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IBM ConnectED (Not Lotusphere) Reflections

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It’s been a busy week as always. So now the dust has settled here are a few thoughts.

No Matter What Changes, The Community Persists

Our community is an awesome thing, often mentioned with envy by those working outside what was ICS and is now ESS (Enterprise Social Solutions). Over recent years there have been some notable exceptions at our January event. I think we’ll have to wait some months, if not longer, to see the impact of the structural changes within IBM. And IBM are yet to decide what the landscape for a conference including our community will be next year. But whatever changes, whoever comes and goes, our community continues to be as tight as ever and we will come back together somewhere, in some form next year. Collaboration and social is not something we evangelise, it’s ingrained in our being. This conference has shown me again how many friends I feel I have in what is ostensibly work, friends both inside and outside IBM. The community members may change, but the camaraderie doesn’t and will continue, whatever happens in the future.

From One-You-I to One-We

IBM Verse launch showed a new look and feel which was more subtle and built on Bootstrap. Personally, I like it. The demo of Connections Next included the same look and feel. It’s great to see that look and feel extending across applications. But let’s also step back and look wider here. All of this would have been a huge pain if the work had not been done some years ago on Project Vulcan. I’m sure it’s not been a five-minute job, but it’s been much quicker because of that work. The effort that IBM put in has just paid off big time.

IBM Verse

As someone who’s been using Verse for a few weeks, even with just a small amount of data at this point, there are some really nice pieces that were shown this week. On more than one occasion I’ve gone out to lunch forgetting that I have a meeting due to start in less than an hour. And I hate making the same mistake more than once. The calendar bar at the bottom has already helped me prevent that, and also know what my first meeting is the next day.

Another small thing I like is the “bee” when no email has been selected. It’s a nice hat tip to the old “Eye Bee M” logo from some years ago.

Extensibility has become a key element of IBM products and is also there for Verse. The Watson Tone Analyzer extension demo’d has the potential to bring a more pleasant experience to the work place at the heart of mail. The only area I’m slightly nervous about is that iNotes extensibility has always been possible, it’s just far from easy for any developer. If Verse extensibility is as challenging, little will get done. But since Verse has been built from the ground up, hopefully it will be easier. We shall see when a Design Program around extensibility happens.

Watson

Watson was mentioned heavily during the conference. It’s gone from a research project to something that can be part of many application landscapes. Even a Bluemix XPages app was demo’d that interacted with a Watson Q&A service.

Bluemix

Bluemix was covered quite a bit in the context of Domino app dev. I’m sure it will be more heavily covered at InterConnect, because Bluemix is about app dev, not just Domino app dev. Where it fits in a developers toolbox is something we’ll all be getting to grips with over the next year. But the ability to tie multiple disparate services together is something that a developer would struggle to be able to do on premises.

The decoupling of XPages from the Domino NoSQL database in Bluemix is a great idea. It encourages Domino developers to go beyond Domino, both for front-end and back-end. I’m not expecting Domino to become an overnight success as a back-end for non-Domino developers, because most developers will favour the more familiar options of SQL or MongoDB. But it’s there (or will be in a few months!).

What Is A Domino Developer?

Yesterday I presented on OSGi plugins with Christian Guedemann. A large room was almost full and only 2 people in the crowd were not regularly using Java. Go back five years and a Java session would have been put in a small room with only a handful of attendees. The toolset of the Domino developer has changed. There were also great and very popular Beyond The Everyday sessions on front-end web frameworks – the Mark-and-Marky session on AngularJS was so oversubscribed it was repeated. We’ve gone from proprietary skills with unique hacks to being no longer Domino developers, but web developers who choose to leverage the Domino platform but are not tied to it. Yes, the Notes Client will still be used for many years, but it’s been some time since I built a new Domino application for it. With Bluemix and more, it will not be long, I’m sure, before I build an application that sits outside Domino. The journey that XPages has taken us on has brought many of us to a point where that’s a small, not scary, step away.

Domino Has Lots To Offer

But this conference has also shown me Domino has a strong position for the future. View indexes will shortly be able to be abstracted and there are new performance tweaks possible already with 9.0.1 FP3. I remain hopeful and expressed my desire that Apache Solr be made available for Domino developers to leverage.

But the open source community is also doing its bit to maximise the potential. Darwino from Trilog won the app dev throwdown. Domino4Wine brings native Domino development to Linux and Mac within our reach. Nathan T Freeman talked about the Graph database implementation in OpenNTF Domino API, which allows a hugely flexible and scalable architecture on top of a Domino database. Daniele Vistalli’s work on CrossWorlds makes the Domino database a great option for a back-end for Websphere Liberty Profile server. And I know he’s already been working on adding ElasticSearch for more flexible searching.

Some take community development like this as an excuse to say IBM should provide this for us. If people want to do that, fine. But if you’re not willing to help drive the platform (your career, whatever) in what you feel is the right direction, I don’t think you have a right to complain at the direction it goes. Get involved, collaborate (officially and unofficially) and push the envelope. Because of that, because of where it has taken my skills, I’m not leaving this conference wishing for the past (as Devin Olson said, it’s time to let Lotusphere die). I’m excited for the future, with Domino and Connections at the core, probably some Websphere, definitely plenty of Java, maybe even some of those JavaScript web frameworks. But a mixture of many more IBM and non-IBM technologies, development I enjoy, on platforms I enjoy, always learning more, and confident we’ll be coming back together as a community somewhere, some time, next year.

AUTHOR - Paul Withers

Paul Withers has been an IBM Champion since 2011, has been an OpenNTF Board Member since 2013, has worked with XPages since 2009, co-authored XPages Extension Library and was technical editor for Mastering XPages 2nd Edition. He is one of the developers on OpenNTF Domino API as well as contributor to a variety of other OpenNTF projects.

3 Comments
  • Russell Maher | Jan 29, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Strong!

  • Richard Moy | Jan 29, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Nice summary of Lotusphere 2015. IBM is working on some nice stuff. I hope IBM can executive everything. We would like to mention that we are creating a new Notes client app for our iPhora suite and I will explain later in a future blog why that is important.

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