Not waving, but drinking

Actually, we will be waving: waving from afar, that is. Because for the first time in many years – and we’ve racked up 40+ visits between us – none of LDC Via will be at IBM Connect 2017 next week.

However, not to be outdone, we are marking the conference in our own way. Specifically, the first (and possibly only, who knows) IBM Connect Goes To The Pub event.

Important details:

  • In London, upstairs at the Castle pub next to Farringdon tube station
  • On Tuesday 21st from 5:30pm
  • The food and drink are on us (up to a point, but feel free to see if you can push the bar tab that far)
  • Open invitation to anybody in the UK ‘Lotus’ community who wants to come along
  • No sales pitches from us.
  • We will be live-streaming the conference OGS onto a screen.
  • There may or may not be pretzel cookies as well as more, um, ‘traditional’ pub food options.
  • If you’re coming it would help us if you emailed, or signed up.  Please 🙂


Exciting times

It’s been a busy few weeks in LDC Via towers, with more to come.

First, we had the announcement that we have been accepted as a G-Cloud 8 supplier, on our first attempt. That means that LDC Via is available on the UK government’s centralised buying portal for cloud services.

Hot on the heels of that, while Mark Myers was at MWLUG we went public with our strategic partnership with PSC Group for Domino migrations and collaborative application development. There’s more to follow on that, but the session by John Head went down really well.

A week later we announced our new product, KEEP.WORKS.  We then explained a little more about it,  and published an invitation to a private beta test, which starts in a few days. All the slots are taken, but if you are interested in going on a waiting list, or in being the first to know when we go ‘live’, do register here.

Coming up to date now, this week we will be at ICON UK. We are speaking, sponsoring and exhibiting. And, of course, giving lots of demos of KEEP.WORKS and getting your feedback – so do drop in and see us.



Lotusphere is dead, long live Lotusphere!

Concluding my eleventh visit to Orlando in January, sitting at the airport, and time to temporarily blow the cobwebs off this old blog once more and share my thoughts.

It won’t have escaped your attention that 2016 represented a significant change from all previous years. So let’s have a little look at the changes, before stepping back and talking about the conference in general.

  • The venue. For the first time, we were not in the Dolphin/Swan hotels, but in the Hilton Orlando a few miles away. It’s a smaller venue, and more suitable for the size of conference that Lotusphere has become. It took a day or two to settle in – Friday evening was quite muted by comparison with previous years – but it feels like “home” now.
  • The name. Yes, I know it’s not called Lotusphere any more. But it Just Is, okay.
  • The product showcase. In 2013/14 the exhibitors were rattling around in the vast aircraft-hangar sized space in the Dolphin, and it felt empty and quite dispiriting. In 2015, when the conference was squeezed into the Swan only, it was quite the opposite: the showcase was crammed into an inadequate room, and some of the vendors were very difficult to get to (and had little footfall as a result). This year, the space for the showcase was exactly the right size. Big enough to feel big, but small enough to feel full and busy. Every vendor I spoke to said they’d had a really good week – so it won’t be hard to get that space filled again next year (more on that later).
  • Registration. Very much more efficient than previous years. The badge holders, while lacking the handy pockets of yesteryear, were professional and high quality. Again, an improvement on cost-cutting nasty things last year. The softer neck straps were an improvement too.
  • The conference bags. There weren’t any. Not actually a problem – the quality had been suffering in previous years of cost-cutting, anyway, such that a high proportion of them wastefully ended up in hotel and other bins soon after the conference. But it would have been helpful to have been warned – I happened to have a suitable bag (Lotusphere 2007 – one of the best, if somewhat large) with me, but not everybody did.
  • Cost-cutting. Notwithstanding the bag, the worst piece of cost-cutting was the lack of a printed conference agenda. The phone app was fairly good, but in practice nowhere near as useful as a comprehensive printed agenda. There was a “newspaper” format thing, which frankly was a waste of paper (other than being the only place I could find that listed meal and break times).
  • The OGS. I’ll talk more about that, but here confine my comments to the new format with an hour’s break in the middle. The cynical (far be it from me!) might suggest that the need for a break came from the aging bladders of the average Lotusphere attendee. But actually it worked pretty well, gave us a chance to grab a coffee and network a little in the product showcase, and also gave the event time to catch up if the first half overran (which it did, although not by too much).
  • The catering. It seemed like a step up from previous years. Not massively different, but all the food just seemed to be a notch better. To me, anyway.
  • Kimonos. The new venue meant finding new places to hang out. And I think we sorted that out between us fairly quickly. It worked.

Personally, my conference went like this.

  • Friday. A few drinks, and early(ish) to bed.
  • Saturday. Penumbra meeting in the morning. We (LDC Via) hosted “Mai Tai hour” cocktails in our suite in the afternoon. Then the Penumbra dinner in the evening. Always a long day with jet-lag. The dinner also had a new home this year: Seasons52 instead of Fultons. They did a good job, and it was a successful evening.
  • Sunday. A few meetings.
  • Monday. The Opening General Session (OGS). Then a few more meetings.
  • Tuesday. Some more meetings. Seeing a theme here?
  • Wednesday. This was the only day that felt like how I might have spent the equivalent day in previous years. Although starting it with an IHOP breakfast at 5:30am was a new one on me, and very entertaining. Gurupalooza was fun, Ask The Product Managers And Developers was, despite the lack of concrete project announcements, more upbeat than it has been for a few years. And the Closing General Session had some great content (more of that later). Wednesday ended with the “round the world” bar crawl at Epcot – enormous fun, and we ended in ‘England’ in plenty of time for the fireworks.


So, opinions. Let’s start with the OGS. The special guest speaker was fairly terrible, unfortunately. Spewing out clusters of impressive-sounding words at high volume and high speed, but really with nothing to say beyond “look at me, aren’t I clever”. Not my cup of tea at all. But over quickly enough. Then the demo of future software was slick – as it should be as it was all fake – but I found it very confusing. IBM seems to have 45 (I counted them, twice) products in the digital collaboration/content space, but there was no clarity as to where one stops and another takes over, nor what we were seeing in the demos. Clearly IBM has a vision, and an impressive new-found focus on beautiful design. But product naming and positioning still seems to be a challenge.

In years of yore, I would sit in the OGS writing down notes on product releases and features that were coming in the next year, and on products that I should go and see at the IBM labs/stands. Over the last few years it’s become harder and harder to do that, as detail and facts have been pushed out of the OGS agenda in favour of impressionistic demos. Perhaps that’s what IBM’s audience wants. Certainly it seems to be what IBM believes its audience wants. Possibly I’m not the target market for the OGS any more. But I do miss seeing real demos of real released or imminent software, and hearing about proper roadmap with dates and features. Old-fashioned, me, see.

Domino. Well, it was mentioned a handful of times in the OGS. Mostly three “announcements” that were actually re-announcements of things that had been promised in 2014 and 2015. It was then followed by a Lufthansa commercial which lasted 3 times as long. So although the “Domino” word is no longer banned from the mouths of IBMers, it still seems to be a product that’s getting very little attention in terms of features and futures. I don’t recall hearing “Notes” at all in the OGS, but I could be wrong (if it was said it was in passing). Notes – the big fat client everybody loves to hate – does seem to be, if not dead, then heading that way.

From a business perspective, this was the best Lotusphere I’ve ever had. Numerous meetings, almost of all of which were very positive in terms of LDC Via – either new customers, new product features, new market opportunities, or new/strengthened business partnerships. All that busy-ness did prevent me getting to too many sessions, unfortunately, beyond supporting my colleagues Mark Myers and Matt White at theirs.

So let’s wind quickly forward to the Closing General Session. As usual, there was a special guest speaker, Erik Wahl, mainly there to motivate and entertain. He seemed to be very well received, although less so by non-USians who found his presentation style rather hard work. There was definitely good content in there, though. Before that, we had two absolute corkers of treats. The first of these was when Gabriella Davis and Theo Heselmans were presented with Lifetime awards as IBM Champions. And very well deserved. Both are good friends to this community, and always generous with their own time and energy. The second treat was the announcement and introduction of the new General Manager of “IBM Collaboration Solutions”, Inhi Cho Suh. Her short “hello this is me” speech was the most confident, natural, and confidence-inspiring I’ve ever seen a GM do on the Lotusphere stage, and I believe she will Make Shit Happen for this part of the IBM world and the products we all care about. Definitely one to watch. She could just turn out to be the best thing to happen to ‘Lotus’ since Bob Picciano.

You will notice that the above is very positive (well, almost entirely). If you’d asked me about my expectations in the run-up to the event, frankly they were pretty low. But in the end they were exceeded massively. It was a very good conference, by anybody’s standards.

What does the future hold? Well, IBM hasn’t decided. But talking to them on Wednesday evening, I was expressing the same opinion as most people. After a few difficult years, IBM Connect has risen phoenix-like from the ashes of Lotusphere, and become a really good event. To then throw that good work away by merging Connect into a massive conference like InterConnect, where the Lotusphere-relevant content would get drowned and diluted, would be a mistake. But it seems it’s still a risk. Please, IBM, let’s return to the Hilton Orlando in mid/late January in 2017, and give this reinvigorated community the environment it needs in order to thrive. (It needs some actual product releases too, by the way: HOW LONG since Notes/Domino 9.0.1?!)

If you’ve made it this far, I sincerely hope to see you in Orlando in January 2017. And before that at Engage, MWLUG, ICON UK, SNoUG or SUTOL (I’ll get to most of those).

In the meantime, I’ll spend my last few minutes at the airport here reminiscing and being delighted at the number of people I *did* manage to see again this year. A very incomplete list of non-Brits would have to include Mat, Julian, Susan, Mary Beth, Amanda, Carl, Andrew, Libby, John, Graham, Kathy, Joe, and Bill. To name but a few. You know who you are. Love and hugs to all. Cheerio.


There’s a first time for everything

Two firsts, in fact.

Next Tuesday, LDC Via are giving our first webinar. Called “Introducing LDC Via”, it will cover

  • What LDC Via is
  • How you can use it to extend or replace a Notes/Domino infrastructure
  • How to move data out of Domino, but still retain Domino ‘magic sauce’ features like readers/authors fields, rich text, and response hierarchies
  • How to build Domino-style collaborative applications without Domino Designer
  • What’s on the roadmap for LDC Via

Tuesday 12th January, 4pm GMT (11am EST).

And the second “first”? Well, my colleague Matt White, veteran of many webinars, will be doing much of the talking, so you’re in safe hands there. But for the first time I will be co-hosting the webinar. Be nice, throw ePeanuts, ask difficult questions, whatever … but mainly be there – it’s going to be fun* 🙂



* For a given definition of “fun”, of course


IBMLotusConnectOSphereED 2015/2016 thoughts

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


  • 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.


  • 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.


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 🙂