GoogleIt Mail IT Print IT PermaLinkInnovation Creators - Interesting, But Wrong About Lotus Notes
04:56:43 PM

I'm doing a trackback on this becuase the blog in question, which is all about the beneifts of blogging and wikis, is broken. It won't take my response post. It says "Name and email address required" even though I provided them.

Here's the context, in the words of Rod Boothby, who is maintaining the site.

Innovation Creators is based on an essay that forms the business case for using Enterprise Blogging, Enterprise Wikis and Web Office Technology. I am still finalizing the essay, and releasing it in serial form here. Who knows, maybe one day it'll be worthy of a book.

That's taken from his Table of Contents post, from which I fouind my way to his article Example – The success and structure of an open-source encyclopedia, which is the post I tried to reply to. That post includes this:

From the get go, systems like Lotus Notes were designed to stop innovation because they prevented the majority of users from being able to create new taxonomies and new types of content creation workflows."

Here is the response I tried to post:

re "From the get go, systems like Lotus Notes were designed to stop innovation because they prevented the majority of users from being able to create new taxonomies and new types of content creation workflows."

This is incorrect. From the get-go, Lotus Notes provided exactly those capabilities. (I'm talking about versions 2, 3, and 4. The current version is 7. Version 1 was used by only a handful of customers.) The Notes client program included all of the product's database creation and application developemnt capabilities for every single user.

What happened is that the customers' managers, whether IT departments or otherwise, denied the permissions and the training the users needed to take advantage of those tools. Organizations didn't want to empower users to create their own taxonomies and workflows because they thought it would lead to data chaos.

(It didn't take much training, by the way, in those early days. A lot of early Notes developers were self-taught power users -- the sort of person that a manager goes to and says, "You're pretty good with those spreadsheets, so why don't you figure out this Notes thing and build me something?"

Later on, IBM pulled the dataase creation and app development features from the Notes client, and put them into a new Domino Designer client, which was to be given only to the anointed few. They did this in the name of pricing and profit. The basic client could cost a lot less and sell more copies, and the developer client could be premium priced to boost the bottom line a bit. But they also did it in recognition of reality. Customers weren't empowering their users.

My contention, therefore, is that it isn't so much the fact that we have open source and easier-to-learn tools like blogs and wikis that makes the difference today. It's more about the fact that search is now incredibly powerful and ubiquitous, so chaos isn't quite so much of a concern. It's about a cultural shift. Resistance to empowerment is lower. There's a feedback loop in which blog and wiki tools (plus search) have enabled this cultural shift, which enabled blogs and wikis to be more useful, which... etc., but this same cultural shift could have taken place ten years ago with Lotus Notes, too. Search just wasn't ready then, management resistance was too strong, and Lotus's (and IBM's) pricing decisions didn't help.

Anyhow, don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of blogs and wikis and what they can do for organizations and for innovation. I just want to get the history right.

Now I'll try a trackback. Perhaps it will work.

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Comments :v

1. Sean Burgess01/18/2006 08:46:27 PM

I think the people who have never developed in Notes have no idea how easy it is and how powerful it can become in the hands of a trained professional. I just wish that I could sit down with each ill-informed person and show them exactly what it is that they are missing.


2. Rod Boothby01/18/2006 10:31:50 PM

Hi Richard.

Thanks for the post. I am sorry that my system is not taking your comments. I can't figure out why exactly.

I do think you point is well taken, and important. If, in fact, Lotus Notes is capable of all that you say it is, in the hands of a power user, then it is important to highlight the problems that system admins have caused by limiting users.

Certainly, I think the people who designed Notes were trying to solve the same problems that people are trying to solve today with Enterprise blogs and Web Office.

In the end, however, I think that the web based technology has a better chance of succeeding, simply because more people are familiar with it.

In a way, Lotus Notes is similar to Xerox Parc's desk-top computer - way ahead of it's time.

3. Richard Schwartz01/18/2006 11:39:51 PM

Well stated, Rod. Thanks. And thanks for dropping by.

BTW: I should have mentioned... I thought I did, actually, but I don't see it... Your articles are quite good. I haven't read through them all, but I'm working on it. I recommend them highly to all my readers. Follow the above link to the Table of Contents and enjoy.

4. Nathan T. Freeman01/19/2006 04:22:59 AM

Rod, it should also be noted that there are easy ways to deploy both blogs and wikis on Domino. Rich is a particular fan of social software toos like blogs and wikis, and his own blog runs on the Domino platform. So when you say "web-based technology" as distinct from Lotus' platform, that's a misnomer. Lotus INCLUDES web technologies. In fact, the Domino 4.5 server was one of the earliest dynamic-driven web servers in existence, when the Apache/PHP/MySQL combo was the bleeding edge of Slashdot in 1996! More recently, the Domino Web Access system, available to every email user on a Domino 6+ server, and so available since around 2000, was an AJAX application before AJAX had a name!

You're spot-on saying that Notes was an attempt to solve these same problems. Unlike the Parc, it's a market-released product, and it's still quite vibrant with 118 million users worldwide. It's also seeing new development at IBM, having just released version 7 (which includes automatic web services generation), and IBM touting their forthcoming envelopment of Eclipse technologies into the "Hannover" release of Notes.

Ever since Marc Andreesen called Notes "monolithic and proprietary," open source & web tech advocates have colored their view of the platform through that lens. But Lotuis has been a leader in productive implementations of HTTP, SMTP, DIIOP, Java, JavaScript, XML and Web Services (that's off the top of my head) for nearly a decade now. And if you want out-of-the-box, open source solutions for blogs, wikis, bulletin boards and content management on the Domino platform (which 118 million users already have for email service) then you need look no further than

Hope you drop by again to see this.

5. Rod Boothby01/19/2006 10:39:26 AM


The more I think about it, realizing that it was the admins who were worried about "data chaos" is an increadibly important story.

Overcoming the concerns those admins had, regardless of technology, is the main aim of my site and my paper.

I have edited the post to include an aside with your comments.

- Rod

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