Following on from my last blog post it’s also a good time to assess the readiness of the community for the future. I blogged last year about the importance of community to the product, and I reiterate that importance. But that didn’t make any value judgement on the health of the community. It’s worth highlighting a few points:

  • The community has lost some significant contributors over the last five or more years.
  • The product lost some key contributors from IBM over that period. The likes of Stephan Wissel blogged a lot of technical enablement that was learned through his day job, technical evangelism wasn’t (as far as I am aware) a key part of his day job. Technical evangelism / developer advocacy was a key part of Nicklas Heidloff’s role and unfortunately for the product he was moved outside of ICS before HCL got involved. I have personal views in this area, but this that is not part of the scope of this blog post.
  • The numbers of business partners has fallen, but the key focus of business partners is on their customers. That’s what keeps them in business. A wider focus an contribute, but is only ever a secondary focus.
  • Certifications are out of date and, as in the past, the community will be a key part of any future certifications.
  • The breadth of the product makes constructing those certification exams more challenging than ever before.
  • Certifications require enablement to be in place first. That will be videos, samples, documentation and more.
  • Enablement requires learning from those building the enablement.
  • Hosting for enablement has not evolved much over the last five years.
  • For NotesIn9, ICS is not a key focus of David Leedy’s day job, I accept that, respect it, and am nothing other than 100% thankful for the time he spent on it and his continued commitment to hosting the content.
  • Although there are some new contributors of content, be it blogs, videos, samples etc, it is a trickle rather than a flood.
  • The desire from product owners to work with the community is greater than ever.

The implications of this should be clear for all.

The numbers of those actively contributing to the community is probably lower than any time this century and has dwindled to a critical level, at a time when the demands over the coming years will be greater than ever.

Apart from a few individuals, the contributions on OpenNTF over the last two years have been few. The numbers of snippets added to OpenNTF snippets over the last two years is not good. Response to OpenNTF’s call for curators for Collaboration Today last year, for people to stand for the board last year and for people to get involved in a Project Steering Committee to modernise processes a couple of months ago was far from good. GitHub is a big repository for open source and Karsten Lehmann’s JNA project is a key one there as is DQL Explorer, but I’m not aware of a steady stream of others. The numbers of new videos over the last two years have been low. I’m aware of work from Graham Acres, Heiko Voigt and Roberto Boccadoro. Those who are driving things forward know who they are and know I value their work, their help, their support and their friendship.

But more people need to get involved.

Our community is currently too consumer-heavy, with too many demanding what they want and not enough contributing to support them. That places an unfair burden and impacts productivity. It’s clear everything that needs to be done. The opportunities are exciting and constantly tempting us in new directions. But there are only 24 hours in a day to fit in all the broad demands on time while keeping a healthy personal life and doing the day job.

Nearly ten years ago I saw an opportunity with XPages, tentatively started getting involved, and it led to a number of open source projects, a book, involvement in certification exams, involvement in shaping the product, involvement in shaping OpenNTF, some great friendships and a few honours.

It’s time for more to get involved, helping deliver improvement rather than criticising and calling on HCL to build what they want. A healthy community need a good balance of contributors of enablement and consumers. I believe we need to redress that balance.

8 thoughts on “Preparing for HCL’s Domino: What The Community Needs to Know”

  1. If I may add something, I’ve noticed that most people of this specific community are “old” guys (like me, 45 this year :))
    They have to deal with a time-consuming daily job, a family, etc. and some of them finally got tired after so many years without any communication from IBM about Domino’s future. The product was litterally “dead” compared to other platforms, and, except a few of them, they just stopped betting on something that didn’t move forward anymore, and didn’t give any sign of good health.

    So, in my humble opinion, if HCL wants to inject some new energy into the community, the heart of the communication should not be only focused towards the existing community of specialists (aka, old and tired guys who have tons of ideas and expectations but no time and energy to implement them), but also towards new young engineers (by “young”, I mean 20-30, sorry to tell :-).

    Today, if some “young” engineers had to build a new app from scratch, how many of them would seriously choose Domino/XPages over – just an example – Node.js or .Net?

    Answer: none of them.

    To resurrect the community, Domino would have to be “on par” with other platforms, and this is far from being the case, not mentionning the licencing model which is an absolute no-go for a young startup.

    Integrating Node.js with Domino was really a bright move, but having Node.js will not bring new young people onboard if HCL can’t address at least those few following points:

    1 – Documentation
    If learning Node.js + Domino has a steeper learning curve than using another tech stack, then Domino will simply not be chosen.
    The only solution here is a clear and beautiful documentation, always up-to-date, with tutorials and a way to start quickly and easily, like other frameworks.
    It has to be simple and straightforward, like this:
    https://nodejs.org/docs/latest-v9.x/api/
    https://ionicframework.com/docs
    https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dotnet/standard/get-started

    If we search “IBM Domino + node.js + tutorials”, we realize the amount of work left to do to build a community around the platform. Where is the doc???
    Head to stackoverflow’s home, type “Domino”, and you’ll get 500 hits…

    So, who can really start today on Domino except a few specialists and Champions?
    I mean, if someone asks a stupid question on stackoverflow, you can’t even answer him RTFM!

    2 – Marketing outside the existing customer base
    I’m aware of all the marketing efforts that have been made so far, but from what I see, it targets the ecosystem of existing customers, existing experts, existing Champions, existing advocates… Now, I feel the effort should also try to target a new audience. Younger, if possible 🙂

    Just a hint: advertise in universities & computer engineering schools: there is already a free Domino licence for non-production servers, which is very cool and can be used right now by students, but it’s totally useless if they have never heard about it.

    3 – UX / UI
    Domino has always been a fantastic back-end, and I’ve even dedicated a specific post about it: https://pickaform.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/pickaform-on-ibm-infrastructure/

    But now, the smartphone era has created a big shift with end-users habits: they don’t just want something that works, they also want a strong UX.
    If Domino stays “only” a very cool low-code back-end, it will have to fight against a lot of other very cool low-code back-ends. Google App Maker. Microsoft PowerApps, Mendix, Outsystems…

    If HCL adds a way to build BEAUTIFUL things faster, right out-of-the-box, they might create some interest for external communities and non-Domino specialists.

    That’s what I am trying to build with PickaForm (a pure Domino LS/javascript no-code app builder), but I definitely lack resources to move fast and market the solution properly 🙂 At least, I try!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o82m4wb1CTE

    Just in case, I’m coming to Engage in Brussels: let’s have beer at the Champion’s day if you’re here too!
    Kind regards

  2. Considering the biggest strengths of Domino and the least important points for young engineers, there’s one point that features very high on both lists – security.

    1. Domino + Node.js is difficult: for Domino people, because of the reasons in my last post; for non-Domino people because of the power and configurability of the Domino server. Documentation alone won’t help either, even a Docker image won’t help that without innovative approaches to configuration for developers. But Docker for production is some way away. Dumbing down the Domino server isn’t the way to go. Videos etc will help, but unless there is a change of direction, the community has historically been the ones to educate on best practice and are experienced presenters. But offering the idea of starting again with Domino admin setup documentation for app dev, how would you construct it? (i.e. which key topics, format, level of detail etc) I’m not sure there’s an easy answer experts would agree on.

    2. Now is too soon, Domino + Node.js is not ready to attack that market. And I strongly believe the best approach is HCL + community. That is the way to get a level of authority particular to this product. But for the current contributor community to put in the effort required would mean abandoning the current consumer community.

    3. That’s relevant only really to Notes Client development. Leaving aside the pending decisions regarding XPages, any other UX framework will not be an HCL one. I’m touching on UX in my modernisation session at Engage. And much of it is nothing to do with platform-specific elements. There’s a lot that can be done to improve UI / UX by developers without activity from HCL, and maybe there need more sessions again on UX design for Domino developers. There may be innovative additions to Notes Client UX that HCL could provide, we’ll have to see. The low code part of V11 will give a lot of UX enhancements, I expect. That’s what will compete against Mendix. But that will probably be a React UI, that was the plan at Engage last year.

  3. The community was strong when XPages was released, it was exciting, it opened doors to traditional Domino Developers into Java and web applications. Suddenly we found ourselves competing with other developer teams in the same organization.

    This is the time the contributors you mentioned emerged, it was fun, software engineering. With XPages not the way of the future, those folks have moved on. Nobody is really interested in Formula Language and LotusScript from my point of view.

    Many folks invested in XPages will walk away to chase their love for Java, JSF and Spring. Joining a much more larger community and secure careers.

    Domino has seen a few disruptions. Let me elaborate:

    Big data, data analytics, data science, data visualization and Domino is not accessible to these Users. This translates to “Domino is not an option in my Tableau software or PowerBI”. Domino needs to integrate into other ecosystems and makes its platform accessible within the 3rd party software. Every company today wants Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. For this, they need data and good data.

    The Notes client is very heavy and buggy, the IT departments do not have a modern way to deploy the Notes client like they do other applications on the desktop. There are issues with understanding two passwords (Notes vs Internet)… then there is the default install for the Notes Client is not optimal for end users.

    IT Managers are getting negative feedback from many channels from data analytics, competing departments that do websites with .NET or Java or PHP. From Users. The interfaces are outdated. Teams are using Slack and MS Teams. Sametime is behind.

    The MS Outlook support was a good thought, but why limit the emails to only 30 days? Organizations using Domino for messaging have years of email. This limitation did not help and gave ammunition to move off Domino for messaging in my organization.

    With mobile computing, Domino is late at the party again. Like the MS Outlook support was a good idea, but had a drawback, I see the same thing happening with IBM Domino Apps on iPad. It encourages legacy development in Lotus Notes and the Domino Apps are not integrated well into the device. Example: a Domino link cannot be copied from the IBM Domino Apps on iPad into an SMS or any other application? The IBM Domino Apps has to be integrated into the device’s ecosystem and culture and work like all other mobile apps on that device. Any application on that device that has a Notes link needs to be able to launch IBM Notes Apps and open the resource requested.

    We trusted the product over 10 years ago with XPages and that was our way of staying on Domino at that time. Now XPages is not the way of the future? Domino now has no server side web development stack? This was a bad decision and breaks trust. Losing community contributors who were all about XPages.

    We now have only one option which is to demand from HCL what it needs to do to get the product up to par with other thriving platforms. The source is proprietary. If HCL wants to evolve the product, donate it to Apache and all of a sudden you get over a million developers (software engineers). HCL can keep a paid version similar to the Fedoral/CentOS Linux and RedHat Model. RedHat is the paid version.

    One other thing missing for years is proper source control and quality controls. How do you perform a regression test with a Notes application? How do you automate a pull from GitHub to build a application, execute the test suite, and auto deploy to a artifactory?

    Here is what HCL needs to do to the product: “Domino Everywhere”

    Any application built on any platform needs to have a SDK so it can replicate down a NSF and use it as a repository with offline, online support.

    Java SDK, accessible from Maven Repository.
    Finish the dominoDB Node.JS from NPM, drop AppDevPack, use NPM.
    iOS (Swift) SDK to support building native apps that can access Domino data.
    .NET Core SDK, EntityFramework data provider.

    Partner with Tableau and other data visualization software to add a Domino server to the list of data sources it can use to build dashboards.

    Notice here I am not thinking of Domino as a solution for messaging. I’m seeing it has a future as an application server or data repository. Domino in my opinion needs to integrate to other ecosystems so it is accessible and adds value to other platforms.

    In the area of web applications, I do not think Domino will be on the main stage, it will be on the smaller stage.

    If HCL keeps Domino features as is. The only fit place for it is in IoT. Now is the time to disrupt that market. Allow the Domino Server to run on a ARM processor like Raspberry Pi. It makes sense in IoT a closed platform like Domino to provide the device security, offline, agents to act on data, and a website to configure IoT projects, replication and security. IoT has a gap now that Domino can close.

    We will keep pushing and demanding from any custodian of Domino.

    1. There’s a lot here, but to address a few.

      XPages wasn’t the start of Domino. According to OpenNTF stats, there were 309 releases in 2009. Only 2011 surpassed that with 335 – and not by much. There were more in 2005 (199) than 2014 (192). OpenNTF only exists because of the community, it was a community effort initially *against* IBM. It evolved, the community offered a lot, including documentation (redbooks) and books (and I don’t mean XPages Extension Library). That seems to have been forgotten.

      For XPages, why would Apache want it? Who at Apache would develop it? Who in this community would develop it, if it was at Apache or Eclipse or OpenNTF? The point of this blog post is there are not enough people. That needs to change for open sourcing XPages to be worth the effort of cleaning the code and removing proprietary dependencies.

      Source control is not perfect and that’s why I pushed that on Aha. Jesse ODP to NSF, I believe, will auto-build. Maybe if we had more people involved at OpenNTF, we’d already have it built – apart from the round-tripping issues of DXL.

      You talk about getting data out of Domino. That’s the purpose of DQL. We have two open source contributions using DQL, DQL Explorer from IBM and the Node-RED nodes from Stefano Pogliani of IBM.

      You say the Notes Client is heavy, but what has already been highlighted as a goal from HCL at the second factory tour is a zero footprint client.

      More people need to get involved in those open source projects and make them must-haves. More appreciation is needed of what HCL are doing and intending to do. More understanding is needed to realise that processes and procedures need to be built not just for Domino but in a way that will scale for all of HCL’s products and platforms.

      We are all custodians of Domino, not just HCL. I accept that I will fundamentally disagree with anyone who wants HCL to do everything.

  4. Lars Berntrop-Bos

    @David you’re not old, I am 54…

    And: I concur, investing time in Domino when your employer is moving away from Domino is really hard. I’d love to find a different employer so the balance will shift. But opportunities in the Netherlands have been rather sparse.

    Please don’t hesitate to post if you know of such an opportunity!

    Sadly will not be able to go to Engage due to time and budgetary constraints…

  5. Paul, I think most of us have seen the thinning of the herd, and our hairlines.
    What worked in the 20th century or the early days of the 21st will not work today.
    The consumerism relationship which is greatly needed, may not find a foothold.
    The effort to reach out to developers is not going to make HCL any money, maybe if some ISVs produce some great missing app, but if a company already has Domino, another app is not going to make HCL rich.
    We all have our perspectives, left, right, center, and Mars, the question is does HCL see a different future, and we may only find that out June 1 or thereabouts.
    We have already seen at the Factory Tour that they missed complete aspects of what we have been asking and needing, (templates) again for what they think matters to people.
    My view is they will have some great things to announce/show once they are allowed to do so and those will be what makes the world balanced again. I hope I am right in my pie in the sky view.

    1. I suspect work on templates was put back pending the overhaul of UI and UX for Notes Client. Hopefully it will also allow time to incorporate a UI for phone as well as tablet. But there’s a bigger issue with creating new templates. Organisations have customised the templates. And where they have, how many of their users will see the new templates? And how long will it take before they deploy the new, customised template? New templates that expect and encourage organisations to customise them is a dead end. It’s an elephant in the room no ones talking about. I have some thoughts for an innovative approach to what a template is, how customisations could be managed / applied and how a database is created / deployed from them. But it wouldn’t be a quick solution, if indeed it’s feasible.

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