IBM Lotus

We’re the subject of an IBM Whitepaper

We’re the subject of an IBM Whitepaper

It’s been a long time in the making, but myself and the company I work for are the subject of an IBM Whitepaper: IBM Notes and Domino Applications: A Road Map for Modernization using IBM XPages.  I’d like to thank John Head and PSC Group for their work on this whitepaper as well, and thanks to IBM for getting us involved.

Lastly, I’d like to thank my development team at work.  They are some of the best in the business, and their hard work is what drives us.  It’s easy to look good when you have an excellent team.  Thank You.

BoxWorks 2014 Recap

BoxWorks iPhone AppAs a person who has worked for a long time in the IBM Software space, I’ve been to a ton of IBM conferences. This past week, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and go to BoxWorks, the conference for box.com.

For those unfamiliar, box.com is a cloud-based secure enterprise file sharing and collaboration service. It’s a new hip company that’s been kind of an analyst darling as of late. I brought it into our organization a couple years ago now, and usage has grown quicker than anything else I’ve ever worked with. My rep has been bugging me to go to the conference for the last couple years, so I finally said yes and made the trip along with 5800 others to Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Out of the gate BoxWorks felt very techie. I walked in the door and was pointed to a bank of iPads. I entered my email address and they printed my badge on-demand. I was just handed the badge and lanyard. It included a very brief printed schedule and $100 worth of credit in the Box store.

I really liked not being given a bag that I may or may not use. I was able to go to the store and choose from hats, shirts, bluetooth speakers, chargers, books, mugs and pens. It was a nice way to get some swag, but to choose exactly what I wanted. It was different and nice touch.

The schedule was unnecessary because the BoxWorks app was so good. It let you choose your schedule, get push notifications to remind you when sessions were about to start, it gave you info on each speaker, sponsor and more. They did the app right and I lived in it the whole show.

The opening keynote brought CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie on stage. He’s a young, goofy, charismatic leader of the company. He wore a suit, with bright blue tennis shoes and socks with the clouds from Mario Brothers on them. Being a cloud company, it was a funny touch.

The thing that really stood out, is that you know this company is his baby. And he’s passionate about his baby. It’s not like the IBM cycle of putting an executive in “Lotus” purgatory for a couple years before they move them on. Don’t get me wrong, IBM Social Software has had some great leaders over the years, but that post was never a destination for any of them, it was a stepping stone along the way. I think it’s a completely different animal when you have a leader that is so deeply engaged.

He did a great job interviewing Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks and then academy award winning Jared Leto of movies and music (30 Seconds to Mars) fame. Both claimed to use Box heavily and loved working with the company. Leto even let his Oscar travel through the audience so people up front could get selfies with it. Pretty cool move. I spoke to several folks who said Jared was truly a big fan, and had shown up to several events and even lunch at Box on occasion.

The theme of the interviews were about leading and being entrepreneurial. In fact those were the themes all week. Every single keynote touched on leadership, and with speakers like Andrew McAfee, Jim Collins and Jeff Weiner, they definitely knew what they were talking about. I always came away from those sessions inspired and ready for action. I thought that was an excellent tactic, and something you could tell that Box was really passionate about.

There were technical sessions as well, and those were also very good. That said, as a pointy-haired boss, I connected more with the leadership messages along the way.

Now even though box.com is a huge silicone valley darling right now and I love the product, their new announcements were a tad funny to me. They announced a workflow engine for document routing and approval, and they also announced enhanced metadata.

The metadata were nothing more than forms with drop downs like Notes has had for two decades. And well, workflow was something we’ve done with Notes since its inception too. That said, the crowd loved them. It was like they were the best features ever created. It was, for someone like me, really bizarre.

Here’s the thing though. We’ve known forever how great using forms and workflow is. And box.com is not going to do anything that much better than Notes. The difference is marketing, plain and simple. Box did one thing brilliantly in its secure file sharing and is now adding things to enhance the experience. And they tout each advance, and show how useful it is. You see articles about box.com everywhere, and advertising where it makes sense. And they integrate with everything they possibly can. They play nice. Hell, there’s even a box.com widget for Connections.

They also have salespeople who actively sell it rather than alternatives, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Anyway, what is old is new again. And it makes me wonder what could have been, or what could still be if IBM really put some muscle behind Notes and Domino. But they haven’t, and they won’t, and that’s definitely sad.

It was definitely cool to see how a hip young startup does a conference, and IBM could certainly learn a thing or two. BoxWorks might be on my agenda every year. We’ll see.

Farewell Tim Tripcony

My friend Tim Tripcony passed away this weekend.  As many others have said, he was a kind, caring soul who always gave of himself, and it’s a tragedy that he is no longer with us.

Since hearing the news, I’ve been haunted by something he said to me one time.   One night after too many drinks at Kimono’s or some other Lotusphere party, we were talking and he no-so-jokingly said that he always felt “like he didn’t fit in.”  When I asked “Where?” his answer was “Anywhere.”  It lead us to a long talk about being an awkward introvert, and I explained to him that he very much fit in within our community, and our group of friends, and that he would always fit in with me. I was proud to call him my friend.

The thing that saddens me so much, is that he never got to see the outpouring of love that came from this community this week.  There were tributes and blog posts and tragic tweets of disbelief from all over the globe.  I’m in no way exaggerating when I say that Tim was universally loved, respected, and looked up to by a great many people.  Myself included.  I really wish he could have been able to appreciate that before he departed this world.  I’m sure it would have made him smile.

So I ask you, for those friends of yours around the globe you care about.  Let them know a little more often.  Check in and say Hi out of the blue.  I’ve done a lot of texting and emailing this week doing just that.  Chances are, if you read this blog, I call you a friend.  And I love a great many of you.

So in a few minutes, I’m going to mix up a white russian, and connect to a Google Hangout celebrating his life.  I’ve posted the video to Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart for Awhile.”  Tim always kind of reminded me of a redheaded Warren Zevon for some reason (check out the resemblance in the black and white footage of Warren playing the piano) and this song, while it almost always makes me cry, is a perfect sendoff.

Farewell Tim, I’ll definitely keep you in my heart for awhile.

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.

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