Leaving for home

Well that, as they say, is it. I stayed on for an extra couple of days mainly because I couldn’t get a flight organised for earlier, but it’s been good to wind down slowly. Yesterday was supremely lazy, I went out to run a few shopping errands for people back home, mooched around Downtown Disney, got some dinner. In short I didn’t walk a lot or drink heavily which is a welcome change from the last few days.

It really has been a great week, catching up with old friends, making new ones and getting really hyped up for Notes 8. The concensus is that we should be seeing the public beta in the next month or two which will be great on two fronts, to get my greedy little hands on it for myself but also to start the build up with colleagues, we need to get the message out to our users and, more importantly, IT management that Notes is back in a big way.

The challenge normally after Lotusphere is to get myself back into the real world, it’s always a little depressing going home and finding that the cool new stuff you’ve just spent a week looking at is unlikely to be seen in the wild for a long time yet but this year the aim will be to get it out there as quickly as possible.

I have managed to spend a little time thinking about the big announcements of the week and where they leave us. Of course this is all personal opinion, I have nothing to base this on other than my own experience. Of the two new products I think Quickr is the most likely to succeed. My reasoning comes from two directions, firstly it’s free and presumably will be available at the user’s desktop rather than requiring central IT departments to do anything to roll it out. I would imagine it will take some time to filter out into the general population but the benefit to users is going to be so obvious that I can’t see why it wouldn’t be used. My suspicion is that actually it won’t be used by teams to start with but by individuals as an electronic briefcase, but as it grows the paid-for version will be used for more formal teamwork. The thought of being able to ditch shared network drives alone should be enough to convince people.

Connections future I think is less certain. The IBM W3 site looks great, as does the Lotusphere Connections site which was put up mid-week and the concept of social software is great when there is a large ecosystem to support it. On the web, del.icio.us and Digg work because there are millions of users. Even on W3, IBM has hundreds of thousands of employees who, by their nature are going to be interested in this sort of thing. Even so, in both cases the actual percentage of the audience who use the sites is tiny, I may be wrong but I think I heard in a session this week that less than 10% of IBM people use Dogear and this in a dedicated high tech company. The whole point of these sites is that they reach a critical mass but if you scale down the user base I’m not sure that point can be reached. I’d love to be proved wrong because I think that sort of interactive intranet would be hugely beneficial to many companies, I just can’t see there being enough of an initial push to get them going.

So another Lotusphere bites the dust. Of course Lotusphere 2008 is only 51 weeks away, it’s running from January 20-24, I’m starting to save for my ticket right away!

Lotusphere2007 – Day 4 – Closing Session

So that’s it, another Lotusphere over, still one major gathering to go with a bloggers dinner tonight at Shula’s but the conference proper is over. And what a week it’s been, no summary here yet, I need time to decompress and digest but a quick note about today’s happenings.

The Gurupalooza session was a little slow, maybe next year Rocky needs to plant some questions in the audience to get things going. I guess everyone just had a heavy night last night and weren’t up to the usual level of banter. Lunch seemed to fix everyone as the Meet the Developers was as good as always.

The highlight of the day for me was that Ed chose to use one of my blog entries on the loop of blogger comments on the big screen at the start of the closing session, very cool for me. What was very funny is that I was chatting to the person sat next to me and she was saying how one of the quotes on the screen was exactly what she thought, when it came around again she pointed it out, of course it was the huge screenshot of this blog with the quote next to it!

There was no comedian this year but the guy they got was excellent. Neil de Grasse Tyson is an astrophysicist who did an excellent “top ten” list of the coolest things in cosmology. Very well targeted at the geek community, he was so passionate about the subject you couldn’t help liking him.

After the session the blogger croud managed to get up on stage for a group photo, I’m not sure who’s camera was used but it will surface on Flickr pretty quickly no doubt.

Lotusphere2007 – Day 4 – The morning after…

Last night saw us at the inaugral Speedgeeking session. I have no idea how the presenter’s managed it, the idea was that 12 presenters gave a 5 minute presentation to 12 different groups of people, then the groups moved to the next presenter. People like Paul and Bill were trying to get through 30 tips in 5 minutes and barely took a breath. Surprisingly there was even some good content but even where there wasn’t it was still good fun.

Rocky had cleverly arranged for buses to run from the Yacht to the party so that we didn’t have to rush back to the Dolphin, unfortunately it was not good weather, with constant rain all evening. In fact it’s still raining this morning, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in Florida before. Oh well, we’re inside most of the time anyway but by the time we left the park we were soaked through.

After going to my room to dry off it was back out to see who was around and rather than going down to the bar (again) I ended up in someone’s room cleaning out their minibar. I thought it was helping the inevitable cold I picked up but this morning I’d say not! Not that I was the person in the worst shape in the Blogger’s BOF which Ed had cruelly arranged for 7am. Paul and a whole gang of people just hadn’t bothered going to bed at all. Even with that the discussion was lively as ever, nothing especially new but several people seem to be having the same experience as me of recruiters cold calling them on the basis of their blogs rather than references from co-workers etc. It’s an interesting new development, long may it continue.

So we’re into the last day, there’s only a couple of normal sessions but from late this morning we have Gurupalooza followed by “Beat the Developers” both of which are always fun and then the closing session. Hopefully IBM have the nerve to hire a decent comedian like last year and to live with any criticism that may generate.

Lotusphere2007 – Day 3 – Worst Practices and more

An early start this morning to get over to the Swan and bag a seat for Worst Practices, Bill and Paul reprised last year’s presentation with all new stories from the trenches. Very funny.

The rest of the day is going to be in sessions over here in the Dolphin. Unfortunately there’s no “The Boss Loves Microsoft” session this year, a sign of confidence on IBM’s part I guess but a lot of people are sat here waiting for Ed and Julian’s selling Notes and Domino in your organisation which may act as a good replacement.

Ooh, one thing I forgot to mention yesterday is the new site Many Eyes which IBM Research launched this week. It’s the result of a year’s research into how statistics can be better displayed for analysis. As ever the research team are doing some very cool stuff, in their labs Many Eyes is just one of about 20 different projects they’re running. Well worth a look either online or at the Dolphin.

Lotusphere2007 – Day 2 – AJAX Sessions

Tuesday morning is AJAX morning. Earlier I was in the Great Code Giveaway run by the guys from Snapps. I do a lot of Ajax work day to day but there are always a few tips which I pick up to make the session worthwhile. They have the great knack of doing really cool stuff in a simple way, the download database can just be taken back to the office and used with almost no prior knowledge.

The nice thing to see is that the framework which people seem to be doing their serious work in is Dojo which I have used as the basis of Defectr and predicted some time ago would become the standard framework for rich web applications.

Some cool stuff in Domino 8 with Ajax like “…?readviewentries&outputformat=JSON” (also applies to readdesign and readentries). which will save having to design pages for all of your JSON needs. In fact, although it’s unsupported, the function is actually available today in 7.0.2, yet another thing to try out when I get back to the office.

Lotusphere2007 – Day 1 – Strategy Sessions

The rest of today has been spent in the strategy sessions which seem to dominate the first day.

The improvements in the Notes client for mail, calendar and contacts are striking. This is probably the most well known area of the new versions and I’m really just re-iterating what has already been said but there’ll certianly be no complaints about how Notes looks any more.

In all of the demo’s so far the beta version has been performing relatively slowly. This is always the case with beta software but I certainly hope things speed up a little before release, it would be a nightmare to have all these cool new features and then not be able to run them because user’s PCs aren’t up to the task.

One of the security features in Domino 8 which leapt out at me as a compliance bonus is that you can turn on HTTP password locking due to incorrect passwords. I’ve seen entire applications fail audit because of the lack of this feature, so A Good Thing.

The NSFDB2 feature is finally going to be made fully available in Domino 8. A new feature added will be HTTP parameterised DB2 query views which sound very cool from a reporting perspective.

Web Services support is being greatly expanded, mainly I suspect to support the composite applications behind the scenes but us developers get the bonus of (finally) web service consumption just by importing a WSDL and filling in the blanks.

The planning for Domino Next (i.e. ND9) seems to be pretty well progressed which seems incongruos but when you look at the list of features they’re talking about adding / updating they need all of the time they can get, the roadmap that they showed indicates a 2008/09 release schedule, nice to see that Lotus keeps to their promised dates whereas some other companies we could mention have no concept of meeting promises.

And finally for today, I’ve just finished a sit down in the User Experience Lab doing one of the sessions they’re running there using the latest Notes 8 beta. I’m not sure how much I can or can’t say as they mentioned NDAs and suchlike, suffice to say that it’s looking very impressive. If you’re in Orlando this week I highly recommend booking yourself into one of the sessions down there.

Lotusphere2007 – Day 1 – Opening General Session

Well the Opening General Session has just finished and it was quite a show. Things started off with a covers band doing some fairly passable versions of Sgt Pepper, Changes, Under Pressure and more. As with a lot of these types of clean cut teen bands they got a little over excited and made 7,000 slightly hung over attendees stand up like it’s a full blown concert, I suppose it got people going!

The keynote was done by Neil Armstrong who got a huge reception. It was short, sweet and well delivered, exactly the sort of person who goes down well at these sort of things.

The session is always a marathon, not a sprint so after the obligatory stats which are pretty impressive we got into the first round of demos. ND8 is looking very impressive, the big news is that first public beta should be out in the next couple of months with a view to a mid-year gold release. The implication was that Mac and Linux clients would be available at the same time as Windows but I need to confirm that with someone.

The demos continued thick and fast with Sametime updates, Websphere Portal 6.0 (which in it’s new Express version may well be worth a look for portal virgins such as myself). And then onto the big releases which were being hinted at yesterday.

First we have Quickr which seems like IBM / Lotus’ response to Microsoft’s Groove. The demo was very quick and with no prior knowledge it’s going to be hard to comment, yet another thing to find out about during the week. What does sound good is that the personal version is free for Notes customers, the Standard Edition is free for Quickplace users.

The other announcement was Lotus Connections. Again not a huge amount of detail but we’re basically talking Lotus’ answer to Web 2.0, including Dogear (a version of digg or delicious), social networking (a la Facebook or MySpace) and the now well known Activity Explorer.

Of the two new product announcements both sound useful to me, but trying to be objective about it I think Quickr is going to be a slow grower as it’s likely to take a more viral approach to growth whereas Connections will be rolled out (or not) en masse by the IT department.

Now my favourite part of what we’ve seen so far is the Open Document Format (ODF) support built into Notes 8. There’s a rumour I’ve heard repeated a couple of times now that IBM are planning to drop MS Office from there install base once Note 8 rolls out as it contains editors for an ODF word processor, spreadsheet and presentation suite. Having seen a couple of demos of them now I can say that looks like a very appealling proposition. The thought of being ablt to ditch Office and the upgrade taxes associated would save my one man band operation money so scale that up to an enterprise level and we’re talking a major shift in how you work.

Lotusphere2007 – Day 0: BDD and Jumpstarts

The Sunday of Lotusphere has, over the years, grown from just the evening party to this year where it is, effectively, a full blown day of sessions. So at 7am it was over to the Yacht & Beach for the Business Development Day breakfast and keynote. The format was much better than last year where rather than a motivational speaker we got a speech from Jeff Greenfield, a CNN presenter followed by a discussion panel led by Jeff with Mike Rhodin as one of the panellists. There were no great revelations but it was interesting all the same.

To be honest the BDD sessions don’t really appeal to me, I know they should but at heart I’m a geek not a business man. Normally the Jumpstart sessions wouldn’t appeal either but the selection is pretty good this year. I elected to go for an introduction to composite applications. And this is where the great surprise started, Notes 8 is looking like a genuinely compelling tool. Up until now all of the buzz has been about the UI to the exclusion of features but, as was demo’d this morning, there are some real leaps forward in functionality.

When you create a database you have a new choice to create a blank component NSF, from where you can add portlets, be they Domino, Websphere portal or whatever. I’m doing a crap job of explaining it but basically we are talking about the new Notes client offering rich portal-ised applications natively and out of the box. The only down side is that you still need to run a Portal server for web access, but if you’re going to upgrade to Notes 8 then this is going to be a very cost effective way of entering into the portal application space.

Which brings me onto my thoughts while I was sat in the session, in about ten minutes I came up with several ways for one of my clients to save many thousands of pounds by planning to upgrade to Notes 8 rather than migrating to Exchange / Outlook which is their current plan. It would be very short sighted for any company to make a migration decision without waiting for the public beta of ND8 because from what I’ve seen even before the conference proper has started it’s going to blow the competitors (what few there are) out of the water.

This afternoon it was onwards to see Kevin give his first presentation at Lotusphere, and a very good job of it he made too. Yet another blogger who will no doubt be asked back in future years.

Tonight is the official opening party followed by Wild Bill’s 40th birthday at Jelly Rolls not ESPN as previously advertised.