Ben Langhinrichs

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January, 2018
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Genii Weblog


Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Fri 12 Jan 2018, 09:39 AM
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I was very pleased to receive notification today that I have been named an IBM Champion for 2018. Thank you, IBM, and thank you to those who nominated me and supported my nomination.
 
While I have had mixed emotions about the concept (see my 2013 post, I am not an IBM champion), my thinking has evolved over time. I am still, first and foremost, a champion for my customers, and I will not hesitate to call IBM out if I think they are in error. On the other hand, the reality is that my products and customer base are very IBM-centric, and working more closely with and advocating for IBM ICS products will serve those customers better than standing outside the fray.
 
With the announcement of Notes/Domino 10, we have an opportunity to take the really terrific parts of the Notes/Domino and make them more relevant and appealing to the world in 2018 and beyond. Being an IBM Champion will help me articulate that vision better to my customers and others.
 
A company of the size of IBM has to contend with a lot of competing voices and visions. While I'll never reach the influence of even a small corporation, being an IBM Champion may enable me to influence IBM's ICS directions in some small ways.
 
Being an IBM Champion doesn't have to mean drinking the Kool Aid. For me, it may mean nudging both large, cumbersome IBM and cynical, disillusioned partners to work together to see if we can snatch some small victories from the gaping jaws of decline. If that is not the optimistic view IBM would like to see from its champions, so be it. If that is not the negative view some partners would like to see from me, so be it as well.

Copyright © 2018 Genii Software Ltd.

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Tue 2 Jan 2018, 01:03 PM
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I am no expert, so these are my impressions from a slew of outside conversations and insights (right or wrong) gleaned at conferences and on Twitter and Medium. But with those caveats, I think this is going to be a very important year for IBM, as they start to regain profitability and reach the decisive stages of various technologies they have bet on or invested in. These are on no particular order.
 
Cognitive computing - After a few years of shaking out the generalities and calming down the hype, it is high time that the Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning effort either bears fruit or fades in importance, at least as far as Watson is concerned. IBM has some tremendous technology, but has wandered about somewhat in terms of vision. Sometimes it has aimed too high, sometimes too low, and sometimes it has shot itself in the foot by not properly looking at the last foot (between the user and the keyboard and screen). With the experience they've gained, they either find a way to do this better or they likely lose out to competitors whose technology may bot be as grand, but whose vision and usability are greater.
 
Blockchain - While not in exactly the same place, Blockchain is an area where IBM similarly needs to find a way to fish or cut bait. In this case, I think it is less of a vision issue and more of a nuts-and-bolts issue. I think IBM is fairly well placed to make a strong play in blockchain-related business, if there is really such a thing. IBM deals with the kinds of companies with the size and scope to possibly benefit from Enterprise blockchain technology, but there need to be a compelling business case, and probably some real investment in scalability. Blockchain can be extremely slow and intensive, but IBM has the talent to find solutions to those bottlenecks. (I imagine they are already working hard on this.) While I think everybody knows there is a blockchain bubble, there is a case to be made for real opportunities on the other side of the bubble bursting, and IBM may be positioned well to sweep up the opportunities once the smaller players collapse along with the bubble.
 
Data analytics - This is a more mature technology, and IBM seems to be doing fairly well at it. The opportunities for growth and profitabilty are in more synergy with cognitive computing and cloud computing, as well as with IBM's slew of other services and technologies. While I think IBM is pushing in the right directions, I think they could do more to integrate data analytics across the various technologies.
 
Cloud computing - This has become the key to IBM's recent rise, as I understand it. It is the area about which I know least, even as it seems to be the area where IBM has had the most success, but I think the key opportunity for IBM is to leverage its different technologies even better. If IBM wants to be more than a commodity competitor with cloud computing, it needs to recreate the success it had in a past generation of fulfilling more of the enterprise needs on the back of cloud computing. I think they know this and are working hard on it, but a lot rides on their successful execution.
 
Note: In relation to these areas, Genii Software currently has some valuable add-on technologies with regards to cognitive computing and data analytics, mostly in the area of smart data extraction and cleanup with the Midas LSX and AppsFidelity. We will be continuing with these directions, but keeping an eye out for how we can provide products as adjuncts to cloud computing and blockchain as we see needs arise. We are always open to suggestions or requests for features and products to assist companies in using the IBM products, as well as those of other enterprise-facing technology.

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Fri 22 Dec 2017, 10:07 AM
There was a Domino 2025 Jam a few hours from here, but I didn't make it, already sucked into the flu I am still battling. (My wife works in a preschool, so avoiding illness is nigh on impossible.) I think there was a virtual Jam, but I didn't join in. It isn't because I don't care. I do. It isn't because I am jaded and snarky and disbelieving either. I think IBM is genuinely trying to solve this peculiar problem of a product that won't die and that still provides so much value even in an age that seems to have moved past it.
 
I didn't go because IBM does not need my vision. 
 
I am a backend person in a frontend world, and while there absolutely need to be backend people making all that frontend stuff possible, Domino 2025 is not going to be about the backend or it will probably fail. I've met with IBM, given my thoughts on API support and extension hooks and stuff like that. They'll either listen or not, but I don't want to take up one second of airspace from the people who can talk about all the fancy new stuff. My stuff will continue to be important, but IBM mostly has to not screw it up, and not hide it too carefully. Maybe they will, and maybe not.
 
[Note: my "backend" and "frontend" terms may be deceptive. I live on a command line and in a text editor. Somebody doing graphical or low code development is "frontend" to me. Not meaning to disrespect or categorize or anything, just differentiate. My products impact the frontend, especially AppsFidelity, but have no user interface of their own.]
 
Given the current efforts and energy, I would now give Notes/Domino a 30% chance of becoming at least somewhat relevant again. That is a huge advance over the 1% chance I would have given it a year ago, I am already seeing customers putting new money into Notes/Domino projects they've let stagnate for years, or consider (gasp) new projects. So, I am a believer, albeit a practical pragmatist as well. I will continue providing migration tools and services, but am also working with more customers on projects meant to stay in Domino (and sometimes Notes).
 
I am a believer, but I won't Jam about it. I hope all of you better suited to the task will take my place.
 
 
 
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Tue 19 Dec 2017, 12:21 PM
 
ISO 9000 through cracks in glass
 
If you wonder what the joke in that is, you have not tried rendering documents created over the past twenty years by various companies. While it may be easy to dismiss such design elements as legacy artifacts, your company or your client's company may have them in active use or in archives that must be preserved. Whether due to ISO 9000 or other statutory or regulatory requirements, both data and appearance must be preserved. Even if you wanted to replace the design of every database (trust me, you don't) to replicate the look and feel, you'd have to deal with stored forms and rendered documents which have those layout regions, layers and embedded controls inside the rich text fields. This includes emails as well as application documents, etc.
 
IBM has done an amazing job in the Notes client, supporting every ancient design spasm that came along, but even if you love the Notes client, you may not want to remain locked to it forever. A big part of our effort at Genii Software in the past couple of years has been in rendering the unrenderable. Whether you want those ISO 9000 documents displayed through a web front end or stored in a standards-based vault, you need to be able to get an accurate rendering without changing the stored document at all. That is where Midas and AppsFidelity and CoexLinks come in, all of them sharing crucial pieces of a rendering engine built to handle just about anything. Give us a call at +1 216‒991‒5220 or send us an email at sales@geniisoft.com, and ask how we can help with your thorniest issues, whether you are moving to the cloud, migrating, or just mobile-enabling an app. No risk asking, and you might find a solution which make you a hero, rather than a punch line.

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Wed 8 Nov 2017, 09:54 PM
With all the talk, whether optimistic, pessimistic or snarky, about Notes/Domino 10, one thing I haven't heard much is what people wish would be in there. Yes, it will be a new version. Yes, it will be a strong affirmation to those companies still using Notes/Domino that product support will be around for the foreseeable future.
 
But what do you actually want the version to look like? Do you care about a Notes client, or are you only focused on Domino? Do you want as little change as necessary, or as much as possible?
 
Personally, I like the Notes client and think it offers a lot of value, though I wish I could dump Eclipse and still get Domino Designer. I also like the Domino server, though I find XPages tedious. I'd like to see enhancements to use Domino as a web platform aside from XPages. Not necessarily classic Domino web design, but ways to blend backend Domino with front end frameworks.
 
My wishes tend to be related to extensibility, partly because I like to sell extensions,. and partly because building an ecosystem is the key to building a stronger product. Neither IBM nor HCL will be able to meet everybody's needs, so we need entry points and events and components where we can plug in value. I want those for Domino, for Notes, for XPages, for everything. I wish for some JSON support inside the product. Also, my pet peeve is that I'd really like proper support for PNGs in Notes. Rich text supports them. Why the hell can't you import them manually? Grr. (Yes, you can import them with Midas, but really?)
 
Anyway, what are your wishes?
 
 

Copyright © 2017 Genii Software Ltd.

Tue 7 Nov 2017, 06:04 PM
We released CoexLinks Migrate 4.10 today officially (some customers had it already). Along with performance enhancements and some fidelity enhancements, we've added the ability to export Calendar & Scheduling items to ICS format. I put out a video showing some of this, but I'll just repeat the two images I posted before for comparison.
 
Whether you actively use Notes/Domino email now and want to migrate to Microsoft Exchange or G-Suite or whatever, or simply have legacy email databases which you need moved to a more standard format, CoexLinks Migrate can handle the job.
 
If you would like to try CoexLinks Migrate 4.10 out for yourself, just request an evaluation license. If for any reason it does not meet or exceed your expectations, please let us know and we will whip ourselves with wet noodles most vigorously before fixing whatever the problem is. (We can't refund your money, because it is a free evaluation.)
 
 
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Copyright © 2017 Genii Software Ltd.