Outside Looking In: GURUpalooza and Ask The Product Managers

Through the wonders of technology, I was able to attend this year’s GURUpalooza and Ask the Product Managers at Connect 2016. I think it was an excellent use of Periscope and it also allowed me to better understand both sessions. After watching both, I have some opinions from this year’s editions.

First, and easiest, Ask The Product Managers.

Unlike earlier conferences, the combining of “Ask the Developers” with “Ask the Project Managers” eliminated the finger pointing between the two groups. That is, you attend either of the sessions only to hear one group say “ask the other group.” It was maddening.

Why is this still a thing?

It is readily apparent that nothing that is said by attendees is written down or “taken back.” This is extremely obvious when David Hablewitz runs down questions from previous year’s sessions (and by “previous years,” I mean several years. David seems to keep a running list.)  Audience members may feel better, after asking their question, but nothing ever gets done. It only gets people upset.

If I’m wrong, please comment where this is not true.

This is only one hour, at the end of the conference. Why is this not an ongoing, continuous feedback loop? There is a place for this, for example IdeaJam, but I believe that while the Developers/Admins/users of IBM products continue to add Ideas, IBM does not give it the attention that it deserves. And, again, there is no closure to the Ideas. Or responses from IBM.

The sheer number of IBMers on the stage is staggering. Taking fifteen minutes to go through introductions is a waste of time. Assuming that IBM has the right people on stage, just start the session and let the appropriate people answer the questions. Prior to answering the question, the individual could introduce themselves.

But, really, why is this session still on the agenda?


Many of these people I describe as friend. A lot of these people, I have known for many years. And, those on stage, have known each other for a long time. You immediately get the sense that they are all very comfortable with each other.

Which means that there are, and will probably continue to be, many things said that only those on stage (and a few in the audience) will understand.

As I sat in my chair, 1,000+ miles away watching the Periscope video, I became a bit uneasy with the number of “inside” references bandied about by the group. Why? To those not familiar with the people on stage, it seemed to me to build a small barrier between the guru’s and the audience. This is definitely not the intent, it was the impression that I got. Lord knows, they have sweat and bled to bring you the best technical track in any conference, and, being at the end of the conference, deserve some relief and laughs, However, not at the expense of “alienating” (poor word choice, I am certain) most members of the audience.

The other thing I noticed, because I’ve been around a while, is that basically the same people are the stage. I get it that Connect is the conference for IBM social software and to draw people in you need speakers that have been around for a while, have name recognition, have the power to draw people to the conference. What I am saying is, in a nutshell, are there individuals that are behind the scenes, that are the next generation of speakers? The ones that are going to take up the reins and blaze new trails on the shoulders of the giants? While it can take years to form the name recognition and drawing power of those on the GURUpalooza stage, are there people spending the time to become the new giants? Do we see them or hear them at the user group conferences? Thankfully, there are plenty of places for them to show their stuff.

It’s my opinion that while the administrators keep the lights on and provide a solid foundation for these technologies, it is the developers that actually have the power to show the relevance of that foundation. You have to have both, but the developers will drive demand, provide life to the products, and get others interested in careers using the products. Are there developer proteges out there, waiting for their time in the limelight? A succession plan, if you will.

You could ask me if I am doing the same thing on the Administration side. To that question, I can answer “yes.” As we experienced admins move up in roles and responsibilities, we are bringing in individuals whom we are training in the art of administration, so that they may take the reins in a few years. It only makes good business sense; you have to keep the mail routing and the enterprise social network rocking. Will they speak at conferences? I don’t know; it’s up to them. But they are getting ready to dominate administration tasks and for that, the developers and users should be happy.

Author: Gregg Eldred

This is a weblog with some basis in IBM/Lotus Notes & Domino software, when I feel like it or think of something that might be interesting. Other than that, we'll see where this goes. The views expressed in this blog are mine alone, and do not reflect the views of NextStep Technologies, LLC. If you think otherwise, you are mistaken. © 2003-2020 NextStep Technologies, LLC. All rights reserved. The rights to all logos, images, etc., are owned by their respective owners.

5 thoughts on “Outside Looking In: GURUpalooza and Ask The Product Managers”

  1. Hey Gregg,

    Appreciate the feedback. Thanks for participating with us live on Periscope. Just a quick note, we documented all of David’s and the audience’s questions, as well as the ones from Twitter and Periscope We had OM’s in the audience doing this.

    Barry Rosen

    1. Barry – hopefully you can appreciate that from our side of the table, we have been asking the same questions for multiple years. Every year we get the same answer, along the lines of “we’ll take that back.”

      Ideajam is full of requests for product improvement and there are hundreds – probably thousands – of SPRs that have a status of “deferred to future release.”

      The only requests that are dealt with are security ones – and that’s only because IBM’s hand is being forced.

      The problem with the session is that some of us have come to the realization that IBM Notes/Domino is a cash cow and will not have anything really done to it. And everything that we see coming out of IBM confirms that, especially the “Ask the PM” session.

      Yes, you released a roadmap – where at the top of the list is to fix the winmail.dat issue. Stellar. Half of the things on the list you’ve either stated would be done by now or should have been done long ago.

      It’s like the promises a government makes before an election – we will fix this, we will do x,y,z, etc – even though the track record shows that the bare minimum will be done.

      The difference is that we can’t vote IBM out. The only thing we can do is move to something else. Which is a shame, because even with IBM’s shortsighted strategy (to get as much cash out of Notes/Domino as it possibly can without putting anything into it) it still a great technology that does what other products can’t do.

      Hence our frustration with IBM – we know it is a great technology, but it’s not being invested in, and so it can’t compete with O365 on what matters to the non-IT portions of the business, and the rest of the world.

      Some of us are mad about this, and some of us have accepted the state of things and moved on.

  2. I blog it every year after the conference. Barry, if it is any help, you can find last years list with much more detail to the questions at http://thenotesguyinseattle.com/2015/01/30/recap-of-ask-ibm-session-ask-the-developers-and-ask-the-pms-at-ibm-connected-lotusphere-2015/
    I will give more detail to each of them again this year.

    Sad that I was able to just use last year’s blog post as most of my notes for this year. Understand that I vet most of my questions in the Meet the Developers lab before I present them in that session. I also give them to IBM at least a day in advance so that they can answer as many as possible on the spot and not say “we have to get back to you”. I am interested in getting answers, nothing more. Though John Woods and I have fun together with the banter.

    You will also find me in the Top Innovators list on IdeaJam. I could fill the hour with my own questions given the chance. Yes, I am an IBM Champion as well as a champion of the users. The goal is a better product, period.

    As long as it took to introduce all of us on the Gurupalooza stage, I asked if they were going to do the same for Ask IBM session. I agree, that is a waste of time. That is what Meet the Developers lab is for and why I already know many on stage.

    Greg, would you believe I have never presented a session at Lotusphere-Connect? I guess I have adopted the Ask IBM session.

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