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Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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Co-author of the book IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide
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01/20/2012

If you're going to go out, go out in style (or at least in a "memorable" way)...

Category #ls12 Lotus Notes Microsoft
... and allowing myself to be talked into doing karaoke with Andy Donaldson, at Kimonos, singing Sonny and Cher's I Got You Babe was definitely "memorable".

It's Friday after Lotusphere 2012, one week since I checked into the Dolphin for what has been an annual tradition in my personal and professional life.  And like all Lotuspheres, it's a time of reflection, emotions, change, and renewal. This one was a bit more difficult and bittersweet, however. Unless I'm totally off the mark in how my professional life unfolds, this was likely my last Lotusphere.

It's hard to type that...

As many of you know, my employer brought in SharePoint a couple years back, and we migrated to Exchange and Outlook.  Five years ago, I would have been devastated, as I was Lotus Yellow, through and through.  But after observing trends and seeing both sides somewhat closer than I expected, I came to the point where the evangelical fervor was gone. Pragmatism took over, probably flavored with a dash of cynicism.  You don't live through the Enron experience without becoming a bit jaded.  As a result, IBM and Microsoft became vendors instead of representations of right and wrong.  Notes and SharePoint became tools to accomplish business functions, not causes on which to stake my career and reputation.  Do I still like Notes? Most definitely. It has capabilities that no other software has, and I can work miracles for users with it.  Is it perfect? No.  Is SharePoint inherently evil? No, it's a tool, just like Notes.  Each offering has good and bad points, strength and weaknesses.  And for every bad Notes or SharePoint experience, you can find a matching success story.

If I had my way, I'd continue to work with Notes until I retire (much closer than I'd like that point to be), and the fun of Notes/Domino would go on forever.  But... change happens.

For various reasons, I've tried hard to maintain a strong presence in the Notes community while working on getting up to speed on SharePoint.  I've written two Sametime books with Marie Scott and Gab Davis over the last two years. I've continued to travel and speak at user group meetings and conferences (on my own dime). I still write on Notes-related topics.  But I've come to the point where I know there's only so many hours in the day, and I'm doing both sides of my professional existence a disservice.  Notes/Domino has moved into XPages, Connections, and various other "social" offerings, but I've not been able to keep up there except for maintaining a general knowledge of the topics.  On the SharePoint side, I've put off a lot of learning because we were migrating from 2007 to 2010 "soon."  I've learned enough to be dangerous on SharePoint 2007 and create sites for users, but I know I'm only scratching the surface.  And when I get back to the office on Monday, it'll be five days until we go live with SharePoint 2010.  Again, that's the area where I'm now focusing my career, and the "I haven't had time to get into topic <insert here>" becomes an excuse, not a reason, for not being further along.

So where does that leave me in terms of the Notes community?

The key word is "community."  I have made more friends and had more unforgettable experiences than I ever thought possible over the last 16 years.  I went from a reclusive Cobol programmer who wanted to move into Notes and be "really good" at this new thing, to someone who can stand up in front of hundreds of people and present... and actually enjoy it.  I went from someone who had barely left the west coast, to someone who actually has stamps in his passport. I've shared beers with friends in England, and drank sake with mates in Ireland... propped up in the corner of the kitchen... at 2 am.  

None of that goes away... ever.

What *does* change is that my technical focus in the community shifts.  I still use Notes, as I'm the only Notes developer in our company, and we all know how long migrations take (the answer being "forever").  I still plan on writing for the Notes Developer Tips newsletter, as I believe I still have things I can share there.  But will I continue to do conferences and try to present whenever and wherever I can? That probably goes away.  Lotusphere is not cheap, as we all know. I'm OK with spending the money to fly down and stay in the Dolphin or Swan. I'm still reclusive enough that I want to have my own room to retreat into.  But I can't justify another $2000 on top of all that for the conference pass. On top of that, I know that realistically I don't possess the latest and greatest in-depth knowledge that allows one to present and offer top value to the attendees.  Yes, there are topics I can speak to, such as Tivoli Directory Integrator. But Marie's really the expert there.  Yes, I seem to have a knack in helping first-time speakers survive that terrifying moment when the music stops and the mic goes live. You have no idea how proud I am of being part of that for the people I've helped.  But do I have the knowledge to stand up there on stage and dive into the intricacies of Eclipse plug-ins or explain how Sametime Proxies and MUXes work in real life? No.  And without that speaking slot to cover the conference cost, Lotusphere becomes an event that I can't justify the cost of when weighed against other things in my life.

I only missed one Lotusphere between 1997 and now, and that was in 2002 after Enron imploded and I was trying to make it as a contractor.  Knowing everyone was down here while I was still at home was not easy.  The week of January 27th, 2013, probably won't be any easier.  I can say now that it's the correct rational decision, but I know that as it gets closer, I'll question it... a lot.  There was an extremely thin shell on my emotions yesterday after the traditional blogger picture up on stage at the end of the closing session.  I looked out at the workers stacking the chairs, knowing that I probably will not see that sight again.  Right now, the shell is cracking as I type this, because Lotusphere has meant *so* much to me... it's shaped and defined who I am, both professionally and personally.  Melodramatic? Possibly... but when I look back at who I was and compare that to who I am now, so very much of that can be traced to an annual week in January at Walt Disney World.  It didn't help much that with each good-bye hug and handshake, I knew that virtual friends who became real for seven days each year would now in many cases be forever virtual.  

This isn't a good-bye, as I'll still be in all the regular places. The Lotus Jobs site will continue, my writing will continue, and I'll still annoy a number of people on Twitter by tweeting way too much.  I'll still be part of the afternoon entertainment when Mitch Cohen and/or Andy and I get sent to an internet timeout by Marie as she tries to get us to behave.  I will also remember what a few people have told me this week... Never Say Never.  

But if this was my last Lotusphere, thank you to everyone who made it a memorable one, and who have influenced and shaped me over the years.  There's no way I can ever fully express my gratitude for allowing me to be part of your lives in this annual family reunion.  This is the family I got to choose, and I think I chose very well.

01/16/2012

Managing your message at a social conference by deleting comments... Really?

Category ls12
So I'm out on PlanetLotus, looking over the blogs for today's OGS and such, when I find this blog entry from Avabiz and ReduceMail: Come talk to ReduceMail Booth 320: IBM’s Showcase Customer Went to Outlook.  

I find that a little odd that a vendor at Lotusphere would be taking that particular angle as a blog entry to promote their product.  But looking at all their blog entries, I see the same pattern.  People are defecting from Notes, so come talk to us about our mail product.  Hmm...

I commented on that post as follows:

I'm not sure I fully understand your approach to marketing your product.  You continually post on how poorly Notes is doing in the marketplace from your perspective, yet you want us to talk with you on buying a product that works on Notes.  If I'm to buy your original premise, then why would I even want to listen to anything you're trying to say?  You're setting up an immediate objection in the mind of the potential customer, and then you're trying to fight that same objection.

Yes, IBM has a number of things to work on.  But I'm not convinced that your style of marketing will do anything to get them any closer to the position you hope they achieve.

You may want to seriously rethink this approach...

Comment out there... back to surfing... re-open that tab... and comment is gone.

Gone?  They're deleting comments to manage a message at a social session?  Like we have no other way to interact with others?

Think again...

01/08/2012

Book Review - 1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire, and Change Your Life by Linda Cohen

Category Book Review Linda Cohen 1 000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal Inspire and Change Your Life
A picture named M2

One of my goals/resolutions for 2012 is to incorporate intentional acts of kindness as a regular part of my daily life. About the same time I committed to that, I ran across this title that became available at our library... 1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire, and Change Your Life by Linda Cohen. What perfect timing... This gave me some ideas and inspiration for things I could do above and beyond the "say something nice to someone" efforts. It also caused me to think outside of the more traditional person-oriented acts of kindness.

Contents:
Food For The Body, Nourishment For The Soul (food); Change The Toilet Paper (paying it forward); Volunteer With A Vengeance (volunteer work); Clear The Clutter (donations); Dollars And Sense (money); Slow Down (driving); My Home Away From Home (synagogue-related mitzvahs); The Reusable Bag Lady (environmental conscience); In The Doghouse (animals); What Goes Around Comes Around (teachable family moments); Expressions Of Gratitude (a hundred ways to say thank you); Blow Out The Candles (birthdays); Do Unto Others (thought, speech, and action); Oh, The Places We'll Go (traveling and vacations); The Final Good-bye (death and grieving); Resources; List of Charities

Ms. Cohen lost her father in 2006, and people were asked to donate to a small group of charities in his name as a mitzvah of tzedakah (donating money in someone's memory to a charity). This mitzvah, or blessing in English, prompted her to start thinking about beginning her own mitzvah project.  That idea turned into her 1000 Mitzvahs project (with a .org website of the same name).  This project, while outwardly focused on others, also helped her deal with the emotions and grief of her father's death.  She found that by giving kindness to others, she also changed her entire perspective on life and the role she could play in the lives of others.

Fortunately, the book doesn't try and list all 1000 mitzvahs that are covered on her blog site.  Instead, she has grouped a number of them into basic categories that give you an idea of the types of things you can do in various parts of your life. Some might not be applicable to your situation (such as synagogue-related mitzvahs), but it doesn't take much effort to apply those same activities and actions to similar groups that do align with your life.  For me, it was interesting to see how acts of kindness could be done in situations that weren't people-oriented. One example was asking for a regular cup when going into Starbucks to have a coffee that would be consumed on-site. Why use paper resources and generate waste if there is no need to? Another example was donating pet supplies to a local animal shelter. Yes, kindness to animals is definitely worthy of pursuit, but it wasn't something that I had connected to my own efforts.

1,000 Mitzvahs is a good book to read regardless of your particular religious (or non-religious) affiliations. You won't relate to every one of the acts she describes, as some won't be applicable to your current life situations. But there are more than enough other mitzvahs you can learn from and incorporate into your own life. It might even motivate you to start your own personal "daily acts of kindness" project. It's a given that you'll make the world a little better, and you'll also change yourself in the process.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

01/08/2012

Book Review - Stories From Jewish Portland by Polina Olsen

Category Book Review Polina Olsen Stories From Jewish Portland
A picture named M2

Portland has a colorful past, with varied influences from multiple ethnic groups and cultures shaping the city over the years. One group I hadn't seen covered much from that angle is the Jewish community. How did they make it to Portland? What role did they play in the city? What struggles and triumphs did they have? Polina Olsen helps to answer some of those questions in her book Stories From Jewish Portland. Olsen writes a column called "Looking Back" for the Jewish Review, and here she has a chance to take that material and expand on it in book format.  

Contents:
Part 1 - An Immigration Story: Early Jews Home on the Range; Coming to America; Archives of the Industrial Removal Office Reveal Forgotten History; A 1940s Social Worker's World; Soviet Jews Move to Portland
Part 2 - The Neighborhood Gang: Grandpa Was a Wastepaper Picker; Esther Chernichowsky - A Memoir; Harold Saltzman - A Memior; Nina Weinstein - A Memoir; A Settlement House Worker Shines; Local Stories from a Foreign War; Girlfriends Meet Up for Sorority Reunion; Old South Portlanders Kibbitz After All These Years
Part 3 - Our Institutions: A Short History of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland; A Short History of Portland Synagogues; The 1930s - May You Live in Interesting Times; The Jewish Review's Early Years; Celebrating Twenty-five Years with Chabad; White Aryan Resistance Case Galvanized the Community; NCJW Archives Chapter History; Seniors Clap Hands to Yoga; Mah Jongg - The Tiles that Bind
Appendix 1 - Map of Old South Portland; Appendix II - Portland Population Statistics; Appendix III - Glossary; Bibliography; Index; About the Author

Stories From Jewish Portland is not a large book (157 pages), and it's by no means exhaustive when it comes to Portland's Jewish influence.  A number of topics are covered, many of which could probably be expanded into a book on its own.  But Stories provides a good overview of how Jewish immigrants made it to Portland, where they settled in the city, what types of businesses they ran, and how their culture added to Portland's colorful cultural tapestry.  If you have any sense or understanding of Portland's history, this fills in some areas that, quite honestly, I had completely overlooked.  Stories also touches on the multiple views within the Jewish community itself when it comes to various issues.  An example would be the 1985 effort by Chabad of Oregon to place a giant menorah in Pioneer Square, a public area in the middle of Portland often referred to as Portland's Living Room.  Some thought this was an excellent idea, as a yearly Christmas tree is also placed there every year. But others thought this was a violation of the separation of church and state, and strongly opposed it.  It was surprising to see that the opposition came from groups such as the American Jewish Committee, the Oregon Board of Rabbis, and the Anti-Defamation league of B'nai B'rith.  As with society as a whole, the "simple" actions can evoke a range of opinions and responses, and not always the ones you thought you'd get.

Stories From Jewish Portland would probably appeal most to those with an appreciation of Portland's history, as well as those in Portland who are part of the Jewish community.  At a number of points, I wished that Olsen had gone into more depth on various topics, such as the community reaction on World War II and Germany's role in the Holocaust.  It's touched on in the book, but it could have been a book unto itself.  Still, Stories is a good resource to get one's feet wet when it comes to understanding the Jewish influence in Portland.  From there, you can launch into your own investigations.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

01/01/2012

Book Review - Micro: A Novel by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

Category Book Review Michael Crichton Richard Preson Micro: A Novel
A picture named M2

It's been a while since I've picked up a novel by Michael Crichton. When our library put Micro by Crichton and Richard Preston into circulation, I grabbed a copy in order to try and catch up a bit. I was a bit surprised when I read the intro and found that Crichton had died and Preston took over to finish the novel. I think I probably heard or knew about his death at one point, but I certainly hadn't remembered.  So how does this Crichton/Preston novel fare? I'll be honest... to try and compare this to prior Crichton novels would be nearly impossible for me due to the large gap in time between when I last read one of his works and now. I have to go on the merits of Micro on its own. In that light, this was an OK read that would have been nice to have as a vacation book. It's not unforgettable, but it's not horrible, either.

A group of engineering students from Cambridge are approached about coming to work for Nanigen, a hot start-up in Hawaii working in the microbiology field.  One of the students, Peter Jansen, is the brother of one of the principles, and that's enough to get the students to fly out (courtesy of the company) to see first-hand what Nanigen is doing.  But when Jansen's brother dies in a boating accident prior to the trip, Peter starts digging into the incident, as something seems off. Vin Drake, the CEO of Nanigen, is less than happy about Peter's probing, and decides that he can put a stop to it by giving the students a real-life demonstration of their technology.  The students are shrunk down to one-half inch, and Drake figures that he can eliminate them while staging a fake accident that would explain their disappearance with no trace.  The situation gets more complicated when the students are able to escape, and Drake mobilizes all his resources to clean up the situation. Finding people that small is not always an easy matter, however...

Having a group of miniaturized people in the lush tropical environment of Hawaii lets the story unfold in some creative ways. Insects become deadly predators, and man goes from the top of the food chain to the sub-basement.  The authors do a good job in describing the environment from those perspectives, and I thought that worked very well. Of course, you have to be willing to work with the premise that this is all possible, and that these experiments having been going on for some time with no one catching on. There wasn't a lot of backstory to the characters, the result being a small bit of flatness in terms of motivations. I will admit that I was surprised on a few points as the story played out, as it took some detours in terms of what happens to whom along the way. It kept me turning pages to see what would happen next, though. :)

Micro won't win any literary awards or cause someone to spend hours thinking of the implications of microbiology. It's more along the lines of an action/adventure movie that would entertain you for a couple of hours while you munched on popcorn. Taken in that light, it's not bad. You definitely won't look at insects the same way again, though.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

01/01/2012

Book Review - The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Story by Matt Bondurant

Category Book Review Matt Bondurant The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Story
A picture named M2

The stereotype of the hillbilly making moonshine is one that runs deep in American culture. But with all stereotypes, you need to separate fiction from fact to truly understand reality.  Matt Bondurant uses the history of his own family to tell the story of moonshining during the 20's and 30's in his book The Wettest County in the World: A Novel Based on a True Story. Bondurant does an excellent job painting a picture of the hardscrabble lives of people in Virginia's Franklin county. I didn't think the book worked very well as a story, as it seemed disjointed as it bounced back and forth between events five years apart. Still, the writing pulls you into the mindset that made Franklin county the center of moonshine production and distribution during the days of Prohibition and the Great Depression.

The story primarily follows the activities of Forrest, Howard, and Jack Bondurant as they grew up in Franklin county.  Nearly everyone had some involvement when it came to running stills and selling moonshine into a market that had no limits on demand for the product.  As one might expect, a mix of alcohol, money, and guns meant that reputation and retribution was essential to survival.  The name Bondurant was one that was feared, as they'd do whatever was necessary to even a score.  Forrest survived a sliced throat in a parking lot ambush, and Howard was a beast of a man who drank to excess and fought just as hard.  Even Jack, the youngest of the three, was able to overcome his fear and pull a trigger when the money was on the line.

Even though it was illegal, the local sheriffs turned a blind eye towards moonshining as it was the best way to keep the peace and bring money into the area.  This changed when a few authorities decided to take advantage of increased federal enforcement. The plan was to extract a "fee" for each still and for each liquor distribution run. For that, the local law would distract the feds and send them to stills that weren't paying the fee.  As the Bondurants felt that things were fine as is, they refused to go along.  This put them at odds with the law and with others in the county, especially with a few deputies who had egos and attitudes that didn't belong behind a gun.  It was only a matter of time before a confrontation would happen that would alter the lives of everyone involved.

The writing in terms of mood, setting, and personalities is pitch-perfect.  It was a hard time and a hard life, and Bondurant exposes that on nearly every page. It's really hard not to be depressed as you're reading, as everyone is incredibly stoic and it's a given that a person will work hard for little reward, day after day after day.  On the flip side, the actual story line was hard to follow.  It took a while to get to the point where I knew where things were headed, and the time switches between the current and final events disrupted the flow for me.  Had I not been so immersed in the characters and setting, I'm not sure I would have liked the book much at all.

The Wettest County in the World is one of those books where I end up averaging things out to come up with a rating. To me, the story was at best a 3. On the other hand, the writing was stellar.  Your view of the book will likely depend on which element you find more important.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Amazon
Payment: Purchased

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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