only search Wiseman.La

The World NEXT ends 

Mr. Vaughan blogged about Twitter and how its' simplicity makes it powerful. While I utterly disagree about the net usefulness of Twitter, it got me thinking about the power of simplicity and it's relation to Lotus Notes.

there is an interesting way to focus creative effort that i stumbled upon some years ago. i've heard people call it "limiting your pallette". the idea is you enter a constraint into the process, or a set of them, and then create within that "space".

How do I relate this to Notes? Well, at the dawn of my relation with Notes (v3.01 on OS/2 2.11), Notes and the Notes server were positioned as the premier groupware platform. This meant applications "designed to help people involved in a common task achieve their goals." [Which, I assume is opposed to all the other systems which were "designed to NOT help people involved in a common task achieve their goals."  But I digress]. Email was considered to be one of these applications but by no means the only - or even primary - one.

Notes development was very straight-forward, based on forms, views, and macros. Development was aimed squarely at letting the people closest to a business process quickly develop secure, reliable solutions to their problems. One of the core things that made Notes very different from other platforms was that it was not just RAD (Rapid Application Development), it was RADDE (Rapid Application Development, Deployment, & Enhancement). While it had some significant design limitations, these were easily balanced by built-in security and the ease by which applications could not just be developed, but be deployed to many end users and easily enhanced & redeployed. When "the Internets" came along, many folks thought it would be the deathnell for Notes, but it wasn't. IBM/Lotus added InterNotes, a beautiful start that showed how elegant the transition could be from propriety platform (dedicated/fat clients talking only to a Notes server over NRPC) to one that fully embraced new technology. HTTP/ SMTP/ POP3/ IMAP/ etc joined the platform. AND still left development aimed squarely at letting the people closest to a business process quickly develop secure, reliable solutions to their problems. This is one of the reasons that the Development Priesthood really didn't (and doesn't) like Notes - if anyone could develop apps that solved real business problems, then, like anyone would. And that's a very disconcerting thought. If a couple of business analysts could replace 5 developers, that's a scary threat to IT power.

The point here to consider is that as features were added, serious effort was made to allow them to integrate while keeping the focus on providing a secure platform to solve business problems. What other app server could be described this way?

There were lots of raw edges on the Web side of things, but I felt that surely it would get worked out as we went along. Then the dark ages hit (insert irony here) and progress slowed (or stopped) after IBM decided that WebSphere would be its primary appserver platform. A number of enhancements to N/D were added (integrated Sametime, etc.), but the radically new things (like Web Services) were added primarily as a way to integrate N/D into the WebSphere/Portal world.

N/D's lead in providing a complete, integrated, easy to develop for (RADDE) environment lagged, as other platforms(link) moved(link) rapidly forward(link.) This came to a head with the WorkplaceImage:The Haiku that was Lotus Notesinitiative/diversion.

Now, we've seen a huge resurgence and IBM/Lotus have give much more attention to the Notes client and Domino server
Image:The Haiku that was Lotus Notes.

The new things added in R8 and coming in R8.0.2+ and R8.5 are really amazing, but the way the new functionality is being added initially seems to move farther and farther away from the RADDE concept. I went through a Composite Application development hands on at Lotusphere 2007 and saw the broad and deep possibilities, but equally saw that the ease with which we used to develop Notes apps was going also. I've heard the argument that with new capabilities, we have to realize that it will get much harder to develop new apps. There is a modicum of truth to that, but I think that if (for example) xPages turn out the way I think they will, we can prove this to NOT be true. It's my opinion that this is why Notes/Domino has seen so much growth outside of North America - Lotus/IBM seems unafraid to sell it for what it is on it's own, while in NA, the sales force seems hardwired to see it as a wedge so they can get in and sell Forms or Portal.

I know I'll get told that it's just me not wanting to learn new things like WAS & DB2, but to me the bigger thing is how IBM implements things on WAS/DB2. As I've ranted before, if you take as examples of the future how the Sametime world is developing (Sametime Gateway, Sametime Advanced, Connections all require very specific, picky, and DIFFERENT versions of the same 'platform' to run, maintain and support), then the disconnect between what Notes/Domino was and what it's becoming is rather galactic. IBM needs to move beyond the holey Grail of "one click install" and instead of developing flexible, well-tested software that doesn't require very very very nitpicky fix pack/hot fix versions and mindnumbing dependencies. And making folks rewrite their client plugins when moving from ST 7.5 to 8 to 8.x, and Notes 8.0.0 to Notes 8.0.1/2, etc. is certainly a "non-Notesy" approach that does NOT give me the warm-and-fuzzies.

I understand that a big focus for IBM is making Notes a nifty 'glass screen' that hooks to a zillion WAS-based backend datasources. And for large companies, that's a compelling thing. SAP integration, DB2NSF, etc. provide the priesthood with some really useful things.

The question, is how do we keep IBM focused on the point that Notes and Domino serves (and should continue to serve) two co-dominant roles:

  • Notes/Domino is the premier stand-alone RADDE platform that provides an easy, integrated, and secure way to solve business problems.

  • Notes/Domino is the premier rich desktop front end to portal, collaborative, Social networking and mashup applications from a variety of sources.

oh, and it kicks ass at email, too!

Lotus Notes blossoms
helping people work as one,
improving the world

Comments (2)
Craig Wiseman September 23rd, 2008 07:45:00 AM

1) The Haiku that was Lotus Notes
Timothy Briley 9/23/2008 10:31:09 AM

Great column. Most of the Notes dev I've done over the years have been for groups of 50 users or less.

BTW, I've never seen the acronym "RADDE" before, but it hits the nail on the head of what these groups expect. And that I deliver.

2) The Haiku that was Lotus Notes
Timothy Briley 9/23/2008 10:36:35 AM

In the irony department, moments after I left the above comment, I got an email from IBM titled:

"Accelerate your portal development"


Discussion for this entry is now closed.