Friday, January 15, 2010

Gmail 2010 = Lotus Notes 1995?

A very interesting article from PC Pro comparing and contrasting the progress of Google Mail with Lotus Notes. Comparing a robust reliable product matured over many years to the new players on the block reminds me of an old anecdote my Dad used to tell; "When I was a kid my father knew nothing. It's amazing what he has learned since then."

"Comparing the Notes architecture back then (all of which is still in the product, even now) with what Google is laboriously developing, as if there were no prior art, is pretty illuminating: Notes does smart replication between servers and clients, works offline or in low-bandwidth connections admirably well, secures the inter-machine traffic with robust levels of encryption, doesn’t have to sit on top of protocols used for other things, stamps messages with irrefutable digital identities so you can verify who the sender really is. These are all things which SMTP (on the one hand) and webmail over http (on the other) are struggling to reproduce, the best part of 20 years later."

Full Story:

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Perfect Job Interview

It is always important to understand your potential employer when considering how to answer interview questions.
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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Saving an email directly to the file system from Lotus Notes

I have pretty much lost count of the number of times MS Outlook users who have been upgraded to Lotus Notes have asked me how to save an email either to their file system or to their desktop. The most commonly stated reason for this is so that all the emails, files and documents related to a project can all be saved in one folder on a shared drive. Most organisations now recognise that collaborating through shared drives creates a whole raft of problems including security, duplication, compliance and the inability to find the "one version of the truth".

This capability is pretty much redundant to Lotus users since they have many ways of collaborating including Teamrooms, Quickr Places, Wikis, Blogs and Connections Communities. These tools include access control, search, versioning and all the various features that promote good information management. However, we must remember that users do tend to become a bit set in their ways, so if they do want to copy mail messages to their file system I point them at the free File Navigator sidebar plugin for Lotus Notes 8.5 and above available from

My frolleague Darren Adams wrote about it last year. Quite simply it shows your file system in your Lotus Notes sidebar and you can drag and drop files and email to and from it. Specifically, you can drag emails to folders on the file system where they will be stored in their entirety as .eml documents* (including embedded graphics and attachments). You can also drag multiple emails at the same time. Very cool and great for knocking an old objection on the head.

1. The Quickr Connectors can also create .eml versions of email messages by drag and drop but of course these are stored in Quickr Places rather then the file system.
2. Lotus Notes 8.5.x has an .eml viewer built in if you have the Quickr connectors installed: See here:

Monday, January 04, 2010

8 Bit Fun (Pun)

Click the picture for the appalling pun. I would apologise - but I think it's very funny :0)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Why better isn't always best

I guess it is now pretty evident that humans are not the greatest at predicting the future. It is well established that generals tend to prepare to fight the previous war (hence aircraft carriers and fighter jets take on AK47 and IED's). Looking back at the predictions from the 1930's we see reusable rocket ships and hand held ray guns being on the cards whilst in the 50's folks were predicting we would be eating food pills and flying around in jet packs. In fact we only have to look back 10 years to see some predictions by noted futurologist and author Arthur C. Clark which have mainly been shown to be hopelessly wrong (All coal mines closed, Humans cloned?).

So how did they miss real game changers like television, mobile phones, personal computers and of course our old friend the Internet? Perhaps the answer is that, in these 4 examples, they were solutions waiting for people to notice that they needed them. For example the Victorians didn't sit watching a painting in the corner of their living room wishing it would move.

But strangely a lot of recent work has not been about introducing new game changers but rather has been in making things better. On the audio side manufacturer have moved us off vinyl records onto CD, then SACD then DVD-Audio but actually more and more people are perfectly happy with sub standard low bit rate MP3's because they can carry their entire music collection around with them. Similarly with video, manufactures moved us from VHS/Betamax to DVD to Blueray and HD but so many of us consume low quality video on the likes of or the BBC iPlayer because of the vast amount of content. How many people don't even bother carrying around a dedicated camera anymore because the one on their mobile phone (with poor lens, low resolution and rubbish flash) is good enough?

Similarly, desktop operating systems (and I don't just mean Windows Vista) have been piling on more and more capabilities requiring more and more horse power when out of the blue a massive market for netbooks emerged because many people have quite simple requirements easily served by a low cost, low capabilities device especially when it can be much more mobile and also always connected through WiFi and 3g. Look at the motor industry, particularly in America, and the vehicles were getting bigger and stronger when the customers were crying out for cars that were smaller and more environmentally sound. Witness the success of that glorified milk float the Toyota Prius.

All of those improvements were better in many ways than their preceding versions but being better is not enough. You need to ensure that things are better in a way that embraces the needs and requirements of the customer. Partly this can be achieved through Agile Development. The key tenets of this design philosophy is to introduce new features faster and ensure that they are aligned to what the customers want by involving them at regular intervals. This is what the Lotus Design Partner program is all about - letting business partners, developers and end users have the chance to ensure that what Lotus is building is what people need.

And I think this is reflected in the scope of the Lotus portfolio now. On Premise, Hosted or Cloud based depending on what is right for a particular organisation. Thin client, thick client, browser client, mobile client depending on what is right for a particular user. And a full set of capabilities to truly allow people to work better and smarter. From basic collaboration, team working, real time collaboration, unified communication, professional networking through to knowledge enablement. I really believe that we have all the bases covered and aren't just trying to make a better email client, but building the best ecosystem for people to work together.

I look forward to a great 2010 working for IBM Lotus Software and I wait with baited breath for more exciting announcements from Lotusphere 2010. For instance, what will the next major release of Lotus Notes be called?

Saturday, January 02, 2010

So long Doctor

So the 10th Doctor has regenerated into his new incarnation Matt Smith. Geeks will appreciate the synchronicity in this appointment since The Doctor often refers to himself as Mr Smith when he is incognito.

But from my perspective there is a more significant change - which is that the venerable Dr Who logo which has been used since the series returned in 2005 is being replaced with this one. I can't say I'm convinced but I suppose we will have to see how it suits the new season which starts in the UK this spring. However, it has certainly prompted me to regenerate the poorly plagiarised Ports Thoughts logo into something a little less showy.

If you are an old timer like me and you are interested in the history of the Dr Who logo's from very beginning then this is quite cool.