Making Friends and Influencing People: Lotusphere

This week, I got emotionally attached to a Lotus SPR. Not a good thing. I've heard fantastic new things and amazing stuff, but some old crap really bugged me. Specificaly DXL. It crashes and its not 100%. I can deal with the latter (though I'll bitch and moan, believe me), but the former is just unjustifiable. So this week, I thought I'd pitch in and help. At the end of one AppDev 'Futures' session, I basically ripped into Phillipe (apologising, as I have nothing but huge respect for him. And he's bigger than me), basically pointing out that DXL is nine years old and still broken.

I then threatened to ask the question at 'Ask the Developers' on Thursday morning. And strip naked. Or get 300 of us to SING the question. I told him to escalate.

Well. Jeff Eisen - a VP I've not really dealt with before - come up afterwards and spoke to me. I suspect he was seeing if I was completely serious. Once he'd figured out who I was, he looked worried and toodled off, leaving me with the Brainpool from Teamstudio, all saying 'Yeah' and 'Pass the Eye Bleach!'.

And so the week wore on. Every time I made eye contact with Jeff, I was with another very serious customer, other Lotus VP's, or indeed C-Level chaps from other IBM Divisions. Serendipity's a bitch. And that night I had lots of Birthday Drinks and another Lotus VP - Brent Peters - hung out for a while. I expained my concerns, and what I wanted out of DXL round tripping - automated code-weakness and migration tooling, and I think i might have talked about checking over 35,000 templates in four years using this stuff.

I think I made a connection with Mr Peters - aside from being a huge and scary guy with a nasty glint in his eye, I also figured out like many other VP's in IBM that this chap was smarter than a Mensa Summer Camp. Respect.

Well, the week wore on and Mr Eisen kept seeing me with increasingly important people. I really wanted to fly Obama in just to finish off the gag, but I believe the US President was busy this week.

And so Thursday. After solving a Middle East Issue (and that was a "5am, drinking whisky out of a bottle" one), the alarm went at 11am, and I had to hit the Gurupalooza stage. All Best Practice Speakers are on there, and this year, over two rows of speakers. Eileeen Fitzgerland was there as a newbie as well as the winners of Lotusphere Idol (Whom Gabriella Davis was unnaturally interested in). Carl Tyler painted himself blue, and then basically blue-handprinted most things. My Shirt. Bruce Elgorts Head. Duffbert. And so on. Hilarious.

Side note: The Best Practices track was put forward by Rocky Oliver and features non-IBM folks talking about how it actually works, as opposed to IBM saying how it SHOULD work. And every year we have more and more speakers, delivering better and better content. Excellent work Rocky (and Mac, who ran it wih Rocky's assistance this year). Nice one!

And so lunch, the grass (where everyone gave Francie their bananas - there was a shortage - and their cool-bags), and then a frantic dash to 'Meet the Developers'. Brent Peters did the chairman bit - and this year came out of his box a bit and did it well. And threatened to code solutions - nothing could scare a developer more than 'Manager Code' Eugh. However, Mr Peters did in fact start at the wrong speaker. By tradition since 1999, Its been Bob Balaban asking 'When is the LSX toolkit going to be fixed'. February, was the answer.

No - in fact Nathan 'Fanboy' Freeman - one of the Lotus Bloggers (despite not blogging for much of last year) asked the Question. The little voice inside my head screamed 'FIX'. `But no.

We have commitment. We have investment. We have an assurance that DXL round-tripping is back on the radar, and will slip out in subsequent releases. If they fix it crashing for 8.5.1., I'll be a very happy bunny indeed.

In fact, by the time I did get to the front, the question about Mac/Linux Developer/Admin client had been asked, so I had to as my back-up one, which was 'Can we change the View Column Title Text programatically please'?. When i stood at the front, the Chair did ask the staff members around me to check my clothing, which must have completely threw the rest of the audience. Now you know.

Now, did my self-indulgent little publicity stunt actually move the mountain ? I suspect not. Lotus doesnt repond to idiotic threats (at least not from business partners). What I think swung the deal wias the shining eyed commitment to see this happen by a bunch of people (lead by Rocky Oliver). And talking face to face with important decision makers, and informing of this fantastic use-case for DXL that they might not have been aware of.

Stupid, idiotic stunts achieve nothing themselves. But it does demonstrate the level of frustation with trying to get information into Lotus/IBM through 'Normal Channels'. Like my backed-up sewer line before Lotusphere, I feel I've unclogged some crap from my pipes with some face to face connections.

IBM/Lotus - like all other software houses - limit the interaction between the customter and the developer, so the developers can actually get work done, and to be responsive to what management direction deem important. This is How Things Are. And sometimes its good to break down the barriers and give them more information ( if thats possible) and make a case for improvement. Its incredibly brave of Lotus/IBM to continue this tradition that the developers are on stage and have to give honest answers. It really builds trust between us (customers, BP's, fellow IBMmers) and the developers. Long may it continue.

The important thing is that connections between people are always more important than this thin etherial on-line existence we all have. Twitter is fine for saying 'Look, I'm at a ball game' or 'I've just had a fantastic bowel movement'. Looking someone in the eye and shaking hands will always be important - its a fast way to make trust.

Oh. This Lotusphere ? I was scared. Its a bad recession out there. 8.5 has been released. I though it might be a rerun on 2002.

No. Not at all. It was one of the best ever. Why ? This new chap - Bob Picciano - is good. The team are re-energised. The Ass/Broom interfaces have been reduced, if not removed altogether. Rule Number Six has been asserted (more on this later). 8.5 has been delivered, and it one of the best ever. Kirsten and Reagan deserve kudos for landing another successful show.

I've been recharged. Check it out. You will be too.