Random thoughts from an unusual company

Has My Optimism Spun Off Into Naiivety?

Gabriella Davis  9 March 2009 09:42:49
I'm by nature Optimistic, I always have been.  Right now that comes with a fair amount of self doubt (the world economies are falling apart) and guilt (people losing their livelihoods).   I've always been able to focus my optimism on things I can affect and change.  The world economic collapse, being outside of my personal control, runs on a parallel "no point worrying about that" track in my brain.    For the past couple of weeks though I feel like I'm part of The Emperor's New Clothes.  I can't help noticing (not least because customers have asked me about it) that there are some unhappy people on Planet Lotus.  Many of them I consider friends who I want to support, but try as I might I can't find my own anger.  Obviously any individual can be angry due to their own circumstances or situation but when customer's ask me "has something gone wrong, the community seems to be falling apart" I have to respond by saying - "that's news to me".

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not disagreeing with many of the complaints about IBM but they just don't matter enough to me in the great scheme of things (and I'm not talking about individuals losing their jobs which is always terrible).  There are a ton of things I'd do different or better but then I'm not on the inside, managing a team of limited resources and a budget of limited resources and making decisions about how and where those should be spent.

So I keep revisiting the blog and tweet postings and skype discussions and trying to piece it all together to see why others are so fed up and I'm not.  Now I'm at a point where I can't keep treading over the same ground or spend any more energy trying to work out what I'm missing.   As a final exercise, I drew up a list of all the things I feel positive about (it goes on longer than this but here are some of the work related ones)
  1. The Domino server in 8.5 and beyond is a phenomenal product with revolutionary features both new (DAOS, Traveler, ID Vault) and Upcoming (NDA)
  2. What's coming in Sametime 8.5 and the fact that some of it remains in Domino is good news
  3. The continuation and expansion of Quickr for Domino
  4. The upcoming release of Foundations Branch Office (what I've been waiting for since we first heard about it and I first bought a box)
  5. The Design Partner Program
  6. The Design Blogs
  7. The re-emergence of OpenNTF
  8. The Design team's reading of Ideajam
  9. The fact that even though Notes Standard has problems (and DDE almost unworkable right now), I still have Notes Basic I can roll out, the performance gets better with each release, and they are continuing to grow and new features to the product (contrast with Outlook)
  10. The scope for porting applications from Domino to Smartphones, Blackberry's and even iPhones which is something many customers haven't got their heads around yet
  11. I haven't a single customer who has looked at and worked with 8.x and not liked it, even those that were hating 6.x or 7.x and thinking of migrating
  12. I think the concepts behind Connections are interesting (profiles and activities especially), even if I'm not convinced of the architecture as yet
  13. The R&D lab at Lotusphere
  14. The complete mess that is Sharepoint infrastructure and 'collaboration'
  15. The fact that Exchange 2007 has added few new features from Exchange 5.5 (and I do coexistence work with all versions)
  16. The fact that Blackberry for Exchange is such a nightmare vs Blackberry for Domino

I have things I feel negative about but none of them are big enough to dislodge my overall positivity.  I've decided to go with it and embrace the optimism.  It's not blind optimism, I don't consider myself unable to recognise the truth when it stares me in the face but right now I'm seeing sunshine behind the clouds.

1Ben Langhinrichs  09/03/2009 11:40:54  Has My Optimism Spun Off Into Naiivety?

It is good to hear your optimism. I, too, have been a bit confused by the Planet Lotus rumblings. While there are excellent reasons to complain about IBM, the truth is that they seem to be:

a) listening, for once, and really listening

b) retrenching with people more than with product (terribly hard on the people, but good for the product)

c) recognizing that now is the time for some boldness as many other competitors (especially Microsoft) seem to be overly tentative

The biggest complaint I might personally have about IBM is that they are moving forward so quickly that they are sometimes losing track of initiatives already underway, or of the importance of taking care of long term architectural issues (e.g., MIME), but it is pretty hard to complain about rapid forward motion.

The biggest problem for the community, and it is one IBM can only help with a little, is the difficulty accepting the relatively obvious fact that we are facing a time of integration and coexistence, and some have been so committed to the "religion of Notes/Domino" that it is hard to accept. Different people are adjusting with more or less noise and fuss, but they are all adjusting to the same reality. Notes/Domino isn't destined to be the heart and soul of everything, and neither is any other technology (although Google hasn't gotten the memo yet). Diversity is strength, and that is more important now than ever in these economic times, and that diversity is true in software/hardware as well as in corporate association.

Obviously, I have been preaching the importance of coexistence for about five years now, but I think that under the surface roiling, the message is getting out, and that as people accept it for themselves, they will start accepting it for the community as well. I think that is all to the good, despite any short term angst, and certainly a reason for optimism about this community. Certainly those around who have embraced technological diversity, integration and coexistence are flourishing, and that is a remarkable deed in the world we face today.

2Tim Tripcony  09/03/2009 12:48:11  Has My Optimism Spun Off Into Naiivety?

This will probably come as no surprise, but I prefer optimism as well. The short explanation: I decided long ago I'd keep doing this until it stopped being fun, and it hasn't stopped being fun.

The long explanation: remaining optimistic, as you mentioned, doesn't mean ignoring or denying the few things that aren't yet "perfect"; it means believing that there's a solution to each, and that achieving it remains possible. Everyone's different. What works for me doesn't work for everyone. But what works for me is trying to keep my nitpicks in perspective, remembering how small they are in proportion to everything else I love about the platform and its role in my career. That's why it's stayed fun for me for 11 years... I enjoy what I have long enough for what I want and don't have to arrive, and more and more often recently, for me to have a direct impact on the realization of what I've been waiting for. Which is a role I'm still getting used to, but it's been exciting to be a part of and makes me feel very fortunate.

Occasionally some negativity takes hold and I'll rant a bit. But I'm finding that to be less frequent. Maybe, as Andrew has suggested, that's a reflection on the direction the platform is heading. Maybe it's a personal change. But whatever the reason(s), I'm a big fan of contentment except when it devolves into complacency... and I don't think that's what this is.

3John Vaughan  09/03/2009 14:15:48  Has My Optimism Spun Off Into Naiivety?

this is a great post Gab!

i couldn't agree more.

i have had some pretty intense flashes of anger here and there. it's seemed to me that some companies including IBM have taken advantage of the uncertainty and made some brutal decisions that weren't warranted. that is the part that gets me. all corporations do these kinds of things. it's a systemic problem of global proportions and as you say falls somewhat into the "no point worrying about that" track in my brain. because let's face it i can't drive myself insane over it.

corporations are systemically and fundamentally sociopathic. good people ought to be thinking about how to change this. essentially the law needs to change, everywhere, and these corporates who have had the run of the planet need to be beholden to more than just their shareholders.

i DO want to be one voice effecting real change if possible, and i am thinking about how to go about that more and more.

but in the meantime real people are making real change for good with the Lotus products that we know and love. there is much to celebrate, even in tough times.

4Rob Axelrod  09/03/2009 14:27:53  Has My Optimism Spun Off Into Naiivety?

I'm with the optimists as well. I'm currently working on three different ND8 upgrades at Fortune 500 companies. All of them are excited about the product and just last week during the first week of production client rollouts at one of them I had a number of users approach me and thank me for the great product. I haven't had a user tell me that about a Lotus mail product for quite some time.


5Kevin Pettitt  09/03/2009 15:56:14  Has My Optimism Spun Off Into Naiivety?

**Reader Note: I posted essentially the same thing on both Bill's and Vowe'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.

6Bill  09/03/2009 16:34:26  Has My Optimism Spun Off Into Naiivety?

I think part of my message has been obscured.

I too am very optimistic about all the things that Gab lists - and I too are very keen to get into 8.5, xpages, 8.5 upgrades, the whole nine yards. My customers are also very enthusiastic, etc. The ones that are still on Notes.

What I'm basically completely hacked off with is IBM's utter disregard for its product in terms of marketing, and its business partner channel. (Did you UK folks know that Trangle went bust last week?)

I've just decided to basically turn my back on the blind optimists - the ones that form the conga-line behind the propaganda coming out of IBM from time to time. The so called 'little yellow bubble', and its subset, the attack kittens (tm).

And turn my back on having to rely on IBM in any shape or form. Anytime I get involved in business that involves IBM, I get crapped on.

---* Bill

7Gab Davis  09/03/2009 17:22:16  Has My Optimism Spun Off Into Naiivety?

@Bill. OK well you and I agree then. I stopped depending on or planning for any help from IBM with my business a very long time ago. When the partnerworld site went down for a whole weekend a few week's back during a customer site upgrade, I just made myself a note to download the software earlier next time.

I don't cover for IBM or make excuses for them and I certainly don't have a business model that expects anything off them :-) In that sense I guess I've consigned IBM along with the economic climate to the part of my brain entitled "things I can do nothing about"


8Charles Robinson  10/03/2009 01:25:43  Has My Optimism Spun Off Into Naiivety?

Most people have said they think I'm very negative and pessimistic, but I don't see myself that way. I'm a realist and as neutral as I can be, but I do have expectations. I expect for people who tell me they are going to do something to do it, and if they don't I feel they deserve to be called out for it.

"The fact that even though Notes Standard has problems (and DDE almost unworkable right now)..."

That is what finally drove me away from Notes and Domino. Maybe IBM can get it together at some point in the future, but Notes 8 is lemony in its yellowness.

9Gab Davis  10/03/2009 10:19:22  Has My Optimism Spun Off Into Naiivety?

@Charles -

Reading your post I think much of my optimism is because our expectations are so different. You say

"I exepct for people who tell me they are going to do something to do it".

I do expect that of people I work with but not of IBM. I don't work for them and they don't work for me so I have no expectations of them (the same goes for MS and others)

(sorry don't understand 'lemony in its yellowness' :-))