Connect 2017: The Really Good

February 28, 2017

[Note: I was going to create one post on Connect 2017, but have decided it would be better to break it into sections. This is Part One.]

This was the first year I have attended Connect that I did not attend any sessions that dealt with IBM Notes and IBM Domino. Well, other than the forced sessions, such as the Opening General Session and the Technical Session. It’s not that I don’t want to know what’s coming, it’s that in my current role, I am focusing primarily on IBM Connections. So, if you were expecting something from me on IBM Notes and IBM Domino, this is not the place.

But, I will say this: Last year my team upgraded our Domino 8.5.3 environment to Domino 9.0.1 Social Edition, removed 95% of the IBM Notes clients in the environment by moving users to iNotes, and the remaining 5% of the clients are running IBM Notes 9. Applications? What can be moved to other platforms is nearly complete. What wasn’t moved in the first phase, will be moved, probably this year. Unlike a lot of places, we are using IBM Domino for (strictly) mail. And it’s all on-premises.

That said, I was very impressed with Connect 2017 as a person with an IBM Connections focus.

The Really Good:

  • Catching up with my friends in the IBM stack. This is arguably one of of the few conferences where I can see and talk with most of the people I consider “friend” in this space. Because it is the one large, international conference for all things IBM Notes/Domino, Sametime, Connections, and so on, it will attract the most people from around the world. Regardless of the name or location, they will be at this event. This year, it did not disappoint in this regard. Most of the people were here and it was a great week to talk to them in person.
  • If you haven’t, or don’t, travel internationally, this is the place to talk to your non-USA friends about world views. Sure, it’s a technology conference, however since I have known a lot of these people for quite some time, I do not hesitate to ask about Brexit, the current political climate in their home countries, or in the USA. It is a great way to experience the world from other perspectives. And as I respect them and their views, it broadens my view of the USA and the world.
  • There was a plethora of Connections sessions from which to choose. In fact, on Wednesday, I was double and triple booked during certain time slots. This caused me a lot of stress. Too many sessions, too little time. And no repeats.
  • Wednesday was the best day of the week. Many of the Customer Stories were presented on this day and they were excellent. There is nothing like seeing how other people overcame obstacles, integrated other business applications into Connections, on boarded new Connections users, and increased adoption, to get your enthusiasm to increase. There was furious note taking happening. Also, I introduced myself to several speakers, hoping to parlay the introduction into a more informative conversation in the next several months.
  • Also on Wednesday, there was an onslaught of Connections Pink sessions (see point #1, above). It helped that I was privy to a special meeting with Jason Gary, so I was able to miss several of those sessions, as I heard everything I hoped to hear, directly from him.
  • The Product Showcase was primarily focused on IBM Connections Business Partners and IBM Connections 3rd party applications and extensions. It was perfectly suited to someone like me. After working with Connections for several years, it’s nice to go into the Product Showcase knowing exactly what you want to learn more about as it pertains to your installation and culture. I think I was an “easy sell” to several vendors.
  • While there was a lot of walking within Moscone Center, it was primarily confined to the second floor.
  • The Opening General Session was a nice mix of customer stories, demos, music, and more. It seemed to flow very nicely from one thing to the next. I know that many were ecstatic that IBM Notes and IBM Domino were mentioned, especially concerning IBM’s continued support of the platform. For the nuts and bolts of that support, you had to attend several sessions dedicated to the roadmaps. I was missing from those sessions.
  • The featured speaker, Dr. Sheena Iyengar, author of The Art of Choosing, was an excellent choice. Appearing toward the end of the of Opening General Session, she wove what we had seen and heard, specifically Watson, Watson Workspace, and cognitive, into our current lives and choices. It was enthralling.
  • The Technical Keynote, hosted by Ed Brill, was just what we needed to see and hear. Chris Crummey led the demonstrations and, as expected, did an exceptional job using “real world” examples using real people and real situations, not some made up company with made up problems.
  • The Closing General Session, as usual, recapped the week. However, as is IBM’s custom, their featured speaker, Eric  Whitacre, a classical music composer, was outstanding. Ever since I witnessed Benjamin Zander in Orlando, I absolutely love music themed Closing General Sessions. I suppose it reminds me what I already know, I need to see more orchestras. While I love rock (the harder and more angry, the better), it is classical music that affects me emotionally. I think we all should seek out art that affects the emotions. Eric’s story was spectacular. But, as the session closed, there was no announcement of Connect 2018. No dates, no location. What 2018 will bring for this conference seems to be . . . unknown.

Wednesday was “Pink Day” at Connect, and in response to that, here is a photo of Jason Gary for your enjoyment or amusement:

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I think that Jason must use the same bespoke tailor as Mat Newman.


Outside Looking In: GURUpalooza and Ask The Product Managers

February 4, 2016

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?

GURUpalooza

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.


Connect 2014: My Thoughts

February 12, 2014

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Unlike previous years, it has taken me longer to process what I saw and heard at Connect in order to have an opinion of the conference. Until now, when asked, “How was the conference?” I answered “good.” It was all I had.

Now, I have a better answer.

“Transitional.”

I believe that you have to be in denial to not get the overall direction IBM is taking with this conference and their products. Last year, it was, for the most part, the same as in previous years. It was if IBM was gently placing their toes in the seas of change.

Not so this year.

This year, unless you were “all in” with Connections, WebSphere, and Sametime, there was very little problem scheduling sessions to meet your needs. Oh, there were Notes/Domino/XPages sessions, but the first two were in, IMHO, in short supply. Development (that’s XPages )? Yeah, those were there, but hold no interest for an Administrator like myself. Except in AdminBlast where I learn how to turn off that feature. 🙂

I am very fortunate.

First, I was able to attend Connect with friend and colleague Barb Skedel. Together, we were able to split appropriate sessions, eliminating the whole “which session should I attend at this time” conundrum. Talk about stress relief.

Second, and most importantly, I accepted a full-time position with a company that is installing and implementing Connections, WebSphere, and Sametime. Unlike past years, where I was totally focused on Notes and Domino, this year I transitioned to every appropriate session for those areas. And, if it wasn’t for Barb, I would have been very upset at missing several key sessions. This was for me, a conference exactly like the ones in the past. Full of technical content on software that I use on a daily basis; Connections, Sametime, WebSphere, and Docs. Even as an administrator, you would find me in every “Customizing Connections” session that was available. And I understood exactly what the speakers were presenting and demoing. Isn’t that scary?

That should give you all you need to know about my present and future.

Notes and Domino? Of course, they are my foundation and in my future. However, this conference, in those areas, is no longer the “must attend” event if you’re an administrator. [Author disclaimer: I am not disparaging those attendees or presenters who came to Orlando and spent their time and money on those sessions. Honestly, take a look at the sessions again and tell me that Connect is for you]. Take another look at MailNext. While IBM keeps telling us that it runs on Domino, most, if not all, of the features coming in that product will require a Connections environment in order to take full advantage of those features. And if they don’t with the first iteration, they most certainly will with subsequent releases.

From my standpoint, that is a good thing. I want mail to integrate with Connections. Myself and my teammates have spent a lot of time getting Connections up and running and I want to leverage that investment as much as I can. Because if it integrates with Connections, then everyone will be using Connections, whether they know it or not.

Win-win.

I was not at all disappointed in this conference; Connect hits everything that I am now and will be. If I were a Domino administrator, I don’t think that this conference would be for me. In fact, I would never return. There isn’t enough content to make the conference worth the time or money (seeing my friends, that is another matter entirely. I would still “attend,” I would fly down on Thursday or Friday, stay the weekend, and fly home on Sunday night). Domino development? I really don’t know enough about Domino development to make a judgement.

You can sling all the “IBM says” and “IBM is committed to” statements you want about Notes and Domino. I firmly believe that Notes and Domino are a cash cow for IBM, and is treated as such:

Since the business unit can maintain profits with little maintenance or investment, a cash cow can also be used to describe a profitable but complacent company or business unit.

The place where IBM wants you to go, is exactly where I am going. And I feel fine.

One of the side benefits to attending Connections/Sametime/WebSphere/Doc sessions is that everyone was a new speaker to me. One of the side benefits of not attending Notes and Domino sessions was that I did not have to see the same speakers I’ve seen at more Lotuspheres/Connects that I care to admit. Oh, there is no doubt that they are very good, excellent, in fact, however I’d like to see some new people present. No, I’ll go even further; I’d like to see all new speakers in every Domino session (administrator and developer). Don’t you think that seeing the same people present at the same conference year in and year out is getting tiresome? Want to not have my thought come as a shock to the system? Try this: co-present with the person that will replace you. Then, the following year, take a seat in the audience while your protégé runs the show.

While I wait for that, I’ll just continue to support the regional User Group conferences to see new speakers and topics.

I’ve transitioned from a Notes/Domino Administrator to a Connections/WebSphere/Sametime/Docs Administrator and quasi-developer (you need to customize Connections, after all). Lotusphere transitioned from Notes and Domino to Connect and Connections, Sametime, WebSphere, and Docs. Connect 2014 was exactly what I expected and wanted from IBM.  Even in the labs, with the exception of the MailNext in theDesign Lab, I spent all of my other time with the Connections, Sametime, and Docs people. I didn’t even stop by the Notes/Domino pedestals. Even in the Product Showcase, most of my time was with vendors who are investing in and developing applications for Connections and Sametime.

Like I said, “transitional.”


Connect 2014: Must-Attend Sessions for Administrators

January 21, 2014

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I’d like to say that for the Domino Administrator will be a plethora of sessions that you “must see” (meaning several blog posts on the topic). However, if you’ve seen the writing on the wall, then you’re prepared to attend a profusion of sessions on Connections and Sametime administration. Here are some of the “must see” sessions for Domino Administrators.

JMP402 – Master Class: Reaping Rewards and Avoiding Risks: The Secrets of Consolidating Domains (Andrew Pedisich and Rob Alexrod)

Sunday | 1:30-3:30 | Dolphin Southern Hemisphere – II

Was your environment designed almost a decade ago? Whether you want to move your email to the cloud or if you are just trimming the fat, consolidation is your future. This session covers details of collapsing multiple domains into a single domain infrastructure that is easier to manage and more efficient in costs and operations. Discover tricks and tips learned by experience to move users and servers into a single domain where best practices are implemented from start to finish. Well cover consolidation methodologies that are low risk with solid back-out plans and high rewards that will make you a superstar of infrastructure. Come to this session and get expert advice from the folks in the trenches who have consolidated dozens of domains.

ID106 – #UserBlast 2014! (Mat Newman)

Monday | 11:00-12:00 | Dolphin Southern Hemisphere IV-V

It’s time to release the power! IBM Notes has outstanding capabilities that ensure your social transformation starts from your inbox. We’ll demonstrate how to take advantage of all of these features to improve your IBM Notes literacy, boost productivity, locate expertise, find relevant information, share knowledge and collaborate – straight from your Inbox. Don’t miss the “IBM Notes 9 in 9 Minutes” demo so you can go back to your users and blast them away with the power of the amazing IBM Notes client.

SHOW101 – IBM Traveler Highly Availability – Deployment and Best Practices (Daniel Nashed)

Tuesday | 2:00-3:45 | Swan Osprey 1-2

IBM Traveler is mission critical. There is no good time for maintenance when it comes to mobile devices. In this session you’ll learn how to install IBM Traveler 9.0.1 in the classical and high availability mode. You’ll also understand the new functionality, differences and benefits. This session will cover requirements, functionality, setup of the IBM Traveler server on Windows and Linux connected to the current DB2 10.1 back-end. We’ll cover best practices including performance tuning tips for IBM Traveler on Windows and Linux and migration scenarios.

BP101 – AdminBlast 2014 (Paul Mooney and Gabriella Davis)

Tuesday | 3:00-4:00 | Dolphin North Hemisphere E

Sit down and strap yourself in for the annual Adminblast session! We’ll revisit the 200+ tips given and we’ll pick the top sixty. We’ll cover the top tips taken from the trenches over many years of consulting, covering IBM Domino, IBM Sametime, IBM Traveler — and more! Practical tips that you can use as soon as you get back to work will be emphasized, You must pay attention — and you must listen fast!

ID112 – IBM Domino Policies: Deep Dive and Best Practices (Mark Skurla)

Tuesday | 3:00-4:00 | Dolphin Southern Hemisphere I

IBM Domino Policies are a powerful tool that can be used to administer anything from ID vault to mail managed replicas. However, the flexibility of policies often causes confusion regarding their use. This session will focus not on the settings themselves, but the overall application of policies. Learn how policies actually flow throughout a domain, best practices on how to reduce the number of policies in your environment, how to troubleshoot problems, and how to use policies when using IBM Smart Cloud Notes.

ID104 – Best Practices for Upgrading to IBM Notes and Domino to 9.0.x (John Paganetti)

Tuesday | 4:15-5:15 | Dolphin North Hemisphere E

Why release 9.0.x? Get a head start on your upgrade plans by listening to the development team share their experiences upgrading IBM Notes Clients and Domino Servers to Release 9.0.x in their production domains. We’ll cover general recommended best practices and also discuss enablement of some of the new exciting features in release 9.0.x that you’ll want to take advantage of right away. We’ll riddle the presentation with FAQs about upgrading, new features and lessons learned with release 9.0.x. You’ll walk away with information helping you expedite your own 9.0.x production deployment.

ID302 – Upgrading and Migrating to IBM Sametime 9 (Anthony Payne)

Thursday | 10:00-11:00 | Dolphin North Hemisphere E

IBM Sametime 9 is here! This session will help administrators understand how to upgrade and migrate from previous releases. Included will be discussions on end user data migration as well as architectural reviews.

ID602 – IBM Notes Traveler – Best Practices for Deployment, Maintenance and Support (Charles Ebbe and Robert Sielken)

Thursday | 11:15-12:15 | Dolphin Southern Hemisphere – II

This session will cover best practices for deploying and maintaining IBM Notes Traveler along with how to troubleshoot many problems yourself and get the best, fastest support should the need arise. Topics to be covered in depth will include: system/capacity planning, handling maintenance, monitoring your IBM Notes Traveler servers, cloud administration, and general do’s and don’ts to avoiding common pitfalls. A must attend for all IBM Notes Traveler administrators!

(hat tip to Bruce Elgort for the blog topic idea – I took his “Must Attend” post for developers and made it for administrators)


Connect2014: Schedule

January 17, 2014

It’s a bit “busy,” but isn’t that the point of Connect?

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I think I’ll be able to carve out some additional time for the Labs, Showcase, and, most importantly this year, Certification Exams. New this year, I’ll be attending Sunday sessions. In the past, I used this time for Business Partner Day, but not this year.


Florida in Winter – Preparing for Connect14

January 3, 2014

As a Northerner, nothing makes me laugh more than seeing the Disneybots in full winter gear on days where I am wearing a t-shirt. Yes, I get that the mornings (and evenings) can be “chilly,” but they come out in fleece, gloves, and hats when the temperatures dip below 70°F.

Which brings me to my point, be sure to check the weather forecasts leading up to Connect 2014. Right now, this is what I see:

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The main days to watch are Sunday and Tuesday, when major events take place out of doors. However, remember, you will be outside as you travel from one hotel conference center to another.

To help you navigate the parks on those chilly days, here are some tips for visiting the parks when it’s cold.

Thanks, Barb, for the weather forecast.


Early Look at Connect 2014: Drumming Up Interest

October 30, 2013

If you wanted to generate interest in something, anything, one good, proven method is to show the product.  And so it is with Connect 2014.

The abstracts are pouring in, but here’s an early glimpse of a few that may land on the agenda. The deadline is just around the corner, so put on your thinking caps and sharpen your pencils — so to speak.

Messaging and Collaboration

Messaging and Collaboration Roadmap — A Vision for the Future

What’s New in Notes and INotes 9.0.1 Social Edition

IBM Sametime 9: From On-Premises to Mobile, Cloud and Beyond

IBM SmartCloud

IBM SmartCloud: The Road Ahead for Social, Mobile, Meetings and Mail

Getting Beyond Theory and into Practice: Deploying Mail and Social Business in the Cloud

Growing Your Business with SaaS: Cloud Options for ICS Business Partners

Social Software

What’s New with IBM Connections and Connections Mobile

IBM Connections 4.5 Administration Jumpstart

Customizing and Extending IBM Connections

More >

Okay, we have some session topics. However, if you are a long time delegate at Connect/Lotusphere, you know that those sessions are all presented by IBM. Who, from IBM presents them, is irrelevant.  These are standard, first or second day sessions.

Not what I was expecting, especially in a post that may help decide if you will approach the budget level manager for approval to attend.  Realizing that abstracts haven’t been approved, so that a better agenda could be published, IBM must have an idea of the key sessions/speakers that will be presenting. That seems to me to be the proper items to promote, not the same old sessions (updated with current information).

Finally, it doesn’t look like they have any problems, right now, with hotel space.