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* 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.
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