Another one of my silly ideas …

Yes, yes, we have chewn through that several times. I just have to get it out of my head, otherwise it will bother me for days. Now bear with me, if you are interested, otherwise you may like this. Right now we (here I mean partners and customers, IBM must know more than we do) face some problems, we think are important to us. Notes customers are fading away, as are partners and capable developers and admins. The yellow bubble is leaking somewhere. Nothing new.
Palmi Lord came up with the idea of free Notes and SmartCloud for schools. He isn’t the first, but this made me think it over. Is this „free stuff from IBM for everybody“ really a good idea?

I understand Mr. Lords idea of having more young people use Notes and SmartCloud. I had Notes at my university and apart from me, nobody cared what they used, as long as the thing could send mail. I was the only one to use document db’s to communicate with other students (now they had to use it, too). Nobody else ever tried to explore it. My personal experience is, that this strategy to get young people on it, fails, too. Which is sad, because it looks so simple and logic. Even if you add SmartCloud, where Notes Social Edition really begins to make sense, you absolutely have to do training. If you just throw it at them, it will not be adopted. And we haven’t even talked about the teachers.
Then there comes the time, were the kids leave school and start working. They will not have the authority from the start, to ask for SmartCloud. If they do, some lower management with years of experience, will point out, that they have a formidable IT system, that just fits their needs and that the folder structure has been refined over the years, not to loose too many documents. The mail system is common industrial standard (everybody else he knows uses it, too) and sending everything around with huge groups in the cc: field, keeps everybody informed. Using a word processor to compose documents that are sent as attachments to other users, just looks nicer and eases the archiving and having it redundant x-times, is some natural form of backup.
After a few years our kid believes all that, too and is happy to get the next industrial standard web application, that mimics the folder structure perfectly but looks much fancier. Until then Kid has forgotten everything it ever learned in school. Outside the school Kid is involved in several communities and does all that social stuff. But Kid does not make the connection, because, as somebody else pointed out, Connections is NOT Facebook for Enterprise.

By the way, giving away software is cheap, running it for free is rather expensive. And we didn’t even talk about all the special wishes that come up suddenly, which should certainly delivered for free, too.

Let me recap some other events of the last five years were we thought many times about a free edition of an IBM product. Lotus Foundations is a school book example for failing. My short list for the reasons it failed and other solutions (ClearOS and so on) do not, despite an IBM in the back are the following:

  1. Lack of funding for marketing
  2. Lack of a community (free) edition
  3. Lack of understanding the Geeks/SMB/Micro Companies/Student Groups/“about-anything-outside-enterprise“ market.

Oh, the hours I endured in meetings with IBMers, trying to explain, that you need make people know about the product, otherwise it will fail (damn, how I hate to be right sometimes). I even got personally humiliated by some M. from IBM UK, while everybody else agreed with me (they told me afterwards). Thing of the past, I eventually will get over it and throw away that voodoo doll of M. lying on my shelf, crushed by a small anvil.
Now, what if we really got a Notes Community edition? What should be given away, that does not punch another whole in the bubble?
Not Domino, that’s for sure, but if you got several POP/IMAP mail accounts just having Notes is a really lousy solution.
Now how about NOTHING? I mean the bare Eclipse Client with the Notes part without anything else. Not even an address book. Instead establishing a kinda code exchange. Hey, we have that already, it’s called OpenNTF. The Developer Client is kinda free, too. How about adding an easy to use application management? Oh, we have that, too. Now we are set. Probably someone should start to build a good looking mail client with the option for several accounts.

That base client didn’t even have to be called Notes. Call it Papa Smurfs NonSQL Collaboration Stack (PSNCS: typical IBM acronym, what you think?).

And now the news. It will fail. Miserably!

  1. Geeks/SMB/Micro Companies/Student Groups/“about anything outside enterprise“ and IBM do not understand each other. They talk different languages.
  2. There isn’t a community of geeks. Sure there is the yellow bubble, but we are pros and not after hours geeks (Well, some of us are). So who should use the free edtion?
  3. Lack of funding for making the darn thing known to enough people to get it started.

See? Why bother? We can really set this idea aside, even if it worked to a certain extent in Germany with Notes 5.
IBM (or rather the amazingly stupid group of owners: ASGOO. I know that 434’245 IBMer are capable and nice people) doesn’t even play the good citizen card, pointing out to the general public, what great products they have done, which are free and used everywhere. Postfix anybody? Apache? Eclipse? See!
As long as ASGOO does not agree to change the strategy of IBM, it just will not work.

PS: Why didn’t I responded on Mr. Lords blog? I did, but the subject was different and sometimes it takes days for me to get a text together. Can’t have that in a response form, can we.


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