lotusphere2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Wookie

Although there weren’t many product announcements to speak of this year at #ls11, nonetheless it was a good Lotusphere. It was big, and had a buzz, not least because what we DID see this year was some key offerings (Connections, xpages) reach new levels of maturity. So …

The Good:
– Kevin Spacey: best choice of opening speaker since Neil Armstrong
– Irene Greif speaking in the Wednesday mini-keynote
– Eric Brown speaking at the closing session
– IBM grasping the nettle and downplaying the Lotus branding in favour of IBM
– The popularity of our LDC t-shirts : already planning for next year’s :-)
– xpages, xpages, xpages – the year it came of age
– Great sessions from Matt, Tim, Bruce, Kathy, David Leedy, Paul Withers, Scott and Newbs, and others
– All the Penumbra events: meeting, dinner and ice cream “Tuesdae”
– Seeing some of my favourite people who I only get to meet once or twice a year
– The Lotusphere WiFi which worked infinitely better than previous years: well done for fixing that!

The Bad:
– The Opening General Session other than Kevin Spacey: truly abysmal
– The coffee: over-stewed and bitter. (I was saved by the coffee machine in my room)
– The mandatory $10 resort fee: in the EU it would be illegal to add that without an opt-out, and the hotel wifi was very sucky, although the wired in-room was just about bearable.
– Feijoa-flavoured 42 Below vodka. Do yourself a favour and use it to clean the toilet with.
– One particular session that shall remain nameless – the worst speaking pair I’ve ever seen that didn’t both work for IBM. Unfortunately I was close to the front and too reserved and British to just walk out.
– Wearing out a pair of shoes with All That Walking

The Wookie (aka Mark Myers aka @stickfight)
Along with Mat Newman, this was Mark’s year!
– he masterminded the LDC t-shirts with Ben Poole
– he commissioned the wonderful “It’s a small Lotus world” artwork which raised $3500 for charity
– he won the Lotusphere Idol against stiff competition
– he gave an excellent Idol presentation
– he made up for Wednesday’s evil toilet-cleaner vodka by contributing a superb bottle for Thursday evening’s late-night imbibing
– he is The Wookie
– he will probably rip my arm off and hit me with the soggy end for this ;-)

Lotusphere 2011 #ls11 Wednesday and Thursday

Wednesday is the last full day of the conference, and normally the day on which I visit the labs I haven’t yet been to, hassle the developers in the developer labs about my favourite bugs/features/wishes/etc, and generally start to relax a little.

Session-wise Wednesday started with the mini-keynote on Social Business, which was interesting. Even the panel discussion was better than the OGS one. Clearly IBM has a lot of execution to get through over the next couple of years in order to deliver on the vision they’re setting, but it’s good to see them reclaiming a leadership role in this space. Call it “groupware”, or “collaboration”, or “social” – it’s stuff that the Lotus world is uniquely well-poised to enact, because we’ve been “getting” this stuff for 20 years (okay, 18 in my case). Whether the “social” thing will be as transformative and long-lasting as “groupware” was in the 1990s, or whether it will wither on the vine in the manner that the somewhat over-ambitious “knowledge management” thing did 10 years ago, remains to be seen. Clearly there is some hefty software engineering to be done … we can only hope that the world hasn’t changed too much by the time that’s producing real product: IBM may be more agile than it was, but it’s up against not just the future next big thing, but also OpenSource initiatives like Joomla. In the enterprise space, though, I think IBM has a winning strategy here.

My next port of call was Kathy Brown’s BP208 session on the wonders of the @formula language. If you’re developing ‘classic’ Notes client applications, or xpages applications using SSJS, I heartily recommend this session if it’s on next year. If you think you know everything there is to know about @formula language, you’re probably wrong :-)

Another session on Wednesday was Nathan Freeman and Phillipe Riand talking about strategies for moving Notes applications to xpages. At least, that’s what it was billed as, although in fact for the most part it was more of an introduction to xpages applications development architecture for ‘classic’ Notes developers. It was good content, but perhaps would be more effective if expanded into a jumpstart session next year: there are plenty of long-time Notes application developers out there who would benefit enormously from that, and I’m sure there still will be at Lotusphere 2012 #ls12.

Wednesday evening is of course the party-in-a-park. Every year I go, and wonder why (I don’t really do rides), so this year was pleased to have the opportunity of dinner in Il Mulino instead. Followed, of course, by Kimono’s and the now-traditional late night gathering in the Dolphin rotunda for the consumption of spirits. Thank you to my London Developer Coop colleague Mark Myers for supplying the (very strange-tasting) vodka while he himself caught up on beauty sleep ahead of his Lotusphere Idol winning presentation on Thursday morning …..

And so to Thursday. The scheduling of the Lotusphere Idol winning session against Gurupalooza was unfortunate, both because it meant a relatively small audience for former, and because many of those on stage for the latter would probably have liked to have been in the audience to support Mark. Hopefully that will get fixed next year. Mark gave a really good presentation, however, talking about what it’s like to develop applications off the Domino platform, and have to live without such wonders as the Agent Manager and document-level readers/authors security: things that we take for granted too often, and that really are a HUGE differentiator for Domino as a development platform.

After that was the new “Ask the product managers” session. This was a good idea, and a brave one, and by and large was pretty successful. I hope it will become a regular fixture of Lotusphere Thursdays. Perhaps it would be improved by having Alistair Rennie and Sandy Carter (or whoever fills their shoes next year) available in the front rows to field the difficult questions that transcend product management. It seems an inevitability that some topics will come up again next year, because they are massively important to the business partner and customer communities, and it would be good to get proper answers.

Thereafter we’re on the home stretch. “Ask the developers”, unfortunately without the hosting skills of Brent Peters this year although his replacement (sorry his name escapes me at time of writing) did a fine job. And then the closing session, focused on the IBM Watson project. This is a truly stunning piece of software- and hardware-engineering. I think it’s been amply described elsewhere, not least on Julian Robichaux’s blog – well worth catching up on. Eric Brown introduced it, speaking for 15 or 20 minutes without any form of teleprompt or notes. Engaging, entertaining, and clearly totally in command of the material. If only there were speakers of his calibre in the OGS! Then the game of Jeopardy, pitting IBM Watson against some “meat bag” contestants. One note to IBM: you made this mistake with Bob Costas a few years ago… don’t assume that just because something/somebody is well-known within the US it will be well-known outside. Most non-Americans I spoke to were not familiar with Jeopardy (including me although I knew there was a TV quiz show of that name), nor with the host. If you’re going to base something on American popular culture, please give a proper introduction to it/them before launching straight in. Other than that, though, although this was different from former closing sessions, it was still highly impressive and enjoyable, and a fitting end to Lotusphere.

In the early evening I went with a crowd of reprobates and rabble-rousers (aka bloggers) for a round of mini-golf, in which our team did pretty well despite Mark Myers’ best attempts to blast the ball into next week. Then a delightful dinner with Bruce and Gayle (and others) before another round of Kimono’s and a late night.

Lotusphere 2011 Monday and Tuesday roundup

I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow account of every session I’ve been to. But…

Let’s start with the Opening General Session. This is the once-a-year-only opportunity for IBM to excite its most loyal customers and partners, who have invested a LOT of time and money to come to this event, to get them excited about the future, and to inspire them to achieve great things over the next 12 months.

This year IBM also had the opportunity to reach out to 500 college students and show them what it means to be involved with IBM software.

So why for ****’s sake did they decide to do what they did? What was shown to us was not an inspiring, exciting, invigorating, thrilling festival of the greatness of IBM-Lotus software. Instead, we had interminable panel discussions with people with the stage presence of a dead gnat (they didn’t get to where they are by having stage presence, to be fair). The poor students probably went away with any prejudices they may have had about IBM being all about white middle-aged men in suits comprehensively reinforced. What a missed opportunity there!

Dear IBM: there are, say, 6000 people in that room, plus another 1200 or so watching the online stream, and 90% of them (actually probably more) want to SEE STUFF, to be ENERGISED, to get SPECIFIC information they can USE over the next 12 months. So why did you aim the entire session at the other 10%? And, by the way, whoever decided that there should be not one but TWO customer panel discussions before anything interesting was shown should lose their job. Seriously. They are Not Competent. You read the Twitter stream. You know how bad it was. Please do it better – incomparably better – next year.

Moving on … by and large for the rest of the time session-wise I’ve been concentrating on xpages learning. I went to Matt White and Tim Clark’s jumpstart session “xpages 101″. Mostly it was the similar content to last year – which was great – and what was clear is how much the xpages platform and tools have progressed in the last 12 months: not just feature-wise, but more importantly in terms of all-round quality. Fantastic session. Sessions by David Leedy, Paul Withers, Steve Castledine, Niklas Heidloff et al were all excellent and informative. Another session which was not xpages, but then again was, was the “apps, apps, apps” OpenNTF session hosted by Bruce Elgort. OpenNTF has definitely moved on a lot since its re-visioning a couple of years back, and if you’re a Lotus developer you owe it to yourself to go there, download things, and seriously think about how you can contribute your knowledge and experience back to the community. And if you think I’m preaching to myself there… well, yes, I am.

Talking of “Lotus”. Precious little of that word being spoken by IBM speakers this year, and even less in print. It will be a sad loss if that brand goes, but perhaps IBM has realised how much (largely undeserved) negative energy there is around that word outside our cosy ‘yellow bubble’, and is thinking the unthinkable. Watch this space, I suppose.

The other session I want to shout out is Stephan Wissel’s “JavaScript for LotusScript Developers” session. This would make a great Sunday jumpstart next year, I think.

Of course, there has also been the social (small s) side of Lotusphere. UK Night on Monday was extremely popular, and the raffle for artwork raised about $3500 for children’s cancer charity – a great response, and thank you to everybody who bought tickets for that. Our London Developer Coop t-shirts have been very popular, so watch out for them next year (we don’t do many so you have to ask nicely or come to an LDC speaker session to get one). Mai Tai cocktails courtesy of Joe Litton, with Bill Malchisky’s bar-tending, were splendid. Kimono’s was, well, Kimono’s. And that was just Monday :-) Tuesday saw the Penumbra Group “Ice Cream Tuesdae Social” which was bigger and better than last year. The strawberry marguerita milkshake is a wonderful invention. And then the Great Geek Challenge was great fun and full of laughs. And another drink discovery: Sake Sangria – oh boy. And the evening rounded off with Devine Olsen’s fabulous beers, and an early (well, 1am or so) night.

So now Wednesday beckons, and I turn my attention to the “Future of Social Business” keynote…

Lotusphere 2011 Monday and Tuesday roundup

I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow account of every session I’ve been to. But…

Let’s start with the Opening General Session. This is the once-a-year-only opportunity for IBM to excite its most loyal customers and partners, who have invested a LOT of time and money to come to this event, to get them excited about the future, and to inspire them to achieve great things over the next 12 months.

This year IBM also had the opportunity to reach out to 500 college students and show them what it means to be involved with IBM software.

So why for ****’s sake did they decide to do what they did? What was shown to us was not an inspiring, exciting, invigorating, thrilling festival of the greatness of IBM-Lotus software. Instead, we had interminable panel discussions with people with the stage presence of a dead gnat (they didn’t get to where they are by having stage presence, to be fair). The poor students probably went away with any prejudices they may have had about IBM being all about white middle-aged men in suits comprehensively reinforced. What a missed opportunity there!

Dear IBM: there are, say, 6000 people in that room, plus another 1200 or so watching the online stream, and 90% of them (actually probably more) want to SEE STUFF, to be ENERGISED, to get SPECIFIC information they can USE over the next 12 months. So why did you aim the entire session at the other 10%? And, by the way, whoever decided that there should be not one but TWO customer panel discussions before anything interesting was shown should lose their job. Seriously. They are Not Competent. You read the Twitter stream. You know how bad it was. Please do it better – incomparably better – next year.

Moving on … by and large for the rest of the time session-wise I’ve been concentrating on xpages learning. I went to Matt White and Tim Clark’s jumpstart session “xpages 101″. Mostly it was the similar content to last year – which was great – and what was clear is how much the xpages platform and tools have progressed in the last 12 months: not just feature-wise, but more importantly in terms of all-round quality. Fantastic session. Sessions by David Leedy, Paul Withers, Steve Castledine, Niklas Heidloff et al were all excellent and informative. Another session which was not xpages, but then again was, was the “apps, apps, apps” OpenNTF session hosted by Bruce Elgort. OpenNTF has definitely moved on a lot since its re-visioning a couple of years back, and if you’re a Lotus developer you owe it to yourself to go there, download things, and seriously think about how you can contribute your knowledge and experience back to the community. And if you think I’m preaching to myself there… well, yes, I am.

Talking of “Lotus”. Precious little of that word being spoken by IBM speakers this year, and even less in print. It will be a sad loss if that brand goes, but perhaps IBM has realised how much (largely undeserved) negative energy there is around that word outside our cosy ‘yellow bubble’, and is thinking the unthinkable. Watch this space, I suppose.

The other session I want to shout out is Stephan Wissel’s “JavaScript for LotusScript Developers” session. This would make a great Sunday jumpstart next year, I think.

Of course, there has also been the social (small s) side of Lotusphere. UK Night on Monday was extremely popular, and the raffle for artwork raised about $3500 for children’s cancer charity – a great response, and thank you to everybody who bought tickets for that. Our London Developer Coop t-shirts have been very popular, so watch out for them next year (we don’t do many so you have to ask nicely or come to an LDC speaker session to get one). Mai Tai cocktails courtesy of Joe Litton, with Bill Malchisky’s bar-tending, were splendid. Kimono’s was, well, Kimono’s. And that was just Monday :-) Tuesday saw the Penumbra Group “Ice Cream Tuesdae Social” which was bigger and better than last year. The strawberry marguerita milkshake is a wonderful invention. And then the Great Geek Challenge was great fun and full of laughs. And another drink discovery: Sake Sangria – oh boy. And the evening rounded off with Devine Olson’s fabulous beers, and an early (well, 1am or so) night.

So now Wednesday beckons, and I turn my attention to the “Future of Social Business” keynote…

Lotusphere Sun day

What a beautiful day here today. After the morning mist burnt off, it has been warm, sunny, and rather delightful.

Of course, I’ve had to spend most of it indoors, at a number of #ls11 sessions:

- BD Day Opening general session
It was, um, okay. In days of yore Lotus used to pre-announce some of the main OGS announcements to this audience. For the main part, this seems to have stopped, understandably in this age of twitchy twitter fingers. There are a few things coming up tomorrow, clearly, but the big announcements (assuming there are some) will be as much a surprise to the Business Partners as to the other attendees.

- JMP302: HTML and CSS: Scott Good and Henry Newberry
Somehow I’ve never seen them present before. This was a from-basics session about, obviously, HTML and CSS. Sometimes it’s good to revisit the basics, and there were some useful titbits of information, as well as some explanations for things I do but don’t know why they work, so definitely worth attending.

- BDD403: Connections APIs
I’ve not done much with Connections, but it seems clear that Connections is going to be the first product to be Vulcanised, and that the best place to start practising the skills one will need to use when ‘Project Vulcan’ becomes a reality (whatever it’s called by then) is Connections. This was a useful session, although I left early because I also wanted to catch part of …

- BDD303: Making money with LotusLive
Okay, it wasn’t called that, but that was what it was really about.
Sean Poulley did a good job of outlining IBM’s view of the market and the positioning of LotusLive. And then Beverly DeWitt outlined more of the nitty-gritty details of what IBM is putting in place to help business partners get on board the LotusLive project and see profits from it. This still feels like a work in progress, but it’s good to see them try to address some of the concerns that partners have had around LL.

Later I tried to go to the later part of Scott & Henry’s JSON jumpstart. That’s a lesson: don’t expect to arrive after an hour of jumpstart has already happened and just pick it up from there. Silly boy.

Now there’s some hanging around in the Dolphin rotunda to be done, before the beach party. At least this year we won’t be able to see our breath in the air while we party outdoors :-)

The day before the day before the first day

Is Sunday now the first day of Lotusphere, or is it Monday because that’s when the OGS is?

Anyway, that aside, yesterday was pretty good.

Started with breakfast in ‘Fresh’, in the Dolphin hotel. Not a bad breakfast at all – if I can possibly drag myself out of bed in time to squeeze in some breakfast each day, I’ll be going there. That doesn’t include today, of course – am running late for the Business Partner OGS now :-(

Then the Penumbra Group meeting, from 8 until midday-ish. It’s always a joy and privilege to sit around the table with the Penumbrites and hear what they’ve been doing, how they’re finding business going, what their take is on the latest and greatest (and gratest) in all things IBM/Lotus/whatever. Interesting, informative, and fun.

Then, after a brief pause in my room, and a chance to phone (=Skype, of course) home, I popped over to the Big River Brewery for the B.A.L.D. get-together. Some old faces missing this year, but some new ones taking their place, and a very enjoyable 2.5 hours or so flew past.

The evening was the annual Penumbra dinner. As always, nice to get off site for a few hours, and good to get the chance to socialise with some of the IBMers before their schedule really kicks in tomorrow. This year’s Prism Award went to AndrĂ© Guirard, and well-deserved it is too.

Finally, back to ESPN for a night-cap or three before turning in to grab some sleep before things *really* get going.

It’s been a hellish year so far, so I’m looking forward to turning my focus onto all things IBM/Lotus for a week. The fact that the days are warm and sunny here helps of course….