The Notes / Lotus Bubble: Why "community" and "change" invoke such wide emotional responses

June 16 2010

I have stayed very quiet in this weeks blogging explosion that has happened within the Lotus bubble. I reached out to jonvon personally and made a comment on both Gab's and Ed's posts. Nothing really serious and definitely not bringing my voice and opinion into this discussion. For right now - I am going to stay clear of the specific discussion on what IBM can do. Ed's blog post is the beginning of what should be a bigger conversation IBM has with the community - in whatever form or shape that turns into. Andrew is writing some good posts to get the discussion going. We will see everyone put forth their thoughts on what IBM should do - and with good cause.

I certainly see both sides of the conversation. What makes it more interesting for me is PSC has always had multiple practices around different technologies. We have had a thriving Microsoft practice for a couple years. I have been doing work with Microsoft since 1995. I branched out three years ago to start a Document Generation practice at PSC that works closely with Microsoft on the OOXML and ODF document formats. I like change and have never been someone who wanted to only work with one technology for 10 or so years. So for me, when I hear people say they are picking up new skills - I am happy for them. A good consultant not only understands business process and project and client management, but has multiple technical skills so they can be open minded in the solutions they suggest and deliver to their customers. Being 100% focused on a single technology by any vendor has always been something I discouraged. I guess this is where I defer from many in the yellow bubble. Nothing wrong with a difference in opinions.

But what I found to be theme that I connected with in jonvon's post was his emotions as he felt he was leaving our community. I am sure that John likes the challenge of learning something new. He might not like the way it is happening - but John is a geek. He likes to learn and play and tinker. He will enjoy something new. He is struggling with the fact he had no choice in the matter. I can completely understand this - I am a control freak about my direction and career as well. But he is also lamenting the fact he might not get to Lotusphere or other community events. He may drift on to other topics on his blog. He may have other things to read, tweet, and comment about. His connection to our community seems to be taken out from under him. And this is where I think our community needs to step up.

There are many names for our community. The Notes community? nah we are more than that now. The Lotus community? well sure, but what about people like Alan Lepofksy and Kat McGiveny and others that have moved on to new technologies? Are we really the Lotus community? Are we all 100% of the "Yellow Bubble"? Are we not the collaboration community? I think as a whole, this community of people accepts those that have moved on but want to still participate. Look at Gary Devendorf. He went from Lotus to Microsoft. We might all chuckle at his blatant marketing messages, but he comes to Lotusphere, hangs out, and we accept him. There is no reason we can't do that with jonvon. But we can go one step farther - we can make him feel welcome and accept his change. Our community needs to change and grow. John should feel like we, the community, support the changes he is going thru. We want him to blog, tweet, and share his journey. Tell us what is great about what he is doing. What sucks. What can we learn. How can we support him as the sands shift under his feet.

What makes this harder for the community is our connection has changed over the past 10 years as social computing has increased. When I first joined this community in 1994, it was just growing. The Business Partner forum (based on a Notes discussion database) was on LNN and just getting started. The community gathered once a year at Lotusphere and there was just basic interaction. Besides the forum, it was email and phone and really early AOL instant messaging. Over the years, 99% of the interaction was done remotely - but very disconnected. I might post something in the BP Forum and get a response back at the end of the day. We only saw each other once a year. Maybe twice if you went to an Advisor or View conference. But now things are very different. With the user groups and community run conferences, there are so many more chances for us to see each other. But the blogs and then social computing (specifically twitter and facebook) along with group skype chats have connected us so much more. Our community is closer than ever in terms of interaction. And if you get us in person, we seem to get along. It's only on-line where we tend to have spats. For instance, Ben Poole is one of the smartest guys in our community. I respect him greatly and love to read his content and watch him present. But on-line, especially in comments, we butt heads. I think it is the lack of tone in written communication and differences in culture. But once we see each other at an ILUG or UKLUG or Lotusphere event, we chat over a beer and the comment bickering goes away. I don't think anything is wrong with that. But it is a window in to how our community works.

I am not sure if there is anything we can specifically do to make people like jonvon feel welcome no matter where their professional career take them. I don't think a call to arms is necessary or needed, but we all need to keep this in the back of our mind. As long as someone participates and doesn't try to spoon feed us marketing and sales crap (I write that to remind myself of that as much as anyone ...) then we should be open and support of any direction. Personally, I want to hear about the real world experiences of people like Duffbert and jonvon as they go thru the transitions in their workplace. I want to hear real world data on what it is like to migrate and coexist in a world of Lotus and Microsoft (or Lotus and Google or Lotus and something else). I want to see community members at conferences presenting on how to integration Notes applications with SharePoint. Or super advanced .NET applications using Domino data thru the COM API. Or any other topic that shows how the real world exists - which is a combination of the platforms.

John - You have gotten a truckload of feedback already. My final comment to you and the community it this: We are here to support you. We are your friends. You are always welcome in whatever capacity you can give. I encourage you to use this opportunity to grow your skills and educate the greater collaboration community. I look forward to learning from you. And see you in Orlando in January in 2011.