IBMLotusConnectOSphereED 2015/2016 thoughts

As I said in my previous post, I think ConnectED was a Surprisingly Good Conference. Here’s why….

THE GOOD

  • The smaller scope of the conference worked well. The bulk of attendees have always been primarily interested in the “Lotus” stable of products, but in recent years IBM has tried to force peripheral products (SUT, Kenexa for god’s sake, Portal, Customer Experience Thingummy) down our throats, and forced out, in particular out of the OGS, most of the content that the bulk of attendees, who have PAID TO BE THERE, are interested in. The pendulum swung back this year. Whether it landed in quite the right place is open to debate, but it was definitely a better place.
  • The OGS was full of content. This relates to the above, of course, but there was far less sniping and bitching about the OGS because it was genuinely good. Moving the speaker to the end worked well, and also he was one of the best and most genuine speakers I’ve seen in that context: a great choice.
  • Condensing everything into the Swan worked well. The rooms were busy, the corridors were packed, everything felt buzzy and alive. Much better this than rattling around in a too-large venue, or having the event padded out with 1000s of IBMers and irrelevant HR people as has happened in recent years.
  • Taking into account that this was a “new” conference in some ways, there weren’t too many scheduling SNAFUs.
  • Despite cost-cutting on the badge holders, having a proper neck strap on them, instead of the cheese-wire we’ve had a couple of times recently, was a good choice. Thank you.
  • The organisation of this conference was clearly a somewhat seat-of-the-pants affair, and many feared it would be a shadow of its former self, but actually it came into its own and in my opinion was the best “non-Lotusphere Lotusphere” yet. The King is dead, long live the King.
  • Great closing session. Okay, we know IBM couldn’t commit to 2016 plans, but even the vague statement of intent we got was a welcome and positive sign for the future.
  • Verse. This, with its detailed design work, and Watson-fuelled trickery, and seemingly (from what I’ve seen) well-done integration between email and parts of Connections, is probably the most exciting and innovative thing IBM has produced in the “Collaboration” space since it first released QuickPlace and SameTime. Those two were, as was Notes, years ahead of their time upon release, but IBM then didn’t push them forward fast enough and paid the price. With Verse I believe from a technology standpoint they have an opportunity to reset, to learn from their mistakes, and to move ahead confidently. It’s a pretty compelling product. Will they be able to unseat “out of my cold dead hands” Outlook? I’m not sure. But Google are managing, here and there, and Verse stacks up pretty well against gmail, and blows it away UI-wise. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so I’ve signed up for a beta account and will put it through its paces. I am unclear as to how the business partner ecosystem can feed off Verse, but there is definitely talk of extensibility, and there’s BlueMix xPages+Domino happening… so can IBM pull this all together, with the right ambition and delivery, to create something that will sustain both itself and the after-market for the next 5 or 10 years? Are we seeing “the next Lotus Notes” here? Perhaps. I hope so. I have an open mind.

THE BAD

  • Charging full price for a conference that was a day shorter was rude. I understand the reasons why, but it’s still rude.
  • Stripping out the park party: well, actually I don’t care, as I’ve not bothered with that for years, but from what I hear the replacement wasn’t up to much.
  • Drinks tokens? Really?! Are we students FFS? I’m glad it was dropped, but it was pretty damned insulting to have come up with that in the first place, and then to use cheap Staples ticket rolls … just plain stupid.
  • It feels that at some point the “Experience” people waded in and start throwing their weight around. Otherwise why would their stuff have been put into larger rooms than, for example, Marky Roden and Mark Leusink’s superb Angular.JS session which then had to repeated and was still at capacity second time around? Conference organisers need to get this: play to the audience you have, not the one you wanted.
  • Print on both sides of the conference badge. Please.
  • Don’t schedule anything against Gurupalooza. Ever. Not even a repeat. Not even a brilliant repeat by Louis Richardson. Just don’t.

THE FUTURE

This is an interesting one, is it not. What will IBM do? There was a commitment at the (excellent) closing session to do something.

There are voices saying that the Swolphin has had its day. It’s certainly old, and quite shabby, and very expensive to stay in. But we love it. It’s like an old pair of slippers, or a favourite armchair: sure, one can and possibly should replace it, but comfort and nostalgia and familiarity shouldn’t be discarded lightly. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.

So I sincerely hope that when IBM weighs up its options it keeps an open mind on having an event at the Swan again. Ditch the Dolphin completely. Hold everything in the Swan, with a dining tent outside as in ye olden days. Cap the numbers if necessary. Who knows, it might even sell out.

That said, if the future is to merge with a larger IBM conference, InterConnect being widely believed to be the most likely candidate, IBM has some challenges.

  • Firstly, getting this existing die-hard loyal audience to attend (we did this year despite the shambolic up-front messaging about the event, but mainly because it was the “same event” in a sense).
  • Secondly, most of the sponsors and exhibitors at Lotusphere/ConnectED are already straining to justify the cost: if it’s made more expensive, many will simply bow out. Please don’t make that mistake.
  • Thirdly, having it on the East coast makes it easily do-able for Europeans: a Vegas event is that much harder in terms of time difference, which may put some people off (value for money is the key here – if it’s a must-attend because of the content, that objection is easily overcome).
  • Fourthly, it needs to be a self-contained conference-within-a-conference, rather than just a track. The latter was tried with Connect, and we end up with a bad compromise and a crappy irrelevant OGS that set a bad tone for the rest of the event. Give it its own name, and its own OGS.
  • Finally, the name: we’ve had Connect and then ConnectED, neither of which make logical linguistic sense as a sub-event within InterConnect. How about “Lotusphere”? If that’s too backward-looking and not down with the IBM cool kids, perhaps drop the Lotus bit but keep the “sphere” bit: it’s different, and distinct, and pays due homage to our joint heritage. It’s been pointed out to me that “Versesphere” doesn’t play too well in German, but use some imagination. Crowd source it, even.

The main point about all this is, of course, the community. Many in IBM don’t “get” this, because they’ve never been a part of it. I did speak to one new IBMer last week who was stunned by the warmth and depth of our little world. Truly ‘social’. This community is strong, but not strong enough to survive unending wilful neglect.

Please, IBM, just when you’re producing something that could – if directed and delivered right – be “the next Lotus Notes” we’ve all been after, don’t pull the rug out from under your own feet by stamping on the very community that made Notes a success in the first: you need them (us) as much as they (we) need you. Give us what we need in 2016, not just what you want.

My Lotuspherical journey

I first attended Lotusphere in 1999. I was an exhibitor (I hesitate to say “booth-babe” – my legs aren’t good enough), barely knew a soul, and was on the stand for long hours every day. It was the year of R5, 10,000 people, split Opening General Sessions, split dining, the zip wire, and Jeff Papows hindering the exit from SeaWorld by standing there shaking everybody’s hand like royalty (by the time I got to him I wanted to punch him rather than shake his hand – in retrospect probably I should have done). Of course, all of this didn’t stop me staying out late at parties, and not getting to bed until 7am on the final night. I have always been me.

Wind forwards to 2007, I’d been freelance as “Axiot” for a couple of years, and decided to make my way to Lotusphere as an attendee for the first time. I still only knew a tiny handful of people upon arrival, mainly Mike Smith, but looking like a lost little lamb at the airport I was quickly offered a taxi lift to the Dolphin by Jon, Justin and Catherine of Prominic: my first inkling of what a generous and warm community this ‘Lotus’ world really is. Once there I soon got to know many of my fellow Brits: Warren and Kitty Elsmore, Paul Mooney, Matt White, Bill Buchan, Gab & Tim Davis, all* of whom I respect and love as friends more than they probably know.

Of course, there aren’t just Brits at Lotusphere. And in that first year I met others who, despite only seeing them in the real world once a year (less, now, in some cases), I hold dear to my heart: John Roling, Devin Olson, Bruce ElgortTom Duff and Rob McDonagh, as well as Andrew Pollack, Jess Stratton, Mitch Cohen, and so many more.*
(I have to give special shout-out to John Roling: his analysis of our friendship is right on the button)

That Lotusphere I learned, laughed, and partied, more than I had in any single week before in my life. It was exhausting and exciting, inspiring and invigorating, and really, without descending too far into hyperbole, life-changing.

Each year since then I have made the pilgrimage to the Swolphin in January. And each year I have depleted my physical batteries enthusiastically, but recharged my professional and personal ones immeasurably.

It wasn’t long before Matt White, Mark Myers, Ben Poole and I had joined forces as London Developer Coop. We’ve had huge fun producing our giveaways: years of 6 or more different shirt designs per conference (“Back in Blue” being my personal favourite), and then the crowning glory of the infamous Conference Survival Kit – all credit to Mark for dreaming up that one. We dropped the lengthy name in favour of just “LDC”, and then in 2015 arrived as LDC Via with our new product and brand. Life and technology move on.

Eight years of my life have been waymarked by Lotuspheres. One year I came a few months after the birth of my twins, the next year shortly after my mother’s death, and a year later just days after my father’s death. Lotusphere and my friends there have been instrumental in getting me through those emotionally-crippling times. I’ve continued to make new friendships: Carl Tyler, Krupa Patel, Rob Novak, Julian Robichaux, Alan Lepofsky, Sandra Bühler, Jamie Magee, Darren and Lisa Duke, Susan Bulloch, Mat Newman, Tony Holder, Roy Holder, Abigail Roberts, HP Dalen, Theo Heselmans, Amanda Bauman, Ray Bilyk, and many others*. I miss you all.

I was going to include some thoughts on this year’s conference, and the future, but this post is long enough already, so I’ll do that in a second post. Suffice it to say, it was a Surprisingly Good Conference. And now, back to the nostalgia: some personal highlights down the years have included:

  • Gurupalooza
  • Kimonos, with shouts of “sake!”
  • Stealing umpteen raincoats from Animal Kingdom, then having no use for them
  • Neil Armstrong
  • Most of the closing session speakers (except the eating-live-creatures guy: that was odd)
  • UK Night(s)
  • Pretzel cookies
  • Creating the #pretzelcookiegate hashtag
  • Lots of learning, especially sessions by Andrew Pollack, Gab Davis, my colleagues Matt White and Mark Myers, and Rob Novak
  • Worst Practices
  • My year as Penumbra Group president
  • SpankyBeers
  • Mat Newman hugs
  • Skipping the park party for dinner with Eileen Fitzgerald, Matt White and others.
  • The Penumbra alcoholic milkshakes (the bacon and maple one – oh boy!)
  • Catherine Emert’s cookies and pastries
  • The Great Geek Challenge
  • Some of our LDC giveaways especially the survival tins
  • Compiling the 2015 crossword
  • Project Drunken Leprechaun
  • John Roling and Rob McDonagh (more recently Ray Bilyk) singing “If I had a million dollars”
  • Amanda Bauman singing “You shook me all night long”
  • Marmalade vodka
  • The traditional Dolphin Rotunda final-night die-hards drinking session
  • and – of course – my traditional post-conference pre-flight frozen margarita.

* With apologies to anybody I’ve missed: I’m writing this while watching the Australian Open so my attention is not undivided.

Thoughts on not trying to nail jelly to the wall

For a number of years now I’ve been a keen user of some of Ytria‘s tools. If you’re a Notes/Domino developer you’re probably already familiar with some of them: ScanEZ is the best known, and particularly for Notes client development (yes, I still do a fair bit of that) some of the others like ViewEZ are indispensable.

However, a couple of weeks ago I had the occasion to explore further. The scenario was this: a large suite of databases, thousands of them in fact, was being consolidated from a global network into a reduced number of servers. As part of this process, the server on which most (not all) of the scheduled agents run needed to be changed, some agents enabled, and some others disabled. “Easy“, you might say, “just go into the agent properties and change the server it runs on and do your disabling/enabling“. Not so fast, sunshine! I knew that there were multiple databases containing scheduled agents, and quite a few in each. It would take a long time to do by hand, and I would be bound to lose attention and make a mistake, because, well, I’m human (honestly). Enter AgentEZ!

Using AgentEZ I was able to quickly select all of the agent-containing databases, and get it to scan them for scheduled agents. 30 databases scanned, and 451 scheduled agents found. Four hundred and fifty one! Then I was able to select them in groups, search for them by name, filter them by whether or not they’re currently enabled, etc etc. And, then, change the run-on server, and do my enabling and disabling in bulk. AgentEZ even lets you then save the selection of databases as an XML file, and reload it later.

The five minutes I spent learning my way around ScanEZ’s interface were repaid many times over. No only was I able to make all the changes I needed in minutes, rather than hours, I was also as sure as possible that it was all done right, every agent that should be running was running, every agent that should no longer be running had been disabled, and they were all running on the correct servers.

Not a tool you’re necessarily going to need every day. But when it does fit the bill, worth its weight in gold.*

 

 

 

* Metaphorically, of course. Software generally doesn’t weigh very much at all. Except WebSphere, of course.

I owe you an explanation

I realise that we at LDC have piqued some interest with our initial LDC Via blog post, but not really told you anything about it. So over on the blog today is our Why oh why oh why post, which is our attempt – I hope successful – to begin to explain the thinking behind the product, and how might fit into the ‘Notes and Domino’ landscape. Give it a read, and let me know whether it’s enlightening or baffling :-)

Roll up, roll up, get your lovely new cloud database here!

We at LDC are very proud today to announce our new venture: LDC Via.

LDC Via is a new tool, designed to permit you to easily move existing Notes and Domino data to a modern scalable cloud-based platform, while retaining full document-centric Domino “readers and authors” security.

Visit the website, blog, Facebook page or our Twitter stream for more information.

London is the only place to be on 21st March

In case you’d not picked up on it, the good folks at Turtle, and we of London Developer Co-op, are running a new type of event in central London next Friday 21st March.

Its called the Collaboration Stack Community Event. We have a wide range of speakers, many of international standing, who will be giving short insights into a given topic. However, this is not an event that’s about being lectured to from the front of the room. Instead it’s designed to be much more interactive. All sessions will have time set aside for discussion. Some sessions will be entirely about discussion (albeit with some moderation and leading). And there will be plenty of opportunities to talk with the speakers and each other informally outside the session times.

For both practical reasons (size of venue, new format) and financial reasons (we are footing the bill ourselves – no registration fees, sponsors, product pitches or exhibition space) we’re limiting the numbers on this occasion. And the good news is that it’s filling up fast – we’re over 80% booked up.

Some links for you, if you want to register or find out more:
CSCEvent site
Agenda page
Registration link

Did I mention that this is a free event? :-)

Hope to see you there.

PS If you’ve registered but you’re not going to be able to make it, please let us know so that
[a] we can free up your space for somebody else and
[b] we don’t hate you ;-)

 

Dear IBM, it’s not a zero-sum game (my Connect conference round-up)

On my way to Orlando, I drafted a blog post about what my expectations were for the conference. And then never posted it. So here, instead, is my post-conference round-up in all its glory.

The Good

      The Opening General Session was the slickest I have ever known. Having it hosted by Jay Baer gave it a flow that it had been lacking for a good few years, and he was a massive improvement over the disembodied voice of god we’ve previously had linking the different segments of the sessions. The guest speaker, despite being not known outside the US, was very good.
      Personally, this event was more serious and business-like than the last few. Less late-night revelling than previous years, and more conversations and meetings. Which is good in pretty much every way.
      Seeing friends. More than anything else, even more than the business side, this conference for me is about reconnecting with friends, and making new ones. You know who you are, but shouts out to a few people without whom IBM Connect wouldn’t be Lotusphere: Gab and Tim Davis, Devin Olson, John Roling, Mat Newman, Colleen Burns, Julian Robichaux, Jon and Justin and Catherine from Prominic, Carl Tyler, Andrew Pollack, Sandra Bühler and many, many more.
      I didn’t go to as many sessions as I sometimes have in previous years. But what I did go to was excellent: Mark Roden on ExtJS, Paul Mooney on Ethical Hacking, and Mark Myers and Julian Robichaux on Practical Java being three that especially stood out for me.
      SpankyBeers. One of the funniest evenings I’ve had for a very long time. Devin you are a legend.
      The surprise appearance of Warren Elsmore and Kitty in their capacity as Lego wizards.
      The Penumbra Group activities. Not least the Ice Cream social, where the Mexican Ambassador was to be found, although on the night the best milkshake of all was the one based on JD and coke. Just wow. But beyond that, the Penumbra Dinner on the Saturday was great, and Niklas Heidloff was a truly deserving winner of the Prism Award. And seeing and talking with my colleagues in the group is always more valuable to me than I can describe: they are outstanding people.
      Craig Hayman did a great job in his first public appearance as new “Lotus” head honcho. He has yellow credentials, and his choice of yellow shoes in the OGS was a miniature master stroke.

The Bad

      The OGS content. I realise they’re preaching to the pointy-haired bosses and the press, but IBM need also to take note of the fact that half of the audience (probably a lot more than half) are detail-orientated, and without at least some details the OGS comes across as being content-free.
      Notes/Domino content in the OGS: there really wasn’t any. Or, rather, what there was is mainly either a long way off or they forgot to mention the technology.
      Some of my friends who were missing: Bruce and Gayle, Tom Duff, and Rob McDonagh, and others. And of course fellow London Developer Co-op colleague Ben Poole.
      The session scheduling was dreadful. Far too many clashing sessions splitting the audience. They would be better to outsource this to people in the community who actually have a feel for – and care for – the content. As a result of this poor planning a lot of sessions were more sparsely attended than they could/should have been.

In

      They left the Dolphin rotunda piano unlocked for the first time ever. Somewhere on YouTube the is evidence, captured by Volker, of my late night musical improvised wibblings. For me it’s basically therapy, but nobody slammed the lid on my fingers so I guess I did okay. And thanks to Rob Novak for repeatedly intervening at the bottom end of the keyboard and dragging me back into G when I was trying to escape into another key. That’s probably a metaphor for something: you decide. ;-)
      Sleep: I had some.
      Staying off site for the first time since 1999. This may have influenced the sleep thing.

Out

      Kimonos: it wasn’t the hub of all social activity the way it has been the previous few years. Things change.
      I finished my term as president of the Penumbra Group. Lisa, Theo and Nigel will, I am sure, do a great job.
      Late night spirits-consumption in the Dolphin Rotunda. Not even once, this year. That’s probably for the best. Very few good things start with “which neat room-temperature drink would you like: vodka or bourbon?”

The Future

      IBM announced that the conference will be same time, same place, next year. The question on everybody’s mind, at least everybody coming from the Lotus products background, is how much the content of the conference will change. Will I be there? If it’s recognisably “Lotusphere” then yes. We will see.
      Connections. The future is IBM Connections.
      2014, and IBM Connect 2015, should be more interesting for us die-hard Notes&Domino lovers than this year was. Project Hawthorne and Mail Next will be a lot closer to reality by then. Even if the OGS skimps on them, expect a lot of news and far more product feature/release/beta announcements than we got this year. Also by then the Softlayer hosting stuff should be out the and real. The clincher for IBM is going to be what they can achieve with licensing to better support a payforwhatyouuse model e.g. per-user-per-month costs. In the meantime, if that’s your need you should speak to Prominic who already have a good story to tell in this area.

So, all in all, a good Lotusphere. For too long IBM has been ignoring Notes&Domino in favour of inserthotnewtechnologyhere. I rather hope that with Craig Hayman‘s arrival we might see more focus on the core products, and an awareness that this is not a zero-sum game. Watch this space.