GoogleIt Mail IT Print IT PermaLinkTemplates, Community, And A Way That IBM Could Contribute
10:54:37 PM

Much discussion has ensued from Ed's monster thread, with the important points being made that...

  • The "nifty fifty" made for really good demo material, proving the value of Lotus Notes in the early days.

  • Sharepoint now has some spiffy-looking application templates.

  • IBM currently doen't have any spiffy-looking application templates.

  • This is really being felt in the marketplace, and IBM should do something about this.

  • Maybe IBM should engage partners to help do something about this.

  • The costs to IBM would be higher than most people think, due to things like cross-platform QA, translation into 20 langauges, etc.

  • The community should step up to the plate, coordinated through OpenNTF

  • And more...

I developed "templates and samples" for Domino 4.6. We finessed the translation requirement for most of what I did because the samples were for developers, not end-users. If not for that, I doubt any of the work would have been approved. I also worked on maintenance of the web mail template in 4.62. I can vouch for everything that Steve says about the process. Bear in mind, that when I was engaged for 4.6, it was by Iris -- still very independent of IBM -- and even then the process was excruciating. The stuff I built is no great shakes in both function or appearance by today's standards -- in fact, even by the standards of the day it was released it was already no great shakes. That was because of the careful process amidst lots of uncertainty due to the rapidly evolving web, the desire for compliance with standards, the need for compatability with all browsers, the need to work on 640x480 monitors!... etc., etc., ad nauseam. I worked with product designers and graphic artists, with human factors experts, with the developers of the Domino HTTP stack, with QA, and with Iris management, and every decision was a big deal. Could we use JavaScript? Could we use frames? Could we use more than 256 colors? Could we use hacks to comment out some of Domino's automatically generated code. Could we use a <base> tag in a way that clearly violated the HTML standard... but which worked in all browsers. Could we use Notes API calls from LotusScript? Some decisions were dictated by practicalities: no Java was used because Bob Balaban was still working on getting the classes working while I was doing the template work. It was months and months of work to get some very simple things done.

I'd like to make a couple of quick additional points before getting to my conclusion

IBM has formally released Notes/Domino applications several times. There was CSERV in the later 3.x releases. There was one, maybe two, sampler CDs of Partner-created applictions -- fully functional but cut down from their full versions. There was a package that, if I recall correctly, was called the Domino Intranet Starter Pack that included several Partner-created applications. If you don't remember these things at all, or have just hazy a memory of them.... that's my point. These things didn't have much impact on anyone.

And by the way, neither did the nifty fifty, after Notes was actually sold and deployed that is. I used the nifty fifty once as the basis for a production application. That's it. I used it to build an application for my own business. I never used those applications as the basis for anything for customers. There just wasn't enough there that was actually useful beyond quick demos.

That said, I do see the need. I don't think IBM can or will fill the need. I think that the community should step up. I do think IBM should contribute, and here's how:

IBM should sponsor a RedBook project with the title "Developing A Suite Of Collaboratve Applications For Notes And Domino". Bear in mind that IBM does not pay Redbook authors. They only cover expenses for resident authors -- so this will still be a volunteer effort; but Redbook authors do get something out of it. They get their names on the cover of a book. They get access to IBMers who are involved in the project. They get a little bit of prestige, a feather in the cap, résumé fodder. That's not a lot of compensation, but I'll bet it's enough to get a serious, well-coordinated effort jump-started. IBM's participation can guide the RedBook authors toward things that IBM would do if they were building the applications themselves, such as translation. IBM can provide design and graphic help, and more. And the beauty of it is that IBM doesn't have to ship anything that's officially supported. They can promote the RedBook as much as they want, and they can provide a download site for the templates developed during the RedBook process, but that's all. The RedBook itself, and every template produced as part of the project, can include a link to a section of the OpenNTF site that is devoted to continuing the template project.

And if it really takes off, and the community steps up to keep the process going, and it starts to make a difference... IBM could do other RedBook projects. The second could be "Customizing Collaborative Applications For Notes And Domino". Another could be "Making The Most Of Collaborative Applications In Hannover", and yet another could be "Integrating Notes And Domino Collaborative Applications With Activities".

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Comments :v

1. Alan Bell08/02/2006 04:44:25 AM

Wow Rich, that is a great great great idea! I would certainly be up for a residency on that one.

2. Chris Whisonant08/02/2006 08:13:45 AM

I've been too busy to be vocal about this. But I would like to say that your idea sounds spot on Richard. IBM must have some involvement in this, but OpenNTF is where the action will happen. I have hardly every used IBM templates for applications. We had some teamrooms at one point before I found domBulletin! If I needed something quick I would hit up OpenNTF or the Sandbox.

3. Danny Lawrence08/02/2006 09:48:04 AM

That is a great solution Rich, the only problem I see is getting sponsorship for the Redbook.

I'd volunteer for the Redbook as well (but probably wouldn't get accepted since my Development skills aren't as good as some of the others.

4. Bruce Perry08/02/2006 12:20:08 PM

@Chris - there is some great stuff on OpenNTF, but nearly all of it suffers from being under-documented.

This is understandable. Developers know their own stuff and don't need the documentation. People posting code and applications to OpenNTF are doing it out of altruism. There's nobody to force the authors to document how it all works for other developers or how users are supposed to interact with it. Doing this well isn't easy.

Apps on OpenNTF with clear installation, user, and developer documentation would see wider use. At the moment, it's pretty much for developers only.

5. Ken Yee08/02/2006 01:11:13 PM

I'm not sure how this solves the problems mentioned about doing it on OpenNTF? I.e., customers are inherently lazy. They won't go the extra step of downloading from another site. They want a checkbox in the installer that says "install sample templates" and some stupid wizard to guide them in choosing a template for their intended purpose. Thanks MS for this expectation

6. Brian Benz08/02/2006 01:23:19 PM

Good post, Rich. I would combine the redbook project with popular OpenNTF apps, and add some new ones - to OpenNTF. More of my thoughts here...

7. Richard Schwartz08/02/2006 01:34:29 PM

Well, Ken, I think there's really a stack of problems here, and we need to solve just one or two at a time. What I'm thinking about right now is solving the problem of having stuff that makes good demo material, not the problem of giving customers a point-and-click instant collaboration app suite that comes with the product.

I think that the OpenNTF/IBM RedBook approach would deal quite effectively with the demo issue, and it would also give partners something to bring in to new customers to add immediate value, so that's two problems that it could deal with. And face it -- partners aren't going to make a living off low-hanging fruit like we were able to do years ago, so if these templates bring real value that the partners can build on and their customers benefit from, then that's a win-win.

As for the customers who go it alone and don't know where to look, or who work with partners who remain blissfully unaware of what this project produces... that's a different problem, smaller on its own than the whole stack of problems. It's a well-defined problem, and solving it wouldn't have to involve the entire IBM Lotus organization from development all the way to executive management. So let's hope that IBM is resourceful enough to find a way to deal with it. Better that than sitting and waiting for IBM to digest, decide, and (probably not) deal with the whole stack of problems.

8. John Head08/02/2006 02:55:33 PM

Rich - this is a great idea! My only concern is that we have way more people 'excited' about then the typical 5 or 6 that are invited to do a Redbook. I also know that most people seem to be willing to give up evenings instead of 6 to 8 weeks of their work life. I hope IBM is reading this.

9. Richard Schwartz08/02/2006 03:38:12 PM

@9 I think we could deal with the numbers. A project like this should be broken up into a framework and a bunch of applications to get started. There will hopefully be several contributors to each piece, but not everyone would be able to do a residency. I'm thinking that a set of project leaders/major contributors would emerge naturally, that some of them might do a RedBook residency, but they'd be in touch with others from the project who would help with material at the chapter level, editing, etc. The residents would get the cover credit, but I'll bet we could arrange to get a list of "other contributors" put in, perhaps on the abstract page for the chapters covering the parts they contributed to.

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