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SmartCloud Tip #01 Using the Notes admin client to compliment the SmartCloud web admin screens


This is my first in a series of tips regarding SmartCloud Hybrid Notes migrations and administering SmartCloud Hybrid Notes environments that aren’t always obvious.

First, as a user, I will say that the more I use SmartCloud Notes, the more I like it.  Yes, when doing administration tasks I keep bumping into walls that, as an experienced administrator, I wish weren’t there.  But I have seen the problems that a bad or malicious administrator can reek on a system given the opportunity and I am thankful for the excessively tight security.  After all, one of the biggest reasons to go to SmartCloud is so you don’t have to administer mail servers, right?

Tip #01 – How to use the Notes Administrator client to compliment the SmartCloud Web administration screens:
As usual, the system administrators are the last ones to get a UI that makes sense.  No surprise since there is only 1 administrator for every few thousand end users.  The SmartCloud Web Administration screens aren’t very efficient and can be downright frustrating to use at times, especially when you are accustomed to using the Notes Administrator client.

For example, let’s say you have a mixture of mail templates in use and you need to move everyone using one template to a different one.  There is no way to see what template is applied to each mail file via the web admin interface.  At this time it simply can’t be done.  But you can use your Notes Admin client to find them.  While the SmartCloud servers won’t show up in the list of servers in your domain and you can’t view the directory in SmartCloud to add those servers in bulk, from the pulldown menu select File – Open Server and enter the server name to gain limited access to the server.  The SmartCloud servers will even appear in the Open Server dialog list if you have opened mail files on them already.  Be sure to bookmark your SmartCloud servers in your favorites too, so you don’t have to go through this process every time.

Now that you have the server open, you can go to the Files tab and see more details on your users’ mail files including the templates applied.  The directory structure they use in SmartCloud is designed to accommodate a multi-tenant environment.  So you will want to know where to find your mail files.  It’s not too hard because you can’t see any databases you shouldn’t have access to.  The directory structure works like this:  In the root there will be the directories Data0, Data1, Data2, Data3.  You can ignore the Data0 directory as no mail files are in there.  Each of these directories contain the following subdirectories:

12345678 (your customer ID) – location of the mail files for users that have this server designated as their mail server
lost+found – used for maintenance
s\12345678 – location of mail files where this server is the user’s secondary server in the cluster

While there aren’t many actions you can take here, it does make it easier to do tasks like open mail files for troubleshooting, view the database properties, see who is approaching their quota, etc.

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.

Website Design Case Study: IBM Passport Advantage Website


Every year at Lotusphere in the Ask the Developers session someone will ask IBM “When are you going to make the Passport Advantage website user-friendly?!”  And every year the response from IBM is “What are you talking about?  It’s fine!”  Apparently usability studies are unnecessary.  After all, this is IBM.  How could the world’s second or third largest software company NOT know how to build a website?  Who are we to give them advice, right?  We’re just customers, not experts on web development, right?  We are mere ersatz of IBM’s erudite web developers.

Well recently I have been refreshing my web development skills in a degree program at Bellevue College and I would like to think I have become more than just a dilettante of web design.  As part of my studies, I am using the Passport Advantage website as a case study in best (and worst) practices in web design.  I would like to bring you along for the lesson.  Please join me in this discussion of what does and doesn’t work in web design, particularly as it relates to the success of the IBM Passport Advantage website in achieving its goal.  Hopefully by this vetting, all of us can learn something from this world class international website representing the third most valuable brand in the world.

My classmates don’t have access to log into this website.  So I will include some screen shots.  Hopefully this does not infringe on any copyrights.  This is intended for review by my classmates in the web design class and web authoring program for educational purposes only.

First, let’s find the URL.  If I were to guess at it so I could go directly to it, I would expect something like http://www.ibm.com/passportadvantage .  But that doesn’t work.  So let’s go to the IBM home page, http://www.ibm.com and look for a link.  You can find it on IBM’s home page, though with some effort.  You won’t find it in any of the menus at the top of the page, but if you scroll down, you can find it “below the fold” under the Popular Links list.  For that reason, I expect most people just use a search engine to find the site.  I searched for “Passport Advantage” on Google.com and it came up as the first link.  It was the second link listed on both yahoo.com and bing.com. It was also the first link in the results list when searched directly on the IBM website.  Here is the landing page for all of these.  The URL is http://www-01.ibm.com/software/howtobuy/passportadvantage/
<01_landingpage>
IBM Passport Advantage initial page

(click image to enlarge)

Not exactly an intuitive URL.  Note in the screen shot that it already knows who I am.  Am I logged in?  Well, no.  I need to click on the Customer sign in link in the box on the right labeled “Fast Access”.
Note that it instructs to use my email address for the user name.  Not exactly.  Some accounts (like mine) require the username that was created, NOT the email address.
<02_loginpage>

IBM Passport Advantage Login screen

(click image to enlarge)

By the way, if I click on the link that says “Not you?”  beside my name in the top right, I get this error page with no way back but to close the browser and start over:
<03_switchusererror>

IBM Passport Advantage error message switching users

(click image to enlarge)

After logging in, you get to what I will call the “homepage” of Passport Advantage.  Actually there is no home page for Passport Advantage and there is never an obvious path back to this page.  I could find no links that lead back to this page except by logging in.  The Home link on this page goes to the home page of ibm.com and once you go there, good luck trying to get back to Passport Advantage.  Assuming you know about the link at the bottom of the page, you’ll get back fairly easily.  But most people just google it again.  (even if you call customer support, they will direct you to find it this way!)
<04_homepage>

IBM Passport Advantage homepage

(click image to enlarge)

Great now you’re on the “homepage”.  There are primarily 2 reasons most Lotus professionals visit this site: 1.  To open a PMR with technical support or 2. To download software.  Let’s start with getting technical support.  Look closely.  There are no less than 7 links to get some kind of help, not counting the phone number listed in the bottom right corner, which by the way, is NOT the number to call to reach technical support.  Each of these 7 links go to different pages.  The one to open a ticket with technical support (called a PMR) happens to be the last one in the left pane, labeled “Online technical support”.  This would seem obvious but for the 6 other links to support on the page.  By the way, if you visit a page and then hit the Back button, you will occasionally get an error instead and it will prompt you to log in again.
<05_supportLinks>

IBM Passport Advantage Support links on homepage

(click image to enlarge)

Once you get to the place to enter a PMR with technical support, you may want to get back to the “homepage”.  Which link on this page do you think you should select?
<06_whereishome>

IBM Passport Advantage missing link to homepage

(click image to enlarge)

If you chose Home you would be wrong and once there you would not be able to use the back button to return here.
If you chose Return to the IBM Support Portal you would also be wrong. (See the next screen shot.)
The correct link is actually under related links.  Go figure.

No link back to homepage

(click image to enlarge)

Now let’s look at the second common reason to visit this site: downloading software.  For this function you “only” have 5 choices.  Again, they all go to different places.  Choose carefully.  You may navigate through several lengthy steps before realizing you’re in the wrong place to find what you’re looking for.
<07_downloadLinks>

IBM Passport Advantage links to download software

(click image to enlarge)

The downloads process continues through several confusing steps including prompting TWICE that you accept the software agreement, before actually getting to download the software.  And you had better know exactly what you are looking for.  There are no useful descriptions of the purpose of each software and many have very similar names.

In our classroom discussion the class agreed when it comes to usability, this site fails miserably,  It is laden with many confusing links that are not organized in any obvious, meaningful grouping.  There are way too many links without any form of structure or organization to the navigation. One of the class exercises is to create a site map identifying the navigation, but this website proved too complex to create a site map at all.  The arrangement of the navigation did not help to identify the relevance of the links either.  And why does it have 2 places to select a language? (one at the extreme top of the page, the other in the right column beside the banner image)

Well, there you have it.  So far we have examined the pages leading up to the main page of the Passport Advantage site and the main page itself.  What do you think?  Is this analysis off the mark?  If you regularly navigate this site, what has your experience been with it?

Up next if I have the time and patience:  Stepping through the website  to download software – no trivial task.

Before you pass final judgement on this website, check out what truly BAD websites look like at WebPagesThatSuck

Footnote: After writing this article, I noticed there is now a tutorial for Passport advantage on the landing page (you do not need to log in to view it.)
http://download.boulder.ibm.com/ibmdl/pub/software/passportadvantage/demos/English_Tutorial/english_pa.html

After a few minutes of frustration I had to quit viewing it.  The wizard was     tiny.   The navigators to advance the slides are so small I had trouble getting my mouse in just the right spot to click it.  There are pages and pages of blah, blah, blah.  It isn’t a tutorial about USING the website.  It’s about 45 minutes of reading all about WHY you should BUY it.

Brand as Mythology: Could the Lotus brand elevate to Mythology?


Here is an interesting perspective on branding, marketing, and the idea of a brand elevating to mythology.

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/07/just-a-myth.html

How true is his statement:  “People use a Dell.  They are an Apple.”

I think Seth is touching on something that could be applied to the marketing of Lotus IBM software:  “Isn’t that the dream of any marketer? To create a myth?”
As Lotus completes the long and painful process of being absorbed into IBM, could they, as Seth describes, invent a mythic brand with a story that promises to deliver an heroic outcome rather than just a product and a pile of facts. I believe it is possible.  Ironically, by dropping the brand, it may elevate it to mythology.  What do you think?

Recap of PACLUG 2011


The first edition of the PACLUG user group conference was held this week at the Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.  The two-day event was scheduled to piggy-back the View’s AdminDev2011 conference.  They actually overlapped schedules a bit on Wednesday and PACLUG was invited to the keynote presentation of AdminDev2011.  The Tuesday sessions of PACLUG were focused mostly on Domino-related topics while the second day was mostly related to Websphere Portal.  Had I known this I might have been tempted to skip the Wednesday sessions, but after attending them I can say that to do so would have been a big mistake.  I got some very valuable information in those sessions.

After all, as technology professionals, it is important to keep up with the changes in technology.  Simply put, if you’re in IT, you had better be prepared for a lifetime of learning to follow the technology and stay employed.  And for many of us, that’s great.  If we aren’t learning something new, we’re quickly bored.  If this isn’t you, you’re probably a really good COBOL programmer working or a bank or insurance company.  If not, then you should be planning your next career.

The knowledge I gained in the sessions was useful, but as I find with all of these conferences, the meat of the value of the conference is in connecting with new friends and reconnecting with old ones.  I don’t care how well connected you are via the Internet, nothing could ever match the rapport developed and connections made by face-to-face meetings, not to mention the “accidental meetings” with people you weren’t looking for.  That said, it was disappointing to arrive early on Monday only to watch the tweet stream talk about how people were not coming in until late that night.  It would have been good to put an informal pre-conference social gathering on the agenda for early arrivals.  This is the REAL Social Business.

For comparison, take the phrase “computer dating.”  It’s a terrible misnomer.  All the computer does is get people connected.  The dating part always takes place meeting face-to-face.  This is equally true for developing business relationships, though you probably put less emphasis on what a business contact looks like.

Sponsorship for this conference was amazing!  There was no fee to attend the user group portion of the conference.  It was FREE.   Thanks to GBS, Panagenda, Team Studio, IBM, Elguji, BCC, ExtraComm, The View, and all the other sponsors.  ( http://www.paclug.org/sponsors )  Also thanks to the organizers, especially David Stephens.

The conference was lightly attended, but this was only the first time this event was held.  From the positive feedback, I expect it will be more popular next year. (speaking of feedback, there was no opportunity to submit feedback formally.  That would have been very useful to improve future events.)  Perhaps joining it with AdminDev2011 detracted from the attendance of each?  I don’t know about that, but I do know I had a chance to meet with people at PACLUG that probably would not have been there if it were not connected to The View’s AdminDev2011.  I’m not so sure about Las Vegas in June either.  The high temperature was 104F – 108F degrees for the 3 days I was there.  Not being a gambler, the extra-curricular activities were limited.  Personally, I went to this even in spite of it being in Vegas, not because of it.

Overall, it was a good first event for the west coast.  I expect it will grow in the upcoming years.  Maybe I could convince the organizers to hold it in Seattle in July next year?  That time of year we have endless sunny skies with temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s.  Lots of extracurricular activities to do.  We even have Vegas-style casinos if you really want that, though there are so many things to see and do here that are unique to Seattle, I don’t think anyone would think of going to a casino.  For more information about the conference, visit http://www.paclug.org/  http://lanyrd.com/2011/paclug/ and http://www.admin2011.com/

WOW! An IBM Sametime ad via Google Ad seen while viewing a youtube.com video!


Sametime ad in youtube.com video

Check out the banner ad in this screenshot of a youtube video. It was served up to me by Google while I was watching a whitewater video on youtube.com.
Could this be part of a REAL advertising campaign showing a REAL product?! It isn’t exactly obvious what in the ad what the product is or does, but it’s getting the Lotus brand in front of people. Hopefully the ad selector doesn’t just show it to people who already know Lotus.

Don’t get too excited about one ad, It’s like one raindrop. But as we whitewater kayakers know, with enough raindrops, a little creek can be turned into a fun, raging river.
Kudos to those responsible.

One of the very first Lotus ads. Anybody know when this was made?


Old school Lotus info-mercial.  I love the Monty Python style. But it looks like they didn’t know how to explain what Lotus software was back then either.  If anyone knows the history behind this ad, please share it with all of us.

The most amazing and relevent presentation ever posted on slideshare.net about effective use of Social Media


I was going to slideshare.net to post a presentation of my own when I happened upon this presentation about storytelling and social media. It was appealing from the very first slide. Having just finished a college level, 5 credit-hour course on digital storytelling, I have a new perspective on this topic.

Storytelling is an important part of getting people to hear your message. Whether you sell Lotus software to the people in the business world, give presentations at Lotusphere, write a blog, or just have a linkedin profile, understanding this topic will have a huge impact on getting the results you seek.

There are actually two things to note about this presentation.
1. The style and structure of the slides. Visually appealing, Very few words, yet it yields a powerful message.
2. The content of the presentation. The message it contains.

As you sit through hours of sessions at Lotusphere and view their presentations, ask yourself how their presentations could be enhanced by incorporating the style of this presentation and the storytelling techniques it describes.

Promoting Lotusphere to college students: Learn about careers in Lotus software for web dev tools, social media and more!


It’s great to see an IBM business partner stepping up and making an effort to promote careers in Lotus software at colleges and inviting students to attend the opening day of Lotusphere 2011 is a fantastic venue for showing IBM’s stuff to the workers of the future. As an online prelude to the free attendance to opening day, they take visitors through a quick history of Lotus software and a lesson on xpages development.

An excerpt from their site tells you the WIIFY:

What’s in it for you?
A rare opportunity to attend a student’s only meeting with key IBM Executives from R&D, Marketing, and Business Development
Meet with IBM Engineers to learn what skills will allow you to quickly start a career working on IBM platforms as well as their insight into the future
Learn what new IBM software will be delivered around social media, collaboration and web development
Network with 200 small, medium and large companies in the IBM Showcase
Network with over 6500 business professionals in attendance
Attend technical and business oriented sessions
Go to the Labs where you can get hands-on experience with the software as well as talk to IBM developers and engineers
Attend a Women in Technology session with Kristen Lauria, VP Marketing IBM and Sandy Carter, VP IBM Software Group (for woman only)

Check it all out here: http://www.gbs.com/college

Even if you aren’t at a college in Florida, you should check out the info on the history of Lotus software and the latest on their software development platform with XPages: http://college.gbs.com/

Students, it’s easy to think Microsoft is the end-all for software. The reality is IBM is the leader in business software. They just don’t make a big deal about it.

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