An open letter to Duffbert

by Volker Weber


Duffbert, Thomas, Mr. Duff, Sir,

It's not often that I lie awake in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep, mincing words in a foreign language. Yesterday, or today depending on where you are, Warren announced that he would not be running another conference for but not on behalf of IBM. With my comment I took you on a little time travel back to 2006 in Dublin, and you took it upon yourself to explain the meaning of Lotusphere for you and your personal career. How you made friends and how you are going to miss them in the future.

And still, you are completely missing a very important point.

Let's go back to 2006 once more. A small group of friends set out to do the impossible. Run a tech conference, with the best speakers the market has to offer, in a remote place, in a market, that IBM does not consider important enough, and do it all for free. No conference fees for attendees, all financed through sponsors. How was that possible? Well, you can't really say no to Paul, when he asks nicely, and he always does that. And then you need somebody like Eileen, who keeps it all together with her checklist. And you need friends like Warren and Kitty. And a mad scotsman. And Duffbert. You see the pattern? Short people.

But something does not belong. It does make business sense to run this conference for Paul, and Eileen, and Warren, and Kitty, and Bill. What's Duffbert doing here? He is the fifth element. He runs on friendship, and compassion, and love. Duffbert takes a leave from work, travels on his budget, works for free, and helps putting it all together.

You often consider yourself short, and shy, and insignificant. Nothing could be further from the truth. You Sir are a star. You stand above many who consider themselves important and influential. You have no idea how important you are to others.

I can't speak for others. I can only speak for myself. In all those years that I have known you, you have been a voice of reason. Somebody who understood matters much faster than anybody else. You were the first to grasp and embrace the true meaning of your community. That it was not about technology, but about people. You put up that website to match people and jobs in a shrinking market. You made sure it survived you. You moved on to other technologies and set out to master them, just as you did before.

Life does not seem to reward people like you with career and money and fame. In the end however, few people will regret not having spent more time in the office. But they will regret not having spent more time with you.

I am very honored that you consider me your friend, Duffbert. You may be 5000 miles away, but I hope you feel the love.


Never has anything you have ever published been as true as this. I agree wholeheartedly, and I mean that in the true sense of the word, I agree with my heart.

Kathy Brown, 2013-08-28

What he said!

Bob Balaban, 2013-08-28

Fantastic words, what a sweet post! Love you both for it!

francie tanner, 2013-08-28

"Life does not seem to reward people like you with career and money and fame." Maybe not, however I maintain that Duffbert has something that pales in comparison to those things. And *that* is what life is all about. Superb post, vowe, thank you.

Gregg Eldred, 2013-08-28

So say we all...

Rob McDonagh, 2013-08-28

Volker, this is a side of you we rarely see. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Tom...what he said.

Wes Morgan, 2013-08-28

I am completely without words, Volker... This post means more to me than you'll ever know.

Thank you.

Thomas Duff, 2013-08-28

Thank you , Volker for very nicely saying what many of us know: Tom Duff contributes to his community. And he does it well. He has a passion for not just the product, but for helping people to collaborate in general, regardless of what company makes the product.

I am humbled and honored to call you both my friends.

Mary Beth Raven, 2013-08-28

Volker, You revealed yourself in public here! Thank you for telling the truth about Mr Duff. What a great post.

Susan Bulloch, 2013-08-28

Susan, I know. I fell out of character here.

Volker Weber, 2013-08-28

Great words about Duffbert Sir. I am one of those who benefited using his website though he doesn't know me.

Vamsi Guduri, 2013-08-28

That was Volker, not vowe. A wonderful post. Tom deserves no less.

Paul Mooney, 2013-08-28

Volker, what a wonderful post!

Ekkehard Pummer, 2013-08-28

I never met Thomas Duff personally. But I guess I have an idea what it means to become Volkers friend. After reading these moving lines I wish I met Thomas Duff. Great post.

Alexander Kluge, 2013-08-28

Hear, hear!


Andrew Magerman, 2013-08-28

Those onion-ninja's get around. I think many of us have tried to do something worthwhile in this circle we move in but you Mr Duff have done so much more than that.

Jason Hook, 2013-08-28

The mother ....
brings them all to the table

thomas kuhn, 2013-08-28

Well said Volker!
Tom I too am honoured to be your friend.

Chris Coates, 2013-08-28

Volker at his most eloquent best.

Duffbert, it continues to be a great source of pride to know you as a friend.

---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2013-08-28

A great blog post. What makes the ICS community one of the best is how welcoming everyone is. As a newbie speaker a few years ago I was made to feel part of the family straight away. As a blogger, the feedback I have had has been always positive. I cannot think of a negative or non-constructive comment I've received. Duffbert is a perfect example of how a world can become a small place thanks to community.

Paul Withers, 2013-08-28

Well said Volker.

Beyond honored to call Tom and many, many of you my friends regardless of where our careers have lead us.

Phil Randolph, 2013-08-28

Volker not vowe online. Nice. Wholeheartedly agree. I mean look, Duffbert and my wife go back and forth on Twitter all the time and she never ever was part of the community. He's that kind of an insightful and awesome guy. Little, but smart. (Like I can talk).

However, if this starts a man-crush blogging meme though I am a little concerned....

Ed Brill, 2013-08-28

You have captured the essence of the person I am honored to have as my dear friend. Many thanks and big hugs to you.

Marie Scott, 2013-08-28

Yes, yes,yes, and yes again. Thank you for sharing some extra love to one of the nicest folks I know.

Libby Ingrassia , 2013-08-28

Amen! Wonderful post.

Steve Mullen, 2013-08-28

Two small corrections. This is about Duffbert. It's not about a community. Second, there is no difference between Volker and vowe. I just don't uncloak very often.

Volker Weber, 2013-08-28

Volker - Beautiful words for a beautiful human being.

Tom - You will never really know how much your mentoring, coaching and support you gave for Lotusphere 2012 and my first time on the big stage means to me. You helped me fulfill a dream and that I feel helped give me the confidence to move onto my other dream. A reminder of that is hanging on your wall and shared out, usually daily, on Facebook.

Andy Donaldson, 2013-08-28


Alan Lepofsky, 2013-08-28

Smashing. This is why I call all you reprobates friends.

Ben Poole, 2013-08-28

I've only been to two Lotuspheres (2008 and 2012) and as a non speaker (and English as a 2nd language speaker and Franconian (Volker knowns what that means I'm sure) of course am a little outside of your group. But the togetherness of the community and the love visible with many of you is just amazing.

I was in the audience when Andy presented his Lotusphere debut performance and besides it being very good information it also was obvious how much Tom helped and encouraged him. And then there was the Karaoke.....

And as a 1/2 German person I am also impressed about Volkers words and expression of love. Well done. Sometimes Germans come across as cold, but as you can see here, once they know you and are your friends they are real softies :)

Michael Kobrowski, 2013-08-28

...Did my Dad just die or something? ...if so can I have his job? Seriously though, how the hell am I supposed to live up to recognition like this? Way to set the bar really high for the incoming apathetic generation (me). I'm glad to see my dad reclaim the superman status to both his kids and colouges once again, with posts highlighting his contributions and love from friends and coworkers alike... Just never try to squeeze into tights and a cape for everyone's sake. Good on ya dude! And if anyone needs a Duffbert stand-in, I'm always available...just don't expect me to talk or do any proper work.

Ian Duff, 2013-08-28

+1 What everyone else said

Jim Casale, 2013-08-28

Ian you will do just fine. Some of your genes come from your Dad (hopefully not the hairy ones), and I'm sure he's raised you with the values he lives by, so you're off to a great start without doing anything.

Be proud of your Dad, but also be proud to be your own person. Follow your life with the values you believe, and treat others as you would like to be treated, don't rush to judgement and be honest with yourself. Being honest with yourself is often how you'll get the admiration of others.

Carl Tyler, 2013-08-28

What a fantastic post, and a deserving tribute.

Rob Novak, 2013-08-28

Growing up in the Bible belt - I just have to say a big loud hearty AMEN!

Career wise I left the Lotus community in 2008 - albeit not of my own free will. It's the friendship and feeling of community that keeps me coming back to the blogs, tweets and facebook posts of this group. And Tom, your contributions - from the serious and comic sessions you participated at Lotusphere to the jobs board to the endless supply of helpful book reviews.

Not seeking attention, but seeking to contribute to the community.

Bless you.

Chuck Dean, 2013-08-28

A lovely blog post and testament to the kind of friendship we all need in our lives.

Gabriella Davis, 2013-08-28

Well said Volker !

Olaf Boerner, 2013-08-28

I <3 Tom...

Joni Snyder, 2013-08-28

Those onion-ninjas came visiting here too... Great post, Volker.

Tom, through your blog and your sessions at Lotusphere over the years, I have learned many thing. And you were one of the people who welcomed me into the community when I got brave enough to get outside my comfort zone sometime back in 2005 (or aroudn there) and started interacting more with the bloggers and -- as I saw them at first -- superstars or the community.

I think the Lotus/ICS/Yellowsphere community is similar to Hotel California: you can check out, but you can never leave. No matter what you do for work, Tom, you will always be part of the community. And I am proud to say that I know Duffbert.

Karl-Henry Martinsson, 2013-08-28

Well put Vowe. I completely agree.

John Lawren James, 2013-08-28

An absolutely wonderful post Volker, thank you for finally kicking some sense into that man :-) I like the uncloaked Volker. I get to see that occasionally in person, and it was really nice to see here.

And a huge +1 to what Ben Poole said: "Smashing. This is why I call all you reprobates friends."

John Roling (@Greyhawk68), 2013-08-28

Volker - You've said in words what I truly believe but cannot possibly express!

Tom - Like many others here, you are, and ever will be, my friend! I still smile when I tell others of the many many adventures that we've had... and that's only in Florida! I recall being down on myself, almost ready to call it all over, and you pulled me back from the edge. I owe a lot of people a debt of gratitude, but you are on a short list (no pun intended... ok, maybe a little pun intended) of those people that I owe my life. My kids, especially my son, Devin, have their Dad today because of you!

This might not have been about community, but when we're talking about Tom Duff, he's one of our best representatives!

Ray Bilyk, 2013-08-28

What a great post and completely accurate, this made me cry. Words cannot begin to describe the profound effect that Duff (aka Computer Dude) has had on my life, both professionally and personally. I can honestly say I am a better person for having known him, and I am blessed to call him my friend.

Trina Brown, 2013-08-28

An excellent, eloquent praise of Tom Duff, long due. Vowe, never would I have thought I could agree with a text of yours from my heart.

Andreas Imnitzer, 2013-08-28

I met Tom via a strange group we coined the "Lotusphere 5". We only met via email and in the forums. We talked and shared tips and questions constantly. I think this was in 1998 or so. Tom mentioned his first Lotusphere was coming up and we said we would meet in person, all 5 of us.

I had no clue back then how to find someone in a conference that large. We had not set a meeting place/time/plan. How stupid of us. But at my first lunch I sit in the tent at the Swan and a young, with hair, gentleman sits down at my same table.

Yes, in the 12,000 people in attendance we sat down at the same table at the same time. From there on, and even before in person, I have considered Tom a friend. Like friends we have opinions, we get frustrated and whatever else goes on I never once changed my mind that he was a friend that would be kept around for the long run.

In his *cough* last Lotusphere I stayed away from the possible emotion side knowing I was not losing a friend. I was possibly going back to 1998 and just tlaking to him endlessly online.

Tom, you embrace the idea of community, and leverage the tech to do so. The tech dis not bring you the friends you have. You did it yourself.

Chris Miller, 2013-08-28

Well said, Volker, and it's a sentiment strongly echoed throughout this community.

Chris Toohey, 2013-08-28

Beautiful post Volker, Irrespective of where the community goes , people like Duff made it and I'm proud and lucky to count him ( and others ) as now close personal friends.


Eileen Fitzgerald, 2013-08-28

An excellent, eloquent praise of Tom Duff, long due. Vowe, never would I have thought I could agree with a text of yours from my heart.

Andreas Imnitzer, 2013-08-28

Great post ! Long life Duffbert and Volker !

Lionel Conforto, 2013-08-28

I can add nothing to all these amazing comments except to say that I am proud to call Tom my friend and happy to know it goes the other way too.

Roy Rumaner, 2013-08-28

Well said Volker.

I have had the privilege of having a front-piece quote in three of my books from Duffbert. It has meant a lot to me to have those there. Thanks Duffbert, for everything.

Michael Sampson, 2013-08-28

Tom is a true class guy and I'm honored to have him as a friend.

David leedy, 2013-08-28

Excellent post, to a well deserving member of the community. Tom is rare breed, who not only is intelligent and caring, but giving of himself. I've heard rumors that he also enjoys a nice Rémy Sidecar upon occasion.

Bill Malchisky, 2013-08-28

All of it is unbelievable, but true facts. When it comes right down to it, it's all person to person. Here's a toast to long lasting relationships and the people that build them.

andy pedisich, 2013-08-29

Well observed, well said, and well deserved.

Richard Schwartz, 2013-08-29

And also, what a great picture!

Richard Schwartz, 2013-08-29

Well spoken!

Steve Dickson, 2013-08-29

No-one can be this good and well loved by a communi.....oh, wait......yes. Yes they can. Yes he is.

Mike Poole, 2013-08-29

Very nice written and to the point. Thank you Volker.

Stevan Bajić, 2013-08-29

All of it is unbelievable, but true facts. When it comes right down to it, it's all person to person. Here's a toast to long lasting relationships and the people that build them.

andy pedisich, 2013-08-30

As with so many others, Tom made so many things possible out in the Western US. Thank you for your commitment to helping others. Great post!

David Stephens, 2013-09-02

Excellent post!

Lars Berntrop-Bos, 2013-09-03

Little to say that hasn't been said, but having had a front row seat to Tom's generous involvement at ILUG 2007/8, I can say with some authority he is worthy of all the praise. Love you man, and hope our paths cross again.

Kevin Pettitt, 2013-09-03

There are a number of reasons for which I don't regret leaving IBM, but I did have a yearning to attend ICON UK this week and followed its progress on Twitter. It was the people who made those events, their enthusiasm, dedication and belief. IBM Lotus made some great technology - they still do - but the community of people added another 50% worth of greatness. Volker is right to call out Duffbert, but there are many names on the role of honour. You know who you are, my respect and best wishes to all of you.

Darren Adams, 2013-09-04

Love it. What a beautiful note.

Kristin Keene, 2013-09-05

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