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