August 19 2014 Tuesday

My customers don’t want Mail.Next

I have customers ranging from names you have heard of, to a few hundred seats, to  5 or less. I’m pretty sure that most customers I come into contact with are not on IBM’s radar. A few maybe, but most? Not so much.  Some of them occasionally ask about “” but none are excited. You see, these customers are not cutting edge. They are not chasing the next shiny ball of tinfoil. They cherish stability. Not constant change. Not constant “vaporware” demos of stuff that most think fluff. They  may not be cutting edge, but they expect anything they purchase (especially with the IBM name on it) to work. Just work. As advertised. Like they had always been promised when you buy from IBM.

Alas, this is not the IBM that exists any more. It is a shell of it’s former self. A veritable ghost town when you go looking for good technical folks. Product Managers and GM’s run awry creating and releasing software no one wants, no one uses and no one can install. IBM is a hell of a place to be an executive. No accountability that I can see. None. Nada. Zip. It appears to be the closest thing to an executive nirvana that has ever existed.

What my customers want is for IBM to fix things. Stop creating the fluffy, next big failure stuff. Just fix stuff you have already sold us on. The stuff my customers bought from you. The stuff I and IBM had promised works.  Except no, they won’t let things be fixed, to be made better. They just refuse to make an existing product better. That’s not what “executives” (now I need a shower after typing that word so many times) believe will keep them moving up. No, they have their 6-18 month plans.  And improving things is not a home run. Releasing something new is. Despite the odds that it will be an epic failure. But, no, up they go, off on their shareholder value beanstalks. Leaving a crater of crap for us clean up like SHA1, 40 and 56 bit SSL keys, inadequate web administration tools, languished development tools, the list goes on.

I’m pretty sure when an IBM executive (I need a second shower now) replies with “we’ve not heard that from *our* customers” they really mean “no one in my organization will tell me the truth because I’m a vindictive asshole, so don’t cross me or I will end your career”. Either that, or man, they live on another planet.

My customers don’t want They want But they want it to work in a sane and functional way. My customers are usually right. They didn’t want Symphony, or Workplace, or Mashups, or Alloy. They did want Notes, Domino, Quickr and Sametime.

 IBM, you should really start listening to my customers. They are correct far more often than IBM and it’s analysts are.

Darren Duke   |   August 19 2014 12:28:16 PM   |    domino    |  
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Comments (38)

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1 - David Schaffer    08/19/2014 12:42:43 PM

IBM seems to have learned the lesson that crippled Novell and Blackberry -- if you make stuff that works people will buy it and keep using it, not pay to constantly upgrade and reconfigure. Where's the revenue stream in that?

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2 - Ben Langhinrichs    08/19/2014 12:48:28 PM

A big part of the problem is an extreme close up view of the short term which leaves anything longer term than a year from now totally out of focus or out of view. Now, granted, it provides a good living for those of us who sell products that enhance the experience of those who have (or even mail.fiveyearsago), but I'd rather be chasing IBM trying to keep up than tiredly fixing the same problems they've known about for years and done nothing about.

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3 - Darren Duke       08/19/2014 12:51:44 PM

@2, fair point Ben, except when the new product is built on the old product (Mail.Next is allegedly so) then isn't it analogous to building a new house on a bad foundation? You either have to rip out the foundation and relay it (IBM can't do that kind of execution any more) or you fix the foundation before you build the house on it. Plus I think the chances of IBM not half-arsing this are remote. So now we have another release that promises so much and delivers so little.

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4 - Ben Langhinrichs    08/19/2014 1:10:38 PM

Well, I think it may be possible to fix the foundation, but they have let a huge amount of both talent and institutional knowledge escape (or flee) out the door. I honestly don't know what they should do, but their ability to build something new on the something old seems a bigger risk than fixing the something old. I guess.

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5 - Craig Wiseman    08/19/2014 1:29:23 PM

Excellent points, I truly wish that relevant folks within IBM would take them to heart.

IBM has always listened to only its largest clients, and to them only if IBM agreed with them.

IBM has never, ever 'grokked' that small/medium (NOT IBM's definition) size businesses (10-1000 employees) grow up into the large businesses that IBM adores. Microsoft and Apple get this.

With that basic misunderstanding, the arrogance that IBM's self-perceived "leader status" engenders, and the added short term myopia IBM has inflicted on itself, I don't see a way out for the company.

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6 - Steve Breitenbach       08/19/2014 3:34:49 PM

Count me in as one of those companies that like what we've got, aren't "social", and users dislike change. We're, just now, rolling out Notes 9, and upgrading our servers to Domino 9. I've not spent a lot of time looking at, but if it's more social than just email and calendars, it'll be quite awhile before we upgrade to it. I've got about 100-125 users. Most like the 8.5.x client, and those that have seen the 9 client seem to like it. Doesn't mean we're going to upgrade to the next version. By the way... What is Connections? <laughs> probably won't see that here either.

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7 - Richard Moy    08/19/2014 6:09:05 PM

As a partner that focuses on the sub 2500 user market (SMB) and a IBM Business Partner since 1995, I am confused in the direction that IBM is heading. I know they what to move everything to the cloud because that it the next big thing and compete with Microsoft and Google. However, you have a goldmine with Domino and its potential has never been pursued. The latest branding is really confusing.

The SSL issue is my biggest beef right now. Fix the problem. Without it you do not have a product that can be competitive in the future. Yes, there are ways around it and yes there is a solution for Windows server, but most of my clients are running Linux and under 100 users, noise level for IBM. But these in the noise level are the ones that drive innovation.

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8 - Ralf M Petter    08/20/2014 1:11:59 AM

Thank you very much for this post. IBM should really learn that new technologies need some time till the customers will adopt it. In the last 10 years IBM released so many great new things which are abandoned, before IBM has got the bugs out and the customers have time to adopt them. For Example NSF Db/2, IBM Workplace, Composite Applications, Lotus Expeditor, Lotus Symphony... So please IBM listen to your SMB customers and provide us with evolutionary improvements to our existing product and do not always announce the next big thing which will be canceled before we can adopt this.

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9 - Kevin Johnston       08/20/2014 2:41:33 AM

I have to agree that IBM seem disinterested in their own current products. The biggest issue I have always had here is that although they release the Notes client for a few OSes, if you want to do Dev or Admin well that's Windows or.....

Even from the product promotion it seems as though they rely on their Business Partner network to do the work. I am not expecting multi-million dollar advertising campaigns to push Notes 9 as a viable alternative to Exchange and that scares me a little. Yes, IBM software is not perfect, but then no software is. If you do not show willing to make a reasonable effort to fix problems and offer options then you are condemning yourselves to an ever reducing customer pool.

How many remember that magic phrase 'This has been reported to Lotus Quality Engineering and will be fixed in the next version'

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10 - Paul Mooney    08/20/2014 2:41:47 AM

The emperor has no clothes left. IBM is now operating on Quarter to Quarter basis to get that share return as promised. Some amazing engineers with terrible management. Deaf ears to customers and competing against themselves. In my little world, IBM is *not* known for stability and enterprise quality anymore. Mistake after mistake.

Oh, and in case they didnt realise, Darren has made an excellent point about SSL. IBM is walking into a shitstorm unless they fix SHA-2 support *very* soon. Done this dance a few times already. Customers do not want to put a web server in front of what they consider a web server to support a standard feature. I know that some accountant somewhere said "why are we supporting multiple web servers. Lets just push IHS and get people to integrate that with their products". You could do that, if you made it invisible at the front end. But no, that would require resources. I would say that ICS reps knocking on the door of Domino customers will have their asses handed to them next year, but they don't knock. It's not net-new licensing.

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11 - Paul Withers    08/20/2014 3:13:29 AM

Some good points. But look at companies that just go on doing what they were doing before, trusting in their brand - companies like Woolworths or Blockbusters. I'd prefer to work with an IBM that's in business, so I can work on making things better.

And let's give credit where it's due. "Except no, they won’t let things be fixed, to be made better. " XPages with the extensibility API, open-sourcing the Extension Library, allowing developers to add their own frameworks on top of XPages and build something as powerful as the OpenNTF Domino API, has certainly allowed me and others to fix things and make them better. Yes, there are areas that can't be done, but there are areas it can.

Yes, administration areas don't often get the benefits. But it's an aspect that the OpenNTF Domino API team discussed a few months ago, providing APIs and a tool to manage a lot that can only currently be done via the very old Notes Administrator client.

On Symphony, Workplace etc you're spot on. And add Composite Applications to that, to a large extent. But most customers would also not have wanted XPages or Connections. I think Domino's days would have been numbered without XPages, because traditional Domino development for the web was not capable of getting close to the opposition, while web and mobile are seriously impacting the use of the rich client.

If your customers want mail to stay the same, that's great, but with mergers and acquisitions and new CIO's, the story of customers migrating from Domino is not new. Those are the customers IBM is probably listening to, and looking to offer something the competition doesn't have.

The problem with the culture is no executive ever got a big promotion for fixing bugs, just as no CIO got a big promotion or a big new job because they kept the company on the same mail platform, just as anyone hiring a new CIO who has a track record of migrating mail asks what the ROI of those migrations was.

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12 - Hogne B. Pettersen    08/20/2014 5:13:23 AM

This is so spot on that you'd think my manager had written it. He hates IBM products, and while I used to be one of those brainwashed people who thought everything IBM creates is gold, I've wised up considerably.

Setting up SSL on a Domino http server? Forget it, unless you want to use XP! Getting Sametime Meeting to work on the web? Ha! If the stars are aligned and you have sacrificed your first born to Satan, maybe. I give up everytime and move the meeting to GoToMeetings, which just works. Getting Sametime to communicate with third party products? Third party products go: Oh, IBM Sametime? No, we don't support that anymore. It was impossible.

We've also had so much trouble with our IBM Connections setup it's unbelievable. We can't even move the CCM (libraries) installation from the old server to the new server. IBM has said flat out that it's not possible in 4.5. We were promised that it would be possible in 5.0, but I've seen no evidence for this.

And two years since our installation, they still haven't been able to get the mail and calendar icon at the top of Connections to work. And if we tried to integrate Sametime with Connections, the site became so slow it was unusable.

Xpages, APIs? That's not what my managers want to hear about. They want thing out of the box, and don't want solutions that has to be developed and maintained in-house. And since no third party products supports Domino anymore, you must either get rid of Domino, or develop in house (which we are doing in Java to get Notes and our production system to communicate).

In short: I seriously don't know what IBM is thinking. And you are absolutely right. They are not listening to customers.

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13 - Lars Olufsen       08/20/2014 5:22:25 AM

IBM cares nothing about their Domino customer base. They haven't cared in YEARS, and they aren't about to start caring. Already today, there is a lot more focus on selling "social" to the Microsoft customer base, than there is on selling to their own customers. A lot more energy is being used telling the customers how to add Connections to Sharepoint, than telling customers how Connections and Domino can complement each other.

There is no "migration path" from Domino to Connections, only an "exit strategy".

We are already designing Domino apps using XPages to target browser clients instead of the Notes client. The Browser-PlugIn is out there, further reducing the need for the Notes client.

Connections Mail can already use Exchange for a mail-backend, just as well as Domino, and I'm finding it hard to believe, that the elusive Mail.Next will be Domino only. It won't! Why would it?

So all the strategic decisions at IBM, are currently detaching the strenghts of Domino. The powerful workflow engine, that was tightly integrated with the mail-system is gone. If customers decide on Exchange as backend for Mail.Next, so will the possibility to integrate programmatic functionality from Domino, directly in your mailbox, unless it's OpenSocial, and if it's OpenSocial ... well, it doesn't have to be Domino at all, does it?!

There are no tie-ins to Domino anymore. This is a brand new strategy, detached from any legacy. It is the ultimate Rip'n'Replace.

Here's what I really don't get:

For all these years, Domino has been a superior _Collaboration_ platform to Exchange, because of the tons more functionality included. Despite this, IBM has "lost" the battle against Microsoft, who have the better _Mail_ platform (allegedly). So all this extra workflow-enabled, process-supporting functionality, isn't selling all that many licenses. So instead, IBM creates a completely new platform, with completely new ways to support the "modern" social processes in the modern social companies, demanding that not only will they have to make a new, fairly substantial technical implementation, but they will also have to make a huge cultural shift in the way they work, in order to "fit" the new, better, "social" target IBM is covering with Connections.

I'm from Denmark. Denmark is a small country. Even the BIG companies in Denmark are small companies to IBM (except for maybe a handful _really_ big danish companies). This cultural change ... it doesn't "fit". It's way too big and the challenges it is supposed to remedy, doesn't really exist in the scale that is needed to justify the change, nor the technical implementation costs.

Danish companies have no need for HUGE "social" frameworks like connections. They have need for small, narrow-focused, cheap, fast improvements to their current platforms. IBM offer none of these. But the market is full of cloud-based, focused, social platforms with well documented APIs and integration to ... well, the Microsoft platform at least. Connections is a hard sell over here.

And little by little, the realization strikes: IBM is not going to cater for Domino customers. Your investment is stuck.

What do you do?

Well ... You sure don't wait around for Mail.Next.

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14 - Jesper Kiaer    08/20/2014 5:56:00 AM

Agree! ...the problem is IBM just never understood Notes/Domino and what to do with it ....and now just to late, ...the world has moved on.

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15 - Ray Bilyk    08/20/2014 6:36:05 AM

XPages web apps are great, but if SSL and a MODERN admin client (yes, web-based) aren't there, this will soon all be over!

Spot on once again, Darren!

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16 - Darren Duke       08/20/2014 7:50:06 AM

Wow, I get out of bed and see I'm cause quite a commotion. I was hoping, but you never know….

First thanks for all the comments….. and almost none of my customers have or need Connections or XPages. Just saying.

@5, Craig, “arrogance” is an excellent word to describe how IBM sees it’s self these days.

@6 Steve, yep, you are what I could deem a “normal, run of the mill customer”. You are not at all dissimilar to 80% of organizations out there.

@8, Ralph….. oh how did I miss NSFDB2 and Composite apps of the “failure” list?

@9, Kevin, that was indeed a magic phrase.

@10, Paul M, “Customers do not want to put a web server in front of what they consider a web server to support a standard feature” – that actually made me laugh out loud at the ludicrousness of the situation, but I would go further than “…what they consider….”, to “….what they were sold”.

@11, Paul W, Woolworths went away, but it seems that Walmart may survive a while longer.

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17 - Mark Roden    08/20/2014 8:14:37 AM

Who says is aimed at existing customers ?

Is it there to keep existing customers - or get new ones who would rather use gmail or outlook365 ?

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18 - Stuart McIntyre    08/20/2014 8:41:29 AM

@Marky, fair question (and I am very pro the ideas in Mail.Next, unlike my mate Darren).

However, IBM currently isn't promoting it as being a reimagining of email for the general marketplace, all the focus so far has been on it being a new UI for existing Domino users, iNotes Next etc. etc. I appreciate it is still being developed, but where is the marketing and coverage that builds awareness outside of the ICS bubble? Right now, there have been some interesting webinars etc for existing Domino customers (and they are definitely welcome), but I can't see how Mail.Next is going to appeal to startups or those already using Exchange or Google Apps without a clear vision for how it relates to them, how co-existence will work, how it will support all mobile mail apps etc etc. Hopefully we'll see this become clear between now and the end of January?

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19 - Richard Moy    08/20/2014 9:15:47 AM

Well everyone who is coming to MWLUG 2014 make sure you ask these questions at the "Ask IBM". Kramer and maybe Scott, I believe will be attending. We will give Darren the opportunity to be the first. and yes I am also amazed today looking at the responses. Maybe it is time that IBM open Domino to partners so we can fix things ourselves and then we can charge them royalty. To add to the list "K-station", "LearningSpace", "Foundations" and the P-series equivalent, and unfortunately I heard more coming.

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20 - Carl Tyler    08/20/2014 9:17:36 AM

I'm amazed this discussion is even taking place, I thought everyone had moved on, and the damage to the fronts of peoples heads from banging them on walls had made us all stop.

Mark you say "Is it there to keep existing customers - or get new ones who would rather use gmail or outlook365 ?"

Sadly, IBM has a history of making changes to go after new customers, in the process pissing off existing customers and then not getting the new ones. In the last few years, IBM primarily has gained new customers through acquisition, a few years later people can't even remember the acquisition. What was that blaze Chinese email company they acquired? Where are the press releases telling us about their rapid growth for hosted email? Where are the emails telling us they passed yet another million users for hosted Connections or hosted Notes mail?

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21 - Paul Withers    08/20/2014 9:59:36 AM

@Stuart I think the push at IBM Connect was very much at the general workplace, as a new approach to managing email. The stress on Domino in all the webinars etc to YellowBleeders since is primarily to counter the FUD that it's not Domino.

In terms of whether it will be marketed to existing Domino companies or non-Domino companies, there is not much of a track record of IBM marketing any products. The "Smarter..." marketing doesn't seem to show screenshots, so not sure how anyone beyond those using it will see what it is or why to use it, unless analysts and BPs sell the idea to potential customers.

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22 - Paul Mooney    08/20/2014 10:22:03 AM

@Carl, I think it is fair to say everyone has moved on, or at least the vast majority of the community has anyway. What pains me (and I think you) is what "could have been". A product, miles ahead in its day dying by 1000 cuts. Some excellent engineers and community members doing what they can with what resources they have even though the product owner didn't care. Or cared until they did the IBM 2-year 2-step.

Anyways... it has held out a hell of a long time. Credit to it there.

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23 - John Ryan    08/20/2014 11:35:48 AM

Sadly, the Domino ship has sailed some time's no wonder Sharepoint has done so well in it's wake as the competition has basically gone away. I've been working with Lotus/Notes and Domino since 1994...and when IBM took others have mentioned here...IBM just didn't get it and the advertising was just never there like we wanted it to be....despite endless...year over year complaints. Over the last not-so-many years...we've watched Workplace, DDM, Quickr and more...go away. XPages? Well, neat but too little too late. Domino was such a powerful and useful platform, it's crazy. I hope it's not out of line here to say...but we a DOCOVA have put together an alternative over several years now...trying to provide Domino customers and business partners with a great alternative, a path they can embrace. We compete with Sharepoint might be useful for some of you.

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24 - Nathan T. Freeman    08/20/2014 1:32:11 PM

You guys all realize this is the number one reason why Notes/Domino BPs and customers should be scrambling to adopt, support and contribute to, right? If you think IBM is letting the product fade to irrelevance, then the best hope to continue its legacy of unparalleled ROI is to stop relying on IBM.

That is, if you actually want to solve problems instead of just complaining about them.

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25 - Chris Miller    08/20/2014 1:46:54 PM

But OpenNTF is IBM now. While it is Open Source licensed the templates and such came from IBM and are still being updated and developed there. Core Domino is not available at OpenNTF for people to strip and make a light mail client to compete or to strengthen the SSL capabilities (for free)

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26 - Martin Jinoch    08/20/2014 1:47:08 PM

I agree with pretty much everything being said here. But I really don't think Mail.Next is gonna be real product...IBM will say: "we tried to do something new but nobody seemed interested, so there is what we have built for you instead (based on customer feedback we are sooo not listenig to)...[unveils Notes Mail interface with new color theme, much harder to read than the last one] cool is that?"

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27 - Nathan T. Freeman    08/20/2014 2:07:28 PM

"But OpenNTF is IBM now." I'm not sure what you mean by this. IBM is a member company of OpenNTF. So what? Red Pill Development is a member company of OpenNTF. The statement "OpenNTF is Red Pill" would be ludicrous. So unless you have some hidden meaning here, the statement is equally ludicrous.

"While it is Open Source licensed the templates and such came from IBM and are still being updated and developed there."

So what? Either you're happy with the templates that IBM is releasing in the product, or you're free to modify and redistribute whatever you think is a better version in accordance with the Apache License. If people want an advanced mail experience that runs directly on Notes/Domino, they're free to modify the platform to support it. That's how OpenNTF got on the map.

"Core Domino is not available at OpenNTF for people to strip and make a light mail client to compete"

Wrong. Everything you need to make a light mail client that runs off Domino messaging is available at OpenNTF. In fact, lots of things you need to make it FAST are there, too.

"...or to strengthen the SSL capabilities (for free)"

Also wrong.

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28 - Darren Duke       08/20/2014 2:42:18 PM

I'm not sure cracking open Domino and building your own SSL stack is the way to go here. "Could" does not equal "Should". The OpenSSL issues of late should have more than taken care of the good intentions of that idea. No, this is a core part of the product. A product that many customers pay for support on. It's IBM *duty* to address this. And let's remember, this is not just about SSL.....

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29 - Nathan T. Freeman    08/20/2014 3:24:43 PM

"The OpenSSL issues of late should have more than taken care of the good intentions of that idea."

Way to perpetuate the myth, Darren. The OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability is a testament to the effectiveness of open source, not an indictment. The bug was identified on April 3 and a fix was made available by April 7. Giant corporate vendors with huge "QA" departments were no protection from the vulnerability, but the fact that OpenSSL is open meant that the disclosure happened very fast and the fix was issued very fast. All this happened in less than a week, while you beg IBM for YEARS with no commitment whatsoever.

"No, this is a core part of the product. A product that many customers pay for support on. It's IBM *duty* to address this. "

Oh it's their duty? Well, I guess that takes care of it then. Once Ginny finds out that they haven't done their duty, I'm sure she'll drop all this EPS nonsense and focus the entire enterprise on fulfilling their moral responsibility to partners and customers to ensure they get what they're asking for. After all, telling IBM it's their duty is a strategy that has worked so well for the last 15 years.

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30 - Paul Mooney    08/20/2014 6:11:21 PM

Im not going to keep on complaining about it. I'm also not going to fix IBMs problem for them. I will just learn something else. Many others are doing that too.

End result is not good for IBM. But they really don't care. Just sad to see it go. The Domino server, oddly is/was a piece of software I had an affection for.

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31 - Nathan T. Freeman    08/20/2014 11:20:37 PM

"I'm also not going to fix IBMs problem for them."

To be clear, Paul, I'm not suggesting that anyone fix IBM's problem for them. I'm suggesting that people fix their customers' problems for their customers.

"I will just learn something else. Many others are doing that too."

That is another way to fix the customers' problems. Or at least to make those customers someone else's (which seems to be IBM's strategy anyway, right?)

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32 - Paul Mooney    08/21/2014 7:39:21 AM

Some problems we do fix. Hell, we fix problems for a living. This may require an implementation, a review, a hack, custom applications or code. Even using OpenNTF templates. But Darren's point is more architectural, more basic. SSL for example.

I could find a hack to do it, get it done and implement for a customer. They won't pay me the time required to do it as my customers would want to know why it isn't like that "out of the box". IBM won't thank you for it and more than likely wouldn't support any issue that arises from it.

I have no interest in doing that. Not any more.

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33 - Craig Wiseman    08/21/2014 8:37:10 AM

Sadly, Mr. Mooney is right here. I've helped many Domino customers fix and paper over the rough spots in Notes/Domino.

But when it's crystal clear that IBM is committed to driving the truck off the cliff, I can't find any reason to help chrome out the wheels.

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34 - Ben Poole    08/21/2014 9:22:03 AM

“If you think IBM is letting the product fade to irrelevance”

That happened a long time ago.

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35 - Michael Bourak       08/21/2014 10:06:13 AM

for HTTP, the best way, in my opinion, is for IBM to leverage IHS and truly integrate it with core (they are really close but miss the multiplatform. part).Then we can benefit from a modern HTTP Server which really outperforms the old domino http stack. And btw, most if not all java web app server work this way : a built it http proxied by apache or like that. For SMTP, IMAP etc, it's another story.

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36 - Paul Mooney    08/21/2014 11:32:51 AM

Michael I agree completely. But considering what the customer base has, they really really need to make the plug in so easy that a domino administrator can make it work without any IHS knowledge at the start, then entice them into using it more (TLS etc). All possible, but the 80/20 rule will apply I'm afraid.

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37 - Bart Lautenbach       08/29/2014 9:31:55 AM

Darren, Happy to hear your specific concerns. Let me know when is a good time to talk.

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38 - Lisa Duke       09/03/2014 9:16:44 AM

@Bart, thanks for your willingness to try to address some of these issues. Give me a day or two to collect the top ones, and then I'll send an agenda for the meeting. That will give IBM a chance to get the correct people in the room so it is time well spent for everyone.

If there are any specific issues IBM wants to address on the call, let me know that as well so they can be added to the agenda and the relevant people looped in. I want to use this opportunity to try to re-establish communication between IBM and its customers.