My First Jam

I had the chance to participate in my first Domino Jam 2025 event this week. Due to travel commitments, I had to settle for a virtual jam rather than the face-to-face sessions conducted in North America the previous week. Red Pill Now has just started its own Webinar series in application modernization so I knew it was going be a challenge for IBM to mirror the interaction possible in the face-to-face jams. But at least it provided a way for the hundreds that attended to be part of the process.

I have spoken to a few people since the jam to get their perspectives. I also read with interest Gregg Eldred’s review and the comments in response. I feel I came away from the event with a very different view, and given we have not seen a lot of other community members blogging so far sharing their experiences, I though I would add another perspective on the Jams…..

Will any of this affect me as a Notes/Domino developer or Domino administrator?

My conclusions are absolutely! First lets think carefully about what it means when IBM say they are planning on a new release? Not a fake release from the dishonest media (marketing) like Notes 7 or Notes 9, but a real major release like all the others that came before. Think about the yuge changes that came with Notes 5, Notes 6, and Notes 8. OK, so maybe the crowds at Connect 2017 were not as large as the Lotusphere events from before, but thanks to the jams there is every reason to believe that both houses (IBM and HCL) are ready to Make Notes Great Again! They specifically stated their intent is to “Bring back the WOW”. We all know that Microsoft have been trying to interfere with our marketshare for years. These jams were the first step in building an application modernization wall that can keep  Microsoft and SalesForce out of our Domino servers. Perhaps allowing us to renegotiate GAFA (Google, Amazon, FaceBook, and Apple), the technology bloc that is stealing jobs from Domino workers. Now is the time to drain the swamp in Boston and create jobs for Domino developers and administrators. For the people in West Virginia and elsewhere there were suggestions of an investment in clean Domino. We also saw the first signs of product reform that will lower the cost of application development and put citizen developers back to work. If successful, these reforms will result in companies that moved their applications away from Domino to offshore products having an incentive to return to the Domino platform.

Will it be called Notes 10?

Not sure. I learned in the Jam that this is being called “Project Sapphire” internally. The promotion around the Jam makes frequent references to the “Domino Product Family” which makes me think IBM will place a greater emphasis on the Domino name over Notes. Alan Lepofsky wrote an excellent article about the new direction in which he puts forward the suggestion that IBM should consider adopting a completely new name for its application development platform. I kind of agree. But lets get the product first, before we worry too much about what to call it.

What’s going to be in version 10?

This was the interesting part about the Jam. During the course of the 90 minutes session over 100 questions were asked via a Q&A panel. Of these around 15% were answered there and then, mostly with an indication that the suggestion was being considered for Domino 10. There were also a number of opportunities for attendees to ask question aloud. For me the most insightful comment came from somebody who had been involved with Notes since Notes 2 (I assume working with Iris). He mentioned how the philosophy for Notes back then was SIMPLICITY. It reminded me of a quote from Steve Jobs – “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do”. It also made me wonder if IBM/HCL have thought about reaching out to Ray Ozzie and the early team members to get there insights about what made Notes special in 1989 and what they would do if they were starting afresh in 2017! The good news (for me) is that it did sound like IBM were giving considerable thought to ways they can simplify the product, including improvements to documentation (for those of us that will read directions).

What did IBM share about their plans for Domino 10 and beyond?

Being a Design Thinking session (of sorts) IBM steered away from detail and instead started at the end (outcomes) and focused on the high-level directions that had been identified at previous Jam sessions. Participants had the chance to vote on those ideas. Being allowed one vote to each question made us focus carefully. I was glad to see IBM doing this. I would much rather see IBM define the goals of the product before rushing to build a list of random new features to be added. And given there is only so much time before the end of next year, we really need to focus on the big important stuff and leave the other good stuff until later. If you’re making jam you need to decide on whether it is going to be Raspberry Jam or Marmalade first before deciding on what else to add. Suggestions such as adding a “Tell PMR” command to the admin console or adding Gradle for building XPages are great ideas but targeted at meeting the needs of a very specific group of people. As I wrote in my last blog, we need to better define the type of developer we are targeting with Domino 10.

Based upon the questions asked I got the distinct impression that IBM have been doing their research. They seemed to have a very good understanding of the challenges that Domino faces as a modern application development platform. They understood that too much emphasis had been placed on Mail up until now, and this latest effort seemed to be focusing on correcting that imbalance. They seemed to know the many ideas that have been suggested before from Meet the Product Manager sessions at Lotusphere and IdeaJam. Before they get around to addressing whether of not we need a Designer client for the Mac I believe they are working to define the type of product they want Domino to become. Not so they can add a few features to keep their existing base on maintenance a little longer, but to actually create future versions of the product that will attract a new audience to the platform. I don’t know, but I suspect, this could be the deepest look at the product since Notes 1.0 was released.

What happens next?

The Domino Jams are continuing into mid-January. If you have not already done so, check to see if there is an event coming close to you and register. It is my understanding that IBM will be sharing the results of the Jam sessions not long after they conclude. So keep an eye on Ed Brill’s blog. After that I have heard suggestions that there may be a return of Business Partner forums and a Design Partner program. A roadmap has been promised for IBM Think in March. I have not seen anything that would preclude some early versions of potential new features being demonstrated in the labs during Think. The internal goal for IBM and HCL is to have “Domino 10” ready by the end of 2018 with plans for a “Domino 11” to follow.

What did you think of the Jam overall?

The 90 minutes was time well invested for me. I largely listened because I have already had the chance to share many of my ideas through my recent blog articles on this topic. I was also one of the largest contributors of new ideas for Idea Jam, so if IBM hadn’t already tuned in to any of my ideas by now I doubt this event would have made a difference. I am very excited about the possibilities that Domino 2025 brings to a product in which I have vested a lot of my life over the past 25 years. I feel IBM have a good grasp of the situation. They have the backing of a strong committed community that attended this event and contributed a lot of great ideas. Everyone I have spoken to at IBM and HCL over the past couple of months seems very determined to make something happen. The mere fact that IBM are spending so much time conducting these events is definitely a break from recent history in which almost all the oxygen within ICS has been taken up by Connections. Like many in the community, I have some some doubts and reservations as to whether or not this most recent effort goes the same way as Lotus Knows. But Lotus Knows we needed a Domin0 2025 Jam! At the very least we should open to the possibility that something significant is going to happen here and all pull together to give it the best possible chance of success.

Peter Presnell
Peter Presnell
CEO at Red Pill NOW. Strategist, technologist, blogger, presenter, and IBM Champion 2011/12. For years many companies have invested heavily in the Notes/Domino platform and I see my role as helping to find paths forward for that investment.

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