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What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?

By Andrew Pollack on 12/10/2012 at 05:24 PM EST

* Let me first say thanks to those who helped me edit this and take out a few cheap shots...

In one form or another I’ve had a lot of people ask me this question since posting the last couple of blog articles and so on. What it comes down to is what I consider bad faith partnering and behavior that falls well short of what I personally consider honest and ethical. Obviously others will feel differently and would have a wide range of rationalizations for their actions, but I’m talking about my opinion and my own sense of ethics here – those I apply to myself and those I would do business with.

At the heart of the problem is that I disagree with some of the decisions IBM makes about the Notes and Domino platform. This isn’t new. I disagreed when the Sametime team declared their product didn’t need to maintain Domino version parity (that was quite a heated debate, back in 2001) – something they fixed finally almost ten years later. I disagreed vociferously with their plans for Workplace. There have been a great many other such disagreements. Most of those disagreements have been in private forums under NDA, though others have been more public. About 9 months ago, right around the beginning of March, I was very pointed in my remarks about the XPages design tools. I may even have crossed the line with a few twitter comments in my frustration (in fact, I may have called some people a not very nice name on twitter -- I know, right?) – though on the more impersonal statements I still hold the same opinions. Most of the time my feedback has been either well received or ignored. In all the time I’ve been involved with the IBM partner programs, design partner programs, private beta tests, and with IBM employees on the Administration, Development, and “Marketing” teams, I have only ever received what I considered “threatening” feedback twice – and both from the same individual. In the past, when my business was more strongly tied to IBM, a thinly veiled threat to block my participation in the big annual conference had to be taken fairly seriously. Fortunately for me, I am no longer in that position. IBM has lost so much market mindshare with the core products I care about that I've moved my business in new directions and am just not very dependent on them any longer.

Almost immediately following those remarks last winter, I was summarily removed from the Design Partner program. This was done with nothing more than a curt email on a Sunday night within hours of making those remarks. I believe this to have been a purely reactionary move on the part of one individual. Private feedback from those I know in the IBM development teams has been supportive, and many expressed regret and disappointment over this move, as many of them welcomed feedback (even when in disagreement) that wasn’t being influenced by product managers, press requirements, or a need to toe the corporate line. Those IBM people I’ve worked with have always respected that while I may give negative feedback, it was always within the context of the group discussion. In 20 years I have never broken an NDA requirement.

Recently, two things have happened which were to me unacceptable “last straw” events. First, a few weeks ago I got some third-hand feedback that a product manager had been told I was no longer in the Design program due to an “NDA issue”. I passed this feedback along to my favorite IBM executive with the request that this issue be cleared up immediately and was told no such information had been given out. If I could prove otherwise, I would already have filed suit. Last week came the final straw.

I have never believed that I, or anyone else, have any right to expect that their session ideas would be chosen for the show. Every year I submit and hope to present, and like everyone else I wait for the results. For the past dozen or more years I’ve been fortunate, and in return I’ve always provided sessions that earned excellent ratings from the attendees. Information has reached me this year, however, that the selection of sessions was removed from the hands of more than one track manager where I was concerned. Since my information is again third hand and I don’t want to expose anyone to pay back and retribution from someone at a higher rank within the organization there is little more specific I can or will say here other than that the information is from more than one source, and that every source names the same individual as being behind the decision. What burns me up even more, is that I’d had a discussion with this very person during the submission process about including information that wasn’t yet released but would be by the time of the show. This means he answered the question while in all likelihood knowing that it didn’t matter; that I was wasting hours of my time on the submission process, and he didn’t have the honesty, the integrity, or the courage to just say so. Not only was there some kind of black list (I’ve been told others are also in the same position, but I don’t know who or why) but one can be on it without being told. I wonder if that’s really what “Partnering” means to IBM.

In some private email, I’ve been told that there were “other people” who “demanded” these actions, but if that’s the case nobody else seems to know who they are or is willing to say so. To be frank, I don’t believe that to be the case, but what the heck, maybe I’m wrong there. The two most galling statements I received in email were “If you force me to take this public, I will happily do so.” and finally “Best of luck in the future.” -- As if luck had anything at all to do with these things.

So, for those of you who still have businesses which depend on IBM I would strongly suggest you avoid raising the ire of the self appointed comment policemen, and not just at IBM events, but all year round and in all venues. Partnering seems to mean something very different in their case.

You'd think that with all their people writing books on the subject, IBM would figure out that if you want to play in the social world, you can't control the content.


There are  - loading -  comments....

re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By David Bailey on 12/10/2012 at 08:35 PM EST
It's IBM's loss!

I wish you the best.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Adam Osborne on 12/10/2012 at 09:28 PM EST
Wow Andrew, it sounds like you have every reason to be pissed. I think Bill
had a bad ride like this a while back.

I've really enjoyed your presentations over the years and your active input.

I'll keep reading. All the best.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Andrew Pollack on 12/10/2012 at 09:36 PM EST
Thanks, I appreciate the support. For all the good people doing cool things
at IBM, it takes just a few people to forget where they came from to ruin a
good thing.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Bob Balaban on 12/10/2012 at 10:38 PM EST
Andrew (and everyone) -- so sorry to hear that things have degenerated so far.
Inevitable, I suppose, when truth (especially apparently unwelcome truth) gets
deprecated, and the messenger gets trashed.

I was a Lotusphere track manager for several years, both when I worked at IBM
and (kind of unofficially) afterwards as well. I selected your sessions several
times on the JumpStart track, because the goal of myself and all of the track
managers in selecting content for the show has always been to make it the best
possible conference. We spent tons of effort selecting the best topics
presented by the best speakers, so it's not surprising that you (and some
others) were a "regular".

There were several occasions, over the 4 or 5 years that I was a track manager,
when I know for a fact that an IBM executive (not always the same person) would
make a phone call and "suggest" that a specific person should not be "awarded"
a speaking session, for one reason or another. Was it an organized "blacklist"?
I don't know, but it happened. It's not terribly surprising that it should
have, since a) Lotusphere is primarily a marketing event, so spin and message
are important, and b) IBM has (in my experience, both inside and out of the
company) generally viewed speaker slots as a plum, a way to reward partners and
customers who were viewed as helping the side in some way or other.

Do I condone it? No, of course not, I think it's a stupid practice to "punish"
people who have demonstrated serious commitment to the technology and the
company over more than a dozen years, and who have lots of skin in the game for
being critical. ESPECIALLY when they're right most of the time. One could
imagine (and hope for) more constructive and mature responses. Oh well.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Andrew Pollack on 12/10/2012 at 11:20 PM EST
I hear this "primarily a marketing event" all the time, and yet my
understanding is that it's actually a profit center on it's own. Yep,
Lotusphere must make a profit. That's probably why IBM doesn't pay speakers,
doesn't pay their travel, doesn't comp (or even discount) their hotel rooms,
and I hear this year is too cheap to even provide a free conference ticket to
more than one speaker from the same company.

No, the priority isn't providing the best content or taking care of customers
the best way possible. The priority is, as with everything IBM, draining every
possible bit of cash from it.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Paul Mooney on 12/11/2012 at 01:01 AM EST
Andrew, all other things aside, I am *very* doubtful Lotusphere makes money or
even comes close to breaking even. I would guess its where the vast majority
of marketing dollars go.

I do feel for the organisers and track managers though. They kill themselves
to put on a great show with (from what I see) very little resources.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Vitor Pereira on 12/11/2012 at 07:37 AM EST
"is too cheap to even provide a free conference ticket to more than one speaker
from the same company."

Might not be about that Andrew. If you look at sessions and speakers you will
see a few of them where the second speaker is only there to get a free ride.
They don't add any value to the presentation. As a paying attendee I would feel
insulted if they get a free ticket. It would be just like if you'd invited me
to present on security with you.

On the other hand it might just be IBM being cheap.
maybe, maybe notBy Andrew Pollack on 12/11/2012 at 07:52 AM EST
I'd buy that explanation if it were limited to the first speaker of any
presentation -- so if you weren't the primary speaker on a presentation you
might get excluded. This is (so I'm told) per company - so even of each
speaker has their own session, if they're from the same company they'd be
excluded. Maybe IBM will officially clarify at some point.
re: maybe, maybe notBy Vitor Pereira on 12/11/2012 at 09:43 AM EST
Yeah, that's IBM being cheap then. Which is stupid really, if they want to save
money they should be dealing with those second speakers getting a free ride.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Tonja on 12/11/2012 at 04:10 AM EST
Andrew, I'm very sorry to hear this ! I whish IBM had treated you with all
respect.

The reason why my colleagues and I go to Lotusphere/IBM Connect is for the
technical sessions and meet new people (network). We use it for education. I
visited all your security sessions the years I was able to go.
You are a great speaker, easy to approach and give honest answers - also after
the sessions. We will miss you !
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Paul Mooney on 12/11/2012 at 05:02 AM EST
To echo that, two customers of mine have emailed me directly with "wtf"
questions. They all consider you at the head of the security game. All this
is a shame sir.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Andrew Pollack on 12/11/2012 at 05:40 PM EST
Thank you. it is very gratifying to hear. I'm considering doing a recording
of the security presentation and making it available for download at no cost.
It's not the same as in person, but at least the information will be out there.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Chris MIller on 12/12/2012 at 12:55 AM EST
Let's make it a CIYP webcast. I will handle all the recording for you and
stuff. You just do your normal whatever and let me worry about the technology
part
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Andrew Pollack on 12/12/2012 at 10:56 AM EST
We can talk about it, I suppose. I'm pretty sure I'm competent to handle the
tech on something like this though. That won't be the big stumbling block, I
can pretty much guarantee.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Henning Heinz on 12/11/2012 at 05:02 AM EST
You may have all rights to complain but I wonder what you would have written if
you would have been selected as a speaker at Connect2013!?
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Andrew Pollack on 12/11/2012 at 05:39 AM EST
Henning, you have nothing but my word on this -- but I swear to you, that had I
simply not been selected you would not see this post. Having been chosen by
more than one track manager and then rejected after the fact by one vindictive
person is another matter. I had actually told several friends (some of whom
we have in common) that if not selected I would likely not attend. It's the
high handed arrogance and abuse of position that angers me.

I have no doubt that your point will be made by the low level executive in
question, as he will be using that and my angry tweets from last March to
defend his actions. That's already been happening behind the scenes from what
I understand. I'm happy to stand on my record for personal integrity and
honesty in comparison.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Erik Brooks on 12/11/2012 at 12:17 PM EST
Thanks for posting this, Andrew. I've never met you in-person and so my opinion
of you was limited to what I've seen over the past year or so on your blog. I
must admit, my initial impressions were "man, this guy is BITTER about wanting
to stay with his legacy Forms/Views/etc." but it sounds like there is a whole
lot more than that.

I know some great, hard-working, genuinely nice people at IBM but - as they say
- it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch and it sounds like you were
treated very poorly on multiple occasions. Thanks for posting some more
details. I hope things get worked out for you.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Carl on 12/11/2012 at 01:49 PM EST
Are Forms/Views/Etc. legacy now? Should apps using those only be maintained,
no new apps with those techniques?
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Henning Heinz on 12/11/2012 at 03:44 PM EST
Yes, I would say they are legacy now. The old classic Notes application will
run in a sandbox in Internet Explorer or Firefox in the next version of Notes.
This is something new but afaik what you have today won't be significantly
enhanced. For example you will probably never get a better Picklist control.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Henning Heinz on 12/11/2012 at 04:25 PM EST
But of course you can continue what you are doing now. IBM probably is not
removing anything what you have today.
Most Domino customers I am aware of are doing the same. And then we are at the
comment from Erik Brooks.
Simple as that. If customers don't want to invest in IBM XPages you have a
problem (at least in the long run). I have sorted this out for myself (at least
I think so).
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Andrew Pollack on 12/11/2012 at 05:42 PM EST
There is little question that if you're going to code in notes/domino now, you
really need to do it in xpages -- at least for new work. It does solve some
key weaknesses in the platform. I've always said that. It's just a shame that
they had to do it in such a cumbersome, over complicated way by squeezing in an
entirely new and previously rejected platform into the design client.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Jen on 12/11/2012 at 12:18 PM EST
Sigh...I was planning on bringing my new boss to your session this year to make
sure I had the support to implement what needs to be done in our environment.
How sad. I know that you did these presentations, not for IBM, not for
yourself, but to give to the community, and now I feel cheated and frustrated.
You and the other BPs that give great presentations ARE the reason to attend
Lotusphere/Connect. Who needs a marketing pitch, we already have the d#@!
products and what we NEED in these conferences are people like yourself helping
us to support them. =(
I will say thanks for the efforts you put forth previously on behalf of the
community, its acually us that lose.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Andrew Pollack on 12/11/2012 at 05:43 PM EST
Thank you, Jen -

If I were to do an audio slides recording of that security session and post
it online, would it be of value?
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Lars Berntrop-Bos on 12/11/2012 at 05:32 PM EST
What a shame Andrew. How I despise these political games. His head on a platter
and a session with complimentary travel and accommodation for you I say. I know
of the IBM code of conduct. In my mind, this behaviour (not of you but your
adversary) is not compatible with that code. The fact that IBM condones this
(evidenced by his continued employment by IBM) greatly devalues this code.
Sad, I hate to see integrity go out the window like that.

I wish you all the best.
re: What has me so disgusted and disappointed with IBM these days?By Andrew Pollack on 12/11/2012 at 05:49 PM EST
I have to say, as angry as I am that I'd love to see the head-on-platter thing
happen, though it surely will not. More realistically, I'd like to see a
formal, published apology that included full acknowledgement and personal
ownership of what was done and why it was wrong, and a list of those also
similarly affected. I think the likelihood of such a thing is astonishingly
small, however. As to a speaking slot, I would not accept one now even if
offered at this point.
Your sessions have been invaluable, your observations significantBy John D on 12/17/2012 at 01:57 PM EST
Andrew, I've enjoyed attending your sessions over the years, at Lotusphere and
Advisor events. I've enjoyed tipping a pint together with you, Gabriela, Tim
and others in Las Vegas, where your sharing of information continued in a
generous and -- dare I say it -- "collaborative" way.

Aside from the vast troves of knowledge you shared so willingly with us, you
also illustrated a technology-agnostic approach that reflected real-world
environments, with integration being a core requirement for success.

I am sorry to hear of your issues with a few of the IBM powers. I've seen
something similar with another outstanding Lotusphere speaker and it pains me
to see history repeat itself.

Your observations and opinions are far more important than IBM recognizes.

In my own environment, we are being driven to eliminate all of our Notes apps
in favor of an "all Microsoft all the time" approach. I have been fighting to
migrate the apps away from the client towards an XPages approach, but I confess
that the story of your trials has triggered a reassessment. I'm not sure I'm
willing to tilt at windmills much longer.

Instead, I look forward to learning from you about other technologies.

Should you decide to adopt the .NET stack, I'm especially interested in your
take on Security, especially on how to accomplish Readers/Authors-like
capabilities, as well as application development management (dev, test,
production environment management and all the rest).

Thank you for your years of service to the IBM customer community. We have
learned much from your many great sessions, and been enriched by your frank and
open observations, both good and bad, about the Notes world.

All the best, and keep on writing.

John


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