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laurette rynne
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XPages - Why??

laurette rynne - August 20, 2010
I've been away from blogging for a while now, mostly because I am just churning away at Notes Dev and not looking much at anything new. With 2 pre-schoolers, and only working part time, I often don't have time to even read the blogs, let alone but any time into thinking about putting my own thoughts down - so forgive me if this is an unstructured ramble!

I have recently read with interest the new round of "Notes is Dead" conversations, and discussions about the future of the Notes Development professional. I read these discussions with sadness, because like many others, it really is starting to seem like the writing is on the wall. At my current company, it is all but accepted that Notes is for "legacy" apps, and anything significant is now being built in other platforms. Does this mean we are about to be unemployed - absolutely not. "Legacy" in our case, luckily, also includes "small, tactical apps" - quick wins for small problems that have no budget for "real" applications (much as Mick Moignard recently blogged about). I see us still working on classic Notes Development for the next 3 years pretty comfortably.

The other issue discussed recently is about IBM being Notes worst enemy. This is pretty true, and I can tell you that most of our current business-critical Notes applications are being planned for migration to Teamworks - previously Lombardi, now IBM.

So, what has prompted this blog? Earlier this week I attended a 2-day XPages course, run by Stephan Wissel. I've been pretty ignorant about XPages, mostly because I have had no time to learn something new. This course was a good opportunity for me to try to jump-start that knowledge and work out whether it was something we should start investing in.

My verdict - not really. I thought the course was excellent, but I came away without any compelling reason why I would make all our Notes Developers stop work and start learning XPages. Now, I will caveat that - the two guys I work with who do our Domino Web development - they could see some things where it would make their lives easier. I'm talking about those forgotten (thousands of?) developers who still develop for the Notes Client - in our case, v6.51, soon to be 8.51 (finally!) in a controlled corporate environment with no immediate plans to get rid of the Notes Client. Really, those developers who want a job in the future (my guess 3 - 5 years from now) will have no choice but to become yet another Java/Javascript/Web developer, and then why be restricted to XPages? Really, it seemed you need to be pretty proficient in Javascript at the very least to use XPages, and so they will be starting from scratch anyway, and so the investment would be to start with Java/Javascript first, not XPages.

The thing that disturbed me the most was a section, right at the end of the Advanced day, that covered "How to migrate existing apps to XPages". The answer was basically - you need to rebuild the app. You need to find and document all your validations, hide-whens, actions and completely re-create them in a new front-end. Sure you don't have to migrate the data, but you have to map all that data to a new front-end. So, in reality, changing a classic Notes app to a browser front-end based on XPages is exactly the same story as migrating that same app to any other platform. This means that for me to present this story to our higher-ups, the answer would be "that time/money would be better spent migrating off Notes, which is not our strategic platform".

So, if XPages is the future of Notes I came away with the message, direct from IBM, that Notes, at least as far as Notes Client development, is dead. Clearly, the message is that browser front-ends are all that matters, and all that will be in the future. Sure, the NSF as a data storage facility, is recognised as powerful, and useful, but really every XPage app is actually a browser app that the Client renders via the in-built browser - the same as any other browser app. Composite apps, sure, but again, this is just until you get a chance to upgrade your client apps, and can probably be done more convincingly in a portal. I see very little, if any, future enhancements to classic Notes Dev IDE (forms, views, lotusscript, @functions and the like). So, why stay with Notes Client at all? Don't ask IBM, they don't seem to know.

I was particularly struck by how similar XPages was to the front-end builder for Teamworks - so much so, that I can't help but wonder if they will end up being merged into a single development UI (which would be great, and powerful), but this just serves to further highlight that it wouldn't make much sense to migrate to XPages, but to go straight to Teamworks, at least in our particular environment, where Teamworks is the strategic platform for BPM (otherwise known as workflow!). Sure, the data could stay in Domino in the short term, but long term - what's the point? XPages removes the loose coupling of data/front-end that Notes has been so successful at that, in the end, the data probably makes more sense in DB2, or some other relational table (again, like any other platform).

So - do I see any benefits at all in XPages? Sure, I can see us trying to get some things in by stealth (a few widgets, a chance of some composite apps), but anything big - it wouldn't be done in our corporate environment in Notes, with or without XPages - it will go to other IBM Notes-competitors - Teamworks, Websphere, or straight Java. I wonder if this will be the same in other corporate environments?

This does make me pretty sad, and I would love to have someone tell me I'm wrong, and tell me some valid reasons for learning XPages if you are a classic Notes Client developer - NOT a web developer - which is something other than "so you can get a job in the future"...

Lotus Energiz(s)ers - Alistair Rennie & Doug Wilson

laurette rynne - October 27, 2006
Last night was the second meeting of the new Sydney Lotus Energizers group, and while it didn't quite reach the lofty "standing room only" heights of the first meeting (with Ed Brill), it was a decent turnout. Around 50 - 60 people came along to hear Alistair Rennie (VP, Software Services) and Doug Wilson (CTO, Lotus) give a presentation on some of the future directions for Lotus.

Jonathan Stern, from IBM Australia, first gave us another quick rundown about the current state of play for Lotus in the Australia/New Zealand markets, including the positive message that in a market only growing by 3%, Domino had grown by 21% locally. He also re-iterated the promises of increased regular events, PR, and increased advertising within this market. This included the announcement of the dates for "Lotusphere comes to Australia", starting Feb 19. While this is great, it does indicate that it will be at least 2008 before there is any chance of a Lotus Fusion style conference. Ah well, I guess we just need to keep asking.

The Alistair/Doug tag team presentation was interesting, and covered some of the key drivers in the directions taken by Lotus over the next couple of years. Although there was nothing altogether new for those following the stories out of IBM, the message is important enough to require frequent repeating so the message is clear.

A couple of points which stood out to me:

- Companies are now starting to say that cost savings are no longer enough to justify expenditure on IT - innovation is the key way in which they can differentiate themselves in the market, and products that assist innovation will win.

- In the move towards a Dynamic Workplace, many of the goals are aspirational rather than ready-right-now. The key driver in enabling the delivery of a dynamic workplace will be through the creation of software built with openness and standards.

- The move from document & process centric applications (email, workflow, forms) to people centric applications (Sametime) to community centric applications (blogs, wikis, social networking) is not a replacement proposition, but rather an additive proposition. The need to provide the newer applications will not eliminate the need for traditional apps, but rather will enhance them.

- Websphere Portal will become the web version of what Hannover will deliver. Both Hannover & Portal can deliver composite applications, but the client is the differentiator. This is not to say if you have one, you won't need the other, but the gap between them will shrink as Hannover (Notes 8) begins to provide the ability to provide enhanced development capabilities to the rich client platform.

After the presentation, most people stayed around after for a few drinks - right up until we got a "lights out, time to move", which shows that the positive buzz in the community is still there, and if we can manage to keep the momentum going, next year should be a great year.

SnTT: Native OS style fields and dialog boxes

laurette rynne - October 09, 2006
UPDATE: Reporting a gremlin in the system. I take it back, after shutting down my PC yesterday, and coming back in today to finish testing, I find that tabbing is working fine. So, sorry for any misdirection, but there is no problem to be reported.

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While working on an old database today I came across a curious problem - it seems that if you have a form which uses fields using the display property "Native OS style", and open that form in a dialog box it is not possible to tab, or up/down arrow between fields.

Whenever the cursor is in a "Native OS style" field, pressing tab will jump the cursor directly to the OK button, skipping any other fields which may exist on the form. This is the case even if a tab key position is specified for any/all fields. The up/down arrows have no effect at all.

Fortunately, as this was found in an old database, the users are already used to this behavious, so I don't need to change it - but it sure is frustrating to test for a keyboard user like myself.

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The Ego Has Landed...

laurette rynne - August 24, 2006
On the latest Taking Notes podcast Bruce Elgort & Julian Robichaux have a quick chat about dominoblogs.com, which is great - the more people who hear about the site and register, the better the resource it will be for everyone.

As part of that they had a quick chat about meeting Tim & I at Lotusphere earlier this year. It's nice that they remembered us, as I know just how many people they would have had coming to talk to them at the Openntf booth. Funnily, Julian mentions that he remembered us from the Blogging Birds-of-a-feather session. During this session there was much discussion about getting your "voice" heard in the blogosphere, and Julian made a comment something along the lines that most bloggers had pretty big ego's and so were happy to keep shouting their opinions until someone listened. After a few minutes of prodding, I finally got the courage to speak up and say that I didn't think that was true - that many bloggers start and then give up because they feel like no one is listening. Julian jokes in the podcast that I made him feel bad for making a blanket statement. I guess I should let Julian off the hook now by saying that my ego is probably healthy enough - it's just that shyness usually wins the battle for me (and probably many people) when it comes to speaking up in front of a room full of strangers... if I ever get the chance to attend enough Lotusphere's to get to know many of the super-bloggers better then I'm sure they would discover the hidden ego!

Anyway - for the super-egos, and for the quiet, retiring bloggers out there - don't forget to go and register your blog on dominoblogs.com - it's a great way to be heard without having to shout!

PS. The title is courtesy of Robbie Williams' album of the same name...

Dominoblogs.com revisited

laurette rynne - June 02, 2006
Ok, so I completely missed blogging in May, but that doesn't mean we haven't been working. Tim & I have just relaunched the new-look (and hopefully more functional) Dominoblogs.com.

We have added some additional features like the ability to view blogs by region, title, author or category, rss feeds to the new entries, and the ability to store a bit more information about your blog (languages, content tags, SnTT feeds).

Now, before anyone jumps in - this is still a work-in-progress. We are hoping OPML builders and search functions will be available soon.

There has been a bit of discussion over at Jake Howlett's site about exactly what dominoblogs.com should provide - the old UI was (correctly) critised, but I hope we've sorted most of the biggies out with the new interface. The discussion also turned to a mechanism for rating blogs - some are looking for "I like reading this blog", others for "I know this is mostly technical stuff about Domino". There have been some interesting suggestions on ways this could be done, but I don't think we'll start to build anything until the community at large is sure of what it wants.

From my point of view I still think ratings are dangerous, and intimidating to new players, but it does seem like something that people want. While I like the simplicity of Ben's suggestion of a simple category system, I think anything which requires people to constantly update a rating system is kind of doomed to failure.

Anyway - head over and have a look and let us know what you think.

PS. There is also a link button which you could add to your site to help advertise dominoblogs.com