I responded so she knew she was barking up the wrong tree.

Thanks for reaching out, but we don’t use Sharepoint and have no plans to.  We are an IBM Lotus partner, and will continue down that path, thanks.

So I figured that was that.  Until I got an email just now, this was the first line:

I discussed your email with my CEO and he told me that Sharepoint is the next generation of Lotus Notes.

Yeah… okay then. First, you had to discuss with your CEO?  And THAT is what he came up with? As you can imagine, my next email wasn’t as pleasant.

Remove me from your list.

That comment shows your ignorance of an entire software industry.

Sometimes the lack of knowledge people have about the industry simply astounds me.  There are a lot of things Notes related I can bitch about, but Sharepoint is definitely not the next generation of Lotus Notes.

So Marilyn from HexaCorp in Somerset, NJ, and your willfully ignorant CEO.  You may want to do some homework.

Lotusphere 2012 Recap

The Swan #ls12
I know that Lotusphere was a couple weeks ago now, but this year I decided to digest it a bit before I put it down on the page here.

The Show

This year was one of the better Lotusphere events in recent memory.  The OGS started with OKGo rocking though three songs and then Michael J Fox was our guest speaker.  The OGS continued on a fast pace with lots of demos and nothing lagging.  It was a huge departure from last year for sure, and very welcome.

The news was all mostly good.  IBM is making everything incrementally better and more connected to each other.  It’s obvious that the Lotus brand is getting sunset (even though next year it’s supposed to still be called Lotusphere) but I think that’s okay in the grand scheme.  IBM has better brand awareness now and Lotus is considered legacy by too many.

For me, the biggest things concerning the whole “social” theme were support for OpenSocial, Embedded Experiences and the Activity Stream.  I’m so used to activity streams in Twitter and Facebook and the like that I’m actually excited by the prospect of this in the business world.  I’m a fairly brutal when it comes to filtering things in real life, and for me I think it will translate well to the business world.  Also, being able to tie into other systems with OAuth and such will be very beneficial.

There were no huge announcements this year, and that’s okay.  The incremental pieces are making everything more usable which is really cool.  The only thing really “out there” was a plug in for Internet Explorer that allows your browser to natively run Lotus Notes apps.  This is fairly amazing.  Too bad it’s windows only, but I still like it.

Me Personally

This year was new for me in a different way.  Since IBM eliminated the blogger program ( how social of them :-) ), this was the first time I wasn’t attending Lotusphere as Press or as a blogger in something like six or seven years.  That means I didn’t have a full schedule of interviews and press conferences to attend.  It was actually really nice as I got to see more of Lotusphere proper than I had in years past.  That said, I did something I had never done at Lotusphere before, and that was speak.

I was on two customer panels.  One was the Customer Evangelist panel and another one was about using Social in the SMB space.  So I didn’t have to prepare like a normal speaker.  In the Evangelist panel I had five slides and five minutes to speak and on the Social panel I just had to answer questions from our panel moderator (Ed Brill) and questions from reporters in the room.

I really enjoyed both, and might actually try my hand at speaking in the future if they’ll have me.  I’ve always loved speaking at events like these, so now I just need to find something compelling enough to talk about.

The essential human element

Some of you will remember the “essential human element” as a past Lotusphere theme.  For me, that’s the theme that has always stuck, because no matter what we are doing in life, it’s our interactions with each other that matter most.  This Lotusphere was no different.  At the end of every day, I gathered with co-workers and friends to relax, talk, smoke cigars and have a few libations.

Kimonos was rather crowded this year, so we didn’t spend as much time there as in previous years, but it was still a good time when we did.  The weather was very cooperative, and sitting outdoors at tables by the Swan and Dolphin pools made for wonderful evenings.

These folks are like family to me, and I know I say that every year, but I really cherish the time I get to spend them.  This is what truly what makes Lotusphere special.  Social?  It’s nothing new.  We’ve been Social for twenty years, I’m just glad IBM finally caught up.

:-)

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