Table of Contents
Man, what a hectic morning:
I know, I know, I got here in one piece, and at least I'm actually going to Lotusphere, so what am I bitching about, right? You're right. It was just stressful. I don't like when things don't go according to plan.
More later. Getting beer.
Not much to report right now, other than the fact that there was a really good turnout at Bruce's blogger dinner and a ton of people at Turtle's ESPN party.
I got to talk to Spuggy a good bit, which was very entertaining, and apparently I was leaving as the Penumbra dinner was clearing out/coming in. Said "hi" to Volker on the way out, but otherwise I think things were catching their second wind when I left. You'll probably hear plenty of stories tomorrow (not involving me). There were a ton of other bloggers there too, but if I started listing everyone I'd just leave people out, so it's foolish to go down that road. Suffice to say that things are quite busy this year.
I was awake for the 8:00 AM Jumpstarts this morning, so I went to the JMP109: In Depth Introduction to the IBM Workplace Client Technology session (it took the first 2 minutes of the session to actually say the name of the session :-).
First -- and let me just get this out of the way -- there was no coffee service at the 8:00 Jumpstarts! Aagh! I needed coffee so badly about 45 minutes into the [2 hour] session that I snuck out to buy one while they were doing some of the executive overview stuff. They did indeed have the Starbuck's coffee service available for the 10:30 sessions though, so I grabbed a tasty cup of joe on the way to Joe and Tom's session afterward.
Alright, back to the Workplace Client session. Here's what I came away from it with:
Do not think of the IBM Workplace Client as an application. The Workplace Client is a framework for aggregating, connecting, and managing disparate applications.
Let me break those terms down a bit (keeping in mind that this is simply my understanding of the whole thing... I could be wrong about certain parts).
Obviously there's much more to it than those 4 bullet points, but that's a good jumping-off point for you.
Regarding Joe and Tom's session (JMP104 Java For the IBM Lotus Domino Developer), it was entertaining and educational, as expected. I'm not going to go into much detail about summarizing it, since you can guess what was discussed, but it's certainly worth pointing out that they're going to be putting their example database out on the Team TSG site later in the week for all to download. If you want to get started writing Java agents in Notes, you'll want to download their examples.
It seems that Internet connectivity sucks at the Swan/Dolphin today. I really really really hope they get it straightened out...
For the afternoon sessions, I went to Bob Balaban and Karen Hobert's session on Websphere Studio for the Domino Developer. It was actually a very entertaining session, because it wasn't just a couple of IBM people telling you how great the product was. It was two "real world" consultants talking about how Websphere Studio can be useful, but at the same time here are all the ways it can be a pain in the ass, so watch out for this and this and this.
Both speakers were very relaxed and were pretty funny. Probably a good session to download once the PDFs are up in the Sandbox. A couple of the jokes that Bob Balaban told while we were waiting for the Websphere App Server to ramp up:
How many Microsoft engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
None. They just declare "dark" to be a standard.
How many Lotus engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
None. It's a hardware problem.
And on the subject of stories, I just got back from hanging out at Kimono's listening to the karaoke and drinking (by the way, would anyone be interested in helping me develop a Notes karaoke database for OpenNTF?). Just before I left, John Vaughn told Andrew Kelly the secret of writing, although it was sort of encrypted in a parable. It went something like this:
Once upon a time, there was a woman who lived in a cabin with her cat. It was a cold island, so she had to chop wood every day to make fires and stay warm. She used her cat to chop the wood because she didn't know any better, and it was a bloody, splintered affair.
Natives from other neighboring islands used to take a ferry over to her island to watch her chop the wood. They called her "Kitty Kamooka", which (loosely translated) means "woman who pummels her cat". None of them ever helped her to chop the wood, mind you, they just came over every day to watch. She was a legend.
One day the cat died of the flu. The woman was sad and cold, so she took all the money she had made from running her ferry business and moved to Southern California.
And that, my friends, is the secret of writing.
That was the spirit of the story anyway. I may have got some of the words wrong. I'm still thinking really hard about the whole thing...
And the opening speaker was... John Cleese. To paraphrase the beginning of his speech:
Since I know less than anyone in this room about technology, and indeed, less than even anyone that anyone in this room is acquainted with, I can only assume that I have been invited here today to act in the role of the jester. As such, I will make an effort to call everyone in this room an asshole, which in a strange sort of way seems to put Americans at ease.
Many funny things, and at the end he actually geeked out just slightly by pointing us to his own website, thejohncleese.com. This will sound like a very "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" thing to say, but he was also wearing the most expertly tailored suit I think I have ever seen. Compared to him, everyone else who came on stage afterwards looked rumpled (which perhaps is how technical people are supposed to look).
Okay, in retrospect I should probably delete that thing about the suit, but it was a really nice suit. Ah, screw it. I'll leave it in. I don't care if you guys make fun of me.
Anyway, here are some highlights from the [IBM] opening speeches themselves:
And do you know which speaker got a standing ovation? Ray Ozzie.
I just stopped by the Performance and TCO Lab to find out what the story was on the 80% performance improvement in ND7, 300% improvement on Linux numbers we heard at the opening session. Apparently the people who can answer that question are stuck in Westford and won't be here until tomorrow. I'll tell you what I find out.
Well, I was going to come back to my room last night and blog about yesterday, but I ended up talking to Ben Langhinrichs until 1:00 AM about rich text and its effect on the global economy. Or something like that. When I got back my brain and body were both quite tired, so I just fell into bed. It may have had something to do with Joe Litton's open bar as well (not a new OpenBar template for OpenNTF, mind you).
Trooper that I am, at 7:00 this morning I actually made the brisk 2.5 mile trek to the Yacht and Beach club for the Lotus Certification breakfast, where I was met with a room full of equally tired eyes. And then I went from there.
Since I have absolutely no recollection of what I was planning to blog about last night, I'll just do a quick brain dump of this morning so I can be on my way.
Christopher Byrne did his session (BP104) on building a bug tracking system to help you comply with COBIT and other compliance-related regulations. Since his bug tracking was based on OpenLog, I got a couple of mentions (thanks Christopher!) and so did OpenNTF. His session actually overflowed to another room, so there was really good attendance. Bruce Elgort said that the OpenNTF booth got flooded after the session let out. Vince was showing me the download stats from yesterday, and they're getting tons of hits -- which is even more impressive considering the spotty Internet connectivity I've noticed here at Swan/Dolphin again this year.
Point is, if you're looking for a good time to start a new OpenNTF project (or update an old one), now's a good time. Lots of interest this week.
Domino Access Views (DAV) and Query Views in Notes 7
To give you a little background, I came into this session mainly to follow up on what I thought I heard last year regarding Notes connectivity to DB2. Namely, it was my understanding that the DB2 backend stuff was simply taking each document in the database and dumping its entire contents into a CLOB/BLOB field in a DB2 database. Yeah, that's great, but it doesn't help me get at my data.
Let me tell you, they have done some extremely cool stuff with DB2 connectivity. Yes, they do indeed store the backend data in a huge BLOB field (or CLOB... I'm not quite sure which and it really doesn't matter for the sake of this discussion). So how do you access it outside of Notes? Create a Domino Access View (DAV).
You open up Designer and there's a new design element category called "Domino Access Views". When you create one of these, you choose the form that you want to base the data on, and then you can choose which fields from that form you are interested in. The DAV tries to guess what the DB2 data type for the fields should be (based on the Notes data type), and you can further define a few things like the maximum field length for a text field. After you've done that, you either click some kind of synchronize button in the Designer client (next to the "New Domino Access View" button), or you can run the "davpop" task on the server console.
Bam, all your Notes data that you defined now lives in a structured DB2 table (one column for each field) that you can report against, use with other applications, join with other data, etc. Here's all the cool stuff that comes along with that:
Two of the downsides right now are that there is no mapping for document-level security (I understood this to mean that Readers and Authors fields won't be understood or used by the DB2 table access controls), and there is no current support for rich text fields or attachments (they get dumped into the BLOB field just fine, but you just can't use them in DAV definitions). However, it sounded like those were issues that are currently "on the table" as the product continues to be developed. Notes 7 is still in beta, after all.
Anyway, that just opens up great opportunities. If the relational database guys in your company are pounding on you about not being able to access your Notes data, you can soon shut them up. And the data sync is two-way, so other apps can actually talk to Notes by accessing the data, modifying the data, reporting against the data (you can use joins to connect DAV tables with each other or with other totally separate DB2 tables if you structure the data correctly), etc. The other developers don't even have to know that they're "really" dealing with Notes. To them, it's just another set of tables.
I dunno, I thought it was really cool. Cool stuff with Query Views too, which I'll touch on later when I have more time to write.
Notes 7 Performance Benchmarks
I stopped by the Performance and TCO Lab to ask about the 80%/300% performance improvement numbers again. They answered several of my questions (and were quite friendly), and I'll be going to a session that they're giving this afternoon. More data later.
I actually started writing an entry this morning during a session, but I quickly realized that I can't type and listen to a session at the same time, so I stopped. I'm in the Dolphin lobby now, so I'll try again. Just some random thoughts/observations:
I'll try to give some juicy technical session details later on, when I'm sitting in my room instead of the lobby. Or maybe after I get home this weekend. We'll see...
Oh, and one more thing. I spoke with someone on the Domino Designer team in the "Beat the Developers" lab, and asked about a LotusScript class browser. Namely, when are we going to have one?
The answer was that there will be NO LotusScript class browser in the Notes 7 client!
Be angry about that. Be very angry. Talk to everyone you know at Lotus and IBM, and yell at them at the top of your lungs. Send e-mails. Write your congressman.
When I asked this question to Maureen Leland (who I understand is now on the Workplace Designer team, not the Domino Designer team) last year in a BOF session, it was sort of laughed off. She asked if there was anyone in the room who didn't want a LotusScript class browser. No one raised their hand. She smiled real big and said that they were very aware that it was needed, and that they had people working on it, and if it didn't make it into the ND6.5.x codestream, it would make it into the ND7 codestream.
Well, where the hell is it? There are TWO SEPARATE sessions this year on object oriented programming in LotusScript. I thought that would mean it's important.
I do hope I'm wrong or I misunderstand. Please tell me if that's true.
I've been negligent in my attempts to help out with the duffbert phallic java Google bomb (which is as much a social experiment as it is an attempt to harrass Tom). I apologize. I was originally waiting for John Rolling's duffbert phallic java pictures from Joe and Tom's session, so I could use an actual photo to supplement (and help explain) the duffbert phallic java phenomenon, but so far he hasn't posted them. So I'll settle for a simple duffbert phallic java link or two instead. (Update: John just posted a picture.)
An interesting related story in this strange saga is a narration by Crystal Coex on Ben Langhinrichs' site.
Bill Buchan's session on Object Oriented LotusScript went well, and he recommended the books "Code Complete" and "The Pragmatic Programmer" to everyone. He also had some interesting ideas on creating Factory classes, passing things around as Variants instead of defined classes, and using the old Execute trick to dynamically load classes and script libraries for better load times. Check his site for information on the slides and an example database.
He was not wearing a kilt, by the way.
I also talked to one of the IRIS developers about the new Domino Domain Monitor (DDM) database, which seemed like the Events database on steriods. I think I'll have to play around with it for a while to really understand the capabilities, but the concept was pretty sound. Not only do you get automatic logging of standard Domino errors and events on the server, but it's all categorized nicely, and you can add comments about events, assign them to people, and "close" them when they've been resolved. It had an interesting focus on actually managing the errors and events that get logged by the server, rather than just spitting them out for you to look at.
If I can, I'm going to try to tie some of the OpenLog logging to the DDM database as well... if I can figure it out. That would be a pretty powerful model, if you could go to the DDM database for both your server errors/events and those that you generate from your own app databases.
At home and getting ready to settle into my own bed again. I'll just upload what I had a chance to write this morning (below), and talk more about Lotusphere in retrospect over the next few days. So tired...
If you didn't attend, or you read this in 2 weeks and the site is already down, they usually post a lot of the session slides as PDFs in the Sandbox after a while. It's just a lot easier to download them all zipped together.
I'll try to start my Lotusphere wrap-up tomorrow. It'll probably be fairly lengthy (no surprise there, I guess), and I need some rest tonight.
For Notes people, Lotusphere is pretty much like band camp. When you're there, it's okay to be a total geek about your technology, because everyone else is too (to a greater or lesser extent), and it builds up all this energy because you're in the middle of an environment where you're allowed to talk about these otherwise bland projects you're working on and struggles you're having, and the people that you're talking to probably have the same sorts of stories themselves. And they're happy to talk to you about them. No more apologizing about being "just a Notes programmer" or trying to explain what Notes does... everyone understands. You're among friends.
So it's always a blast to go there, and you feel really energized when you come back (once you've finally caught up on your sleep), and your next step is to try to keep that energy going.
Right now, there seems to be three major aspects to the Notes community: the LDD forums, the Business Partners (who have their own forums), and the blogs. There used to be a user group tier there too, but that's been fading away in recent years.
While all of those things do a really good job of getting people together and allowing them to meet and talk and work together, you start losing sight of how one-dimensional your online relationships are. On the one hand, you think you really know the people you read and respond to every day, but on the other hand, if you think really hard about it, you know almost nothing about those people. Blogs probably get you a lot closer than forums, because it's easy to branch off into discussions about politics, sports, haircuts, or whatever, but they still only give you a very controlled snapshot of a person.
For example, while we were all sitting at Kimono's one night, mild-mannered Jess Stratton got up and just belted out a rendition of "Somebody To Love" by Jefferson Airplane. All social activity in the bar stopped. Grown men were drooling in their beer. I think I lost consciousness for a few seconds. In and of itself, it was just a really good karaoke gig, but from reading Jess's posts on Notes.net for years and knowing her from blogging, it was more than that. Suddenly Jess has a whole new layer. Diva Jess.
Along a similar vein, I got to talk to the venerable Spuggy several times one-on-one, and he was a truly nice guy. Not a surprise, really, but having read his blog for a while I kind of had a picture of him as a raving lunatic more than a real person (sorry Spug, but you write some crazy stuff). He's actually a real person. Someone I could sit and talk to.
So what's the point here, really? It's about depth. Texture. Whole people. We all try so hard to have these virtual acquaintances, and we don't realize how virtual they are until we've met the real people. Then suddenly there's these whole people we get to meet and talk to and become friends with. And you can only do that in person. An event like Lotusphere provides a venue for that.
The next real level in collaboration has to involve some kind of personal relationship-building like that. We started way back when with e-mail, and then went to forums, and now we have all these "social network" experiments, but the next step has to be something where you can really express more of your personality -- and see more of the personality of others. Maybe a Metaverse/avatar kind of model, like in Snow Crash or something. I don't know. If I knew, I'd be designing it.
Back to the Lotusphere discussion, the Lotus community already has a fantastic basis from what I saw in Orlando last week. I've been to other tech conferences before, but never one where there were so many groups of people moving around together, excited to be talking to each other. It's probably very similar to the Apple/Mac community, or the Linux community. Fighting together under a common flag, passionate about their technology because they're so proud of it.
The symbiotic relationship there is that the technology gives the people a reason to come together (virtually or personally), and the strong community can help sell the technology and make its user base grow. Lotus/IBM just has to keep on delivering, and the community will keep on preaching. They've already built their critical mass. As long as we (the community) continue to have a reason to be proud of our product, and it keeps getting better, and we don't feel like we're being left behind, we'll keep coming back. We really want to keep on coming back. It's about more than just the technology, it's about the people.
I still don't exactly understand what these are or what they mean to me, but the term "Role-Based Workspace" was used at least 2 or 3 times in the opening session, and at least once in the [surprisingly brief] closing statements. That must mean they're important. David Via talks briefly about them on the Ferris Research Weblog, so that might be a good place to start looking for answers.
IBM Workplace: It's Here, It's Queer, It's In Your Face
Okay, maybe we could skip the queer part, but it's certainly where all the Lotus development resources seem to be headed. Ambuj made reference to the "one lane road" that we're on with Notes and Workplace, so the concept is that there's a common destination for the two technologies. We'll just have to see how all that plays out. In any case, Workplace is getting a lot of funding, and it's going nowhere but forward.
Workplace Designer Is Cool
They really seem to be de-emphasizing J2EE and Portal as they're pumping up Workplace. They talk about these "Workplace Applications" that you can build with Workplace Designer, but I'm still fuzzy on what those are. I have a feeling that they're somewhat like a Notes application -- you just have to start building them to understand them. Maureen Leland (formerly of Domino Designer fame) is now an architect on the Workplace Designer project, and they're making it very Domino-Designer-like. Very comfortable for us Notes developers. There's the familiar form-based development model (if you want it), creating fields on the fly as you drop them onto forms. Certainly a good opportunity for RAD programming, especially compared to the monster that is IBM/Rational WebSphere Studio.
Activity Explorer Is The Killer App For Workplace
The story is that Activity Explorer is an application that came out of (escaped from?) the IBM Research Labs, and it's the hip new tool you can use in Workplace. It gives you a level of collaboration that allows you to start a thread and then add things like documents, messages, chat sessions, screen shots, and participants to the thread. Any kind of short explanation I offer you here won't give it justice, so look for the session ID309 slides when they become available. It could be the real killer app for Workplace.
UI Is Important (at least in Workplace)
The Workplace Rich Client 2.5 UI is really, really nice. Very... ummm... not IBM. Maybe it's nouveau IBM; time will tell. It's very refreshing, in any case.
Performance Is Important (!?)
I kept hearing that not only were there 70-80% performance improvements in Domino 7, but that they were a result of a specific desire to improve performance. On the surface this doesn't sound too amazing, but how often do you hear a vendor say that they have a stated goal to improve performance of their product on existing hardware? Honestly, it's not that Domino is slow. At least not from what I can tell. It's certainly scalable, especially if you want to start clustering. So why the performance push? At a time when other software companies are just sitting back and expecting hardware to keep getting faster and RAM to keep getting cheaper, why is Lotus putting effort into making their product perform better on old hardware?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I'm just trying to understand the economics.
DB2 As A Backend Data Store In Domino Is Suddenly Useful
Paul Mooney recently posted a good bullet-point overview of the whole NSFDB2 integration aspect of ND7, and for me that's where the information used to end. I'd read that and think, "Well, what's the point?". The short answer is, "Domino Access Views are the point". Please see my Lotusphere Day Two blog entry for more details. I'm starting to consider restructuring all of our internal IT Notes applications to take advantage of this (sadly, this will probably never happen, but it would open up a lot of possibilities).
Interesting New Things In Notes/Domino 7
Here's my short list of what interests me about the upcoming Notes 7 release:
All in all, the technology moves on. Try to keep up. And no matter how easy they try to make everything, Java is muy importante in the near-future IBM vision. If you don't know it, learn it. The other stuff (LotusScript, Formulas, etc.) isn't necessarily going anywhere, but Java is going to be everywhere.
When I was growing up, we had a dog with two vaginas.
We named her "Snatches".
I'd stand in the yard, calling her. "Snatches... Come here Snatches..."
So now you know. I can't wait to see what kind of Google searches start finding my site now. Boy, I hope no young kids read this blog.
More Lotusphere wrapup tomorrow (or the next day).
1. There didn't seem to be any dramatic new announcements this year. The message was sort of "You know all that stuff we talked about last year? Well, we're doing it." Which, all in all, isn't necessarily a bad message. Certainly better than "We've stopped working on last year's promises." There were some nice technology demonstrations, but I didn't find anything to be a huge surprise.
2. The economy must be doing well, because all the vendors had much better knickknacks than last year. In general, I think the quality of tchotchkes is a direct reflection on sales. Heck, the raffle giveaway for the product showcase was a 42-inch plasma TV, if that's any indication.
3. Overall, I think the entire Lotusphere event is organized and put on extremely well, and I'm sure I'd be amazed at how much planning is involved. I'd still love to know how much it costs to rent one of the Disney/Universal theme parks for a night.
4. I saw a little Disney humor in the Swan parking lot: there were a few spaces reserved for "Starwood Preferred Guests", and the signs said that if you parked there but weren't in the Starwood club, your car would "magically disappear". I'm sure Pluto and the boys get a few giggles out of that when they're driving the tow truck around.
1. They actually gave us time between sessions for lunch this year. Thank you!
2. I liked the one hour sessions. I didn't feel like they were too short, and any of the sessions that seemed a little rushed probably would have felt rushed at 1.25 hours too, so the times worked out well. Everything also felt like it was spaced out more evenly this year, so the new schedule was good overall.
3. Thanks for the Starbucks. I really needed the extra octane between sessions, after 4 hours sleep the night before. I think I drank about 50 bottles of water, too.
4. I saw that the session videos are now available in DVD format, if you want them that way. I remember a lot of people asking for that last year (when they were only available in VHS, I think), and it's good to hear that the suggestion was listened to.
5. The fact that a lot of the sessions focused on using the current technology (as opposed to talking about what will be available next year) was great. I like to be able to go back to work and start planning how to put things into my applications right away, and I'm sure my boss appreciates that too. Not that I don't like the strategy and "next year's technology" sessions, but ultimately I need to put what I've learned to work ASAP.
6. It was really nice to see so many bloggers giving sessions. I always got the impression that the speakers list was kind of a closed community before, and having some bloggers up there was a nice experiment. I hope they do it again next year (maybe I'll even think about submitting a session...).
7. I heard several people say that there's a renewed emphasis on promoting the business partner community in the coming year. That is great to hear. I'm not a business partner (not even a consultant), but I've spoken to several in the past who were kind of disappointed with their relationship with IBM. A strong business partner community can be nothing but good.
8. It was very cool that there was a big Lotusphere banner on the IBM home page during the show, as reported by Ed Brill. That's for all the people who say that Notes never gets any advertising time. Maybe we'll see more of that in the next few months.
1. See gripes 4, 6, and 7, from last year.
2. It would be nice if we could request our dining location (Swan or Dolphin) when we register for Lotusphere. If I know I'm going to stay at Dolphin, for example, I don't want to have to trek over to Swan every morning for breakfast.
3. For the big "Ask The Developers" (ATD) gig just before the closing session, could we have it in one of the Dolphin rooms, so 2,000 people don't have to stampede from Swan to Dolphin to get to the closing session 30 minutes later? With the closing session in Dolphin North, it would be much better to have ATD in Dolphin South.
4. Why aren't all of the session slides available for download? Obviously they exist, because we saw them during the sessions. (Clarification: I know that Lotusphere attendees can download slides from the Lotusphere Online site, but not all of them are there. Only some of them.)
5. In the lead-in to the opening session, they had little bits of trivia flashing up on the big screen. Kind of cool, but then the trivia started repeating itself. Come on, that's just plain lazy. Did we run out of trivia?
6. Some of the BOF sessions should probably have been longer than an hour. I like the one hour format for regular sessions, but there's too much interaction and too many people and unplanned discussion during a BOF to hold it down to an hour. Then again, maybe I'm just mad that I didn't have a chance to get the mike during the blogger BOF (I was told that there was only time if my comment was quick, and it wasn't, but then 5 or 6 other people got up and spoke at length right after that... I really need to be more pushy).
7. I would have liked to see a little more build-up to Lotusphere in the one or two months prior to the event. The only link on the LDD site said "Register for Lotusphere 2005", and I can only find one general announcement in September, one in November, and one in December, along with 2 Business Partner related things in December. And nothing in January but some product press releases. Not a lot there to build up the excitement (except the blogs, of course). I want lots of articles with people saying that Lotusphere is awesome and you're a loser if you don't want to go.
So all the gripes were pretty minor, really. I just wanted to get them off my chest.
Overall, I love my Lotusphere, and I hope I get to go again next year. And the year after... And the year after...