Oh, Bother: Apparently it’s Time for my Annual Blog Post

I don’t believe in apologizing for not writing sooner as I’ve seen from time to time on blogs. Hey, people get into other stuff, get busy, life things happen, and it’s easier and more immediately gratifying to write pithy sentences on Twitter, be personal on Facebook, or post pics on Instagram or SnapChat. So, I’m not sorry. Except to Canadians, who are cringing at the concept of not being sorry. I’m sorry for making you cringe (see, feels better doesn’t it?).

SO I noticed my last two posts were in February. Of the last two years. Time flies.

I’ll take a little bit of that back as the folks at GoDaddy decided to give me a new IP (which I changed in DNS after a while) and then didn’t tell me that for WordPress, they decided to change the host name of the SQL database. I worked that out today, so now I can officially say I have worked in PHP.

Truth is I’ve taken 17 months “pseudo-off” after the passing of my mom, so haven’t really had much to say that would interest the typical reader of a dorky blog like this. Folks don’t want to read about grief, being an executor of an estate, the strange things you find in your mom’s house, or the ridiculous legal system that kicks in when a loved one passes. That said, my executor duties have been discharged and I’ve started back to “work” which means new things, new technologies and/or consulting, speaking, etc. And hopefully, a new customer or two. I hear they are good for business.

I did keep up with travel, friends and conferences. More than usual in fact, I was a speaker at Connect, Engage, Social Connections and MWLUG. In addition I accompanied Liz to three of her conferences, where I serve as an unofficial technical resource for the company and network with executives on fun topics like mobile, collaboration, and more recently, artificial intelligence. Overall I traveled 13 times in 11 straight months in 2017, staying home only in December.

So, next. I will be attending (duh) IBM Think next month in Las Vegas. It will be my 23rd straight if you start with Lotusphere ’96 then progress through name changes to now. Originally I submitted an abstract, which was politely declined. Then a couple weeks ago I had a second shot as an IBM Champion to submit to what they’re calling Think Academy – 40 minute workshops. So I submitted basically the same session, and it was accepted, along with another one that I thought of at the moment, so I will be speaking after all. Very excited to be putting together materials for a new area of focus, Ethics in Artificial Intelligence (for developers and managers). Also I’ll be doing a session on Work-Life Balance (for everyone).

For Think I decided to go the Airbnb route, and rented a 6-bedroom luxury house five miles southwest of the Mandalay Bay. I’ve been to Vegas about 15 times so don’t need to “sleep” on the strip or at the conference hotel. In fact, knowing it well, I can almost guarantee that my Uber will get to the conference center at Mandalay Bay faster than anyone but my mate Tony Holder can walk from their rooms at the hotel. I’ve been recruiting fellow IBM Champions to share, but will be just as happy if only 3 or 4 rooms are used. Given my experience with these conferences, we won’t be there much.

I plan to attend and hopefully speak at Engage, Social Connections and CollabSphere (formerly MWLUG) again this year, and am putting together abstracts. I’ll have other trips with Liz to Florida, California, and possibly another during the year, so I’ll be once again posting annoying pictures of my food on Facebook.

So that’s it for now. In case you come back, I do plan to blog with more frequency especially on my new topics of interest as I learn more about them myself. Cheers!

It’s Back. Be there.

In a reprisal of the memorable “Great Code Giveaway” Lotusphere sessions (yes, it was always called Lotusphere for its 10-year run), I’ll be back this Wednesday Feb 22 at 2PM in Moscone West room 2006 with Karl-Henry Martinsson. Yes, another Swede. Like me. I’ll explain.

Hope to see you there!

teaser GCG 2017.JPG

Someone was missing in Orlando

So we had this insurance client 13 years ago. The whole SNAPPS gang visited their offices in Minnesota a couple times, me a few more times as necessary, and we did some great work for them for three or four years on Sametime integration and QuickPlace before they were acquired. Even after the main contacts had moved on, we kept in touch and saw them every year in Orlando.

We were introduced through my Lotusphere sessions. At every single “Great Code Giveaway”, every solo session, in fact every session one of the other guys gave, the main technical “Lotus” contact from this company would be there. Front row, every time. He must’ve come to 75 of our sessions over the years. This was a guy highly dedicated to learning everything he could to help him at his job. He asked smart questions, took notes, and basically was a fixture at our sessions for all those years. The kind of audience member that made a speaker feel good and even calm you down, knowing you could always look their way. He even came to Collaboration University twice in Chicago, and I think at least one Advisor conference back in the day. When I visited his offices, he’d be sure to take me out for a beer and extol the virtues of wild rice (Minnesota!).

I didn’t see him this year at IBM Connect, but given all the other people I didn’t see for the first time thought nothing of it. I’m sure I would have noticed had I been speaking, he was such a fixture in my audiences.

Today I discovered that my learned colleague, speaker calming element, and go-to audience member passed away last August from a rare cancer. He had been battling it for five years. He was just a couple years older than me, and left behind a wife and three daughters.

There are members of our community who are well-known, outspoken, “Champions”, speakers, authors, and general protagonists and antagonists. And then there are the members of our community who simply work hard for thirty years, don’t speak or write, don’t seek glory or notoriety, but rather spend their energies using, promoting, evangelizing and making better the technology we all love.

Let’s never forget that the latter far outnumber the former. The folks who do the day to day work, training, admin and development in companies, spend their spare time learning, and bring our solutions to the people on the front lines – and don’t get to walk away after a sale or an engagement – they are the real champions.

Rest in Peace, Randy Nelson. I’m pretty sure you have a front row seat.RandyNelson

IBM Connect 2016: So Bill Gates walks into a bar…

ic400Today’s Opening General Session was well received. There was good energy, the room was completely full, and the audience was very receptive to some very well done demos. And, everything ran more or less on time (which if you’ve been to more than three of them, you know is rare). We were introduced to Jason Silva, host of Brain Games and futurist speaker. We were treated to glimpses of our future selves, the underlying theme along the lines of “our software is making our hardware” – how the tools we use are beginning to self-propagate in ways that our future selves will barely recognize. I did have a bit of an LOL moment when he described our 100,000-year-ago selves in sub-Saharan Africa beginning to use sticks to reach for food and how that represented an extension of ourselves, and how much we have grown since then. All while about fifteen modern geeks in the audience were using their selfie sticks. Think on that.

From then on Jeff Schick ran the show.

There was a short but very good bit from an IBM Research’s Vinith Misra on computational humor. That one tells itself.

The first half wrapped up with Clive Lightfoot and James Weru from Kenya discussing how collaboration and specifically solutions from IBM Partner WebGate have increased trust and prosperity in the community of African farmers, distributors, markets, buyers and traders. Fascinating story.

The OGS was split into two just-over-one-hour sessions, which let us stretch our legs between the “guest speakers” half and the “demos and customers” half. Chris Crummey did a bang-up job on demos, and the story was quite obviously well-rehearsed and delivered in a very polished way. He clarified “new way to work” for the first time since it was introduced, and I think the audience appreciated that quite a bit.

Katrina Troughton from IBM introduced the Social Student program (a Connections implementation at three universities supporting a competition across borders) – and while I cringed initially at the appearance of tall chairs on stage, they actually brought up the professor and two of the winning students and had just a short chat that was informative.

I have to say I really enjoyed the case study from Texas Children’s Hospital, and recognized the promo shots from my days with Children’s Hospital Association. While they didn’t get into details (neither technical nor naming the partners who I know have been involved in their rollout, that would have been nice…), the story and specific goals were discussed and made sense to the general audience as well as someone with a understanding of the way technology can help in a hospital setting.

Lufthansa’s case study was short and sweet. It landed.

And, the “what we’re working on” section/demo was well done. They didn’t take the chances they have in the past with live demos, but on the flip side people enjoyed it and got out on time…

Overall assessment? On a scale of “two lane highway” to “R5 launch”, I’d put it squarely with “four pillars”.

P.S. For those of you dying to know: “…and everyone becomes a millionaire. On average.”

A solution for Quickr clients who just want to keep working…

keep-calm-and-keep-working-32As mentioned below, IBM Lotus Quickr was discontinued in 2013 and its end of support date is now set at September 30, 2016. Anyone renewing maintenance from this month on will have a decision to make in the near term about whether it’s worth the investment, what is next, and what solution fits your situation(s) as a replacement for the longest-lived web-based document management solution out there. That’s marketing speak for good, but long in the tooth.

Here are my general thoughts on your replacement options. A full analysis is always recommended, of course, before you dive into any of these. Here you go:

  • If you have customization or applications, they will need to be rebuilt in a target system of your choosing. The smoothest path is Domino, but if you’re not a Domino shop it’s time to start planning the development effort.
  • If you’re ready to retire your Quickr places but need the data, SNAPPS has a solution to export places to the file system. (info@snapps.com)
  • If you are a Connections customer and using Connections Content Manager (CCM), IBM has a migration tool to move Libraries. It takes significant expertise to run and only brings over limited content, but it’s a start.
  • If you are a Connections customer and not using CCM, or would rather use Files and Activities, a custom solution for migration is the way to go. Contact SNAPPS for information.
  • If you are not a Connections customer, or are and don’t like the limitations in CCM, and either do or don’t have Domino, DOCOVA has a new offering for you. DOCOVA is a fully featured document management system with migration paths from Quickr, and even a path to a non-Domino version. This path lets you keep working with your content at a high level of security, customization and robust management. I’ve included their announcement video below for reference. Enjoy!

All good things must come to a late middle: Quickr End of Support Update

QuickrLogoTinyAs prognosticated in a previous post (yay for alliteration!) IBM has announced the withdrawal of support for Quickr:

Effective September 30, 2016, IBM® will withdraw support for the following part numbers licensed under the IBM International Program License Agreement:

Program number Program release name

So, start your clocks (if you hadn’t already in April 2013 when marketing was withdrawn)! A year for hundreds of companies with hundreds of thousands of users to plan and execute on a migration strategy, if you worry about such things as supported software. In some cases (such as regulated companies, SarBox, etc.) you have to, and will have quite a bit of planning ahead. High level, you will have to concern yourself with:

  1. Analysis of your current environment and usage patterns
  2. Quantification of customization, task and calendar patterns, and priority level
  3. Assessment of other in-house document solutions, or extranets if that is your use case
  4. Evaluation of available options from third parties – Microsoft, IBM, DOCOVA, custom
  5. Retirement / attrition planning and communications
  6. Development of a migration plan and communications
  7. Acquisition of licenses for a replacement platform / solution
  8. Technical services for migration of maximum available data
  9. Training and user adoption strategies on the new platform

Just another year in the life of a CIO!

MWLUG 2015 from Atlanta — the Good, uh..that’s it


Post titles like that usually have “bad and ugly”…that’s what you were thinking, right? Well no such criticism here. This was a fantastic meeting. Here are my stats:

20 Lotuspheres
14 Advisors
12 Collaboration Universities
17 LUGs
764 beers (not me)

This was my first MWLUG and it was a blast – very very well run, great attendance, engaged audience, lots of sponsors, and a terrific venue. And, the SweetWater 420 beer wasn’t bad. All 100 of them – my session “Free Beer 12: Southern Style” was well-attended for an admin session (there are more developers here), but there was enough to go around to the rest of the rooms speaking concurrently. Here’s a link to my session slides – the technical content of which involves the installation and use of Notes, Domino Designer and Domino Administrator (especially admin) on a Mac or Linux client using CodeWeavers’ CrossOver and Prominic.net’s custom build.

The combination is fantastic for admins who want rapid access to the admin client from their Mac. Five seconds flat for me!

MWLUG 2015


CRs and HFs and FPs, oh my…IBM Connections 5.0 CR1 is released

Connections LogoFor those who don’t know, are curious, and do care…I know the numbers are getting smaller as I go here…:

HF: “HotFix” – which in software terms generally means a specific fix for one problem, given out to customers on an as-needed basis and generally rolled up into other more comprehensive groups of fixes.

FP: “FixPack” – what it sounds like, a package of fixes (some of which may have been deemed HotFixes), that when released is supported. Sometimes, a FixPack will increment a product release number, generally in the fourth position (e.g. Lotus Quickr

CR: “Cumulative Refresh” in the Connections world anyway is a release of a combination of fixes (that would otherwise constitute a FixPack) and new features (not enough for a new product number, but still…). For IBM Connections, it’s fairly similar to Domino’s release numbering scheme though, so it can be thought of as similar in scope. IBM Connections 5.0 CR1 is not dissimilar to the concept of Domino 9.0.1 (vs. Domino 9.0). Cumulative Refresh also sounds nice, like something you would get when there’s a light rain falling on you in an Irish meadow.

Alright then…now that we have our two letter acronyms covered, here’s what is new in CR1:

  • Restrict Read Access on individual files or folders in a Linked Library (CCM): Blocking Read Access allows users of Connections to remove the read access of everyone (minus community owners) within a community. A user can Block Read Access on the document summary page of files/folders. Blocking read access works on both files and folders.
    This is kind of a big deal in the Quickr migration scenario of the future (CR2 perhaps), since we really needed more granular security and to be able to restrict read access better.
  • Support @mentions in a Linked Library (CCM): This function allows @Mentions in comments on documents in libraries.
  • Metrics Reports for Linked Libraries (CCM): Metrics reports are now provided for Linked Libraries in a Community.
  • Open Questions and Answered Questions tabs have been added for Forum Topics: This function allows a user to view the Open Questions and Answered Questions in either a Standalone or Community Forum.
  • Launching a Video Player on supported file types in the Activity Stream and Embedded Experience: For ActivityStream entries based on Status Updates or Files where a supported video file format is present, there is now the option to play the video directly inline on the ActivityStream and from within the related Embedded Experience.
  • Previews of non-image filetypes in the Activity Stream and Embedded Experience: When IBM Docs or the File Viewer document conversion service is configured with Connections, it will automatically generate a front page thumbnail image of supported document types. Like your Mac.
  • Monthly repeating Events are now supported in Community Events: This function allows repeating Monthly Events to either occur monthly on a specific date or a particular day of the month.
  • Abbreviated Business Card for external users: Visitors who are not part of your organization (external users, introduced in Connections 5.0) that enter a community will see an abbreviated business card with no links on employee names.
  • Performance optimization updates for the Activities Seedlist: This function optimized and improved performance for searching in Activities.
So go get it. Knock yourself out.

You don’t know what you don’t know. You know?

StethoscopeOne of the most often asked questions about Lotus Quickr in its golden years has been “what do I have?” — meaning, on the server and in the places. This is the case with any self-service platform and has been especially pertinent with Quickr, as IBM has unintentionally made some of its migration requirements quite difficult to get your head around. A basic for-instance: the requirement that all workflows be complete before starting to migrate a place. Super, makes sense. Except that there’s no way to tell this in the product, no “outstanding workflow” view, and no simple way of determining for which places, rooms, and forms workflow is even turned on!

There are a myriad of other “requirements” and a list of things that do and don’t migrate to take into account — if only you could quantify and identify them. If you have 100 places, you likely have 500 or more databases including rooms. So in 500 databases, can you easily identify where you have lists? Active calendars? Tasks? HTML forms? None of these items migrate, so you probably at least want to know where they are in order to interface with the managers of these places to determine how active and important they are. At best, you’d want to produce a list of them, identify which are active within a certain time period, and through the application of a few algorithms be able to classify a Quickr place as a good, moderate, or bad candidate for migration — and then do the same for your archiving strategy.

HTML forms are my next best example. If you have done any customization in the 14 years you’ve been able to, you may have some of these powerful things lying around. They don’t migrate to CCM…or do they? In fact, it’s not impossible. Programmatically, you can convert the content in an HTML form to a simple form, then it can be migrated (assuming there’s attachments involved). The migration of simple forms to CCM is hoky, but it can be done…with some volume limits.

Having spent years making Quickr efficient, lean and mean for large deployments, I have access to SNAPPS tools that slightly modified can tell us just these things. Depending on volume, in fairly rapid fashion I can tell you how ready you are for a CCM migration, how much work there is to do, and estimate the percentage of your Quickr content that will be preserved. It’s part magic tools, part intuition, and part experience, like any in depth analysis.

I mention all this because I’m currently in different stages of this kind of analysis with four Quickr clients, all of whom just don’t quite know what they have. That’s the common factor, and the result of years using a powerful, self-serve, customizable platform like Quickr. In fact for two clients, I’m even running demonstration projects to migrate a single place to CCM in order to show them the results, but in a safe lab environment using LDAP mapping to a lab directory. I’ll be doing a lot of those next year as more companies are figuring out what they want to do with Quickr. And, I intend to post some of the results here as I go. For now, it’s the larger environments that are starting to get concerned with what I’ve predicted as an April 2016 end of support.

But don’t worry, with enough money you can keep that going too… 🙂

Question of the year: what to do with Lotus Quickr

QuickrLogoTinyIt’s been 16 months now since the end of marketing for IBM’s Lotus Quickr 8.5.1 (a less than desirable move, IMO, not that I’m biased). In that time, I have fielded questions from conference audiences and increasingly this year, clients and Quickr customers about what they should be planning to do. Sometimes, with Quickr applications or deployments in the thousands and tens of thousands of users.

As I’ve mentioned before, support will go on for a while – most likely guess is now until April 2016 – but not the kind of support you get with a current product. More of a “broken/fix if really necessary” kind of support, with fixpacks having slowed down to one every 3-4 months instead of monthly, support moving overseas (from me anyway), and barely any resources applied to anything but Severity 1 and 2 cases.

To answer those customers and inquiries, I’ve tried to help them classify themselves by their use cases with the following as a general guideline. Think of it as a 4-lane highway (apologies for the inside joke for old timers):

You are a: Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
You use Quickr for: Basic document storage Simple forms, room and folder security Placetypes with UI, custom forms Business applications
Your best strategy is: Evaluate CCM for complete migration Consider simplification then CCM + Domino Possibilities: CCM, Connections customization, Forms Experience Builder, WebSphere applications Perform more detailed analysis and planning to determine path to replacement product(s) or SaaS offerings

In any of these cases, it’s quite possible you would have to combine strategies. As well, it’s always a good time to evaluate whether running your own operation with Quickr (which was fairly easy for most clients) translates well into running your own operation with Connections Content Manager (CCM) and all the admin, WebSphere, hardware and skills that entails. It may in fact be time to consider outsourcing to a SaaS provider like IBM SmartCloud or, on the application end of the spectrum, Intuit QuickBase. It’s important to ask these kinds of questions:

  • Do you use Quickr for an extranet?
  • Do you require more granular security?
  • Do you require greater use of forms?
  • Do you use Quickr for business processes?
  • Do you rely on more complex workflow?

Answers to these, and a degree of importance for each, will help you determine readiness of your Quickr environment – or part of it – for migration to “something else”.

Then there are those who just want to dump their files into SharePoint and start fresh with something new for the external collaboration efforts. I don’t blame you…it seems easy. It isn’t, but it seems that way. Quickr doesn’t have a native or even easily implemented programmatic way to export its contents (a conscious decision by IBM years ago) so third party solutions are part of the equation. There are very few, including a PDF-generating service I can offer, to get content from Quickr to the file system. What you do with it from there is up to you… 🙂

Looking back at the table above, I’ve found that in many cases, customers really have no idea what they have on their Quickr servers in terms of customizations. That’s because it was so easy to import an HTML form, create simple forms, or apply a custom theme (OK that last one wasn’t easy in the last version). And because o this, it’s important to review the server’s setup, purpose, and survey the place managers as part of a “discovery” of what they have…to come up with the best strategy.

When you next evaluate your Quickr strategy, feel free to use the above as a guide, and of course feel free to contact me for help doing it.