IBM’s next generation cloud email solution is coming to CONSUMERS for FREE!


Last week IBM provided a glimpse into their next innovation in email.  Code-named MailNext, it is now formally named Verse.  This is the next evolution of Connections Cloud, their enterprise cloud suite of software.
Now, just a week later, IBM has announced plans to make Verse available to CONSUMERS for FREE!!!
This is unprecedented by IBM.  First, this is the first time IBM has targeted consumers rather than businesses.  Second, the price is right to attract users to experience the new concept in messaging.  Free.  A brilliant strategy to finally take an aggressive action toward marketing their product by first winning over their market as individuals and then as businesses.

Long ago Microsoft did this by including Outlook with every operating system. Consumers used that interface to use POP to access their personal email accounts.  Familiarity at the consumer level made it easy for businesses to be persuaded to use it along with Exchange server for an enterprise messaging system.  Then Google repeated this successful recipe to build a strong consumer base before diving into the enterprise messaging marketplace.

Now IBM is going to apply the same formula.  Unlike Google however, IBM is not going to turn consumers directly into profit like Google does with their advertising and scanning of email.  They will be targeting Businesses to provide the revenue.

The beauty of this formula is simple.  Email is the software equivalent of a Gateway drug into the collaboration software market. And IBM intends to get you addicted to theirs.  In this case, those hardcore drugs are IBM’s collaboration software suite:  Connections (team, B2B and B2C tools for file sharing, activities, wikis, blogs, forums, surveys, & more);  Sametime Instant Messaging, video, audio, web conferencing, and Notes & Domino.  And IBM is taking the same approach as the State of Washington, making their gateway drug very accessible and affordable to everyone.

I have to wonder if this isn’t at least partially driven by IBM’s new partnership with Apple who has proven how successful consumer loyalty can be.  Many of us who work with the IBM technology and understand how much more powerful it is than the competitive products have long blasted IBM for shunning the consumer market. I have often thought one of their biggest mistakes was separating the application designer tools from the Lotus Notes client which took away the power for end users to apply their own energy to create the custom applications they needed. At that point in time they disarmed their greatest allies and advocates of the software.  It looks like the giant has finally awoken and recognizes the power that the individual has on the choice of software in the workplace.  I am anxious to see what this new evolution will do for improving our productivity in the most widely used software category in the world. How do you think this will impact the landscape of the collaboration software market?  Want to see for yourself? Pre-register here.

Roadmap of IBM Connections and IBM Connections Cloud (SmartCloud) Explained


(Note: because the features of IBM Connections is so tightly tied to releases in IBM Connections Cloud, this story applies to both)
On September 24th I published an article analyzing the Gartner report about Social business offerings.  In it I mentioned the lack of a roadmap for IBM Connections Cloud (SmartCloud).  The issue keeps resurfacing.  So far it has been met mostly with diversions and redirects:  “Why do we need a roadmap published?” or “We already have webinars and meetings with customers and present the roadmap to them“. I will say Luis Benitez has done a great job of posting information in various external sources like this slideshare or  on his personal blog website (Still not official and only covers the Connections functionality of Connections Cloud and it not a roadmap).  And of course there is the official IBM wiki website with the “What’s New” posting highlighting some features after the update, although not all changes are mentioned here, like the update to the ActiveX control for Internet Explorer which was pushed out without warning last Wednesday, outside the usual maintenance window; and the post contains no history of earlier releases.  All of these are only partial lists of what features are being working on or have been released to the service and they miss some of the key points of a roadmap.  Perhaps the name Roadmap is misleading.  Timeline might be more accurate.  I will take a moment to clarify what exactly I am looking for in a roadmap and why I think it is so important.

A roadmap provides several things:
1.  A general description of each feature that is coming along with a target release date
2.  A detailed description of each feature that has been released along with the exact date
3.  An indication when a feature is cancelled or delayed (optional)
4.  A general vision into the progress of the service past and future that builds confidence and rapport

In detail:
1.  Future
A roadmap does not need to show the next 2 years of features coming. Requirements change too often to be reliable and it would be unwise to tip their hand and show the competition too much about what they are working on.  But it should show the short term list of features that are imminent, within the next 2 to 3 months.  Why is this so important?  Because Cloud is not like software.  First, there are no beta releases for us to play with in advance.  Second, there is no SPR listing for it like there is for software, like Notes/Domino.  Third, customers cannot chose to delay or avoid a release like they can with software updates.  Therefore we need enough advanced notice to prepare for the new features.  This often requires communications to our user communities of the impending changes.  Larger organizations often have a series of reviews that the communications must pass before being sent out. The help desk may need to get special instructions or at least be prepared for the calls that will inevitably be generated.  Administrators may need to request the feature be enabled once it is available, like using federated login method for mobile apps.
2. History
The single most important reason for posting the date a feature was added is for troubleshooting.  In an environment where the customer is controlling the installation of software, they can track when the software was installed or upgraded.  So correlations of when the change was made and when a problem started happening are possible.  This is not the case in a cloud service environment.  Therefore it becomes an essential role of the cloud provider to document and publish the dates that new features are released.  Without it, it can take much more time identifying and resolving issues.

3. Changes
Sometimes plans change. It is better to show the changes than to have them simply disappear. This is not a legal contract, only a guide to help inform the customers. Changes are OK.

4.  Credibility
Trust is essential to getting companies to buy into your solution.  The historical data will provide a track record that demonstrates how much work is continually going into improving the service which will build confidence in both current and potential customers.

For comparison,
Here is the roadmap (effectively) for Notes / Domino
Here is the roadmap of Google Apps for Work
Here is the roadmap for Microsoft Office 365

In other words, a roadmap doesn’t just show you what is coming, it also shows where you’ve been and where you are now.  Just like the GPS in your car shows where you are and the roads around you for safe navigation.  Without the ability to see these things, customers are driving blind.  That is why we need a roadmap for IBM Connections Cloud.

Domino Developer Needed (closed)


Posting removed.  Thanks for all the great candidates!

You asked. IBM responds: Interim Fix for Domino to support SHA-2 and TLS fix for POODLE attack.


All the information you need is in these two technotes:
http://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=swg21418982
http://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=swg21687167
Watch for the fix to be posted on Fix Central soon.  Then this can be marked Completed in Greenhouse and IdeaJam.net
Note that one of these will only be supported on Domino 9.0.1.  The 8.5 code can’t support SHA-2 encryption.

What does this mean? This addresses the issue that web browsers will soon no longer support connecting to websites that use the older encryption due to its weaker algorithms that can be broken with today’s faster computers.  So Domino servers using https will need this update to allow web browsers to be able to connect after they drop support for the old security.

From friend lists to ads clicked, find out exactly what data Facebook has on you


Wonder what data Facebook has on you? Follow these steps to download and view everything they know about you. I expect you’re going to be surprised. Here’s how:
1. Log in to https://www.facebook.com
2. Click on the settings icon in the top right of the page, then click on Settings in the pop down menu.
facebookSettings1
This will display the General Account Settings.
3. Click on the link “Download a copy of your Facebook data” located below the list of settings and step through the process.
facebookSettings2
facebookSettings3
Be prepared for this to take a long time. You probably have more data there than you realize. Seriously.  (If you have the ability, connect your computer to your router via a network cable rather than wifi and it will go as much as 10x faster.)
4. Once you have downloaded the zip file containing your data, right click on the .zip file and extract the data.
5. Now take a look at the \html\ directory and double-click the files to view them in a browser.
You can see:

  • The ads you have clicked in the ads.htm
  • Your contacts that Facebook has harvested are listed in file.contact_info.htm
  • In the friends.htm  (You can even see all the people you have unfriended.)
  • Every photo you uploaded

Many people are shocked by what they discover.
I still haven’t figured out how to delete all those contacts they have of mine. But when I do, I’ll let you know.

Latest Gartner Magic Quadrant report on Social Software for Business


When you hear the term Social Software, many of us think of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and other similar consumer-oriented websites.  But social software is becoming more broadly adopted in the workplace as well. Gartner recently published a report assessing 17 different vendors of social software solutions for business.  Some of these I had never even heard of before reading this report.  Gartner ranked them in their magic quadrant graph as well as identified what Gartner sees as their strengths and cautions.  I have not yet explored all of them, in depth but I am certainly familiar with three of the more popular ones: Google, IBM, and Microsoft and I think Gartner is spot-on with their assessments of these.  But I would add more detail…

Google: Google has a great experience for the individual user.  But because Google Apps for Work is based on their consumer-grade offering, it lacks some of the basic requirements and central control that businesses often need.  Given that Google is and will likely remain a consumer product-driven company, that will always be their challenge. That also explains why they rank so low on the execution scale and miss the magic quadrant.  On the other hand, they seem to have replaced Microsoft as the new golden child to consumers (think Android vs. Windows Mobile or gmail vs. hotmail) which gives them momentum in the workplace driven by end users who want to use the same software at work as they use at home.  The risk to businesses is that consumers are as fickle about software as they are about women’s fashions and consumers don’t concern themselves so much about things like user support, security, high availability, and privacy.  Google’s roadmap.

IBM: Of these 3 most popular players, IBM is the only one focused exclusively on Business needs, some would say to a fault. The benefit here is their solutions start with the specific needs of business and build up from there and avoid the fickle consumer-driven market. Of course, that can also be their bane.  As a result, sometimes their user experience has lacked the fine tuning that the consumer-focused companies have. On the other hand, their solutions offer functionality for the knowledge worker that is totally absent in the consumer-first solutions.  I am anxiously looking forward to how this is influenced by their recent partnership with Apple. Given IBM is all about business process and data center while Apple is all about user experience and personal devices, this could prove a great marriage.

I completely agree with Gartner’s assessment on IBM’s need to market to developers and third parties to contribute.  The reference to customers’ perception of it as a complex solution would be valid if they were comparing on-site-based solutions.  But they aren’t.  In fact IBM and Microsoft are the only two of all 17 to even offer their solutions as both cloud-based and on-site.  If we limit the comparison to cloud-based versions, this is not a factor. It has also been impressive how IBM has demonstrated its commitment to their cloud solutions by adopting a cloud-first strategy.  Functionality is being added on a monthly basis to their cloud solution with those features being released in the software edition afterwards.  I know they have a busy roadmap. I just wish it were published.  Rumor and blind faith is not a business strategy.

Microsoft: While also primarily a consumer-product-oriented company, Microsoft has solid footing in the business software solution market. Microsoft is more of a latecomer to the social game, but is doing a good job catching up with their acquisition of Yammer. Yammer is good at what it does and even before its acquisition by Microsoft, it was adopted by many organizations starting with pockets of rogue employees, forcing I.T. departments to catch up. This is proof that I.T. leaders should be actively pursuing a social software solution or risk having the employees do it without them. Microsoft has a published roadmap of upcoming features.

When you read Gartner’s article, I recommend starting with the criteria definitions on the right, where they explain what they were basing their evaluations on.  Without understanding their criteria, the assessment can be misleading.

I think the report avoids two very important criteria that concern businesses:

1. Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity:  Nowhere in the report does it mention the infrastructure supporting these solutions. From the end users’ perspective it is irrelevant… Until something goes wrong.  A hurricane, gas explosion, terrorist or hacker attack. “In the cloud” does not mean out of harm’s way.  One of the strongest arguments favoring a cloud-based solution is the assumed resilience to such events. Cloud solutions can reduce the need for businesses to invest in redundant data centers, etc. provided they themselves have executed their own plan adequately. Given the high failure rate of companies that encounter a catastrophic data center event without a DR-BC plan (as published by FEMA), a CIO should be very interested in this criteria.  I am very familiar with how IBM and Microsoft address this and am comfortable with both of them. I don’t know enough about Google’s infrastructure for the Google Apps for Work. Regardless of your provider, you should know their DR-BC strategy and implementation.

2.  Customer Support and Responsiveness to Customer Requests: Yes, there is some mention of customer support in the Customer Experience criteria. That may have been reflected in the rankings, but it was glossed over in the report narratives. Of these three solution providers, Google seems to apply much of the same support philosophy as they have for free gmail accounts. Microsoft, on the other hand, has a good support center of well trained staff and a good escalation process. (I may be bias. I have friends on that team.)  IBM is also strong here. Many of the first level support team has 10+ years of experience and the support structure is such that the same technicians tend to take your calls, so they can build an understanding of your environment and have better continuity from one call to the next. (This is mportant in a cloud environment, as they do much of your administration, so you will make more calls.)

All three of these providers have various discussion forums.  IBM has Greenhouse, where you can also see new features before they go into production and can share product enhancement ideas that the community can promote.  Several product managers are active participants in the discussion forums and persistent, live chat sessions, engaging the customers.  When it comes to Social Business, IBM clearly practices what they preach. I expect part of that comes from IBM having a virtual office philosophy while Microsoft and Google are more campus oriented.  I have yet to discover that level of public accessibility with Microsoft and Google.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and if you know of it, please share it in the comments.

Probably the biggest factor that will trump all others is where you are starting from. Mail migrations are expensive, so if you don’t pick a vendor that already provides your email system, their solution either needs to integrate well with what you have or you need to be prepared to go through an expensive and disruptive migration.

Witness to a Murder (of crows)


Taking a diversion from the usual technology-related topic to share a bit of what most people will never see,  Sunday morning, 5:30 AM, the first day of Fall, 2014.  My internal alarm clock wakes me up. It is still quite dark outside.  Charlie, our rooster hasn’t even woken up yet.  That reminds me of something I have wanted to do for a long time: watch the large flock of birds by UW Bothell leave their roost.  Would there ever be a better day to do it than today?  Probably not.  So I got up, grabbed the camera and tripod and headed over to the bike trail by the UW Bothell campus.

I got there by 6:00 AM.  The air was mild and very calm.  It was still dark enough that the dark side of the New Moon with a brighter thin crescent edge was visible to the east, looking out over the roosting area.

Moon rise over Bothell

Moon rise over Bothell (actual brightness)

I set up my camera and waited.  It wasn’t long before the first birds start to fly, around 6:10 AM.  It started off slow at first, but very quickly the sky was full of them – A Murder of many thousands of Crows!
I was able to capture the sunrise as they left their roost in rivers of birds flying out to greet the world.  I noticed that they don’t just fly out in all directions.  Instead, they follow flight paths as if Air Traffic Control were giving them instructions.  The stream of birds went on for over 30 minutes.  Since it was early on a Sunday morning, the traffic noise from the highway was quiet.  The result is a very peaceful, almost meditational video.  I can imagine leaving the video playing on one of my computer monitors for a calm white-noise effect to offset the chimes of meeting reminders and email alerts while I work. It is recorded in HD, so it’s worth watching in full screen.

Don’t let the conditioning of modern television’s 5 to 20 second long clips between scene changes make you anxious after a minute or two of this.  Consider finding a time when you can sit and let the video play in its entirety as if you were there yourself, filming it.  If you are looking for a moment of excitement, you will have to create it yourself.  Count the number of times you see a lone bird flying in the other direction. Or count the number of times a bird flaps its wings as it passes by. Or count the number of times a pair of Canada Geese fly by.  Or count the number of distinct caws you hear. Or simply count the number of birds that fly by. Or just watch the rhythm of the stream of birds as the sky gradually changes color.  This far north, we have long sunrises.  Enjoy.

The Bothell crows make up a murder of many thousands of crows that roost every night at the 58 acre wetlands restoration site sandwiched between I-405, Hwy 522, and the University of Washington-Bothell campus.

The restoration project was started 12 years ago.  This is what it looked like back then:

North Campus wetland restoration 2002

Bothell Wetlands Today

You can learn more about this flock of crows  at the UW website.
And their Facebook page.
You can also get a better idea of just how large this murder is from this footage of them gathering again at the end of the day.

Quick Tip: Using the “like” feature in IBM Connections for more than just liking a file


The Like feature in IBM Connections is a great way to show you “Like” a file that has been posted.  But don’t get caught up in the mindset of Facebook “likes”.  This feature can also be a shortcut for a document review cycle.  Instead of creating todos in an Activity and assigning it to each person, you can just send them all the link and ask them to “Like” it when they finish their review.  Sounds almost too obvious, but I see people overlooking shortcuts like this often.  This applies to the “home” edition of IBM Connections as well as in IBM SmartCloud Connections.

LikeAFile1

LikeAFile2

SmartCloud Tip #05: Problems for mail and calendar delegates. You’ll get tons of helpdesk calls if you don’t do this.


One of the points IBM stresses during your migration to SmartCloud is to migrate delegates of mail files, calendars, and contacts either ahead of or at the same time as the people who delegated them (delegators). This is necessary because a user cannot access databases on the SmartCloud servers until their own account has been added to the service. This is part of the security model. In other words, mail files in the service can only be viewed by users that are in the service. No problem. As you build your batches for migrating, the migration process alerts you who the delegates are for the people in a given batch and those delegates can be added to the same batch with one click.

But what is missed is that the delegates have bookmarks and calendar overlays pointing to the delegators mail or calendar. Those bookmarks point to the servers on-site, not in SmartCloud. So as delegators are migrated to SmartCloud, the old links that other people have to their mail don’t get updated. The end result is that delegates will continue to view the old data in the database on the server on-site even after the delegator has moved. The delegate gets no warning that the delegator has moved. The only clue is that they no longer see any changes that are made in the delegators’ mail or calendar. What makes this more insidious is that the problem begins when the DELEGATOR is moved, not when the delegate is moved. So an administrative assistant that manages many executives’ mail files has to constantly monitor when those executives are moved and then update their bookmarks.

That is why it is a best practice to be sure to promptly delete mail files from the on-site servers after their owners are successfully migrated. Life for delegates can also be simplified if all of the mail files that a delegate has access to are moved in the same batch. Then the delegate can update all the bookmarks at the same time. You could go a step further by creating database redirects as the databases are deleted from the servers on-site. If you do this, you don’t have to alert the delegates every time a delegator’s mail file is moved to SmartCloud. However, this can’t be done if you just approve the database deletions posted in adminP as part of the migration process. You need to create these some other way. One method is to delete the databases manually in the admin client where you can also add the redirect when it is deleted. You could also do this programmatically with an agent. I invite any developers to post a comment on the details for doing that.

I have posted an idea in IdeaJam requesting an enhancement.
as well as in Greenhouse.

How Your Learning Mindset Can Cost Your Job (and how to avoid it)


It’s Labor Day (U.S. Holiday) A great day to write about work.  If you work in a computer-related profession you can never stop learning if you wish to remain employed.  And that trend is spreading across professions like wildfire as the benefits of technology influence almost every profession.  But not everyone is cut out for a lifetime of success through learning.  In a recent article published by Salman Khan, the creator of KhanAcademy.org, he wrote about Learning Mindsets:

“Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.”

In other words, as I often tell my daughter as I’m dropping her off at school “Have fun and make lots of mistakes!”  Why? Because we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. This philosophy is a companion to “Turn your weaknesses into strengths.”

But back to my original point: lifetime learning. If you aren’t investing time in your professional development, then you are likely to become obsolete soon. Adopt a growth mindset and feed your mind. There are some fantastic education websites out there to cater to everyone from Kindergarteners to Post-graduates and every kind of special interest in between.  Many of these are free, operating under the philosophy that knowledge should be free to everyone.  Here is a selection of what I have found.  If you know of others, please share them in the comments for all to benefit.

https://www.khanacademy.org   Broad range of classes from math & science to business & entrepreneurship FOR FREE. Many public schools are integrating this free site into their lesson plans. (spell it right. There is an imitation out there that you don’t want.)
https://www.coursera.org   A partnership of universities supplying a broad range of classes FOR FREE.  Check out the wikipedia article.
https://class.stanford.edu/   Stanford University offers access to a variety of classes FOR FREE online. Not for the feint-of-heart. Check out the class on cryptography if you want a challenge.
http://www.lynda.com/  Drop the cable TV subscription and spend $25 a month being entertained and educated with unlimited access to thousands of courses.  (Including classes on IBM Connections software taught by my friend Bruce Elgort)
http://www.w3schools.com/  Learn computer programming languages FOR FREE.  Sponsored by a cool Norwegian web development company.

I know there are many others out there.  Do you have any to share?

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