Monday, November 13, 2006

Rod Boothby - Updated Simple Recipe to Get Off Lotus Notes

Here are Rod's latest thoughts on a subject I was sure he would have grown tired of by now:

Updated Simple Recipe to Get Off Lotus Notes
  1. Screen scrape all static content. You could use some Notes APIs, but why bother finding someone who learnt Notes back when it came out in 1984?
  2. Have end users rebuild all your Notes based applications using QED Wiki, or something similar, such as Teqlo.
Step one might be even easier if your Notes team has set up standard compliant feeds, such as RSS or ATOM for your static content. With a system such as iUpload, Blogtronix, Suite Two or Atlassian's Confluence, it is a small coding exercise to bring your existing content into a new system.

Nope, he still doesn't get it. I would write him off if he weren't in a position where he influences so many decision makers.


  1. I saw his prior postings, but did I miss how he's in some authoritative position?? I mean, who is he? I think the best comment I saw by someone is to just ask if he's ever heard of File > Export... :)

  2. Chris, Rod is a business analyst with Ernst & Young. He advises executives at major companies on technology and speaks at some pretty high profile conferences.

  3. OK... what am I missing?

    I have been told that it costs tens of millions to move off of Lotus Notes.

    I have been trying to show that it shouldn't cost a fortune. That it should be cheap and easy to move off Notes.

    You might ask why would one want to move off Lotus Notes?

    As an end user, I can simply tell you that I do not like it. It is ulgy and hard to use.

    From a business wide perspective, Lotus Notes does not encourage knowledge sharing to anything like the degree that blogs and wikis seem to encourage broad participation.

    Within a business, such as a bank, an lack of sharing leads to a slower pace of innovation. That results in poor bottom line performance, which eventually threatens the CEO.

    I have ehard that within IBM, 15,000 people regularly use the Atlassian Confluence Wiki. Given the choice, one wonders why they are not using Lotus Notes. The answer seems to be obvious: Technology has moved on, and now, there are better tools on the market. Better tools than Lotus Notes.

    The new enterprise class tools, such as iUpload, have all the access control, backup features, etc that Lotus Notes has.

    End user DIY tools such as QEDWiki mean that applications currently built in Notes will soon be as easy to build as a spreadsheet.

    That should be a good thing. IT should be celebrating. Instead, you guys say I don't get it.

    What do I not get?

    Lotus Notes was first developed in 1984. The guy who built it, Ray Ozzie, has moved on...twice. He says the future is going to be web based. That's why he is building Windows Live. That is why he is developing cool things like Live Clip.

    In my postings, I have suggested that Lotus Notes Hangover be dumped, and replaced with an enhanced browser. The enhancements could display Java applets, and help ease backwards compatibility. The rest of the platform could be designed to bring the Lotus Notes community into the Web 2.0 / Enterprise 2.0 age.

    BTW - Chirs - cute picture of the kid. I assume that's yours. Congratulations.

  4. Rod, I really don't care to have this conversation with you because I don't think you are able to see an opposing point of view. Your own experience with Notes has colored your vision to the point you're blind to anything other than "Notes sucks". It doesn't matter what I say or what I show you, your premise is that Notes is worthless in every sense of the word and you are not willing to change that. As such, having this conversation would be a waste of time.

  5. Which Lotus Notes is Rod using? The Notes I know can "display Java applets", as well as run Javascript and interpret CSS. And that's just in the Notes client... not to mention all the "Web 2.0" stuff that folks are writing for Domino. So the Notes Rod refers to ain't the Notes I know. Then again, it's as easy to write crap in Notes as it is in any other platform... so maybe his hatred of Notes comes from having used poorly developed Notes apps.

    But there's another possibility. "...applications currently built in Notes will soon be as easy to build as a spreadsheet." This seems to be Rod's conception of how an ideal business automates their processes. I've seen corporations that can't seem to turn a profit, in part because their process is dependent upon applications written by end users entirely in Excel. There's a fine line between software that empowers users... and software that empowers users to write software. Subtle difference, but crucial. When you've got people writing applications to support their own process, but what they're trained and paid to do is in fact execute the process, not write software, the end result is often a sticky, gooey mess. One that ultimately hinders productivity instead of enhancing it, and negatively affects the business. More often than not, I.T. ends up inheriting these applications anyway, and spends precious time and money replacing the duct tape and chewing gum.

  6. Tim,

    I'm glad to see your question. I know that what I am suggesting isn't popular with some folks, but debate is better than cutting off the discussion, as Charles seems to want to do in his previous comment

    To answer your question, I should explain the background. I think the future is in web based, standards compliant applications. That is why I was so pleased to see QEDWiki.

    My suggestion is that IBM take a totally Web 2.0 approach with Lotus Notes.

    People have told me that such a move would be impossible because many companies have Lotus Notes based applications that can not work in the browser.

    To solve that problem, why not make the browser backwards compatible by adding features to a browser, rather than adding features to an IDE.

    Hanover is not a web client. It is a thick, only from IBM, client. It is based on an open source IDE client which was designed for coding, not for communication.

    As for your suggestion that end users can not and should not build their own solutions, I am afraid I think you are flat out wrong.

    I agree with you that, in the past, solutions built on top of only Excel cause problems. But new tools, such as QEDWiki, Teqlo and Excel Services will solve that problem.

    And that should result in a better set of enterprise solutions.

    Google is going for a 100% web based set of business productivity tools. Ray Ozzie is moving Microsoft to a 100% web based set of business productivity tools.

    All the new development being done by companies like 37Signals, BEA, iUpload, Blogtronix, Atlassian and SocialText is being done of the web.

    But, from IBM, I hear only "you are just an end user" and "you can't use any of these enterprise tools because it will cost too much to move off of Lotus Notes".

    That is FUD. And not only does it represent a bad strategy for me, the client, but it also represents a bad strategy for IBM.

  7. @Rod: The quote from people that "Lotus Notes based applications that can not work in the browser" may only mean that when the application was originally written, the developers or the business did not anticipate the explosion of the web. They had an application that was kick ass in 1999, but doesn't totally fulfill the new business model of 2006 (and beyond). Okay, 'webify' it (whatever that means). :-)

    However, this whole Web 2.0 thing, you can, if you want, bring up wikis, rss feeds, blogs, in Notes/Domino. There are templates for that.

    Now, are you saying that some companies won't allow Sally EndUser and Mark EndUser the ability to use these? That could very well be part of the issue. Will the Admins of these systems (and we *could* lump most, if not all, business applications in this pile) allow any end user to create an application? Then we go back to Tim's comment of a "sticky, gooey mess."

    Where does that leave the organization when the next new thing comes along?

    IBM has done a good job of providing an application server/messaging server that adapts to the changing world. Is it good for everything? Absolutely not. If it doesn't have the out of the box functionality that you are looking for, well out of the thousands of Business Partners, one (or more) probably have a template/tool that will get you there.

    And if they don't, you have quite a few other tools that will allow you to leverage your investment in Lotus Notes/Domino to move data between the NSF and the new thing. Whatever that may be. Served up in the browser of your choice, if that is what you want.

    And in the end, instead of recreating the Notes security/mobility/platform independence/etc. in the "next new thing," you have extended it to the "next new thing."

  8. Rod, I'm open to debate, I just haven't seen you participate in one. Debate assumes dialog, which means boths parties are engaged. Historically your approach has been to continuously attack without ever discussing the points that are brought up. That doesn't create a dialog or make people want to engage with you. In the last round of vitriole on your blog I don't recall you responding to anything. In the posting I reference here you didn't, either. You say you want a debate then you shy away from it. You can't have it both ways, either you do or your don't, or you're being hypocritical.

    I think you missed Tim's point entirely. Notes consumes all the alphabet soup you can throw at it and still has funtionality left over. I also think there is a difference between web-based and browser-based. I can consume a web service (RSS) with iTunes to download podcasts. Would you consider iTunes to be the wrong paradigm?

    To me a browser was never intended to deliver rich applications. It is meant for delivering information in a one-way fashion. You're right, IBM could turn a browser into something more suited for collaboration. Which they did. It's called Eclipse. And Eclipse wasn't built as a development tool, it was built as a general application deployment framework. Development IDE's are just one of the applications.

    IBM is taking a web services approach with Notes 8 (formerly called Hannover), which is completely in line with Web 2.0. They aren't tieing themselves to the vagaries of the various browser vendors. They're making a truly standards-compliant collaboration solution that anything can tie into. I would think that you would applaud that rather than attack it. It's a move toward your ultimate goal of completely web-based applications (which, again, is different than browser-based). Having said that I do see that web clients and thick clients are moving closer together. You mention the backup and offline support as examples. They're slowly converging.

    You've never stated anything specifically that you find lacking in Notes. Your criticism are about the UI and usability and how your current employer chooses to use Notes. Across the board many of the things you're saying you can't do with Notes, you can and have been able to for a very long time. You perceive the Notes community as slow to embrace Web 2.0 when we've been doing most of it since Notes 2.0. Discussion fora (blogs), subscriptions (syndication), user-authored documentation (wikis)... it's all been there for a very, very long time. To us it's the rest of the world that's finally catching up. Technology certainly is evolving, and IBM is either leading the charge or staying on pace with it, and it is delivering leading edge functionality in Notes and Domino.

    I don't disagree with your long term vision. As I said elsewhere, I would like it if I as a developer could focus on delivering the widgets that business users could put together to get their jobs done. But it's not there yet, and it will be slow in coming together because web development is so fragmented. Even when it does happen it doesn't eliminate the developer from the equation, it just moves us to a different spot. I don't foresee a time when you can completely remove the need for programmers any more than we will be able to get rid of analysts. :)

    Getting back to the client discussion, every browser vendor has their own agenda and provides the support they want to. Firefox (generally) has better CSS support than IE. IE offers backwards compatability to "features" that are IE-only at the expense of better standards support.

    I'll take my chances with a known quantity, such as Eclipse RCP, over trying to code a web application that has to work on browsers from six different vendors that behave differently on three different OS platforms. I can code my application once, deploy it on Lotus' framework, and it will work everywhere. Period. Users know that it will look and behave the same. Always. As long as there are multiple browsers, browser-based development is going to remain a fragmented mess of stitching things together. You, as a business user, don't care about that. I, as a developer and administrator who has to both code and support these applications, do.

    I really think you and I are on the same team. I sincerely wish you'd do more to embrace differing points of view rather than attacking the people who present them.

    And finally, you need to look beyond the way your current employer is choosing to use Notes to get a broader perspective of what's out there. All your objections are based on your current experience and are not inherent limitations in Notes and Domino. Notes and Domino integrate and play well with a vast number of protocols and products. IBM isn't telling you what you can and can't use, that's a completely internal decision.

  9. I don't think Rod Boothby realizes that you can't replace Notes with a blog. Comparing Notes to a blog is like, I can't think of anything it's so far out there. And one more thing. Why should anyone spend all this time and money to just evaluate if we should move of the Notes platform? Because I don't like it. Great answer.

    To answer his question What doesn't he get? He just doesn't get it. Blog's and Wiki's integrate with SAP and PeopleSoft really well. Wikis, that is some tight security there.

  10. Charles I've been told that it costs hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars to pay for consultants and speakers that have their own interests - not mine - at heart. The more they can get me to throw away - the more they can charge "helping" me re-implement what I'm already been doing for the last decade. The real "benefit" is lining their own pockets at my expense - under the promise of efficiencies gained - devoid of accountability or proof - convenient how they fail to mention that part. Oh but they're so sincere as to how it's in my best interest to "catch" up.

    Of course people *hate* to hear that their big brand new leading edge "discovery" - with all that money riding on it - is already humming away and has been in use for over a decade by tens of thousands of organizations - just burns their butts they are being thwarted from making all that new money - at your expense. Hence the attacks to try and paint Notes as old technology. It's in the way. Time to pull out the fear mongering your company is being left behind. Telling those people *they* are the ones that are about ten years behind the times and your already doing the things they keep promising in the future - especially when they try to paint themselves as leading edge - only enrages them further. Facts? Out the window. Hearsay backed by every logical fallacy possible - in. Those fallacies masquerading as intelligence - in.

    Charles, your completely correct in your observation. There is no interest in a dialog. From comments that mysteriously disappear to ignoring points that contradict - and then preaching about how web 2.0 technologies allow a broader level of sharing and collaboration that others don't understand demonstrates the hypocritical agenda, is consistent with the logical fallacies and the lack of intellectual rigor leading to them.

  11. One might say that repeatedly peddling this sort of ill-informed twaddle, in the face of so much reasoned and coherent argument, demonstrates a distinct lack of analytical skills.

    A little knowledge is clearly a dangerous thing. I feel sorry for the people and businesses that take this sort of Web 2.0 snake-oil-salesman advice at face value.

  12. Charles, you appeared to be having a very reasonable and civil conversation with Rod. And I think that was pointed out by Julian. Where did Rod go?