Not a residency for not writing a Redbook, instead writing not a Wiki

by Volker Weber

As we have discussed numerous times, Lotus unlike the rest of IBM has stopped working on Redbooks. Since Redbooks are excellent documentation, written by experts from the field, people were, shall I say, disappointed.

At Lotusphere Lotus made in perfectly clear, that Redbooks are not coming back. Instead, Lotus wants to publish this information online. Shorter publishing cycles, better updates, ...

Good news: IBM has the first residency for this new way of publishing. However, it changes more than just the publishing media.

Lotus Redbooks were written by getting people to Boston, and having them work on the book for four to six weeks. You had access to experts, servers, and other stuff you needed to get your work done. Lotus paid for travel expenses, but not for your work.

Under the new rules Lotus has created something they call "remote residency". Which means you are not travelling but instead working from home. What you are writing will not be published as a book but instead as something IBM calls a Wiki, without any Wiki features so far.

The new rules will save IBM the travel expenses they had to pay before. Authors don't have to travel, but will miss the opportunities to work in a different environment. They are still working for free, so IBM plans to make their contributions recognized.

This will be interesting to watch. Will IBM succeed in their new crowd-sourcing? Will they be able to attract the right experts? Will IBM customers like the new online ressources as they did the Redbooks?


Don't forget the 20 hours commitment per week.

I'd suggest to have more people involved and less hours per week. When you were in a residency your were 100% focused in your chapters.

I support this new idea of wikis, but it will get some time to be what redbooks are.

Luis Guirigay, 2008-02-08

I am curious to see how they will provide the servers for testing, screenshots and documentation or do the wiki writers need to configure a server?

Chris Miller, 2008-02-08

I think this could be done remotely. You don't have to sit next to a server, so IBM could provide access to the servers, via VPN if needed.

Volker Weber, 2008-02-08

I've actually applied for this residency - specifically due to the reason that it didn't require me being onsite in Boston. I don't know if I fall into the "right experts" category or not...

I can certainly give the 20 hour commitment per week (hell, I'll hit that midway into Tuesday...), but I think that the expectation that you can get some of the best and brightest to drop everything - well, I'll say this: I think you'll get many more people submitting for this than onsite, due to both the new medium and the lack of onsite requirement.

I know I'm looking forward to both this new medium and the redbook (or whatever you want to call it...) itself!

Chris Toohey, 2008-02-08

Excellent. Yes, I would count you with the "right experts".

Volker Weber, 2008-02-08

@ Chris Miller.. and Volker

Rochester is a location with high security concerns, so, the VPN access would be very limited if you can get it.

@ Chris Toohey..

You'd have to go to Rochester, MN and not Boston!

Deb Landon.. the project lead for this residency is in Rochester, MN... and because we mentioned Rochester, MN you would be using an iSeries (i5/OS)

Deb is a great person, you will enjoy working with her if you are selected.

Luis Guirigay, 2008-02-08

As a former Redbooks author (Smartcard and Notes API chapters in Security Considerations for ND7), I am skeptical of the new approach. My skepticism is couched in my super experience with the "old way" and with personal preference, preference which admittedly may not apply to most others.

IBM/Lotus Redbooks have been an respected, well-known brand for a long time. I remember using them as you-can-only-find-such-depth-here references in the 90s. I had been interested in being an author on one for years but could never justify the cost of a 5/6-week break in billable hours (or for that matter a 10/12-week break in half-billable hours).

Then a window opened a couple years ago and, sure enough, there was the right Redbook opportunity. I jumped at it. It was fantastic. First, I love Boston/Cambridge (and even more now), and that in particular was a big draw for me. Next the opportunity to collaborate face-to-face for weeks with superb peers like Richard Schwartz, Dieter Stalder, Lisa Chase, and then travel to Westford to have a deep seminar and lunch with the core security team. Also the attention, coaching and support we got from moderators John Bergland and Phil Monson, feeling how Lotus valued our contribution, very nice. And last but not least, a book with your name on it, including printed copies you can hand to your customers. Verily, a great and valuable experience in every way.

So, with this wiki replacement, will this be matched? Of course no way as such. We shall see how much concentrated commitment comes from part-time "residents". Book writing (or in-depth chapter writing) requires concentrated effort and commitment. Not being at home and bonding with a team (around the kids :-) facilitates that significantly. On-line meetings vs. face-to-face? Of course the comparison pales. And finally will the resulting Lotus Wiki afford the same cachet as a Redbook with your name on it? Obviously I remain skeptical.

Perhaps I will be proven wrong and a romantic stick in the mud, and this reset to wikis will turn out to be a smashing success, both for collaborators and IBM's pocketbook. I hope so, for all of us. But I DOUBT IT!

Paul Ryan, 2008-02-09

I don't think anyone's mum is going to be able to accidentally leave a redwiki on the coffee table when friends pop round.

Alan Bell, 2008-02-10

I co-authored a Redbook in Rochester a few years. Deb Landon is great to work with.

One of of the benefits of having go to Rochester (or Boston) is that the developers are generally there on site. This provides the opportunity to get problems solved quickly and also to make some valuable contacts.

Participants in the RedWiki-style project will certainly miss out on having the team all in one place. This might seem obvious but in my experience of managing projects having the team all in one place certainly makes for an easier and (imho) better project result. I'm not saying that you can't complete projects with remote teams. I have done this in the past and continue to do so today. However I believe that even with today's technology, the IDEAL situation is still to have the team all in one place.

The 20 hour requirement is interesting because our team on-site was working 60+ hours per week.


Ethann Castell, 2008-02-10

I was in Cambridge, writing a Redpaper on NaSs in 2006. My first stay in the US. I was pleased as punch to get to know all the people you usually just read about, and even to work with them. Broadens the horizon somewhat.

I wonder how Redwikis are supposed to offer the same experience for the authors. IMHO, motivation is key. Kudos to Phil Monson and John Bergland for their excellent work with the teams.

Frank Dröge, 2008-02-11

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