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Wild Bill: "Adieu, little yellow bubble"

by Volker Weber

Bill has had enough of the behind-the-scenes wrangling that is so typical of the little yellow bubble. In a way, it's the first victim of the Lotus Attack Kittens(tm). I am more with Duffbert: distrust all sides.

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I actually read Bill's "Goodbye" post and didn't find it all that controversial. He's got plenty of good things to say about the products, the community, his place in the community, and what its been for his career.

I do understand the frustration that comes from tilting at windmills. I've had that frustration from time to time as well. I think, however, that as far as commercial software companies go IBM/Lotus are much more open to input than any of the others. You can't really get mad at Microsoft for the same things because you never get in close enough to real decisions to have any belief you could possibly be influencing anything. In the open source world you can influence a lot - but you'd better have the chops and the time to do some serious contribution to justify it.

Sometimes, by inviting us further in the tent than other software companies then not following our specific advice, IBM can further the impression that they're arrogantly ignoring us. Generally though, I think they're closer to listening than anyone else. Some of the design partner presentations are "Here's what we're doing, please buy in" while others actually do seek constructive criticism. It tends to vary by development team.

Andrew Pollack, 2009-03-09

It is encouraging to me to read Bill's post. Diversity is strength, and recognizing that Notes/Domino is not the only solution, only technology, only answer, just as IBM is not the only company, is all to the good. For once, the IBM representation in the "yellow bubble" seems more fearful of change than the design teams, and there is plenty of evidence of IBM listening, but more important, recognizing that they must embrace other technologies as well. They embraced Eclipse rather than trying to reinvent that wheel. They embraced Dojo rather than creating another pale imitation (think of the Notes web browser).

So, while some of the IBMers are trying to control the external message, the internal IBMers driving the product forward are absolutely on the same side as Bill. Do you think they are afraid of people exploring "Flex, Grails, Groove, Exchange, Sharepoint"? Hell, no! I think they are exploring integration and coexistence with these technologies and products as well. They wouldn't have DAMO if they were scared of intregrating with a Microsoft product customers say they want. They wouldn't have Eclipse and Dojo if they were scared of open source technologies outside their complete control. Just as there are customers who want a Sharepoint front end, there are people inside IBM promoting and encouraging internal development and outside ISV work on integration efforts.

So, do I think IBM entirely "gets it"? Of course not. IBM is made up of a myriad of views, conflicting priorities, fear, politics and self interest, just as any large corporation is. I know that some are trying to stifle dissent, which is a reflection of the fear which is probably justified in these trying times. I know that some are fighting for turf in ways that hurts IBM and some technologies. I also know that there are active voices, and ones leading the charge for 8.5.1 and 9 and beyond, who may not cheer on every word of Bill's rant, but who agree completely that IBM and the "yellow bubble" need to get beyond the "our product, right or wrong" mentality and figure out how to move forward in a complex, mixed environment where survival depends on adaption to changing circumstances, adoption of the best technologies that spring up, and coexistence with all the other survivors. Trust me, there will be companies and technologies that can't adapt, adopt and coexist, but I am increasingly confident that the team working on IBM moving forward are making the right general moves, and are happy to hear dissent, discussion and noise, as the heat of the argument sometimes forges the best weapon going forward.

Ben Langhinrichs, 2009-03-09

**Reader Note: I posted essentially the same thing on both Bill's and Gab's related blog entries, so if you've read it there you can skip this and go straight to commenting on what a naive twit I am**

My sense is that the optimist and pessimist crowds in LotusWorld generally divide as follows:


Many optimists, at least those who do mostly development like myself, are only really compelled to do IT because Lotus Notes is "different" from any other technology toolset. It plays to our primary motivation to solve business problems in the most efficient and effective way available, as it allows "business power user turned tech expert" types to do truly heroic things in the service of their organizations. If another technology toolset comes along that offers a similar "buzz", we're open to it. But we would sooner get an MBA or otherwise move back toward the pure "business side" than embrace Java or .Net just because that's where the IT jobs are.


Pessimists can be subdivided into two sometimes overlapping groups. First, there are those who are more likely in IT because they just always were (the "true" geeks - programmers and admins who probably studied CS at school). In the case of the programmer types, it's often as much about the fun of coding as it is solving the business problem at hand. Notes is often just another coding platform, and often not the most fun one in the arsenal.

The second group of pessimists are the business partners who for the most part don't have the luxury of ignoring market reality in order to always promote what's best for the customer. For these folks, the lack of "air cover" is acutely bothersome, especially as Lotus now have some truly compelling solutions that SHOULD be generating enormous market interest.

Bill of course falls into both of my subclassifications of pessimist, so it's notable that he has managed to deny his true nature for as long as he has. I consider it a testament to the appeal of Notes that he has been able to remain outwardly optimistic for so long.


What saddens me about this state of affairs is that it forces good people to compromise their innate sense of ethics. We all want to do the best by our clients, but the moment those good intentions get in the way of paying the mortgage, we start to slip. We rationalize the slippage in order to sleep at night, but the burden of that denial wear on us nonetheless (and if it doesn't you probably have bigger problems).


I myself am, nominally, a business partner. However I have never felt confident enough in IBM's commitment to Lotus to truly embrace that role, choosing instead to remain an independent consultant with only myself to look after. Reading about Bill's experience only reinforces my reluctance (I'm sure I'm not the only one). At Lotusphere I listened hopefully to Bob Picciano's and Kristen Lauria's promises of proper advertising air cover in 2009. I remain hopeful, but that hope can't avoid taking a hit after this. I may yet be drawn into the BP role by the fantastic improvements in the product itself, but without assurances of proper air cover my movement in that direction will remain equally tentative. After all I have a mortgage too.

Kevin Pettitt, 2009-03-09

I fall into both groups of "pessimists", but am nonetheless an optimist. Go figure.

Ben Langhinrichs, 2009-03-09

@Ben - Actually I don't see that as a contradiction, though my comment failed miserably to make that clear. What I am NOT saying is that ALL geeks and ALL BPs are pessimists, but that if you ARE a pessimist, you likely fall into one or both groups.

Kevin Pettitt, 2009-03-09

Great comments, guys. However, I think we should leave it in Bill's context. No need to crosspost. I linked to Bill because I know there are more people in the same situation like him, but lack his courage.

Volker Weber, 2009-03-09

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