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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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At what personal point does the cost of healthcare outweigh the cost of life?

Category Everything else
A warning up front... this is a rather depressing blog post on what many will find a disturbing topic. If you don't want to think about death vs. the cost of healthcare for whatever reason, don't read any further. I know a number of people for which this would be very painful to think about... so just stop here if there's any reason you don't want to go down that path.

Time magazine ran a story last week that I haven't been able to ignore and forget...

Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

It certainly isn't a quick read (it's *really* long by internet standards), but it's something that every American who cares even one iota about the cost of heathcare should take the time to read and understand.

The focus is on how medical charges are determined and billed, and it's grotesque (in my opinion). It highlights the use of what's called a "chargemaster", or each hospital's list of what it charges for everything. From page 2 of the article...

Stamford Hospital’s chargemaster assigns prices to everything, including Janice S.’s blood tests. It would seem to be an important document. However, I quickly found that although every hospital has a chargemaster, officials treat it as if it were an eccentric uncle living in the attic. Whenever I asked, they deflected all conversation away from it. They even argued that it is irrelevant. I soon found that they have good reason to hope that outsiders pay no attention to the chargemaster or the process that produces it. For there seems to be no process, no rationale, behind the core document that is the basis for hundreds of billions of dollars in health care bills.

I could probably riff on this for hours, on how the argument about the cost of healthcare has been deflected to focus on *who* pays for things, and not *why* nearly all aspects of the health care system are (in many cases) obscenely profitable for those who provide the services and equipment. Full disclosure... I do work for a healthcare insurance company, and that industry is not blameless in this mess either. But if hospitals are able to have markups of 200%, 300%, and more on common items like generic tablets of Tylenol (not to mention cancer drugs that run into the tens of thousands of dollars for a course of treatment or even a single dose), who ends up paying? Even for "non-profit" hospitals, the amount of profit that's made each year (which is then spent on things not always associated with cutting costs) is staggering. Our capitalistic system (basically, Wall Street) expects and rewards businesses that produce major profits and rapid earnings growth. Obviously, reining in costs and making things affordable goes contrary to that, and profit will rule all.

BUT... I'm getting completely off-topic for what I wanted to say here...

Page 6 of the article, under item 3: Catastrophic Illness - And The Bills To Match:

When medical care becomes a matter of life and death, the money demanded by the health care ecosystem reaches a wholly different order of magnitude, churning out reams of bills to people who can’t focus on them, let alone pay them. Soon after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2011, a patient whom I will call Steven D. and his wife Alice knew that they were only buying time. The crushing question was, How much is time really worth? As Alice, who makes about $40,000 a year running a child-care center in her home, explained, “[Steven] kept saying he wanted every last minute he could get, no matter what. But I had to be thinking about the cost and how all this debt would leave me and my daughter.” By the time Steven D. died at his home in Northern California the following November, he had lived for an additional 11 months. And Alice had collected bills totaling $902,452.

The question I'm left with is this... at what point is the cost of prolonging one's life too expensive? Is having to pay (or burden your survivors with) one million dollars in medical bills for an additional year of life an acceptable decision?

The general nature of people is to want to live as long as possible. With today's health care options, things that were certain death sentences a decade or two ago are now treatable conditions with a reasonable chance of survival. If there's a chance of a cure, many people will take it. The thought of who will pay for it (successful or otherwise) is secondary to the discussion. But in the example above, I personally believe the discussion of who has to deal with the bills is primary. They apparently knew that a cure was not possible, and that it was only a matter of time before he would die of the cancer. But to him, it was survival at all costs, and who cares about the financial carnage after you die?

I know it sounds crass, and some people would probably call it an immoral choice to have to make. But in my view (and again, this is *my* personal view, not one to be imposed on others as a rule), the cost of survival has to be weighed against the cost of living with the crushing debt that will be left behind. Someone will have to pay that, and it's likely to be the person or persons most ill-equipped to do so... your loved ones who have to continue living after you're gone.

I've actually thought about this even before I read this article... if I were diagnosed with a disease (let's call it cancer) that had a relatively low chance of survival, would I choose treatment or would I choose to let it run its natural course? My mom was diagnosed with cancer after ignoring some symptoms for a number of months. By the time the results came back, the chance of survival was very small. She chose to not fight it, and to let it play out... knowing that it was a matter of weeks at that point. It turned out to be six weeks. Realistically, she could have maybe prolonged life a few more months... but at what cost, both physically and financially? Everyone will die at some point... is another two months before saying good-bye worth the cost? For her, it wasn't. And if that decision were to ever face me, I think I'd probably go the same route.

I know that each situation is different... do you have young children? Do you have excellent insurance (but even then there will still be costs)? Are your kids grown and independent? It's always going to be painful to die and leave others behind, but do you add to that pain by leaving bills that will affect the lives of those left for years?

This isn't an easy question, and it is so wrong that we as a society are faced with these types of issues given the current state of healthcare in America. But I don't see the situation improving, and I think more and more people are going to be faced with the painful choice, which is...

How much is my life worth to those who will have to pay the bill when I'm gone?


Book Review - Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager by Ed Brill

Category Book Review Ed Brill Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager
Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager

Having worked with Notes and Domino software since the mid-90's, I've known Ed Brill (or at least known of him) for at least 15 years. Over that time, I've seen and been part of the move from business conducted at an analog pace to things happening at the speed of digital. Ed asked me if I would be willing to read and review his first book Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager. It's a bit of a quandary, however... If I review the work of a friend or colleague and I don't like it, do I go ahead and review it regardless (knowing that may make for some awkward moments)? Or, if I like it and say so, does it mark me as a shill because I know the author? Fortunately in this case, I don't have to worry about the first scenario, and I really don't care what people think concerning the second. Opting In is a well-written book on how a successful product manager needs to be "out there" in order to be successful in today's world, as well as showing ways to make that happen.

Why Social Business?; The Social Product Manager; Self, Product, or Company; Offense or Defense; Picking a Fight; Activate Your Advocates; Tools of the Trade; In Real Life; Social Inside the Organization; Risk Management in Social Business; Putting Opting In into Practice; Appendix A - IBM Social Computing Guidelines; Index

Each chapter relies heavily on Ed's experience and experiences over his time managing the Notes/Domino product portfolio. Conversational in tone, the material is dosed with real-life examples of situations that occurred (many public, some less so). He offers up his thoughts and reasons behind why things were done as they were, as well as analysis as to why some things didn't turn out quite so well. This personal (or I could say "social", since that's the idea that's being pushed) angle makes the Lessons Learned section at the end of each chapter feel much more practical and authentic than if everything was presented as a step-by-step methodology to crown oneself a "social product manager".

For me personally, there was another angle that made Opting In a interesting read. A number of the examples were things that played out *very* publicly, and that I was either involved with or had a front row seat for. Hearing Ed's take on the situations was insightful, as many of the incidents were personal, whether they were meant to be or not. I may not necessarily agree on the interpretation or outcome, but rarely does everyone see the same set of actions in the same light. I also reflected a number of times on just how much we've accomplished and how far we've come in the last 10 to 15 years. Some major events (such as the "Attack Of The Bloggers" news story by a journalist I won't mention as he's not worth that much respect) were, to us and at the time, high priority and all-consuming. Granted, a number of people and companies never learn, but it seems like those types of incidents are less prevalent now. Even when they do occur, it's much easier (and faster) to call the guilty parties on it.

In my opinion, if you're a product manager who isn't being "social", you need to start becoming so, and Opting In is a good way to understand what's involved. Or, if you're a Notes/Domino geek who wants to put the last 15 years in some type of perspective, Opting In will add some insight into some events that will bring back memories (some fond, some not so much). Either way, it's a good read.

Obtained From: Author
Payment: Free


Book Review - 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now by Robert D. Smith

Category Book Review Robert D. Smith 20 000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now
20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now

"I know I will die, but I do not know how long I will live."

That statement sets the foundation for Robert D. Smith's 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now. It's a statement we all know is true, but it rarely drives what we do each day or with our lives in general. This is a good read if you want to change up the way you view your life, and as I get older this makes even more sense.

Section 1 - The 20,000-Day Mind-set: 20,000 Days and Counting; 5/5/55; The Little-Known Story of William Borden; Living Each Day As If It Were Your Last; If We Can Learn How to Die, We'll Know How to Live; The State of Intensity; Eat Dessert First
Section 2 - Beating the Clock: Motivation Is a Myth; You Only Have Two Choices; The Real Challenge; Focusing Your Morning Vision; Doing What You Know; How To Conquer Rejection Forever; Ripples
Section 3 - Today Is Day One: Three Steps to Catapult Your Life; Seven Questions to Seize the Essence of Today; Ten Things You Can Do Now; One Final Notes - My Desire for YOU
One Final Life Quote; Notes; Acknowledgments

This book was driven by Smith's realization that midway through his 54th year, he had lived 20,000 days. But he was left with the question... how many more days did he have left, and what would be the legacy he'd leave behind once those days were over? Looking at his life from the perspective of seeing the end and then looking back to what got him there, he came to understand that each day could be his last, and there was no way to know when that would happen. As such, he wanted to live each day as if it was going to be the last one, maximizing both the impact of the specific day and his work towards whatever legacy he wanted to leave. It may sound morbid to think of each day as being the one that could bring your death, but it's the painful truth. It's also liberating in that you accept the outcome, and you start to do whatever you can to make "your last day" all that it can be.

This is a short book (he wrote it so that it shouldn't take more than an hour), and it's worth the minor investment in time to read. While there's a fair use of Bible verses as well as some of the concepts related to spirituality coming from a Christian perspective, it isn't (in my opinion) such that it would invalidate or drown out the principles for someone who doesn't follow the same faith or beliefs. Not all the ideas resonated well or felt important to me, but enough of them did to make his approach to life one that should be considered and applied.

20,000 Days and Counting reminds me of a much more readable and emotional version of Stephen Covey's 2nd habit in his The Seven Habits of Highly Effect People book... "Begin with the End in Mind". Whether you're 22 or 52, the "end" will happen. It's simply a matter of when, and you usually don't get to know that. Reading 20,000 Days and Counting is a way to start making your remaining days (whether they be 2 or 22,000) count for more than they might currently be valued at this point in your life.

Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed


Book Review - Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion by James Marcus Bach

Category Book Review James Marcus Bach Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion
Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success

I'm frequently told I need to read particular books as they are great, excellent, or whatever. Because I have a horrible backlog of reading material, sometimes I finally get around to getting the particular title. If I go that far, usually I'm predisposed to like the book. On a few rare occasions, it goes beyond like... more into the realm of "I'm not going to be the same after this".

Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion by James Marcus Bach is one of those rare books. It took me a year before I got around to getting a copy via inter-library loan. It took me all of two days before I ordered my own copy from Amazon so that I'd forever have it in my possession. I'm even going to use my embosser to make sure I don't lose this copy, and that it gets back to me if anyone borrows it. There are so many things that are right about this view into learning by someone who didn't fit the normal cookie-cutter approach to education that we all experience in our typical scholastic career.

Dangerous Ideas - Schoolteachers don't like me very much; I Am a Buccaneer-Scholar - What's that and so what?; The First Buccaneers - A free people, skilled in many arts; What I Do and How I Do It - Eleven elements of self-education; Mental Mutiny - I tried to think - but nothing happened; The Silence of the Clams - The value of low-pressure learning; Happy Learning, James! - Discovering my passion, overcoming my fear; Emancipated Minor - I quit school and lived; Guaranteed Not Stupid - How do I know I'm any good?; No Prey, No Pay - Buccaneering at work; Treasure Map - The power of a personal syllabus; Dr. Bach - Buccaneering in the long run; Epilogue; At The Helm; Acknowledgments

Bach details his story of how he dropped out of school at 16, unable to make sense of what, how, and why his teachers were asking him to learn things. But instead of ending up at a minimum wage job as a "failure", he figured out how to educate himself. This led to a job at Apple leading a large team of software testers... at the age of 20. He's now recognized industry-wide as an expert on software testing (and a number of other things), all done with the backing and accreditation of nothing more than an eighth grade graduation certificate. :)

The term buccaneer-scholar denotes an attitude to learning that comes from not being restricted or funnelled into a standardized "one size fits all" approach to education. It's the ability to wander, explore, and learn about the things that appeal to you, and to find where one fits into the world based on your own needs and interests. It's not a condemnation of formal education or schooling. Instead, it's a recognition that not everyone learns in the same way, and the *ability* to learn on your own is more important than sitting in a classroom and being taught. As he relates in the opening pages, many teachers and educators find his message disturbing, incorrect, and dangerous. On the other hand, he's proof that learning to learn is just as important (and actually even more so) than just learning something.

The number of things that resonated with me in this book would turn this into a huge review. Suffice it to say, there weren't many chapters where I came away with nothing. In general, my biggest take-away was the realization and recognition of a number of factors that are holding me back from advancing to the level I want to attain in my current career path. Even better, I came away with the tools, inspiration, and motivation I need to break my current patterns and get on track with where I need to go. I think I knew a number of his principles (and my hurdles) before I read the book, but this made them solid and obvious... something I could act on instead of feeling burdened over.

Every year I try to look back and figure out what book(s) meant the most to me or affected me on a deep level. There's no question that Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar will be at the top of the list for 2013, and it may well be the most important book (on a personal level) I've read in the last five to ten years. This isn't just information that will improve some aspect or segment of your life. It's information that will fundamentally change your life, period.

Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed


Book Review - Sign Painters by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon

Category Book Review Faythe Levine Sam Macon Sign Painters
Sign Painters

Sign Painters by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon is an interesting and nostalgic look back to the times when advertising often meant you hired someone with pens, inks, and brushes to label your business. So much of that has been lost to computer generated vinyl lettering and less permanent means of creating signage. But there are those around who still generate those hand-painted masterpieces that cause almost everyone to take a second glance when they walk by.

The book is structured around short bios and commentaries by those who earn their trade in the sign painting business. Usually around five to six pages for the 24 different people and groups, you learn a bit about how they got into the business, the apprenticeships they followed to prepare for life on their own, and the struggles they face in a world that favors immediately and the temporal over craftsmanship and enduring art. The work they produce is stunning, and I'm sure if you were into the topic as more than just a casual reader, you'd be able to look at signage and know which artist created it. When you look at these bright provocative sign boards with the paint barely dry, it's easy to transport yourself 80 years into the future, looking at the same piece and wondering everything that it's seen and experienced in that time.

On the whole, Sign Painters is a short and enjoyable read. I would have preferred it be about twice the size so as to go into the stories behind the artists a bit more, as well as perhaps going into the stories of particular signs that had untold histories behind them. Still, this is a book that's worth reading if you've ever been intrigued by a sign in a building that looked "different" than anything else you've seen. It probably is...

Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed


So if you're a "Notes person", what would you want to know about SharePoint?

Category IBM Notes Domino SharePoint
It seems like every Notes/Domino/Lotus/IBM person has an opinion about Microsoft SharePoint. Unfortunately, most of the opinions that I run across are based on the ingrained (and incorrect) notion that Microsoft is evil, IBM Notes/Domino is on the side of the angels, and SharePoint sucks.

The reality of the situation is that SharePoint is alive and well in businesses worldwide, you don't build a billion+ dollar business based on smoke and mirrors, and at some point you're probably going to come face-to-face with having to either interface with SharePoint at a customer (or your organization), or actually migrate off your beloved Notes/Domino platform to something else (usually (and again incorrectly) assumed to be SharePoint).

Welcome to my world since 2009. I work at a company who started using Notes in 1995 and built a substantial portfolio of critical and valuable business applications on that platform. Like many other organizations, the decision was made to move away from Notes/Domino for mail and applications, and move to "something else". In the case of mail, it was Exchange and Outlook. In terms of applications, there's a variety of options.

I used to deride migration companies when they said that 65% of Notes applications in an organization are not used. I "knew better" in my company, and we were nowhere near that... until we ran an analysis and found that 65% unused/abandoned Notes databases wasn't that far off the mark. In terms of migrating, the key phrase is "off of Notes". Most people assume (and migration companies reinforce) that migration means "to SharePoint."  In reality, it means just what it says... "off Notes". If it's an old application that hasn't been used, that may mean you obsolete or archive the application (I have recommendations on that process if you're interested).  If you run Remedy, that might be a valid option for some of your retiring Notes apps. Same with Salesforce.com or a myriad of other platforms. Bottom line, the business wants to just shut off Notes. If SharePoint takes over that role, great. Salesforce.com? Rock on... Remedy? Start coding... It doesn't matter... Business just wants to shut off servers, quit spending maintenance dollars, reduce risk, and lower the overall IT cost of ownership.

Having said all that, I want to start a thread here to find out what types of questions my Notes/Domino colleagues have about SharePoint that they hesitate to ask about in "mixed company". No, I'm far from a SharePoint guru, but I have no problems telling you my opinions, thoughts, or "I don't know" based on the last four years of straddling the fence. I've told myself over the last two years that I want to start a series of "SharePoint for the Notes/Domino Professional" blog posts, but I always have something else to do that keeps me from starting it. But I had another person ask on Twitter today what I would recommend for learning resources for picking up SharePoint skills.

Fine... I get the hint, universe... step into this niche that's being dangled before you. Do what you've always done... share what you know, and make yourself available.

So, the comments are open. What are your questions about learning/dealing with SharePoint in your Notes/Domino world? Feel free to fake names and addresses. I don't need to know who you are and where you are coming from. I just want to spend my time answering questions that are being asked, not ones that I imagine people might have.

THE MAIN GROUND RULE (and it's my blog, my rules, and I will be painfully ruthless and unapologetic about this...)

This will *not* (I repeat... *not*) become a thread for defending why Notes is better than SharePoint or SharePoint is better than Notes. They both have pros and cons. If you step outside whatever evangelical or cloistered world you're in, you're in for a rude shock... Neither side is evil or righteous. In the end, it's technology and business. You may like and prefer one over the other. That's fine. But in this thread, that argument will not be allowed. This is to deal with real-world questions about real-world issues that affect real-world paychecks of people you've known and worked with for years. I will delete without hesitation. warning, or apology anything that even hints of "x is better than y" in this thread. This is strictly "what would I like to know if I could ask any question of a SharePoint person who knows Notes, and who won't judge or out me to my colleagues who think I completely and totally bleed yellow". I may have to summarize a number of questions under "I don't know". But the best way to learn something (as in me) is to figure out how to teach it to someone else (that's you).

And in parting... if you think I'm being overly dramatic about people not wanting to let others know they're looking at SharePoint, think again. Because of who I am and the openness I've displayed during my 17+ years in this community, people are very open about reaching out to me in private to ask questions that they wouldn't dream of asking anyone else (and not just tech. :) ).  I've held confidences, given honest answers, and helped people decide directions both on a personal and professional level. I don't take that responsibility and privilege lightly, and I understand the personal angst that it can cause. Been there, done that. But once you remove the peer pressure and look at things from a non-"evangelical" perspective, there are some interesting conclusions you come to. Yes, the IBM/Lotus community is *very* special. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have been so shredded and ripped up inside over the last two weeks of IBM Connect-o-sphere 2013. Most of you will never know the personal hell I've felt over what I felt was a "goodbye" (in terms of real-life face-to-face contact) to many who  have been my family and shaped who I am (at the absolute core of my being) during that time... my last blog entry, while open, honest, and painfully and brutally blunt,  still doesn't communicate everything behind it. But with distance comes perspective, and once you see the "rock star"/insider group of people in other communities (like SharePoint), you realize that the same sense of community and passion is not completely unique to IBM/Lotus. Yes, you have to work to get back to that same level of comfort that you enjoy now (but that took you xx years to get to and you've forgotten the pain and awkwardness that it took to get here). Welcome to what newcomers in the Notes community feel when they look at you/us. Don't minimize what the IBM community is... it's incredibly special. But don't be blinded to the fact that you can have that same sense of community regardless of the vendor name attached to what you're doing. Bottom line... it's the people. You know that, and you've said that. Now you have to realize what that really means when you carry it to its logical conclusions and implications. It's not comfortable, is it?

And with that late-night and somewhat Glenfiddich-inspired (and I'd like to think uniquely Duffbert-esque) opening, the comments are open.


The traditional Lotusphere (now IBM Connect) event wrap-up (of a sort)...

Category IBM Lotusphere IBM Connect
Each year around this time, I try to sit down and write a recap of the Lotusphere conference I just attended. I guess I can say this year will be different, since the conference is now officially called IBM Connect. But for me, the "different" goes much deeper than that.

It's not a secret that I'm doing mostly SharePoint work these days at my place of employment. The Notes applications I've built over my years of working there are being obsoleted and archived. By this time next year, there's a reasonably good chance that no active Notes applications will be in use any longer. Of course, that's been the wish since 2009, but one person can only do so much when it comes to being point for inventorying, maintaining, shutting down, migrating, and otherwise babysitting 2100 Notes databases. As much as I'd like to learn and use XPages, it would only end up being a personal project for me. I won't ever see Connections, and everything else that IBM sees as bright and shiny these days are not targeted as something a sole developer would pick up and use on their own.

Bottom line... when it comes to IBM Notes and IBM Domino, I'm "legacy"... I'm "classic"... and to be blunt, that's not very far away from being "obsolete".

So why did I go to Orlando again this year? I'm not an IBM Champion for 2013. Speaking wasn't going to be a possibility. A vendor was kind enough to let me work for them at their booth in the Vendor Showcase (thank you *so* very much), so I was able to have the full conference experience. But why go to a technology vendor conference on my own dime for a technology that isn't my primary focus any longer?

I'll let Volker Weber sum it up far better than I can:

Connect 2013 was very emotional. Lots of folks are afraid of the future. "I wanted to see my friends one last time", that was the most touching statement I heard. Tearjerker.

Let me tell you something: life is about people, not about technology. Your friends will be your friends. And you will see them again. And again, and again. Technology changes, friendship lasts. In change, there lies opportunity.

The "I wanted to see my friends one last time" statement was mine. For me, it was more than just a tear-jerker. It bluntly and completely shredded and tore me up inside. For those who had the "pleasure" of saying good-bye to me on Wednesday or Thursday (or any other time, for that matter), you did not see me at my best. You saw a raw, emotional me. It was as if I had never taken an anti-depressant in my life. Not even Ativan (something I opted to try *knowing* I was not going to handle this well) made a dent. I knew this was coming. I knew the feelings were going to be there. I knew the emotions were going to be sitting on the surface, ready to make an appearance at a single word or thought. I even considered cancelling because I didn't want to say the good-byes. But ultimately, I knew I had to go. I couldn't drop the last seventeen years of my life by ignoring it. I know that I'll still see everyone via Twitter, Skype, etc. But that's not a substitute for sitting down with someone over drinks and having those deep hours-long talks that are forever remembered.

For those of you who don't understand Lotusphere, it wasn't a technology conference. Yeah, maybe it was in 1997 when I first attended, having a sum total of three months of Notes experience. But it was there I decided that this Notes thing was something I wanted to be good at. Reaching out to other Notes professionals, I learned what it meant to "be social". I learned how to speak in front of large groups, how to help others reach their goals, and how to be part of something bigger than the sum of its parts. It led to trips overseas, two books with my name on the cover with co-authors, and some of the deepest friendships I've ever had. Much of what I've become as a technology professional and a person can be traced back to a technology conference in Orlando in 1997.

Life *is* about people and not about technology. I'll probably see a number of my Notes friends in other venues, at other times. I thought Lotusphere 2012 was my last year. I guess this year was "My Last Lotusphere, Attempt #2". I certainly didn't go back for the latest updates in the IBM technology portfolio. I do care what happens in that space, and I am interested in where it goes. However, it doesn't impact me professionally like it used to. I'm traveling a different technology path now, one that for many years I labeled as "evil" and "the enemy". Perspective now tells me it's just a technology to solve business problems. It's the community behind the technology that matters. I am and will continue to make the same types of friends there that I've made over the last seventeen years with IBM and Lotus. It doesn't mean I drop the friends I made, as that doesn't change. It just means that those personal face-to-face times I treasured *so* much each January drift away.

So how do I wrap up IBM Connect 2013? It was all about people... my close and deep friends... and minions (you'd have had to been there). 2012 was not an easy year for me, and who knows what 2013 will hold. This last week was bittersweet in so many ways. At some point, I might even be able to talk about it without losing it, and without hiding behind a keyboard. I hate being so emotional, and I wish I could just flip a switch and turn them off. But unfortunately I can't, and I'm stuck with what churns inside.

Let me just say thank you for an incredible ride over the last seventeen years, and thank you for realizing over the last couple of days that sometimes hugs have to substitute for words, as words were just not possible.

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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