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My participation was limited this year. I did get to see the Opening General Session, and to spend time on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday talking with many of my favorite IBM developers and product managers. My limited participation was simply because I had chosen not to submit a presentation proposal – and for me, sitting in sessions has never been a priority so I’ve opted to spend my travel budget on “Engage” and some of the other “LUGs” this year. That said, here are some things that struck me in the time I was there…
Right away I noticed how many people are arriving much earlier. That may have been true last year, when I was absent, but to me it was new. Back when I was still creating the C.U.L.T. shirts, I always arrived on Thursday so that I could send the day on Friday getting the truck, picking up the shirts, and distributing them to the sponsors. I distinctly remember how empty the place felt until mid-day on Saturday. This year, when I was on site even on Friday afternoon there were lots of long time community members already hanging out and having a good time. By Saturday afternoon you guys were everywhere. I think this is a reflection on how much the conference has become far more important a social gathering than a technical resource.
The question I heard over and over from the best of the developers and product people was simply “what do you need from us?”
I talked to a lot of the developers I’ve known for years, and the product people behind some of my favorite new features and I’m constantly amazed how much in sync with the community the good ones are. In particular, the Domino Server team, and the Traveler team deserve accolades for continuing to produce amazing updates focused directly on what we really need down in the trenches. While some of the executive decisions seem to be focused on an ever changing, pie in the sky, analyst driven set of goals; the developers on the core product teams still understand what we need.
The Opening Session
Finally, after all these years, someone woke up and realized that hiring a professional to do the hosting and “Master of Ceremonies” works better than taking an executive and tossing them into a role they aren’t trained for. As a result, the show’s pace was good and things went smoothly. There weren’t any places where I was tempted to gnaw off my arm to get out. That said, if you’re going to use a made up company to show how your stuff works, don’t then finish by quoting made up success percentages for that made up company. It prompted my tweet that “my made up company did so well that we had an IPO and all the investors got unicorns” (or something like that).
The Product Direction
You know where I stand on this already. The Domino server continues to be the most powerful single piece of server software for developing applications I’ve ever used in the I.T. industry. The Client continues to suffer from the bloat of failed attempts to turn the whole thing into a J2EE based portal tool under one banner or another, while not getting the fixes and updates it would need to be a true powerhouse on the market again. Even as customers are increasingly disappointed with the Outlook and Exchange combination, IBM is simply not interested in the opportunity. The exception, of course, is Mat Newman who joined IBM with a mission, and has been rolling out new seats as fast as any ten people I’ve ever met. When we had a few minutes to talk, Mat asked me about my reasons for moving Second Signal away from the Domino Server. When I described what I was doing, he asked me what he could do to make the problems I faced with Domino in that space go away. When I expressed doubt that there was something he could do, Mat pointed to his name tag and it's IBM moniker (we were at an event), and repeated "What Can I Do?". If more IBM people in customer facing roles had that attitude (as much of the development team still does), there would be no insurmountable problems.
The message on Connections to partners continues to be one of constantly pushing for features that will “increase utilization”. Thanks to the availability of virtual servers that has made rolling out trial platforms relatively inexpensive, and the entitlement licensing, there are plenty of licenses out there for IBM to point to. With some notable exceptions, however, users are just not using it as much as IBM would like. That’s clearly the driver behind moving mail into Connections.
Mail in Connections
People use mail. People want their mail to be better and faster with less drag. People do not care what the back end server is. IBM has told us that mail is coming to Connections and the back end will be Domino – at least at first. The challenge for IBM will be to keep it fast and light, with just enough features in it to make it useful without bogging it down by trying to solve every problem for every one of its largest customers. The model for mail in Connections should be Traveler, not iNotes. That’s just my opinion.
Domino Served Outlook
There are so many places where this kind of work is being done. Traveler connects to Domino using a Microsoft defined standard called EAS. The Outlook plug-in that talks to Domino won’t (according to most sources) use that method UPDATE: Several people say they're sure it IS based on EAS. We'll wait and see - I have no inside info on that...., but rather will be a more direct connection. At the same time, Microsoft is providing a mail, calendar, and contact client set that looks a lot like Traveler on Android with their new Windows 8.1 “Modern” interface. I’ve been doing some work and am very close to making that work as a Traveler client. The days of IMAP and POP3 are pretty much over. Let’s hope this new combination of approaches works and we see more Domino servers out there.
Some People You Should Thank
Gabriella, Tim, and Mike at the Turtle Partnership have done a massive amount of work behind the scenes on things that made your Connect 2014 better. Gab is also one of the driving forces behind the Nerd Girls, along with Kathy, Francie, Susan, Femke, Maureen, and others that I’m very sorry to be leaving out. You should find and thank these people, even if you don’t realize how much better your week was thanks to their efforts both official and unofficial.
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