Maybe it is time we all step up ...

July 31 2006

Ed posted a blog entry about PKF dumps Lotus for Exchange last week. The comment thread went the route of 'Notes needs better sample applications, like the Nifty 50 of old.' It is a good conversation to have, even though I do not think the Nifty 50 would play the same role as before. Below is the comment I made:

I think that one thing that everyone is forgetting is the difference between an application on OpenNTF and something that comes in the box. On OpenNTF, there is no statement of quality or testing. Yes, people fix bugs and all that. But people do not test a template on every version of Notes & Domino (OS, Server platform, language). IBM has to do testing on all the platforms. They also have to do the language conversion.
Now, I am a huge supporter of OpenNTF and folks like Steve Castledine before he joined IBM (PSC does host OpenNTF for free), but its not apples to oranges.
Would OpenNTF developers be willing to stick to the blue rinse UI guidelines that Steve had to convert dominoblog to? I am not sure.
This does not even cover the legal issues ... if IBM puts an OpenNTF app in the box, or even something built for free by partners, IBM still has risk of being the target for a legal fight if something goes wrong.
I remember the Nifty 50 very well. They were great 'see, this is what Notes can do' before LotusScript was added to Notes in 4.0. I also remember the Business Partner forum and L-NotesL email list talking about how no one used them in the real world ... there was always changes and tweaking. There was also a Business Partner contest where applications were built on 4.X. The winners won a Satellite for the TEN broadcast of the old LotusVision broadcasts. I know because I wrote one of the apps that won ... and Artron got the satellite. Its been a while, but I never heard of anyone using those apps in the real world.
Would another Nifty 50 bring more customers to Notes? Not sure. Would OpenNTF having a matching app for all the Sharepoint apps help? To some extent yes. I think IBM is better of focusing on "> 7.9.9 | < 8.0.1" then on these. If everyone in this thread took one of those apps, built a first version, got it on OpenNTF in the next week, and we all starting collaborating on testing, comments, and translations, then this might turn into somethinig. I will even committ to the "Legal Document Review Workflow" one ...  anyone else?

I thought this might generate more discussion then it did, so I decided to blog about it here.
I believe the reality is:

1) IBM is so focuses on Hannover that this will not get addresses in the time frame where it would be useful.
2) IBM has to do so much stuff (translating to all supported languages, testing on every server and client configuration, etc).

I really believe the best option here is for the community to come together and build a bunch of these. We could pick the 20 or so that are at the top of the list, get a couple people per template, and go for it. We could also use the 'Blue Rinse' UI that Steve Castledine used to update Dominoblog to the IBM Blog Template for 7.0.2. Maybe we can get some of the folks who made the awesome applications on OpenNTF.org to update their applications with this common UI. If we put it together in a package, I am sure we could get it linked and into the hands of the right people ... people doing demos and downloads. Inside PSC, we have a saying "Do not complain about a problem without at least one possible solution." We can all complain about what is not there, or we can try to do something about it.

I would be willing to help organize it. What we need are people to step up and participate. Anyone interested?

104 Responses to “Maybe it is time we all step up ...”

  1. 1) Vitor Pereira says:

    I am!

  2. 2) Declan Lynch says:

    I'm ready to run with this.

    I have a number of simple 'QuickApps' templates that are designed as starting points for notes applications. While they work as good examples of what can be done in Notes you would quickly outgrow them but them make great sample templates.

  3. 3) Giuseppe Grasso says:

    if this thing starts, count me in!

  4. 4) Ben Poole says:

    Having discussed this with Declan, I too am in. Also happy to re-do the DominoWiki UI if someone with a decent eye fancies stepping up to the plate to come up with the common look and feel!

  5. 5) iiq374 says:

    What would potentially help alot of the OpenNTF projects - especially those that are customizations of the core templates - might be to incorporate more of those changes into the core templates between versions?

  6. 6) Silvia Garcia says:

    I really do not understand.....Is this a new OpenNTF ? Is this a fork of OpenNTF ? Why not keep on the work there ? What is the difference between what is proposed here and what we obtained so far with OpenNTF ?

  7. 7) John Head says:

    I am not proposing a new OpenNTF.org whatsoever. The difference in what I am proposing and what OpenNTF today is that OpenNTF is a great place for someone to go put up a database, have some process around releasing it, and having it get downloaded and used. The collection of applications, like a modern day Nifty 50, is more along the lines of a targeted package of applications that have a common UI that can be used for demonstrations and quick application startups. OpenNTF might be the perfect place to distribute this, and if so, great. Part of the issue we have to discuss and work thru is the legal issues. Open Source causes some issues in many organizations where they do not let anything 'open source' inside the firewall. I know of at least 5 in the Chicagoland area. Having multiple people involved in an OpenNTF project, for instance Blogsphere, which has had 30+ contributors, makes it hard for someone like IBM to get behind. So no, this is not a fork, replacement, or second OpenNTF. PSC fully supports OpenNTF ... we host the 2 servers :).

    This is an effort to create a package of applications that provide business value, have a common look and feel, are documented in some standard fashion, and can be distributed some fashion besides having to force the individual to find the application.

  8. 8) Colin Williams says:

    I've got a good Contact Database/Group Addressbook template that is pretty much ready to roll if there is any interest for one of these.

    Can be deployed as a departmental contacts database or even a corporate directory. Its simple and clean looking.

    Let us know the next steps!

  9. 9) Harry Sack says:

    So hang on, we're talking about developing a set of polished templates and submitting them to IBM so they can apply blue rinse and use them to add value to Domino as a product? And we'll do this for free, out of the goodness of our hearts, just to help IBM out, because they've done oh so much for us in the past?

    Do you guys really believe that in an ideal world this is the 'best' option? Or is it that you're used to IBM's lack of interest in the product, so you feel it's the _only_ option?

  10. 10) Bruce Elgort says:

    @Harry,

    You took the words right out of my mouth. Also, where will these templates live, how will bugs be posted, feature requests be made, release mamagement etc. Also, how will these applications be licensed?

    I also explain why OpenNTF failed in the early days in the presentations I give on OpenNTF. While the idea was great the execution and lack of basic project management infrastructure was lacking.

    @John one other thing is that your blog comments are a bit misleading. The comment numbered 1) is actually the last comment made to this entry.

  11. 11) Declan lynch says:

    Yes we do it for free. We're not talking about full featured, all singing, all dancing applications we are talking about simple templates that will kick-start ideas within an environment where they only use Notes for email or stop the 'Sharepoint has all these templates' whining that's going on.

    I know I'm not looking for anything in return for doing this, infact I was just about to start releasing 100% free templates on my own blog before seeing this and holding off to do something coordinated with the rest of the community.

    As for the IBM lack of interest in the product in someways I would agree with you. A more agressive advertising and marketing dept might be in order but their development teams are certainly showing a lot of interest in the next version of Notes and seeing as they are so busy with that then why shouldn't we lend a hand, make our own contribution and if it's taken up by IBM for inclusion in a template pack then also feel a little bit of pride.

  12. 12) Sonic the Hedgehog says:

    Harrys point is really at the core of this discussion. Are we really so beleaguered that we feel we need to band together as a bunch of users to save the product despite the company that owns it?

    Does anyone else feel parallels to the Amiga community vs. Commodore? Technically superior product, check. Loyal user base, check. Innovative and unique applications you can't get anywhere else, check. Inability for the company owning the product to market it successfully or even consistently, check.

    The next step will be for all but the most hardcore users to migrate to Microsoft products whilst the fan boys decry it’s death...

  13. 13) Ed Maloney says:

    I had suggested in Ed's original discussion that IBM could sponsor internships at OpenNTF as a way of supporting the cause without exposing them to the full product obligations. A graphics/css/UI intern could provide the "blue rinse" as standard design elements for OpenNTF projects to optionally use. Notes applications are typically feature rich, but lacking in the eye-candy that end users love.

  14. 14) Anil Vartak says:

    Let me chime in..we've had this discussion a long time ago and had even started down the path of creating a common UI for a set of apps on OpenNTF. The reality is that if this is to work, you need someone working at least part-time to coordinate all this effort among different application owners as well as a graphics design team (or person) to come up with a good consistent UI. All this takes money - OpenNTF doesn't charge anybody anything and we survive only on the goodwill of companies that sponsor hosting such as PSC, a little revenue from ads and free time by the OpenNTF team and all the project owners. We don't have big corporate sponsors and we can't leave our jobs to dedicate more time to OpenNTF because we simply can't afford to.

    In short, it's a great idea and as one of the crew running OpenNTF I know how hard it is to find spare time to work on the site. I'd love to see it work, but unless we get some company (no names!) to sponsor this particular effort, it's going to be hard to get going.

  15. 15) John Head says:

    No Harry ... we would do it all .. the UI and everything else. As for doing it for free, yes, there would be no cost. Those that help with the project would have a better knowledge of them, giving them an advantage.

    I do not perceive this as something that if IBM does not do this, they aren't supporting Domino. They are working on Hannover ... with more developers on the product than ever? Does that sound like they are abandoning it?

    This is not about "the only option" ... this is about putting one's actions where their words are. I am sick of people asking and not willing to do anything in return.

    So what is your suggestion? What ideas do you have to help with the problem?

  16. 16) John Head says:

    Bruce - and now that we have the project infrastructure on OpenNTF ... I never said we should do this on a new site.

    As for the comment sorting ... its my site = my preferences, including comment sorting :-)

  17. 17) John Head says:

    @ Sonic : This has nothing to do with my lack of confedence with IBM, Lotus, or the Notes/Domino product line .. it has to do with wanting to do something instead of another round of comment bitching and people complaining about what they wish IBM would do and not taking a step to help the problem.

  18. 18) John Head says:

    @ Ed : Yes, this only works if we come up with a UI standard that all of the application meet, a common way to set them up, and a common way to document them

  19. 19) John Head says:

    @ Anil : It is a different age than when OpenNTF was started ... I think if we pick the basic apps, get a team together, and make an effort ... we have a great chance of doing something great. If we fail, at least we tried. I would rather try and crash and burn then do nothing.

  20. 20) Bruce says:

    @John,

    It may be your preference but for us readers it's confusing as heck. So 19 is 1 (first post) and 1 is last post.

    Oh that's right..you design Notes UI's ;-)

  21. 21) Laurette Rynne says:

    Hi, just to throw something out there - Tim & I have been working for some time on a development architecture - openslice { Link }

    I know some of you have seen it, and we have used it very successfully in a number of sites as a way of providing a standard UI and development foundation. It could be a good starting point as it does cover a lot of standard features which many databases include - keywords, database links, error messages, auditing etc.

    It does have some limitations - it doesn't include any web stuff (although we have been working on it); lack of documentation etc.

    In terms of UI - it's pretty difficult to come up with something that everyone would like, and that suits many corporations. We built a very simple UI in openslice that makes use of CSS, as we know from experience that the desire to quickly "corporatize" a database is appealing. That's why we've kept it simple - we kind of assume that many people will want to change the UI anyway - but at least the code is set and easy to use.

    Anyway, we would be happy to help contribute to this effort, as we have already started to build some generic apps (discussion database,application register, document library) but I think we should all be wary of attempting to find a standard approach/look and feel that is going to appeal to everyone (personally and corporately)... it may be biting off something a little too big - even the Lotus standard templates have different UI & coding...

  22. 22) Gavin Bollard says:

    There's a lot IBM could do if they were asked.

    1. Provide some financial support to OpenNTF.

    I don't think this needs explanation.

    2. Provide some sort of Logo Certification for Products. (Intel Inside / Designed for Windows xxx) It works for others, why not IBM. There could be two levels.

    a. Checked by IBM on "Windows" .

    b. Checked by IBM on all current platforms.

    3. Take a leaf from Microsoft's book and provide an EASY Update option for Clients and Servers. No... It doesn't have to be completely automatic, but it would be nice if you could select "Help" then "Search for Updates". Adobe does this, Google does this... IBM?? No more of this CFxx rubbish.

    4. Shrink-wrap some apps properly. eg: "IBM Contact Manager for Notes", "IBM Project Manager for Notes" etc. Blue-box, branding etc.

    5. Create a very EASY Notes-lite client that is configured for POP only and could be used to replace Outlook. Make this free or open-source so that Home users can get used to the look and feel. Thunderbird is challenging outlook -why not notes?

  23. 23) Ian Randall says:

    We are not talking about something in between the sample templates provided by Lotus and the commercial applications provided by Business Partners.

    What they need is a common user interface, and something that provides obvious out-of-the-box business value.

    Many of the applications already exist or can be easily developed if we put our mind to it. The user community can do it with or without the active involvement of IBM. However, IBM Could add enormous value and impetus to the project if they provide some coordination resources. For example a documented UI Specifications, QA testing (or subcontract other business partners to do it for them), and a certification process to assure that the applications that make up the portfolio meet a minumum standard for quality, multi-nationalizing them, ease of use and ease of deployment.

    The other issue is support. Who will be responsible to support these applications? Certified Business Partners? Others?

    While the development effort might be Open Source, the support of these applications needs to be solid enough for all organisations large and small to feel comfortable with them. Provided they stay Open Source, I don't even mind if IBM provides direct support for these applications, as they currently do with the free templates provided with Notes.

  24. 24) says:

    I think that coming up with a standard UI is a great idea. (and you know how much I pay attention to UI as I think it's the #1 criteria for users)

    If we start this effort, I suggest we don't go with the "R6/R7 mail" look'n feel. Why ? :

    - We won't be ready before Hannover ships and, by this time, this ui style will look outdated.

    - I think this style is not good, as it tends to show that notes UI and ergonomy follow VERY different rules than "windows" apps, which is not necessary true and which can prevent users from adopting the apps.

    But this promisses to be a very hard task to build and to "control" the application of the UI rules. But if something starts in this direction, count me in !

  25. 25) Thomas Schulte says:

    Harry, Bruce and Sonic mention something that comes also to my mind.

    What will be my benefit from that, when i redevelop !!HELP!! and the other templates like !!DRIVER!! and !!SYSTEM!! to a not yet existing IBM standard?

    IBM has not done anything for me right now. I have no influence regarding features needed for a better ui (esp. multilanguage ability). Well may be begging could be taken as a potential influence but it does not work.

    I should devote most of my spare time to help out IBM, who seems not to be able to take perhaps 1 Million USD per year to pay 10 developers to build a set of templates by themselve?

    A Company that is not able to tell their own employees who provide Domino support that something like openntf exists?

    A Company that is not able to pay one man per country (language) who checks usergroups and discussion places like Atnotes.de or Dominoforum.de and fetches problems and possible solutions from there to perhaps provide a better solution?

    So again, why should i do that? The only reason i see is that my name could perhaps be on a "watchlist" or in the peoples mind. But that is something i have right now. So again, why should i put that additional effort into that. Give me a decent reason (for examples beeing heard about features needed) and i will devote time and effort into renewing my appplications. But i will not do anything if IBM in all its glory does not commit itself to that path and to getting some work done there.

    They are earning millions of dollars from their and our work. I'm not.

  26. 26) Ed Brill says:

    We're not talking about giving away enterprise-class, mission-critical types of apps.... Take a look at the old "nifty fifty" and/or the templates that MS is providing for SharePoint today

    { Link }

    It's a showcase concept.... and should lead to expanded understanding of what can be done with Notes overall. That's when the partners with commerical offerings or custom development skills kick in.

  27. 27) Declan Lynch says:

    Well said Ed, a showcase of ideas and concepts that will allow companies to see future possibilities in how they can leverage their Domino infrastructure, not full blown all singing all dancing applications.

  28. 28) Volker Weber says:

    There once was a huge effort to help IBM to market a product. { Link }

    The big difference was that IBM actually got behind the effort.

    PS: Is this whole comment thread upside down? It IS hard to follow established UI guidelines. :-)

  29. 29) Volker Weber says:

    Old comments at the top now. Who says elephants can't dance?

  30. 30) John Head says:

    I changed the comments based on feedback. Asking nicely is one way to get my attention.

    Comments still require a subject

  31. 31) Niel R says:

    Why not just use the SharePoint list? If a core group can develop a standard UI it should be very quick and easy for others to take and develop those same apps for Notes/Domino. The apps should be reviewed by the core group before being released to make sure there is some minimal consistency.

    One other suggestion I would have is to make an installer app so that it does not take a technical person to install/configure these applications. There should also be one central nsf for keywords and config to minimize administration.

    If you're looking for volunteers, sign me up.

  32. 32) Declan lynch says:

    I think a central nsf for keywords and config might be a bad idea. Each template should be standalone and apart from something which dumps the ntf's into the data directory on the server there's not much need for installers or wizards.

    The sharpoint list is a good starting point.

  33. 33) Thomas Schulte says:

    giving away full blown apps.

    !!HELP!! is one of them and it is used worldwide with companies ranging from 5 to 6000, as far as i know, users.

    And Volker is right. IBM has had a big volunteering group to market a product (i was one of them) and they blew it up.

  34. 34) Ben Rose says:

    28 comments and I'm surprised nobody has mentioned translation.

    I support Notes in 12 different European languages + Japanese. Who's going to convert the language in all these templates for me?

    Translating is not easy...ask Steve { Link }

  35. 35) Ben Poole says:

    "Translating is not easy"? How can you say such a thing Ben! Why, we have Domino Global Workbench!

    ;o)

  36. 36) Declan lynch says:

    Thomas, !!HELP!! is a great app but the idea that we are discussing here is NOT the place for that app, nor is DominoWiki or DomBulletin. They are all great apps and OpenNTF is the place for them where they can continue to be developed and supported by the developers and community.

    What we are discussing here, in my opinion, are small samples of what can be done with Domino. Simple templates that can demonstrate what Domino can do and give ideas to management on how to get a better ROI from their infrastructure or to internal developers to see different ways of doing things or get them up and running quickly on developing new apps based on an idea they get from one of the templates.

    I don't see this as a 'new OpenNTF' and indeed contributing existing OpenNTF applications to this cause may even be very difficult to do from a legal and licensing point of view.

    I think the one word people are missing here is SIMPLE.

  37. 37) Declan Lynch says:

    BenR,

    Have you ever used Domino Global Workbench? Once you follow a preset method of development making sure that everything has an alias etc then translation is very very easy.

  38. 38) Thomas Schulte says:

    languages. And to do this we have our own translators. Well in fact having them is a side effect of our needs to translate every product description to those different languages.

    That is why i cannot see that a company with the ressources IBM has should have problems with that task.

  39. 39) Ben Rose says:

    @37 Dec,

    Nah, never used it...I'd need to be a developer for that, I'm not.

    My concern here is that it takes more than the aforementioned "blue rinse" to prep an app ready for DGW.

    It also takes a team of language experts in Dublin, at least that's what IBM do.

    "Easy" and "feasible" are two very different things.

  40. 40) Ed Brill says:

    IBM no longer does Lotus software translation in Dublin, not that it really matters.

  41. 41) Charles Robinson says:

    Could someone take a moment and explain what this holy grail of "the Nifty 50" is/was? I'm not a Lotus business partner, just a lowly corporate employee.

  42. 42) Ben Poole says:

    I'm not a BP either Charles :o)

    Anyway, some background on the Nifty Fifty (interestingly, this is a post by Rocky Oliver from 2003, aimed at reviving said initiative too):

    { Link }

  43. 43) Declan lynch says:

    Yeah take a look again at the old Nifty Fifty ftp://ftp.support.lotus.com/pub/comm/notes/workstn/template/index.html

  44. 44) Charles Robinson says:

    I would like to take a step back and ask who you see as the intended audience for these templates. So far the proposal seems to be for pretty UI's and little in the way of actual functionality so business partners can say they have the same canned applications as Sharepoint. Is that the general gist of it? Is it basically a Potemkin's village of templates?

  45. 45) Thomas Schulte says:

    about small sample applications right now but MS is not. I spoke a lot with people who are walking the MS side these days and what they say is that they see MS delivering fully blown applications like a user helpdesk for free within the next 10 years or so and they are "only" enrichening them.

    One might believe it or not. I still have my questions about that, but if i take a look at google and all the things they deliver for free right now, well it does not seem to be so unlikely any more.

    Another thing is one of the most crucious problems with notes development, let it be Notes or Web Client based right now.

    Every new developer needs to reinvent the wheel again and again because as i said before IBM is missing the chance to get only one decent template (framework) out there, where a configurable navigation, proper error handling and logging, a good configuration for keywords (multilanguage enabled) and configurable (not Domino Global Workbench) multilanguage ability in general for every other text i need to enter (as Ben Rose said ... I'd need to be a developer for that ..., and some of the people who like to create a new language version of the database aren't) etc. are fully integrated. Leaving only the task to implement the business logic and the forms and views needed for that to the developer. Let this one be well documented and understandable to developers who are new to the subject of Domino programming and you will have exact the basetemplate we need and from where alle those simple applications could be build within weeks and not months or years.

    And if anyone wants to know what is wrong with DGW call me.

  46. 46) Ben Poole says:

    Damn cookies don't work on this site... ;o)

    We can't adrdess the SharePoint thing. The out of the box applications that come with SP are provided and supported by MS.

    We can't compete with that: only IBM can. So the suggestion from Declan and John is less ambitious, and rightly so: simple, functional templates than can be extended by a developer for use in his or her organisation. Simple as that.

    Pimp time: for more on the Nifty Fifty, complete with the list Declan links to, I have a post here:

    { Link }

  47. 47) Thomas Schulte says:

    a false front without function.

    What we need is something that has a business value right out of the box. Templates that fit business needs and integrate Notes more into the customers business then simply using the Mail,Calendaring, Scheduling abilities. Because we all know that a customer who is only using Notes for mail is vulnerable to replacing it by another might be cheaper or only better promoted software.

    Small samples do not have this value.

  48. 48) Ben Poole says:

    Every Notes shop I've come across has done some development of its own. YMMV, but I haven't seen any company running Notes with pulrey shrink-wrapped "off the shelf" Notes / Domino applications running. Even the smallest outfit often has an administrator-cum-developer who happily tweaks templates until they suit.

    If you provide building blocks to facilitate that approach, what's wrong with that?

    That said, I agree that proper full-on applications should also be provided. But only IBM can create those, and they don't seem inclined to do that, beyond providing the old unloved templates (discussion, document library) and the newer initiatives like the RSS database and Dominoblog.

  49. 49) Declan lynch says:

    Every company is different. Some may have 2 levels of approval for Purchase Orders, some may have 4, some may even have spending limits on a per person basis. How do you program this into a free template and what do you do when somebody else from another company looks for something different.

    What's good for one business model is not always good for another different model. There is no 'one template fits all' solution. This is why they neeed to be simple templates that can give internal developers ideas.

  50. 50) Thomas Schulte says:

    Because there were no templates available. So everbody is in fact reinventing the wheel again and again.

    And yes a lot of companies, even small ones create their own applications from scratch. I see the people who are doing that asking questions every time they hit the wall over there at atnotes.de. Complaining about how difficult it is to develop proper Notes applications. Not to mention Web based Notes applications.

    And yes i know that IBM does not seem to be inclined to deliver full-on applications. But they could and should give the new developers a decent starting point.

  51. 51) Charles Robinson says:

    I've never gotten anything out of pulling apart any of the bundled templates in Notes. They're not well documented, they're poorly implemented (IMHO), and they're extremely convoluted.

    If this concept is just a marketing tool for business partners and not something that customers can use out of the box, why should I invest any time or energy into it? I understand nobody is saying I have to, I would just like to know what I'm really involved in before I toss my name into the hat.

    I think this is to the point it needs some meat on its bones. I'm willing to participate in whatever capacity I can, but I don't want it to just be a way for business partners to use free labor to sell more of their own services.

  52. 52) Thomas Schulte says:

    ask the CIO's what they want. Most of them will at first check if their needs could be met with an out of the box application.

    Here is one part where you do not have to go 120%.

    Delivering 80% is enough.

    Delivering 10% not.

    And if your company has 4 levels instead of 2 you have an example of how to do it or you can hire a programmer to do this for you.

  53. 53) John Head says:

    What we are trying to do is accomplish the same goal as the Nifty Fifty ...

    1. Provide a set of business-related demos that anyone can use ... IBM Sales folks, Business Partners, Customers. This would give a common set of tools to demonstrate from

    2. Provide examples of common applications that people can use to start their own applications

    I also think this effort is about trying to find a way that IBM and the Notes community can work together. There needs to be support from IBM, and I know people at IBM are reading this. I have no clue what support we can get, but I think a positive role by the community could be the wedge that is needed. No promises of course.

    The whole point of this is about stop complaining and do something. We can all complain about what IBM doesn't do. What Notes/Domino doesn't do. That's great. All it will do is keep us where we are today. Maybe this is ambitious. Maybe the end result will be a lot less than what I proposed or Declan suggested or others have commented on. This is not about me. This is not about any one person or site. It is an effort to put some organization around our thoughts. I would rather try and fail, or try and meet basic goals, then do nothing.

  54. 54) John Head says:

    Thomas - so we should do nothing? We should sit back and complain? Yes, Microsoft will probably come out with a free help desk tool. Google will probably have helpdesk.google.com. But they do not today.

    IBM has it's own goals. We can argue if they are good or bad goals, but they are still IBM's goals. One of those is not to destroy that amazing Business Partner community. When the Nifty Fifty were released (before Notes 4.0 and LotusScript), the community was still very new. There were some applications you could buy, but the custom application market was still pretty new.

    We are not suggesting we replace Business Partner applications. We are not suggesting we replace OpenNTF.org. I think the project management system that was build by that team (Bruce, Vince, and Anil) is the only way this can be done as a community. They have done amazing work. What we are talking about is building on top of that and coming up with a response to a need.

  55. 55) Ben Poole says:

    Why does everyone keep banging on about Business Partners? I'm not one. :-p

    Re pulling apart templates, Charles I agree when you're talking about the LOTUS templates... but who hasn't learned loads about development pulling apart someone else's code?

    Anyway, there seems to be a lot of resistance to the idea of releasing some basic free templates, so I guess I'll hold fire.

  56. 56) Bruce Elgort says:

    Why don't we take the top 20 or so downloaded OpenNTF apps an assist the chefs in preparing:

    Documentation

    Brochureware

    A sample demo database for each app.

    Screen shots

    etc.

  57. 57) Volker Weber says:

    Bruce is on a honeymoon and unable to post comments. ;-)

  58. 58) Charles Robinson says:

    @John - Again, I don't disagree, I just think IBM is expecting far more of their user base than is appropriate. Had they worked to fill these gaps throughout Notes' 20 year history it wouldn't be the crisis it is now. It is what it is, though, and I hear you loud and clear about the community needing to fill the gaps. It does sadden me that IBM isn't stepping up and doing that themselves, though.

    @Ben Poole - John is a business partner, which is why I keep bringing that up. I'm not opposed to the idea being presented, I like it. Let me repeat that: I like this idea and want to participate. I just want it to be explicitly clear what the intended direction is. John has clarified that, I'm comfortable with his explanation, and I am ready to proceed. So what's the next step?

    @Bruce - I'd be willing to do that, if I could figure out how to list them by number of downloads. I can't figure out the order the 20 listed on the home page are in. I guess I'll start with !!HELP!! since it has nearly 15K downloads.

    I'm rather surprised that NTF himself hasn't waded in here.

  59. 59) John Head says:

    @Charles ... just one clarification ... IBM has not asked for this. Have I chatted about this with IBMers since I wrote the comment last week? Yes. Did they have any push behind me writing it or posting it here for discussion? No.

    Would I love that IBM had better sample apps? Yes. Would IBM doing that over the past 10 years have stunted the BP market around the product that is there today? Not sure. I guess my attitude is so what ... unless someone has a time machine, we can only deal with today and tomorrow. Plus, having the community involved means we can have input on what is developed. I think that is a huge opportunity. If the emails I am getting prove anything, there is a huge amount of support for this. I am excited.

    The next step is to let this discussion go on a bit. We still need to come up with some tangible tasks to do.

  60. 60) Bruce Elgort says:

    { Link }

  61. 61) John Head says:

    @Bruce : That is a great question ... what are the legal ramifications on that? Would authors be willing to hand over rights for them to be packaged? What about projects with multiple authors and lots of contributors? If we want have a chance to get more IBM support behind this, we need to think/talk thru these issues so we do not pigeon hole ourselves for later. What do we have to worry about?

  62. 62) Neil Thomas says:

    I have seen a marked lack of development effort set into the Notes/Domino market. I have noticed that it has set in with the chargeback fad. Typical scenario:

    Great Notes development team, great product for the company as a whole max benefit.

    Enter chargeback.

    No central funding, everyone arguing about "why should I pay for something that benefits everyone?".

    Slow death for the Notes team and every small department spends their budget on "cheap" "Lite" apps that don't scale or integrate.

    In that marketplace, IBM HAS to step up to the plate and produce the kind of templates that can be used "as is" by any part of the organisation with simple configuration changes. Probably with dynamic "branding" options which are point and click.

    This community cannot provide that and will not succeed in the face of this change in the way that corporate funding is meted out. The only way to win in this environment is to build on the back of immediate direct benefits of purchasing the product, because of the direct benefit of the bundled apps.

    One other burning comment.

    John,

    Ashton Tate, at one point, had more developers working on Dbase IV than Microsoft had working on Windows.

    Numbers alone do not a success make. I see Hannover coming with a massive memory overhead and a few "cleanup" and "makeover" changes (in the grand scheme of things). For that I will have to upgrade almost my entire company hardware to support the massive footprint of Eclipse.

    In short we will have stood still for 5 years and will have to pay a huge bill to continue standing still.

    If we are to succeed in this changing marketplace, we need to change. That must be led and supported by IBM. A failure to recognise that situation could eventually lead to the death of the only product worth having in the collaboration space.

    And that would be sad, no matter how much the product irritates me.

  63. 63) Bruce says:

    These apps aren't going to be resold. They can easily be distributed with the license type that appears on OpenNTF. Why not even create some type of designator on a project that will give it visability into the "Nitfy Fifty" view :-).

    IBM ships plenty of software that is open sourced. Please provide some more background on "what are the legal ramifications on that".

  64. 64) John Head says:

    @ Neil ... You are of course welcome to your opinions about Hannover and this community, but I disagree. I also will not just sit and wait. It is time to do something. Those that want to participate can. Those do not do not have too.

  65. 65) John Head says:

    @ Bruce : most people believe they need to be 'blessed' by IBM at the minimum, supported by IBM if possible. I am not saying that will happen, but do we want to prevent it from happening?

  66. 66) Ben Rose says:

    Anyone else having problems with the comments on this page rendering in IE?

  67. 67) Bruce says:

    @66 is right. Page is hard to read using IE. Where should Ben make a post to get this issue looked into now that this template has been blue rinsed? ;-)

  68. 68) John Head says:

    I will talk with steve, but this is not the ibm blog template. This is still dxblog302

  69. 69) Ben Rose says:

    It might not be the blue rinse but he broke the cookies and the fonts in the process.

    This looks nothing like Ed's and all the rendering has gone bad, just like those Blogsphere sites.

  70. 70) daren nelson says:

    i will commit to blue rinse the full version of c.Support and give it away (nag screen free). we would have to work out some aggrement on suppot (5 free calls then pay per call) but I would love to see something like this work.

  71. 71) Bruce says:

    Daren,

    Your idea is great. I applaud you and GWI.

  72. 72) Thomas Schulte says:

    i want IBM to step into that process in an official way and lets say form the head of a task force. If they do so i will donate my time to them.

    !!HELP!! hits 15K downloads total these days and the last version has over 5K downloads alone in the six months since it was released. I do not know who is responsible for all those downloads and i think that this database still has a lot of flaws, especially when it comes to Web UI or object oriented programming, which is right now lets say not existent. There is a BaseTemplate where other databases can be build from that makes use of a lot of the concepts that were developed for !!HELP!! and this database could be provided as a base source but not without doing some redefinition work.

  73. 73) Neil Thomas says:

    John, @64

    Thanks for the invite to my opinion... :-) some seem to feel it doesn't count or isn't wanted.

    I have spent 85% of my IT career working with and promoting Notes and Domino. The fact that I hate the client to death makes that more notable, not less. The fact that I suffer nothing when discussing faults I see in the client/server does not make my support less when I am providing the product. In fact in many cases it makes me more credible.

    It looks like I may be right back in the Exchange/Notes/Domino debate in the next month or so. I am in Exactly the position I outline above re applications. So my opinion is not just opinion but bitter experience.

    I'm not saying do nothing. I'm saying force IBM to support the product they make so much out of. I don't mean write a support contract, I mean functionally spend money; to actively produce the products; to make the platform so useful, that nobody would want to leave it because the cost would be so incredibly high.

    I have a friend who is now in a partnership deal with Microsoft. MS has shelved their competing product development and are reselling his. Putting real money behind efforts to make the community strong enough to drive their core efforts.

    Let's face it, Exchange works. Sharepoint works. The sharepoint apps work and look pretty. The rest is simply packaging. OK if you want to go outside of the apps provided then it's a real effort. But how many do? How many sites have you seen with 40,000 domino apps and 39,000 of them are based on the discussion template?

    This feels like a desparate attempt to prop up a product which is getting lacklustre support from the owner. Yes it may work for a while, but for how long. If I were a CIO I would be looking at the very nature of the effort and see it as transitionary. Do I want to base my business on a product set which does not have solid IBM backing? Probably not.

    If IBM would step up to the plate and provide even 2xFTE to legitimise this effort, I would say you have a chance. Otherwise you are going to produce a lot of Notes/Domino "shareware" and most companies don't like shareware.

    If someone can bring to me a concensus opinion from the CEO community out there that this kind of effort will produce real tangible results which will be accepted in the business community, then I will dedicate one evening a week from my normal working week to this effort for so long as I remain in the Notes/Domino community.

    Deal?

  74. 74) GarryL says:

    I have to say that whilst I think it's fantastic that people are chipping in on this, the whole thing makes me uncomfortable.

    Honestly, I think it’s pretty shocking and very frustrating, that this has to be happening at all. IBM is a massive company with huge resources, and yet it's going to take some talented volunteers giving up their valuable spare time and effort, just so we can come up with some cool applications to increase the business usefulness of the product when actually that should really be out-of-the-box, and therefore supported, by IBM?

    Maybe IBM's issue is that Notes is too much of a capable product, and therefore stamps on ground that some of their other products offer? Some people don't like Notes being compared to Exchange, as it’s much more than just email. But then it gets compared to Sharepoint as well. In the first, it’s the Notes client that lets it get hammered. In the second, Notes simply does not do what Sharepoint does out of the box. How can it win?

    When companies are comparing products, should they not be comparing Sharepoint against something Workplaces Services Express instead of Notes? Should Notes just be classed as email for comparison? I wouldn't want it that way, but then I'm not selling several effectively competing products as IBM is. We looked at WSE, but the hardware requirements were ridiculous, in addition to the fact that the included Cloudscape database was not going to scale where we wanted, and, at that time, we would have needed to buy DB2 or SQL Server (Enterprise Edition!). But, if IBM, out some really cool, good looking full apps in Notes, isn't that just another reason not to buy one of their other products such as WSE? I will say that the WSE UI does look very good, as modern apps should do. Have to.

    I really do not get a warm and fuzzy feeling from this. I don't want to be negative here, and it’s truly a valiant effort, with people who honestly care about the product, but unless Notes is given more of a default business focus (i.e. apps available upon install), then I’m afraid that the current Sharepoint/Exchange steam roller may just flatten everything. They already seem to be the default choice for many SME’s. How much longer before they move up the stack?

  75. 75) GarryL says:

    Sorry, but the sentance..

    But, if IBM, out some really cool, good looking full apps in Notes, isn't that just another reason not to buy one of their other products such as WSE? I will say that the WSE UI does look very good, as modern apps should do. Have to.

    Should have read..

    But, if IBM offered, out-of-the-box, some really cool, good looking full apps in Notes, isn't that just another reason not to buy one of their other products such as WSE? I will say that the WSE UI does look very good, as modern apps should do. Have to.

  76. 76) GarryL says:

    ....as this "Notes Versus Sharepoint " posting from Julian's site in August 2005 shows....

    { Link }

    Read the comments there. Deja Vu?

  77. 77) Charles Robinson says:

    I agree completely on the assessment of IBM's internal conflict. There is so much overlap between various product offerings that I could see how they would be stumbling over themselves to figure out which one meets a customer's needs. I can only assume that leads to confusion about which one to present to a customer.

    I've done a complete about face on the subject of coming up with a set of templates to mimic Sharepoint functionality. I have come to appreciate that for Notes and Domino to gain inroads into smaller companies or win over companies who are on the fence Notes needs to come in the door with a compelling suite of applications with a consistent UI and documentation.

    Do I think Lotus should have done more throughout Notes' history to keep the shipped templates congruent with customers' needs? Absolutely, but we can't change the past. Do I think it's right or fair that IBM is putting this burden on customers and business partners? Absolutely not, I find it hightly inappropriate in every imaginable way. The amount of pushback this has received from has IBM and Lotus has been shocking, disheartening and frustrating.

    There are two ways to address the problem now: do it ourselves or wait for Lotus to pick it up. According to IBM/Lotus employees they will not do it for reasons ranging from a focus on Hannover to an unwillingness to compete with the business partner community. By default the only real option is to pick this up ourselves.

    As John keeps saying that leaves two options: participate or don't. I'm choosing to participate, but I'm honestly conflicted by that decision. The product overlap Gary described and the lack of uptake by IBM and Lotus makes me extremely uncomfortable.

  78. 78) Corey Kimball says:

    Sorry, I posted this on Ed Brill's site, and then was "gently reminded" to post here instead.

    This was the first of my posts.

    I always find it amusing when the arguement turns to "Out of the Box". I haven't worked in the Microsoft world of programming, but from everything I've read, and everything I've seen, it appears to me that when you open up the box on Exchange, you get an email server. When you open the box on SQL you get a database server. When you open the box on VB, .Net, C#, or whatever flavor of development software being used, you get the CAPABILITY to build apps. Not apps that work "out of the box", but the CAPABILITY to build those apps.

    How is this so different from Notes? Well, if there are in fact NO "out of the box" apps with MS, then Notes is several steps ahead in this regard.

    I currently work at an educational institution, and it's like pulling teeth getting Notes embedded in the environment. We have several web apps, and a few workflow apps, but nothing that approaches the true potential of how the software could permiate this environment.

    In an effort to increase understanding of Domino in the environment, one of my co-workers has taken on the role of Domino evangalist. Our resources are low on the Domino side (only one developer -- me). We have two consultants on board, but they will be leaving withing the next several months.

    This co-worker has taken the tact of using Document Libraries, and Team Rooms in an effort to get the 4 other institutions in our environment to be more aware of what Domino can do. These are "Out of the Box" applications that require no coding. The person that is doing this evangalizing is a Technical Manager, with no former Notes development skills, and yet he has been able to set up several "out of the box" applications that have had a substantive impact on division level leaders within the organization. He's using the basic stuff to gain an interest. As the interest becomes stronger, we can then show the instutional leaders some of the more in depth workflow applications that have been developed.

    I'm not sure that there is an equivalent in the MS world. Not without a lot of effort, anyway.

    Additionally, when you add all of the features that you can so quickly add into a Domino application, it usually justs generates a chuckle in me when I hear others talk about putting together an app with Exchange/SQL/.Net/C#/etc, when I can do ALL of the "out of the box" with Domino, and probably at a MUCH quicker pace than someone on the MS side.

  79. 79) Corey Kimball says:

    This was my second post on Ed's site, in response to another post.

    While I certainly would agree that we should be better than MS, I guess my comment was geared more toward the fact that you can do so much with Domino "out of the box".

    Yes, you need to do some development to get really "polished" Domino applications. But, don't you have to do that with other platforms as well? How can one "out of the box" application cover the needs for so many different companies? Isn't there always some level of customization to these applications that occurs?

    I also have some experience with "out of the box" solutions. Some provided for Notes, and some provided for other platforms. When the euphoria of having this shiny new application died down, we settled into the reality that these "out of the box" applications needed MUCH code manipulation to work for our environment.

    One such application was modified so greatly that the company I worked for basically coded themselves out of the upgrade path. The code modifications were so great, that updating the new templates with the new modifications would have been extremely time consuming. Not to mention the fact that some of the code changes that we made, were actually code changes that the company had made in future updates, which caused incompatibilities. I understand that this is the responsibility of the people using the software, but when it comes to the point where an application needs that much modification to work in a "standard" environment, I would suggest that it's not really an "out of the box" solution.

    This particular application was an expensive help desk application, that needed a dedicated server and much end user training. We even needed to have a rep from the company flown in for a weeks worth of trainin in how to set it up!

    We no longer use it. In fact, a few months ago we were migrating to r7, and the "out of the box" solution did not work on r7. So, I literally spent about a week at night at home developing the replacement to that application. Does it have all the bells and whistles of the "out of the box" application? No. Does it do what it needs to do? Absolutely. Does it look nice? Yes. Is it in production, without much effort? Yes. And more departments are signing up to use it.

    I'll use one other application as an example. I had set up a Domino application to be a front end for online "distance learning". Basically, we offered college students the opportunity to take classes online. I spent a few months designing, testing, and rolling out the application.

    The application took registrations online, allowed users to browse course catalogs for (4) different colleges, register for courses, drop courses, communicate with faculty, etc. The application also communicated with backend Oracle databases to keep data consistent with other systems in the organization.

    Well, after a period of time, the "powers" decided that they would like to have an "out of the box" solution, so they spent ALOT of money to buy one. Nice. It seemed to do what they wanted, all "out of the box". This was fine for a few minutes, but then reality settled in, and it was discovered that this very expensive "out of the box" solution needed much modification. Well, there have been 3 full time developers on the staff doing the updates/fixes, etc for over three years. Oh, btw, did I mention the additional server hardware that was needed for this "out of the box" software to run on? Another LARGE sum of money.

    So, after all of this money being spent, and the time of the (3) developers being paid, I would tend to lean toward the Domino application that was running on (1) web server, (along with several other web applications, as it did not need a dedicated server). I beleive that in the long run, if a cost comparison was done, the difference would be staggering.

    As an aside to this, I remember a conversation not long ago when one of the full time developers working on the application came to me, and asked "Didn't we do this in Domino?". I said yes, and he commented that he just couldn't understand why they went away from the Domino application, and turned toward the "out of the box" application, because the Domino app just worked, and the other applcation needed so much work to keep going. BTW, this particular software was not developed by someone in their spare time. It is a fully functional "out of the box" solution that is apparently being used in many college campuses across the country.

    Yes, the original Domino application needed to be developed by someone with Domino skills. However, after the initial few months of time, we had a solid application that worked without intervention, and on a non-dedicated server. The only maintenance to the application was adding additional features as time went on, as new functionality was required. It just worked. Sorry to say that this was not the situation for the shiny new "out of the box" software. In fact, the help desk application that I had developed (mentioned above), is currently being used to track incidents to this application by the software vendor, and our in house team.

    I guess the bottom line for me is this...Yes, "out of the box" is nice, but in my experience there has always been modification to the "out of the box" applications that could have been taken into account during the initial rollout of a Domino application.

  80. 80) John Head says:

    @ Daren - WOW! Thanks for that offer. Please keep your eye on this ... I am going to try to move the discussion along with another posting

  81. 81) John Head says:

    @Neil : I am a total First Amendment proponent, so I respect and welcome anyone's right to comment. I do think there is a level of what's appropriate.

    As for the Sharepoint Applications, I am doing some research on what level of support, translation, and customization they have around them. I do know (PSC is a Microsoft Gold Partner, and we have some pretty killer Sharepoint folks in house) that the reality of those apps is people do not use them in production. Especially when they are basically ripped and replaced each version.

  82. 82) Neil Thomas says:

    @John. Yes I do wade in with a large stick sometimes and for that I apologise. There are, however, limits to what I can take and they have been stretched pretty far by IBM over the last 3 or 4 years with their focus on workplace instead of extending Domino into a place it rightfully owns.

    I also have personal issues with areas of IBM and they revolve around honesty and integrity. So I am well balanced, I have a very large chip on both shoulders.

    But I reiterate. If someone can Prove to me that:

    1. This will be accepted in the corporate space

    2. This is a sustainable effort and will endure

    I'll back it and give my time and experinece (such as it is) to help.

    If not, then this is will wind up as nothing more than an entheusiastic attempt to do a promotion job that IBM has spectacularly failed to do over the last few years.

    The Wonder is that Notes has weathered it well.

  83. 83) Charles Robinson says:

    @82 - Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith.

  84. 84) Neil Thomas says:

    @83 All out of faith, too many burn marks. Avowed skeptic now.

  85. 85) GarryL says:

    @81 Even taking out those free apps, the whole Sharepoint solution, from an end user view, is a much slicker ‘click click click’ approach. Notes is separate databases/templates, and would need some development to get them together. Even then, it’s not the seamless looking consistent front-end you get in SP.

    @82 "The Wonder is that Notes has weathered it well."

    What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

    Let’s look forward a bit. Microsoft releases Sharepoint Portal Server 2007. Various publications and online sites want to review it and compare the competition. What will IBM send? Notes/Domino? Workplace Services Express? Workplace Portal? WebSphere Portal Express for Multiplatforms? WebSphere Portal Express Plus for Multiplatforms? Something else? Nothing?

  86. 86) GarryL says:

    Anyone disagree that at present, Notes/Domino, out of the box, will be no match for Sharepoint Portal Server 2007/Exchange out of the box? That's why people are asking for apps. Or is it not considered a contender?

    From the lack of IBM response, I feel as though we’re on our own. Can the reluctance be explained by the alternatives already available from IBM already?......

    Want email? Try IBM Workplace Messenging

    Want Content Management? Try IBM Workplace Content Management

    Want Document Management? Try IBM Workplace Documents

    As far as I can gather, IBM Workplace Collaboration Services, along with the IBM Workplace Managed Client would appear to be the alternative Workplace stack to Notes/Domino.

    The above products (from what I have seen) have had a consistent modern look and feel to them. Putting aside the complexities of the installs (not an easy task, according the literature), and the rather hefty hardware requirements, they all work out the box. They are applications. It’s nothing that Notes cannot do, but you would have to develop it yourself. Why equip a single product (Notes/Domino) with the same out-of-box functionality, when you have all these other products to sell?

    IBM not in the applications business? Is that still true? Maybe someone should tell the Workplace teams { Link } or are ‘solutions’ different to ‘applications’?

  87. 87) Ian Randall says:

    When you analyse the numbers, Lotus Notes stacks up very well against MS Sharepoint.

    Standard Templates provided Free with SharePoint = 33

    Standard Templates provided with Lotus Notes = (Approx 40)

    Free Templates Provided by OpenNTF = (Approx 107)

    Free Templates Provided on the Lotus Sandbox = Hundreds

    Free Templates provided on Lotus Business Partners & Lotus User Web Sites = Many Hundreds

    While the quality of some of these Notes applications vary, as does the User Interface, it still does not take away from a huge lead that Lotus Notes has over SharePoint in collaborative applications. And I have not even mentioned the many hundreds of well supported commercial Lotus Notes business solutions that are available around the world.

    In a head-to-head comparison, Lotus Notes staks up extremely well.

    That is not to say that an initiative to develop a more consistet UI, and better out-of-the-box solutions does not have great merit, but I wanted to place things into perspective.

  88. 88) Thomas Schulte says:

    And that is the core point. The MS apps deliver more out of the box value then the (mostly outdated) standard templates do (and i do not know how comes that you count 40 of them) and btw. they have a consistant look and feel that the complete bunch of standard and free templates lacks.

    So counting numbers in this case is not placing things into perspective.

  89. 89) GarryL says:

    Ok, so some people don't really go with the term 'Out of the box'.

    Hows about 'Hitting the ground running'

    Does that improve the perception a bit?

  90. 90) GarryL says:

    ...theres a tag line for the new Hannover release

    Lotus Notes 8

    Hit the ground running.

    Mind, if this is used, I want some commision on it!

    :)

  91. 91) Mike McGarel says:

    @81: It is my understanding that the Notes apps we're discussing are intended more as a marketing tool than as something for production use, which I assume is the point of the SharePoint samples. Of course, they would still need to be functional.

    @88: I agree about the need to provide business value right away without going to additional sources. A multitude of choices (in many places) in can look like too much work to some.

    I, too, think IBM dropped the ball when it comes to the current templates, but I'm willing to pitch in with this project, especially with putting together a modern and consistent UI.

  92. 92) Chris Toohey says:

    "A call for Champions: Black and Blue and Yellow Too!"

    { Link }

    "Re: A call for Champions: Black and Blue and Yellow Too!"

    { Link }

  93. 93) Corey Kimball says:

    @89 I like 'Hitting the ground running'.

    @89 and @91 I must admit, I was one that was definately caught up in the "Out of the box" thing. Had some bad experiences with paying for software, and then making LOTS of modifications. I see the distinction now. I started off over on Ed Brill's site, and I guess I didn't really read through the stuff here, prior to making my comments. Sorry...

    I am all for the template ideas with the understanding that there still needs to be some modification to fit your specific environment. I think it's a great way to get Domino started in an environment, and a great way to help push it in the envrionment.

    If there can be a some additional sets that can be delivered with the standard set, I think that would be great. I know that there is a company that does workflow, and I think if there was some level of offering with the standard templates, this would be a big hit. A lot of the work that I do, and a big part of the core competencies with Domino is workflow. It would be good to have a tool that could build some basic workflows that "hit the ground running".

  94. 94) Ian Randall says:

    @88 Thomas, I go to about 40 templates by ticking the Show Advancede Templates option.

    I take your point about numbers not being the only metric. However when we combine the more useful Lotus Templates with some of the great stuff from OpenNTF and other free sources, then a Lotus stacks up fairly well against SharePoint using just numbers.

    The fact that the SharePoint templates share a common UI does give them an advantage, but there are also many of the free SharePoint templates that have a very narrow appeal, e.g. collaborating on legal documents or conducting Case work etc.

    I think that Lotus have been treading a fine line between providing compelling out of the box value with competing with the Business Partner Community, who make their living selling software.

    But this blog topic is really about what the user community can do to address this issue, because we don't have that channel conflict.

  95. 95) GarryL says:

    In case there is some of you who really don't get the Sharepoint threat, this { Link } takes you to Bill Gates speech at the recent Sharepint Conference. This was one of the questions listed on there....

    QUESTION: I guess I never really thought I'd be standing here, because I'm a long time Lotus IBM partner, been on it for 12 years, and been working with you guys for about a year now, and thank you for embracing us with open arms, and it's been great. We're currently involved with you with various competitive initiatives in terms of moving people from Lotus Notes to the Microsoft environment, and I want to thank you for everything you've shown me, because we really have the weapons now to go against very complex Notes applications that are out there.

    Speaking of that, what is your current view about Lotus Notes and the current Workplace initiatives that IBM is coming out with?

    BILL GATES: Okay. Well, I'm not exactly unbiased on this subject. (Laughter.)

    I'd say that we're the beneficiary of the fact that when we think about doing software, the idea of the information worker and what they need, how they think, what's complicating and confusing them, that's always been a huge center of gravity for us, how do we empower those people. And as IBM, other than the work that Ray Ozzie did when he was at Iris connected with Lotus, their center of gravity has very much been more in terms of IT or corporate development. And there's nothing wrong with that, those are important constituencies, we have to understand their needs, but particularly as the original team at Iris disappeared, they've really gone back to not so much thinking about productivity software, they haven't done anything new there. Workplace, I don't know of any substantial use of Workplace that's out there, and that's before the Office 2007 system comes up.

    We have done something where we've said that as you think about Notes and you compare that to Microsoft, don't just think about Exchange. Exchange has a release -- I think of it as Exchange 12, but I guess it's Exchange 2007 that's timed at the same time as Office 2007, very powerful release. In fact, we had a conference focused on that as well, and it connects up to these other things.

    So for messaging that is the best system, but we never turned Exchange into a collaboration platform. We had some shared folder things and stuff like that. SharePoint is clearly our collaboration platform, and it's more mainstream because it's just taking all the standards of the Web and the browser access and just building on top of those.

    And so we've been very lucky that as IBM has had a discontinuity, that they're saying, well, your Notes applications aren't going to continue to run, we want you to move to a new environment, which is some WebSphere type thing, people have had to step back and say, okay, it's not the best messaging system, Exchange has been totally focused on those scenarios, and it's not the best collaboration platform because it's sort of stuck as a pretty good messaging platform and a pretty good collaboration platform.

    And so we have had a lot of very strong migration. Getting corporations to do it was hard because they'll have a lot of Notes applications and we have partners that have learned how to help with the migration or show them how to let some of those stay in place and still have the integration that those people want.

    So the trend on Exchange for messaging and SharePoint for the collaboration piece has been fantastic, partly because of the partner programs we've built around that. So thanks for your help on that. I do not see anything IBM is doing that we feel particularly threatened by where they're sitting down and thinking, hey, we're going to allow information workers to work in a better way. And that's partly why we picked this People Ready them, because that's a way of looking at things that we fortunately are fairly unique in.

    KURT DELBENE: Yeah, I'm even more biased than Bill probably, but the other thing I would add there is compare us in terms of the depth of our vision across the entire information worker space and the consistency of architecture versus a set of products that you have to deploy on the IBM side, and I think you would find that I think the vision is broader and it's more consistent and easier to deploy.

  96. 96) Thomas Schulte says:

    sorry to say that without some people dedicated and at last paid, to guide all those great programmers out there (not me i'm not great), to keep discussions running and focused, to get deeply integrated into the structures of IBM, all efforts of our community will be in vain.

    And i think it is a fact that trying to reconcile people from different countrys with different lifestyles and approaches towards solutions is something that cannot be done lefthanded.

    And why the integration in the structures of IBM?

    So lets see, i got a different approach towards multilanguage programming in Notes than IBM has because of some reasons. I have to mantain databases where people who speak nine different languages have to work together on one subject. Databases that have roundabout 80 views and some 15 forms. Subforms, Outlines and other things that pour messages around not counted. One of those databases has a size of 500 MEG right now and it is rising fast. If i put this database through GWB that would make 135 forms and 720 views which lets this applcation explode in size and perhaps it could no longer be handled. I am missing at last four maybe five changes in the notes client and the domino server to do a more efficient multilanguage programming for the web and the notes client. The ability to use formulas for TabbedTable headers, for ViewColumn headers and for ActionHotspots. The correct use of @LanguagePreference in views to get language based keywords in views without having to hardcode them. And one flaw in the outline regarding the pictures where you can not use the same formula to select a picture as you can selecting a source, resulting in taking a longer time to load the navigation than necessary. I was told that this would be easy to implement some time ago. I am vocal about that every time i meet a someone from IBM. I delivered samples and i am also vocal in the virtual world but nothing happens. There is no feedback, there is no reaction.

    So what do you think will happen when the user community will perhaps try to tell IBM please fix that without having evangelists within IBM? Well i think nothing will happen. The same way nothing has happened the last years with other issues hanging around. Embedding views from other databases, which really is a nice feature, being one of them.

    And ticking the Show Advanced Templates option, lets take a look at that. How many of these templates are not domino intern. Lets see:

    Discussion - Notes & Web (6)

    Doc Library - Notes And Web (R6)

    Microsoft Office Library (6)

    News Articles (6)

    Personal Journal (R6)

    Personal Web Navigator (6)

    Phonebook (6)

    SearchSite (6)

    Subscriptions (6)

    TeamRoom(6)

    For me that makes 10 not 40.

  97. 97) Thomas Schulte says:

    some cases he simply lied. Exchange never beeing positioned as a competition towards Domino regarding Collaboration is one of those points. The thing he says about Notes application not continuing being an other one.

    But there are two things that are worth to mention in this excerpt.

    The first one is in the question asked. With Sharepoint they have the weapons to compete, and as it was mentioned before by a very valuable member of the Notes community they ARE buying themselves into the market.

    The second one is this statement: "I do not see anything IBM is doing that we feel particularly threatened by where they're sitting down and thinking".

    I think that there are no comments needed for this one, because if this is not holding some kind of truth we would not have this discussion right now.

  98. 98) Thomas Schulte says:

    the last statement he makes.

    BILL GATES: Yeah, and education is a great thing for SharePoint, the idea of we want to build up a critical mass of templates there and get a phenomenon industry by industry and ourselves really figure out how we can get the template exchange going both noncommercially shared templates but also ones that are ISV commercial as well.

    This is where he is telling us. Folks we will do anything to take over, and if we need to provide a lot of templates to do this we will make and deliver them.

  99. 99) GarryL says:

    @97

    There were several things in that speech that didn't ring right, but then you would expect a certain level of leaning towards Microsoft! :-) Some of the questions were really laid out in a suckbutt way, but people listen to the Microsoft message.

    It’s an interesting read, and this bit stood out for me..

    "..just click on that template, edit it, have it be different for inside your company, and, boom, you're off and running; no need to go to IT and get something provisioned in a special way or to learn something new, it's there and you're all sharing it."

    Ease of use for the end-user, and they can do it themselves. One of the main reasons why people like Microsoft.

    Summary: Bill Gates' Top 5 from Sharepoint 2007

    1. Wikis, Blogs and RSS capabilities

    2. Excel Services

    3. Client Integration

    4. Search

    5. Business Data Catalog

    So these are out of the box, and designed to work with Office tools. Excel Services especially is going to be a biggie as far as I can see.

    What is our answer to those?

  100. 100) Charles Robinson says:

    Here's a timely blog post from Computerworld about the true cost of out of the box software: { Link }

    Bill's totally wrong spiel was already picked apart over on Ed's blog: { Link }

  101. 101) GarryL says:

    @100 - must have missed that blog, was news to me. Must keep up more in the future! Maybe there are some like me who missed it first time around. Is it not telling he can say some of those things, and there ins't a huge outcry in the press?

    I take your point about out-of-the-box, but, for example, if you take something like the document management and workflow thats going to come in Sharepoint 2007, how many different ways can you do that? You book a document in, you book it out, add some metatdata to etc etc. That already adds value as you do not have to then get that developed in addition to purchasing the software.

    You certainly can add value to a business and differentiate yourself from your competition via software, but do you not think that Microsoft has got it right here? Provide oodles of good looking, clean modern stuff that is up and going straight away then build around that, or Notes where you open the box then decide what to do?

    A good developer could certainly get you going on Notes, but then couldn't a good developer take the Sharepoint stuff and make it even better? Who's ahead in the game now?

    I asked a few postings ago what IBM would put up against Sharepoint 2007, and I haven't had an answer on that. Rob Novak over at Vowe's { Link } said "Sharepoint doesn't compete against Notes. Sharepoint competes against Notes and Domino applications-- which are sadly hard to come by (as in, not as intuitive to find, even the free ones) unless you have a good Business Partner relationship as part of the mix.".

    He makes that point that in some companies Sharepoint gets compared with QuickPlace.

    Anyone else want to suggest what would make a good comparison, and let IBM come out looking the champ?

  102. 102) Ben Poole says:

    Lotus Notes/Domino 7 vs SharePoint Portal Server 2003:

    { Link }

  103. 103) Thomas Schulte says:

    But the gods (CEO, CIO) who decide about implementing this or that software do not know. They want to see "Out of the Box", "hit the ground running" solutions and they want to have graphic reporting in there because they do not (translate, cannot) read statistics. Instead of graphic reporting you can chose any other feature that the notes client is not good at if you want to.

    So we are back to step one. I they do not see any valueable things coming out of the box they will not buy the whole thing and that means they will not buy this Domino/Notes thing we all love. Well most of the time we do that, don't we?

  104. 104) GarryL says:

    @102

    The verdict just basically repeats what has been said elsewhere in this blog - Domino is a good collaborative soluion but requires work. Sharepoint 2003 is more simplistic but easier to get going. Users can create sites and therefore instant apps easily with a modern slick interface.

    Now we are nearly at Sharepoint 2007, Notes 7 will not be a match for that, no way. Will Notes 8 be out by then? Even so, will be as good an out-the-box-experience? I have no way of knowing.

    There is really only so much I can go on about this, and I now am just starting to repeat myself. I guess I'll maybe just wait and see the clash of the Titans for real when it happens.

    Fingers crossed people. We're on our own.

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