Category Archives: Business

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!

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. (
  • 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!

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.

Thirteen must be my lucky number!

IBM Connect 2014With IBM Connect 2014 around the corner (we all know…it’s closer than the calendar leads one to believe!) the awesome content team folks decided to leak out some of the “Lotusphere” sessions early, a week at a time.

I’m very excited to have been chosen to speak again this year. And, I’m joining forces with my friend and colleague Mac Guidera to offer twice the goodness for the same price. 🙂

This will be my 19th “Lotusphere” and 13th as a speaker. Some years it’s been one big session, some in the past have been as many as nine sessions. Personally I enjoy putting a lot of effort into one or two so attendees get as much value as possible in an hour.

It’s also a year in which I’ve tried to focus more effort on strategy and cultural impact of the technical work we all do. I gave my first “non-industry” talk to groups of executives, and it resonated. They are hungry for the type of marketing-free strategy advice on a decidedly uncomfortable topic (technology) that normally takes hours of poring over analyst reports or months of study. That’s the kind of thing I enjoy distilling down to an hour or two.

But I digress, on to this year’s session. We’ve all been part of both successful and failed (or at least strained!) projects, and I have consulted with many companies that see the same challenges getting new initiatives off the ground. What goes wrong in pilot roll-outs? Is it all technical issues? [Hint: no.] What are the human factors involved, what kind of staffing does it take, and who are the absolute wrong people to be running pilots? Our session is all about increasing the likelihood of success when embarking on a Social Business Software pilot:

Running a Successful Pilot Program with Social Business Software

Much of the publicly available marketing and technical information on IBM’s collaboration solutions focuses on features, prerequisites, support and implementation details. In this session we’ll address success factors involved in running a pilot social software deployment.  Our topics include setting goals, gaining executive support, managing expectations, aligning with business strategy, measuring outcomes and defining success. More about business than PMRs, more about success than installation, this session is the perfect accompaniment to your technical education and will round out your best practices experience. Come join veteran speakers with a combined 35 years of experience and watch them try to wrap this up in 60 minutes!

Rob Novak is president of IBM Partner SNAPPS, has 20 years in the Lotus/IBM community, two Masters degrees in business and has delivered 50+ Connect/Lotusphere sessions in 13 years. Mac Guidera is a Social Workforce Strategist at IBM, and demonstrates Social Business adoption and integration into organizations that have an impact on their cultures and collaborative process.

So that’s our challenge for the next 52 days. Less weekends, 36 days. Less holidays, 31 days. Less lead time for IBM legal, 16 days. Less other client projects, 5 days. Less procrastination, about 45 minutes.

Crap. Uh, I have to go. Maybe write something. See you there!

A subtle change over there to the right

It was 7:26 AM today when the email came. I am pleased and honored to be included once again in the group called IBM Champions! Here’s what it takes to be an IBM Champion, and what the benefits are…

One benefit is that you can use the logo, so I got to tag “2014” onto my caption over there on the right.

Per the announcement site:

These individuals are non-IBMers who evangelize IBM solutions, share their knowledge and help grow the community of professionals who are focused on social business and IBM Collaboration Solutions. IBM Champions spend a considerable amount of their own time, energy and resources on community efforts — organizing and leading user group events, answering questions in forums, contributing wiki articles and applications, publishing podcasts, sharing instructional videos and more!

87 Champions were chosen for inclusion in 2014 — I have to say it’s great to see so many new names along with a core group of longstanding contributors to the community. Congratulations to all the new Champions…see many of you next month at IBM Connect in Orlando!

Adam Brown

Andrew Barickman

Arshad Khalid

Benedek Menesi

Bill Malchisky

Brad Balassaitis

Brian O’Neill

Bruce Elgort

Chris Miller

Christian Güedemann

Christoph Stoettner

Cody Burleson

Daniel Lieber

Daniele Grillo

David Leedy

David Price

Dennis Rot

Femke Goedhart

Francie Tanner

Frank Van der Linden

Fredrik Norling

Friso van den Berg

Gabriella Davis

Gary Swale

Giuseppe Grasso

Glenn Kline

Handly Cameron

Howard Greenberg

Jan Valdman

Jérôme Deniau

Jesse Gallagher

João Vendruscolo

John Head

John Jardin

Julian Robichaux

Karl-Henry Martinsson

Kathy Brown

Keith Brooks

Kenichi Sato

Kenio Carvalho

Kenji Ebihara

Koichi Hatanaka

Laks Sundararajan

Liz Albert

Luis Carlos Garza

Marion Vrielink

Mark Calleran

Mark Leusink

Mark Roden

Masahiko Miyo

Matteo Bisi

Mike Ostrowski

Mikkel Heisterberg

Mitch Cohen

Mitsuru Katoh

Olaf Boerner

Patrice Vialor

Patrick Hope

Paul Calhoun

Paul Della-Nebbia

Paul Mooney

Paul Withers

Per Henrik Lausten

Ray Bilyk


Rob Novak

Rupert Clayton

Russ Maher

Salvador Gallardo

Sandra Bühler

Sarah Carter

Sasja Beerendonk

Serdar Basegmez

Sharon Bellamy

Simon Vaughan

Sjaak Ursinus

Steve Pitcher

Stuart McIntyre

Takeshi Yoshida

Theo Heselmans

Tim Clark

Tim Malone

Tom Simmons

Tony Holder

Ulrich Krause

Vincent Perrin

Wannes Rams

FCC Small Biz Cyber Planner 2.0

Now that the U.S. government’s back up and running, I wanted to point out a great resource for small and medium businesses – heck even large businesses that are implementing security plans. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published a simple-to-use tool for generating your own planning guide.

A couple weeks ago I was speaking at a plastics industry conference in Miami, and the executives in the audience were quite impressed with such a public resource. Well, the first crowd was. The repeat session happened on October 2 so the site was “nonessential” and not working!

Anyway, it’s back. I encourage anyone looking to update their security policies to give it a go.

FCC Small Biz Cyber Planner 2.0

Another success story on the iPad


Some of you may recall from my old blog, a few years ago I posted about the head of state of a certain unnamed country using our $9.99 app SnappFiles with a Lotus Quickr server to deliver public addresses and speeches. The setup was such that speechwriters could make changes up to the last minute on stage, and the speech could be reloaded in an instant. That was fabulous to hear, and was even moreso when I discovered (again, through the hush hush grapevine) that Steve Jobs actually responded to an email telling him about it. It’s difficult to convey how this admittedly succinct reply made us feel:

“Cool.  -Steve”

It’s all a part of history now, and a positive one it is. That said, one of the negatives about having a mobile app without registration or direct contact is that you almost never hear the best stories. Most of the time, you find out that a certain person or group has your app when there’s a support ticket raised. We’ve had very few of those, even though SnappFiles has been shipping for three years and has a steady monthly influx of new users. One came to my attention recently, however, and I thought I’d share.

Canada-iconAn entire trade delegation from a province in Canada recently took a trip to China. Finance Ministry, economic development team, support team, the whole crew. Did they take reams of paper? No. Just iPads, with the documents to support the entire delegation on a Lotus Quickr server back in Canada. Ready to be changed and reloaded at a moment’s notice based on the outcome of the negotiations.

Now I don’t know how those talks went or whether these countries are better off because of them, but I do know that the use of the technology and the agility of Quickr and SnappFiles in this situation is an incredibly good ROI on a ten dollar app!

I heard this story because during the trip, there was a connectivity issue (that resolved in a couple hours) and initially they thought the app could be involved, it wasn’t but I got the whole story as part of a call for help.

The moral of the story is, once in a while it pays to work the helpdesk.

New Kid on the Social Block

Jerald MahurinTo say Jerald Mahurin is a “new kid” is a bit misleading. Heck, he’s older than me and I’m practically antediluvian. However after nearly 20 years in the industry, having been my instructor when I first learned LotusScript in 1995, then with SNAPPS for the past ten years and currently its Vice President, it’s my pleasure to welcome Jerald to the not-so-yellow-verse community of IBM Collaboration Solutions bloggers.

His first article is a tutorial-level undertaking, in which he shares the fruits of his labor creating custom branding for IBM Connections Communities. This is a 10-printed-page article just to get you started

He’s promised me the next one will be shorter, but personally I like having a resource out there that is as thoroughly documented as this article. It took weeks of experimentation and wiki-diving, reverse engineering and Voodoo incantations to come up with the consolidated procedure he describes.

So welcome Jerald, and keep it coming! Now go on over to and say hello!

On Toasters and Bathmats and OpenSocial for IBM Connections Development

connections_logo.thumbnailLet’s say for a minute that I’m a web developer. I know, it’s a stretch. Suspend your keen sense of disbelief for a while and it’ll be worth it.

As a developer, I’m always looking for easier ways to do things. Places to start, templates to use, basically leveraging the work of others.

Now let’s say I have a team of web developers, and while brilliant at data, logic, mathematics, science and memes involving Gene Wilder or grumpy cat, as a lot they are kind of clueless when it comes to aesthetics. Specifically, the area of color. For my UK friends, colour.

So in my search for assistance for the team, I ran across Wolfram Alpha, the computation search engine. If you’ve not used it when you want to know a lot about something, you’re in for a treat. At the risk of losing you for a while, head on over to the site and type in the following: “cheapest toaster”

Tell me you’re not impressed. Seriously. Toasters!

They all like this. And they crochet.

They all like this. And they crochet.

OK back to my team of developers who think 70s bathmats are all the rage. After poking around the Wolfram Alpha site for a while I noticed that there’s a developer area. There’s also a $5/month Pro subscription, which I have, but you don’t need that to play around with the developer tools.

Well it turns out that using Wolfram Alpha, you can create widgets that include input fields, and the output is handled by their servers. Meaning, you can take advantage of the processing power of the computational search engine, create and consume your own custom widget, and embed it in your own website. Pretty cool? It gets better.

As for my developers I decided they needed help to figure out complementary colors for their applications. You know, color theory stuff. So I whipped together a widget (actually modified one that was there) and called it the Color Advisor. The image below has a link to it, go ahead and give it a try. Basically you enter a hex code color (web developers know what these are) and Wolfram Alpha will supply you with an abundance of information about the color, including its most complementary counterparts.

This one’s just a photo, but it links to the real thing.

You can also type a standard color name in there like “red” and it works. And hey, who hasn’t wanted a chromaticity diagram as part of their web experience?

Next while clicking around figuring out the best way to share this widget, I ran across the Embed section on the right. Wolfram Alpha gives you the option to copy embed code, or go directly to sites with special URLs, for standard script tag embeds, Blogger, WordPress code, WikiMedia, and iGoogle. Ooh, wait, iGoogle…which as we know is deprecated, as of November 1 2013, whose developer site has deprecated already, and moved off to…

Bam. That widget – could it be an OpenSocial gadget? So I hovered over the embed link and lo and behold…

I copied the link to the clipboard:

Nothing is more of a clue that it’s an OpenSocial gadget than the phrase “opensocial”

Why was I so giddy at this discovery? Because I know that OpenSocial gadgets are the way to add some cool functionality to IBM Connections. And what better way of sharing with my team than adding a gadget to Connections? Now all I had to figure out was how to drop it in.

You need a few things to happen in order to add an external OpenSocial gadget to Connections. first, you need the gadget XML file. Here’s some information on OpenSocial gadgets and their XML files…but in our case, it’s actually all provided. You see, the jsp in the URL above generates one for us. If you grab everything after “moduleurl=” in the line above and paste it into, say, Firefox, you’ll get a blank screen. But then, have a look at the source and you’ll see:

I recognized this immediately as an OpenSocial gadget XML file from my own presentation and other work with Connections the past year. In fact, it’s a complete file and I can copy and past it into my own file (or reference it remotely, but I wanted to play). So that’s what I did. The contents of this file became on my Connections server:


I just placed it in the htdocs subdirectory of my IBM HTTP Server, so it would be easy to reference.

Next, I needed to update the configuration to allow the gadget to be used in Connections. For ease of illustration, I placed it on the Homepage app. To do that, as an admin I needed to click “Administration” from my Homepage:


I clicked “Add another widget” on the right and started configuring my widget. The first choice is whether it’s an iWidget or OpenSocial Gadget, which we know, then I left some defaults in the next section as it refers to Share widgets and Activity stream widgets. Now for the meat of it all:


You can see I added the location of my gadget definition file, then found the Wolfram Alpha icon URL so I could use it to liven up the place. I only checked one box “Display on the Widgets page” which is the “My Page” link.

After saving this configuration and enabling the widget, I returned to My Page and clicked on “Customize” and voila, there’s my widget!


And I added the widget to the page:


Now the developers have no excuses. Well, one, that the boss prefers mauve with his teal.


OpenSocial gadgets are the future of IBM Connections development. If you look around, you’ll find that they are being adopted by a number of organizations and APIs, including this quite useful one at Wolfram Alpha. Developing an OpenSocial gadget from scratch is NOT the way to start learning about them – and this tale, nay, tutorial, showed you how to incorporate pre-made widgets into your own Connections environment.

Next steps for developers here would be to do a native UI, support the lightbox result set, or delve into the Connections SPIs for server-side handling of requests…depending on what you’re doing at the time, of course. Color matching isn’t quite important enough for that, but scientific or financial computations might just be.


What else do you want to know about IBM Connections development? Have you created any OpenSocial gadgets? I’ll post about native development soon…but for now go forth and choose appropriate swatches.