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Free Coursera course: IBM Blockchain for Developers


Coursera just started a class on IBM Blockchain.  The course is being taught by two IBMers, Ant Cole and Dave Gorman.  If you are a developer interested in learning about Blockchain, check out this free 6 week course being offered by Coursera.  Here is the complete course description:

“About this course: If you’re a software developer and new to blockchain, this is the course for you. Several experienced IBM blockchain developer advocates will lead you through a series of videos that describe high-level concepts, components, and strategies on building blockchain business networks. You’ll also get hands-on experience modeling and building blockchain networks as well as create your first blockchain application.

The first part of this course covers basic concepts of blockchain, and no programming skills are required. However, to complete three of the four labs, you must understand basic software object-oriented programming and how to use the command line. It’s also helpful, but not required, that you can write code in JavaScript.

When you complete the course, you should understand what a blockchain business network is, how to build and model a simple blockchain solution, and the role of the developer in creating blockchain applications.

If you successfully complete the course, you’ll receive a certificate of completion and an Acclaim badge. You’ll need to pass several end-of-section quizzes and a final exam that include multiple choice, true and false, and fill in the blank questions.
This course does not cover Bitcoin or cryptocurrency in detail.

Who is this class for: Software developers who are new to blockchain.”

Enrollment is free or you can seek a certificate for a small fee.

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Changes in DeveloperWorks leading demise of GreenHouse?


As posted by Gabriella Davis and Chris Miller, it appears that Greenhouse is going away.  The content, or at least some of it, is moving to DeveloperWorks.  But it appears that the changes reach further than that.  DeveloperWorks is also undergoing major changes as announced by Sandy Carter.

DeveloperWorks Premium.

You get $1700 worth of stuff for the low price of $399 per year. That includes access to Bluemix, softlayer, and even a free voucher for a certification test (usually $200).  If you’re going to be taking a certification test soon, you might consider spending the extra $200 and getting a premium DeveloperWorks account too.

(CORRECTION: The website has since been updated to describe the certification test as “Complimentary certification test for IBM Certified Application Developer Certification”, not simply a test voucher for any test.)

I see the long term goal of combining Greenhouse and DeveloperWorks. But I’m wondering what will be lost in the process vs. what will be gained.  Change is great when it is an improvement, but learning to navigate a new site can frustrate and lose users.

As they say, a rolling stone gathers no moss; also a frequently moving website gathers no followers.  GreenHouse has been growing by about 1500 new users per month.  How many of the 150,000 Greenhouse members will be lost in the transition?

OK IBM, be sure to tell me when I need to update my article on instructions for downloading the Connections Plugins and when I will need to update my Greenhouse Sametime Community configuration settings.

What do Apple, Twitter and Facebook all have in common?


appletwitterfacebook                    linkedin

IBM is doing some interesting things to blur the line between consumer and business computing and the pace they are moving at has accelerated like a Mad Max roadster on nitro.  In the past year they have joined forces with Twitter, Facebook, and most notably, Apple.  The partnerships all bring together complimentary products and services. The venture with Apple, in particular, is worth paying attention to. Apple has virtually no formal enterprise solutions, yet they still dominate the business world with mobile devices. IBM on the other hand, has MobileFirst, their set of mobile solutions for business.  Meanwhile, IBM  has no mobile or desktop hardware and OS, so it must rely on other vendors to provide that foundation. Combining the solutions from Apple and IBM makes for a compelling case against against Microsoft and Google. The one partnership that seems to be missing is LinkedIn.

Add to these partnerships with consumer-focused companies, IBM is doing some consumer focus of its own. They have just released IBM Verse, a new online email application intended to compete with the likes of Hotmail and Gmail, at least to get consumer adoption, with the intentions that it will become the first choice for business too.  While Verse is in the early stages, a steady stream of features are being added on a weekly or monthly basis.
All of these signs lead me to believe that after all these years of analysts and business partners urging and pleading, IBM finally recognizes that it needs to win the consumer first in order to win the business.
They have stepped up their marketing efforts at the same time, which is a treat for business partners.  Who knew that for several years now IBM has posted the largest revenue of  cloud services? (even over Amazon Web Services)
Yes, they still have work to do in marketing their web services.  Often I give demonstrations of IBM Connections Cloud, an ecosystem of software services comparable to Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Work, and I always get several people in the group asking “Why are they keeping this a secret?”

One final step IBM is taking is in making their solutions more attractive to small business, not just enterprise-scale organizations. Their solutions make a powerful case for businesses of all sizes now. I think the next year is going to be game-changing for IBM.  The surveys from 3 years ago are actually proving out.  IBM is proving why it was named one of the Four Horsemen of technology companies.

IBM partners with Twitter
IBM partners with Facebook
IBM expands partnership with Apple

Get Out the Vote…For your pick of the 2016 edition of Lotusphere


Lotusphere, IBM Connect, IBM ConnectED.  Whatever you call it, There is a 4 question Anonymous survey asking for your feedback on what you would like to see in 2016.

It is done by Survey Monkey.  Go Here and speak your opinion.  My opinion is not so anonymous.  I find Las Vegas to be the most useless city in the country.

Latest Gartner Magic Quadrant report on Social Software for Business


When you hear the term Social Software, many of us think of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and other similar consumer-oriented websites.  But social software is becoming more broadly adopted in the workplace as well. Gartner recently published a report assessing 17 different vendors of social software solutions for business.  Some of these I had never even heard of before reading this report.  Gartner ranked them in their magic quadrant graph as well as identified what Gartner sees as their strengths and cautions.  I have not yet explored all of them, in depth but I am certainly familiar with three of the more popular ones: Google, IBM, and Microsoft and I think Gartner is spot-on with their assessments of these.  But I would add more detail…

Google: Google has a great experience for the individual user.  But because Google Apps for Work is based on their consumer-grade offering, it lacks some of the basic requirements and central control that businesses often need.  Given that Google is and will likely remain a consumer product-driven company, that will always be their challenge. That also explains why they rank so low on the execution scale and miss the magic quadrant.  On the other hand, they seem to have replaced Microsoft as the new golden child to consumers (think Android vs. Windows Mobile or gmail vs. hotmail) which gives them momentum in the workplace driven by end users who want to use the same software at work as they use at home.  The risk to businesses is that consumers are as fickle about software as they are about women’s fashions and consumers don’t concern themselves so much about things like user support, security, high availability, and privacy.  Google’s roadmap.

IBM: Of these 3 most popular players, IBM is the only one focused exclusively on Business needs, some would say to a fault. The benefit here is their solutions start with the specific needs of business and build up from there and avoid the fickle consumer-driven market. Of course, that can also be their bane.  As a result, sometimes their user experience has lacked the fine tuning that the consumer-focused companies have. On the other hand, their solutions offer functionality for the knowledge worker that is totally absent in the consumer-first solutions.  I am anxiously looking forward to how this is influenced by their recent partnership with Apple. Given IBM is all about business process and data center while Apple is all about user experience and personal devices, this could prove a great marriage.

I completely agree with Gartner’s assessment on IBM’s need to market to developers and third parties to contribute.  The reference to customers’ perception of it as a complex solution would be valid if they were comparing on-site-based solutions.  But they aren’t.  In fact IBM and Microsoft are the only two of all 17 to even offer their solutions as both cloud-based and on-site.  If we limit the comparison to cloud-based versions, this is not a factor. It has also been impressive how IBM has demonstrated its commitment to their cloud solutions by adopting a cloud-first strategy.  Functionality is being added on a monthly basis to their cloud solution with those features being released in the software edition afterwards.  I know they have a busy roadmap. I just wish it were published.  Rumor and blind faith is not a business strategy.

Microsoft: While also primarily a consumer-product-oriented company, Microsoft has solid footing in the business software solution market. Microsoft is more of a latecomer to the social game, but is doing a good job catching up with their acquisition of Yammer. Yammer is good at what it does and even before its acquisition by Microsoft, it was adopted by many organizations starting with pockets of rogue employees, forcing I.T. departments to catch up. This is proof that I.T. leaders should be actively pursuing a social software solution or risk having the employees do it without them. Microsoft has a published roadmap of upcoming features.

When you read Gartner’s article, I recommend starting with the criteria definitions on the right, where they explain what they were basing their evaluations on.  Without understanding their criteria, the assessment can be misleading.

I think the report avoids two very important criteria that concern businesses:

1. Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity:  Nowhere in the report does it mention the infrastructure supporting these solutions. From the end users’ perspective it is irrelevant… Until something goes wrong.  A hurricane, gas explosion, terrorist or hacker attack. “In the cloud” does not mean out of harm’s way.  One of the strongest arguments favoring a cloud-based solution is the assumed resilience to such events. Cloud solutions can reduce the need for businesses to invest in redundant data centers, etc. provided they themselves have executed their own plan adequately. Given the high failure rate of companies that encounter a catastrophic data center event without a DR-BC plan (as published by FEMA), a CIO should be very interested in this criteria.  I am very familiar with how IBM and Microsoft address this and am comfortable with both of them. I don’t know enough about Google’s infrastructure for the Google Apps for Work. Regardless of your provider, you should know their DR-BC strategy and implementation.

2.  Customer Support and Responsiveness to Customer Requests: Yes, there is some mention of customer support in the Customer Experience criteria. That may have been reflected in the rankings, but it was glossed over in the report narratives. Of these three solution providers, Google seems to apply much of the same support philosophy as they have for free gmail accounts. Microsoft, on the other hand, has a good support center of well trained staff and a good escalation process. (I may be bias. I have friends on that team.)  IBM is also strong here. Many of the first level support team has 10+ years of experience and the support structure is such that the same technicians tend to take your calls, so they can build an understanding of your environment and have better continuity from one call to the next. (This is mportant in a cloud environment, as they do much of your administration, so you will make more calls.)

All three of these providers have various discussion forums.  IBM has Greenhouse, where you can also see new features before they go into production and can share product enhancement ideas that the community can promote.  Several product managers are active participants in the discussion forums and persistent, live chat sessions, engaging the customers.  When it comes to Social Business, IBM clearly practices what they preach. I expect part of that comes from IBM having a virtual office philosophy while Microsoft and Google are more campus oriented.  I have yet to discover that level of public accessibility with Microsoft and Google.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and if you know of it, please share it in the comments.

Probably the biggest factor that will trump all others is where you are starting from. Mail migrations are expensive, so if you don’t pick a vendor that already provides your email system, their solution either needs to integrate well with what you have or you need to be prepared to go through an expensive and disruptive migration.

Computer gaming companies are choosing IBM over Amazon


A few weeks ago I mentioned on the first day of IBM Connect conference that it is clear now beyond any doubt that computing power is becoming the next utility like electricity, phone, water, and cable TV.  I predict that there will come a day in the very near future when few companies will still have their own physical data center.

This article at thestreet.com is more proof of that as the gaming industry is the first to make this move.  But even more interesting is that IBM, not Amazon, Google or Microsoft, is leading this trend.  This adds even more credibility to IBM SmartCloud for Social Business and why I see it eclipsing Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps in the coming years as businesses of all sizes seek more business-directed solutions than what those consumer-focused, consumer-driven businesses (Amazon, Google, and Microsoft) can provide.

How IBM is raising the stakes with Social Business right in Microsoft’s back yard.


IBM is coming to Seattle to talk about Social Business!
See the event schedule. The event is March 5.

Did I have anything to do with this?  Not that I’m aware of.  But I am glad to see IBM finally recognize the Seattle area market is tired of having no options besides Microsoft to choose from.  Like everywhere else, businesses here like innovation and they like competition.

So from the makers of Watson, the computer that beat the champions on Jeopardy! and the perennial leader in new patents awarded, comes the innovation of Social Business.  This is a game changer in business communications technology much like email, Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing have been.  IBM has the first and only legitimate offering in this new market.  IBM recognizes their leadership in this market and is making it a point to let the world know:
– What is Social Business
– How businesses are using social technologies to drive business value: reduce costs, accelerate communications, increase collaboration inside and outside the organization
– A path for integrating Social Business into your existing systems, regardless of what brand it is and regardless of the size of your company.

Did I mention IBM is doing this in only 3 locations in the United States and one of those places is Seattle, Washington?
If you work with a team or company of more than about 5 people, it is worth your time to see what they are doing.
Read more about what will be presented.
This will also be an opportunity to network with peers and discuss with others how Social Business has transformed their companies.  The ROI comes quickly and the metrics are compelling.  If you can’t attend in person you will miss out on the networking with everyone else, but they also have a session available online.  Be sure to register.

SmartCloud leads IBM to dethrone Microsoft on CNN’s “Four Horsemen of Tech” list


The times, they are a’changin’!  In the shifting sands of technology, IBM is proving to be the Rock of Gibraltar.

CNN Money just conducted their annual survey of technology and investment experts to determine which 4 technology companies are the best investments in the industry.  Apple, Amazon, Google, and IBM are what they describe as “The Four Horsemen of Tech”.

Microsoft and Dell are no longer on that list.  And as recently as 2 years ago Research in Motion might have been expected on that list.  The CNN article describes the changing of the guard is due to the shift from PCs to mobile and cloud solutions.  I think it goes deeper than that.

Apple, Amazon, and Google are all following the same track that led Microsoft to its fame and glory days by riding the fast-but-fickle success opportunities provided by the consumer market.  They are simply the latest fashion trends.    In this list of top performers, IBM is the dark horse, being the only one not involved in consumer products whatsoever.  They also just celebrated their 101st birthday this year.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Rides on the consumer wave are relatively short.  Google is 16 years old, Amazon is 18 and Apple is 36, though Apple’s great surge came in the last 6 years starting with the introduction of iOS.  For reference, RIM and Dell are 28 years old  and Microsoft is 37 and they are already declining.  They too, based their success heavily on consumer products and are now feeling the consequences.  Yes, RIM’s BlackBerry is intended to be a business tool, but it is a consumer device first and foremost.  It is considered even more personal than a personal computer (PC).  One might argue that Microsoft also makes software for business, but their primary focus has always been on consumers and their foray into the business product market has depended on consumer-driven brand recognition.  Also, because many of their products service both business and consumer needs, they are driven by consumer markets.  (See RIM.)

Similarly, the focus that led 3 of the current Four Horsemen to their place in the lineup has a consumer emphasis: mobile devices and advertising.  Apple’s iPhone and iPad redefined mobile.  Google has Android devices and search (advertising).  Amazon is into selling (and advertising) along with the Kindle for a mobile presence.  All of them are also dabbling in cloud services for businesses.  Then there is IBM, the seasoned veteran of business solutions.  What makes them part of this leadership crowd?  I isn’t just for their SmartCloud solution,    I think it is the fact that they have stayed true to their earliest beginnings.  Unlike all of the other players, IBM has focused their attention, with laser beam precision, on the proven stable base of the business market.: They provide business solutions for businesses.  IBM has resisted the temptation to cross the line into the consumer market, even at the urging of experts and loyal customers who pushed to have Lotus Notes repackaged for consumers.  Doing so in the short term would certainly win consumer approval and thus fend off the consumer-led push for the Microsoft Outlook mail client to be used at both work and home.  But that would have forced IBM to chase the whim and fads of consumers rather than staying focused on long-term needs of businesses.

When it comes to technology, IBM is all business.

I predict we will see a rise and fall of all 3 of the consumer-driven horsemen in CNN’s list, replaced with 3 new ones as the what’s-hot list changes.  I also predict that IBM, with it’s exclusive commitment to serving up business solutions, will continue to stand at or near the top as it has for decades.  For consumer products, you shouldn’t care.  But for your business, it matters.

Adapt or fail: Some Great Donated (free) Online Education for Professional Development


Education has never been more accessible to the world as it is now, thanks to the Internet.  In just the past 6 months I have encountered numerous FREE resources, even instructor-led classes from sources like Stanford University.  Part of this is definitely a response of society to help people adapt and retool their job skills in an effort to get them back to productive work.  I think part of it is also a result of changing attitudes.  Parents are becoming more actively involved in their children’s education to help them thrive in the world.  Whatever the case, I am one with an insatiable appetite for learning new things and I am lovin’ it.  I also enjoy sharing knowledge.  With that in mind, I want to share some of the resources I have found.

1.  Coursera:  Major universities collaborating to offer instructor-led credit classes online for free
At https://www.coursera.org  you can find courses on topics ranging from Cryptography to Quantum Mechanics.  This is a collaborative effort with 16 different Universities including such pedagogic giants as Stanford, Duke, Princeton, University of Toronto, Georgia Tech, and The University of Edinburgh.  These classes are not for the faint of heart.  This is not community college material.  You will definitely be challenged.  Great stuff to compliment your knowledge within your core area of expertise.

2.  Venture Lab:  More college-level content for free
Visit http://venture-lab.org/ for more college classes from Stanford University.  You can also find previous lessons for these classes on youtube, just search for venture lab.

3.  Khan Academy: Unique and excellent education programs for all levels whether you want to learn 1+1=2 or details on venture capitalism
At http://www.khanacademy.org/ you can find one of the best online learning resources for your children, paid or free.  It uses novel interactive learning techniques to really learn the material well.  This was created as a non-profit by one man disappointed in the education his child was getting.  For millions of registered members, it is a great learning aid. Many public school teachers are adopting it as complimentary materials to their curriculum.  Beware to use the correct spelling to get to this website.  There is a copycat website with a spelling close to this one.

4.  IBM developerWorks
Check out http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/training/knowledgepath/index.html?cmp=dw&cpb=dw&ct=dwnew&cr=dwnen&ccy=zz&csr=081712
to see IBM’s free education covering various topics for IT professionals including XML, Java, Linux, open source, cloud computing, and business analytics,  It’s not just about IBM software.

5.  w3schools.com for web development language tutorials
See http://www.w3schools.com/ for great tutorials to learn web development tools including HTML5, HTML, XML, CSS, PHP, Javascript, SQL and much more.  Surprising (and thankful) this source is free.  It has been around for a long time.  As a footnote, they have been tracking and publishing browser usage that hits their website.  Check it out.  http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp  The results might surprise you!

6. State of Washington WorkSource
If you are on unemployment and live in the state of Washington, visit  http://www.wa.gov/esd/e-learning/default.htm
The state of Washington has a contract with Microsoft to provide free online tutorials for all of Microsoft’s software to anyone in the state of Washington that is collecting unemployment.  A narrow audience, perhaps, but a great value if you qualify and are looking for work using Microsoft software.  This program gives access to productivity tools in Office as well as a few hundred hours of training materials for IT professionals and it includes their entire e-learning library covering several versions of software.  Of course the one caveat noted on the website is “Microsoft e-learning does not work well on Macintosh computers.  If you wish to enroll in Microsoft e-learning, see if you can get access to a PC.”  That excludes iPads and most other tablets as well.

This is just a sample of what is available.  There are many other free learning resources out there of varying degrees of value.  If you know of others that you like, please post them in the comments for all to benefit.

Remember: knowledge and information at rest have no value.  Their value only comes when put in motion through sharing or use.  If you hoard knowledge or information, it will not make you more powerful or protect your job.  In fact, just the opposite.  People will seek out a way to get by without you.  But if you share knowledge, they will value your input and recognize your contributions.  So spread the word!

Microsoft Office annual certification test competition draws 300,000 students?


Impressive marketing:  Not only can Microsoft get 750 million people around the world to pay for Microsoft Office, but they can get 300,000 students to proudly compete to show off their word processing skills at a worldwide certification test competition.

Meanwhile, it’s considered a big deal that 1 million people have downloaded Symphony,  a free alternative.  That is only 0.1% of the Windows PC market (I can’t speak for the other operating systems).  P.T. Barnum clearly underestimated the birth rate of suckers.  (or whoever said it)

If you are a Lotus professional, you could do a better job advising your management of their options.  Save your company a few hundred thousand dollars and you’ll be a hero.  Some companies have a cost reduction incentive program where you can get 10% of the first year’s savings.  Unless you work at Microsoft, that’s a big chunk of change to leave on the table.

Some news is worth revisiting…

Microsoft Office Alternatives: Productivity Software Showdown

I am very curious to know how many of you have tried Symphony or Apache Open Office?  If your company uses MS Office, do you know how much your company is spending on it?  Have you presented the alternatives to your management?  What was their response?

Microsoft hires Lotus Professionals for Cloud Computing at Office 365


That’s right.  You read the headline correctly.  I’m not the only Lotus professional working on the Office 365 project.  My friend, a fellow Lotus professional just joined the team.  Surprisingly, I didn’t know anything about it until a week before he started.  Now you might be asking yourself:  “What would Microsoft need Lotus professionals for?”  No, it has nothing to do with things like mail migrations.  It’s all about BlackBerry Enterprise Servers and messaging.  I think this illustrates more than ever that if you have universal skills, like understanding the concepts of messaging or troubleshooting, you are highly marketable, regardless of the details of what product those skills are used on.  It’s not about being a professional of a particular brand.  It’s about being an expert of a process.  Conceptual understanding transcends the syntactic details.  Demonstrate that and you will display higher value (DHV).

Now for some quotes you might hear among us Lotus experts  at the Microsoft:

“What do you mean, I can’t paste a screen shot in a Lync IM chat?”
“Where is the ‘Send and File’ feature?”
“You mean if I want to file a message into multiple folders, I have to make copies of it?”
“Why does everybody CC everyone on the team for every email?  Don’t they have discussion Dbs for that?”
“What do you mean, we don’t have a knowledge base?  How do we collaborate?  Oh, CC everybody.”
“I’ll just Google that, uh, I mean Bing it.”
“I could do this so easy in a Notes app!”
“How do I create a reminder on my calendar?”
“Notepad++ ?  Don’t let anyone see you using that.”
“Where is the workflow in this app?”

Yes, my friend, welcome to the team.

My Project Working at Microsoft is Complete: An update to the Lotus community


In my May 30, 2011 post I explained that I had started a project at Microsoft where I would be working with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) team in Office365 to improve the process for building the BES servers, streamlining the process, reducing the bugs, and clarifying the instructions for the build team.  Well that project has come to completion and the results were fantastic.  We accomplished everything we set out to do and I made some great new friends in the process.

It is rewarding to know my skills can easily port to a different platform and that I could be so successful regardless of the brand of software.  (Let that be a lesson to all techies.)  Technical writing, process improvement, troubleshooting, teamwork were all more important than a detailed knowledge of the software.

I was looking forward to the opportunity to see Microsoft software deployed and used the way its developers intended, using all the best practices and perhaps have my opinion changed by the experience.  To that end, I was both impressed and disappointed.  The infrastructure is very sophisticated and well managed.  Everything you would expect.  Yet I was surprised at how some technology was used.     I often asked myself things like “Why are we having this big reply-to-all email conversation instead of just using a discussion forum or Teamroom?” or “Why are we creating online instructions in Word documents?”  Well at least now I understand the reasoning behind why certain Microsoft software features work the way they do.

I may find myself back there working on another project, perhaps on another team and get a totally different experience.  Actually, I hope so.  It’s a big, diverse company and I expect, like most large companies, different teams work in different ways.  Meanwhile, I am back in the world of IBM and social business and  I will continue to share the knowledge of collaboration and social business here in a region where it is needed most, only now with a deeper understanding of both brands.

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