The real story behind what happened at “Ask the Developers” session at Lotusphere 2010


Last year at Lotusphere 2010, I attended the “Ask the Developers” session.  This is the last session before the closing session of the conference and has always been my favorite session to attend.  It is also one of the best attended sessions.  The stage is filled with most of the Lotus development team attending the conference.  In this session anyone in the audience can step up to one of the microphones placed in the isles and ask them a question.  There is an impartial moderator who directs which mic has the floor and keeps the process running.  The questions are usually very pointed, like “When are you going to finally fix the…?” or “What happened to the cool feature in the last version where…?”  It has the feeling of the congressional hearing when the Big Three automakers came asking the government for a handout.  It’s fun because if you ask a good question that everyone has had on their minds, you’ll hear the crowd applaud and cheer, or maybe it will be one they never thought of but like, and they all go “hmm” with their heads nodding in agreement.  Of course the inquisition is not without its risks and the crowd can be as merciless toward the questioner as they are toward the developers.  Don’t you dare ask a silly question and God forbid you try to weasel in a second question with folks standing in line behind you at the mic.  You will be thoroughly castigated. That sets the scene.  Now here’s what happened at last year’s “Ask the Developers” session…

David Hablewitz onstage at Ask The Developers session Lotusphere 2010

Me onstage as an honorary developer

I got there early to get a good seat and to get in line at a microphone to be sure to get a chance to ask at least one and possibly two questions.  I sat next to the microphone in the center isle.  The developers would be sitting directly in front of me.
When the Session started, Bob Balaban opened with the first question.  I was next.  “First, a comment on behalf of the few remaining Lotus professionals eeking out a living in the Pacific Northwest, I would like to invite Ed Brill and his team to come to Seattle and work on expanding Notes customers.”  Ed stood up in the audience and responded with something like “Will Microsoft host the meeting?”  Then my question:  Does Lotus Know how much of a pain in the butt it is for administrators to clean up after a rogue replica of a database replicates after the purge interval?  Large applause.  All of you have experienced this issue at sometime in your career with Notes. (see my idea at IdeaJam )  The response was a hollow promise.  Another year has passed and the issue still exists.

They went around taking questions from each of the mics and came back to mine.  No one else had stepped up to the mic with a question, so I stepped up and asked “Does Lotus Know when we will get Notes Buddy back, particularly the component that reads your email and Sametime chats so you can hear them?”  (This was right after the Lotus Knows campaign was started.)  If you don’t know NotesBuddy, you don’t know what you’re missing.  Apparently not too many people at IBM know NotesBuddy either because the question was met with confusion.  No one knew how to answer.  Too bad.

Only one person came to my microphone (yes, it was becoming MY microphone).  So soon I had a chance at a third question.  This one was “Does Lotus Know When they will eliminate the modal dialogs?”  This was met with great applause.  My post on ideajam has nearly 100 votes.

No one came to my mic again so I got to ask a fourth question.  My question was “When will we get an Exchange connector?  The current one by MS is bug-ridden and doesn’t work with any version of Notes after 6.5.  It is a perception thing showing IBM’s lack of commitment if nothing else.”  Again great applause.  Ed Brill stepped up and asked what is our purpose: migrations or coexistence?  Migrations, but that’s not the point.
Ed also offered up that maybe there should be a session for asking the product managers next time.

Fifth question:  By this point the moderator and I are on a first name basis.  When it’s my turn again he asks: “Yes, David?”
“Can I have my own mic next time?” I ask.  The room bursts in laughter.  That was when Jeff Mitchell, whom I had spent a great deal of time talking with in the Meet the Developers lab during the week, invited me up to sit beside him onstage.  There happened to be one empty seat right next to him, front row, center stage.  Of course I went up and took my seat.  He gave me the Lotus shirt off his back and then handed me the mic.  Cheers from all around.  My 2 minutes of fame.

Then my question:  “I actually got the answer to this question in the lab, but I liked the answer I was given enough that I thought everyone would like to hear it.  When will SwiftFile be incorporated into the Notes client?”  The question was answered that, due to multi-lingual challenges, it could not be included directly, but they were working on a plan to incorporate that code into the product throughout and it would be coming soon.  (News flash:  12 months later and not a peep about it.)

When the next person in the audience asked a question, the developer responded by handing me his laptop and saying “I’ll get David right on it.”  News flash: 12 months later and I still don’t have it done.  Touché.

A few more questions and then the session was over.  My moment of fame.  Then we all filed out and migrated from the Swan to the Dolphin for the closing session.  While waiting in the lobby for the doors to open I was greeted by Chris Baker from IBM who came up to me and said “That was quite an impromptu interview!”  We chatted for a bit and traded business cards.  I left a positive impression.  After the closing session he caught up with me again and he said “You should assume you have the job.”  I believe it is all about creating opportunities.  Much like Leo DeCaprio in “The Titanic”.  (interesting parallels on several levels.)  He said he would be getting back to me with the people to contact.

Sadly, a few weeks went by and I did not hear back.  When I finally reached him, he informed me that he could not hire anyone.  In fact, he had just lost several members of his team.  Those jobs were moved to India.  Ironically, a harbinger of my future as well.

A year has passed.  Lotusphere 2011 is only weeks away.  Has anything changed?  Yes.  Ed Brill added “Ask the Product Managers” session to Lotusphere 2011.
Too bad I won’t be there for it.  But aside from that, has anything really changed?
I ask you, my readers, to attend these sessions and ask these questions again on my behalf.

Better yet, do you have any ideas for covering my conference registration?  Split a room?
Maybe I can help you with some Domino support in trade?

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Posted on January 11, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Unfortunately, I was once “The Other Notes Guy in Seattle” and although our company still has a Notes environment, we now use Exchange for email and calendaring, and most of our applications have been migrated to Sharepoint or other platforms. Being the heart of Microsoft country, perhaps it’s a little naive to think that IBM would devote any resources to maintaining what was once a strong foothold in my company, but their lack of effort was one of the driving factors in our shift to Microsoft. Had he accepted, your invitation to come to Seattle, Ed Brill may have made a difference. Unfortunately, while Microsoft was wooing our CIO, IBM was nowhere to be seen. While Microsoft has come out with new versions of all their software in the last year, IBM hasn’t addressed any of the issues brought to their attention LAST year. Apparently IBM has once again adopted their age old habit of releasing some good product upgrades(R8) and then sitting on their laurels for several years and let the competition catch up and, in some areas, even pass them by. We’ve all heard the rumors and comments over the years that IBM is trying to kill off Notes and Domino. Well, whether they’re trying to or not, they’re succeeding.

    Oh, one other thing. I am also staying home this year and will not be attending Lotusphere 2011 and I don’t foresee attending any future events. I have worked with Notes and Domino since 1996 but now, I’m a glorified babysitter on an environment that is infrequently used and that is shrinking into non-existence. Luckily I have a brand new Exchange and Sharepoint environment that need a lot of attention.

  2. I believe you are seeing the world as it is, not how you want it (or what others say it is). Which is unfortunate.

    @Brian – IBM knows exactly what it is doing. Concerning Sharepoint, I believe that IBM has a product to compete against that, but I don’t think that anyone knows that.

  3. I was at that ask the experts session. In the past I was one of those answering the questions. Saddly, after 12 Lotuspheres, there won’t be anymore for me.
    If Ed wants to have a Notes users group meeting in a Microsoft building, maybe I can make it happen.

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