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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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So am I biased on this blog?

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In short (what *else* would you expect from 1/2 of Team-TSG?), yes...

I had a response on my blog entry about Microsoft and the state of Mass. deciding to ditch Office and support the OpenDocument format.  Dave from Colorado (no, I looked up the IP and it wasn't from Redmond) responds:

Explain to me how this is different than us waiting for the next version of Domino to get our DB2 support? Or pick your favorite new R7 feature, and explain the difference. It seems unfair to attack MS just because they tell people that new features are coming, especially when the content you are critiquing is just a blog post of from one guy working on the team -- it isn't even an official microsoft statement.

Or let's look at this another way --
Now suppose that MS tells everyone to wait, then on the day of their product release, says, "Sorry, that feature wasn't tested enough -- wait for the next version."
If MS did that, you would be all over them. But IBM does exactly that, as an official statement no less, and nobody says a peep?

I'm not saying that any of the above is good or bad. Just pointing out that there is a major double standard going on.

Now, I think the issue I raised and the one he's taking exception to is the following snippet I highlighted in that post:

if only Massachusetts had waited to see the beta of the new version coming out in a few months

I do understand what he's trying to point out, but I *do* think there's a difference...

For one, I don't think IBM has been trying to freeze the market in collaboration by promising grandiose new functionality in ND7 that would be a vast improvement on ND6.5.  To take the DB2/Domino feature, it has always been a feature that was *optional*, and that could be used in particular situations to create new and different types of applications.  At no time (the way I see it) was there a push to have everyone hold off on doing anything with their Notes environment so that they could upgrade to ND7 and convert everything to DB2.  Regardless of what a certain software corporation might have you believe...

Second, IBM didn't pull the feature.  You can get a key to unlock it, but it's not fully supported at this time.  That may be nitpicking, but I think it's a major difference.  If you were waiting to build a specific application based on that feature, you can still move ahead, but carefully.  Again, this has been another option that IBM has added to a wide range of choices in Notes.  It's not a conversion path required to continue to use the product.  

Finally, you're right in that the statement I quoted is a blog and not an official Microsoft release.  Regardless, it shows the mindset of people running the show, and it gives a window into the thought processes that often play out in public.  And in this case, I think the statement matches past (and future?) actions.

IBM's not perfect...  It would have been nice to see an earlier statement on the DB2 deployment situation instead of hearing about it via "rumors" and such.  It might have made planning for some sites easier.  And the recent disappearance/reappearance of the ND7 software on the IBM sites was rather bizarre and could have been explained better instead of causing confusion and doubt for four or five days until we got a better explanation.  I didn't comment on these as others in the blog circles I run in did so, and probably did so better than I might have.  Still, I see these as aberrations from IBM, not a consistent track record.  

Every blog out there...  every *media* source out there...  they all have a set of assumptions and perspectives that color their writing and reporting.  My perspective is that I'm an IT professional who's good at what I do, and who makes my living with IBM software.  I also feel that Microsoft is competing in the marketplace using tactics that are ethically suspect at times, and have been ruled as outright illegal at others.  Therefore, I will be more forgiving of IBM than I will of Microsoft.  If you read this blog, that's what you get.

(Standard disclaimers apply...  My opinions, not my employers, your mileage may vary, results not typical, close cover before striking...)


Gravatar Image1 - Hard to tell. I have mentioned the word FUD in just one post in the past 29 months (quite recently though), and a quick search on Ben Poole's site lists no instances of either "FUD" or "uncertainty", so maybe some other Ben. Or maybe I am not explicit about it but tend to jump to that conclusion. Or maybe Ben Poole does.

Gravatar Image2 - And if I don't get a chance to chime in on this thread while I'm on vacation (sure... have laptop, have wi-fi, will post!), I just wanted to say thanks for some great input from everyone. I didn't think this thread would quite develop in this fashion, and it's been thought-provoking (at least for me)...

Gravatar Image3 - OK, I asked for an explanation of the difference, and you guys provided one. I'll accept that. :)

And no, I am not from Redmond. I'm a mountain boy, with the scruffy face, fleece, and flannels to prove it. Ask jonvon -- he worked with me out here for a couple of years.
I consider myself to be unbiased between IBM and MS, but that means that I take a very critical look at the arguments made on each side. Probably TOO critical.
And yes, I definitely see more flaws in the marketing of MS than of IBM.

However, the Domino bloggers tend to leave a lot of assumptions out when they write. I think specifically of Ed and Ben, who tend to just scream "FUD" without providing links to the information that proves it is FUD. One of the underlying assumptions in the community tends to be that the readership is both well educated in the Domino world, and already agrees with what is being written.

So why does this concern me? Because I currently am still a Domino professional, even though I am slowly moving towards the MS technologies. You guys are the visible, vocal portion of my peer group. I want to be proud of you guys, and of the writing that you do. But I can only do that if you guys fully lay out the facts. (Especially because you guys keep up on the facts better than I do. )

But if I, being better educated than the average MS person on Domino technologies, can find fault with your logic, how much more fault could their marketing folks find, even if it is erroneous? Mistaken or not, FUD or not, if your words can be twisted to mean something other than what you meant, do you consider that to be a bad thing?

Maybe not -- it is your blog after all, and you can write however and to whomever you choose. But hopefully it is some food for thought as you write.

(And this rant isn't specifically directed at you, Duffbert. It has been building in my mind for a while. It just happenned to get expressed here. Sorry 'bout that. :) )

Gravatar Image4 - Chris,

Yes, links to the FUD are rampant. Links to sources that refute it are not. I'm not talking about statements of why it is FUD, I'm talking about links to secondary sources to back up the statements. I'm talking about something concrete to make it more than just your words against theirs. Or lacking sources, at least in-depth commentary.

Don't worry, I have no lack of trust in your word. But you of all people should be able to appreciate documentation to back everything up.

I do get the feeling that I am in the minority on these issues. And I do agree with John that these issues probably don't actually do much damage. So all of this could be a moot point.

As far as specifics to my work, I make it a policy not to comment on my work online. If you'd like to discuss it offline, feel free to e-mail me at my non-work address.

Gravatar Image5 - Dave,

Unless I am missing something, I provide specific examples of the FUD I post about. And make no mistake about it, if I catch any other vendor (including IBM) using FUD, they will get called on the carpet too. I am looking at FUD as an issue for IT Governance as a whole, as decisions should *NOT* be made based on it (even though they often are).

That being said, I do not equate "vaporware" as pure FUD in that it is undelivered promises without reasons. Microsft has been playing the vaporware game for years, which leads to a lot of FUD. The non-delivery of DB2 in 7 is not vaporware as IBM has given very specific reasons for it, they will provide it upon request, and they do have a plan for shipment. I am disappointed it is not there? yes. If customers bought based on this "promise", then IBM does owe them something.

So please be careful before taking my name in vain.

Gravatar Image6 - a general comment about no one in particular...

there definitely *is* groupthink among the domino blog set. as there is in any community. it is always dangerous, because it means we are loooking inwardly a bit too much, and as soon as we do that, we begin to miss out on the things going on in the wide world. it hinders creativity in our lives. this is true in any community in which groupthink occurs, and it occurs in almost all communities. religous communities, political communities, basically anywhere people gather around a particular idea or technology or whatever. as soon as the zealots appear we know that we have some problems and we need to be careful.

stepping off the "general comments" podium for a second, i do want to say though that i could not see Ed as a zealot. he is a competitor, a professional, and there is a big difference. i think if he suddenly went to work anywhere else he would be just as competitive as he is now. that said, i find ed's blog entries to be very well thought out. not balanced particularly, but for what he is doing, perfectly acceptable. there is a war going on out there for seats and for mindshare and like it or not those of us who make a living doing the Notes thing need as many voices as we can get on that side of the fence. Ed's blog has quite literally saved a few people's jobs.

ok back to general comments...

the marketplace is going to bet on the technology that is solving its business problems. the marketplace at large, which is in large part outside of the community and therefore outside the constraints of our particular version of groupthink, will always be the great equalizer here. as long as the market is betting on domino then we know that ibm is doing the right kinds of things and is forward thinking in the right ways, and delivering on that thinking.

lately we have seen the marketplace respond very positively to ND6 and 7. growth is up in a market that is not growing much overall.

in the real world, groupthink only goes so far before you begin to see the negative impact. and its impact in this case is, i think, minimal. it is minimal, and will be, because ibm is driving the technology. no matter how nutty any of us gets, at the end of the day the question the market asks is, does this technology get me where i want to go?

the main thing i think we have to worry about is the impact of the community mindset on us individually. we do need to be thinking as broadly and subjectively as we can. mostly because it keeps the mind fresh. i always learn a lot about how to solve problems when i look at how other technologies approach things.

Gravatar Image7 - Oh and Dave,

Given who your employer is and the amount of regulation you are under, I would hope that you could appreciate the need for non-FUD based decisions.

Gravatar Image8 - I'd like to see examples of where I scream "FUD" without linking.

And which Ben?

Gravatar Image9 - Ed,

We may end up just disagreeing on these points, which is reasonable. I do think that in some of your older posts, you did have sources to link to (Release announcements, presentations, etc.) . If there isn't a source (as there was not in the recent example), I feel that more commentary is appropriate to fully explain your position.
Think back to late 2003, when someone made a comment along the lines of, "Why should we trust Ed?" You seemed surprised at the time, but I think you learned that there is a portion of your audience that is neutral at best, and sometimes downright unfriendly towards... not towards you personally, but towards your role within IBM. And there are certainly a lot of silent readers. (Myself included, most of the time.)

Knowing that there are people out there deliberately trying to find fault with Lotus products, I simply think that a more fully developed style of writing is... dare I say it? Prudent.

But I am fully aware that it is your blog, and your writing style. My opinion is just an opinion, to be disregarded freely if you so choose.

Gravatar Image10 - I am aware of one product that IBM has worked DB2 into.

At a prior position, our group had the decision to upgrade the mainframe DataInterchange EDI product from version 3.1 to 3.2. Up until that upgrade, the upgrade decisions had been a no brainer - do it, it's good and the upgrade costs were minimal. When we researched this upgrade, we found that one of the prerequisite products to have to run the 3.2 version was DB2. If you did not have it, you had to buy DB2 to use the EDI product. Prior to that version, you did not need it. The software worked with the mainframe's VSAM file format for data storage. Granted, there were gotchas with the VSAM setup. And DB2 did simplify things for running it. And for IBM supporting it (you need DB2 for the AIX and Windows versions too). However, it's not cheap being on a mainframe. So the decision was made to go with something else. I'm sure we were not the only site to go that way. And I'm sure there were those that already had DB2 or could pony up for the additional cost.

It all comes down to your IT roadmap.

(And your pocket book.)

Now with that being said, who knows what IBM's plans for Notes are. Personally, I think adding the potential ability to access massive amounts of data on a server or mainframe from Notes front end would be pretty keen to have/use.
If in the long term Notes goes completely DB2, that can be good too. Maybe in the migration process the PC version of Notes will get shipped with a stripped down version of DB2. Microsoft has already made available a stripped down version of SQL server (MSDE) for free. Who knows what IBM will do...

Gravatar Image11 - Ben, I don't know why I typed 'Ben'. I meant Christopher Byrne. He's the one who has partially-dedicated his site to FUD.

You tend to link to the source material that inspired your post, but not to anything that rationally lays out your position. For example, you did this most recently at:
You gave no commentary on why you thought it deserved criticism, and no link to what you thought a better response would have been. The quote from you didn't show them being defensive, it showed them recommending prudence before a major decision. You assumed that everyone would agree with your take on the article. And that is exactly my point -- your underlying assumption that everyone agrees and has the same knowledge that you do.

Similarly, a quick search on your site for 'FUD' gives 25 results. On most of those, you make quick statements of why you think it is FUD, but no links. In one, you even reference your Lotusphere presentation, without an actual link to it. To an outside observer, that makes it look like "he said/she said". Read those 25 posts yourself -- tell me how many of those posts link not to your "inspiration", but to another source that validates your side of the story.

Again, I'm not saying that your positions are incorrect -- just that they aren't fully laid out when posted. It is not a question of truth, it is a question of perception. Which is the basis for FUD in the first place, isn't it?

Gravatar Image12 - "Biased?" I have no doubt that once I hit your site, where your allegiances lie. And, after all, it is your house, your rules. What does Dave think that he will see if he hits Ed's site? Or any of the other Domino-centric/IBM centric blogs? Or the flip side, Scoble or any of the other MS blogs? Sure, we all promote the hand that feeds us. And I do agree, waiting for a BETA is a very different from shipping product. Talk about stringing you along.

Gravatar Image13 - I'm not sure Dave, what you think I could link to as a refutation of conjecture. That's the problem with FUD, is that so much of it is based on false information or logic that it is impossible to refute it ("When did you stop beating your wife").

On the particular article you point to, I specifically wanted to show Microsoft's attitude, not so much what the product or technical issues were in that context. Maybe I need to make that clearer. You see it as prudence -- I see it as arrogance.

Gravatar Image14 - And no offense taken, Dave... Your underlying sentiment is dead on. It's far too easy to rant and rave against the opposing view/technology without taking the time to rationally lay out *why* they are wrong. And while every blog post isn't meant to be a airtight argument, there should be more substance on many occasions.

There have been a few comments over the life of this blog that have caused subtle changes in the way I write. Your comment just joined that group.

Gravatar Image15 - Of course you're biased. I expect no less

Here's what Colorado Dave misses: IBM isn't responding to an emerging market trend by saying "our alternative to this trend will be better than what the market is pushing everyone toward". They're not doing that with DB2, and not even with Workplace. They're doing a couple of things. First, they're rationalizing their product lines. (No pun intended there.) It simply makes sense for IBM to try to leverage the Lotus customer database in an attempt to make DB2 stronger, and to leverage the DB2 customer base to make Lotus stronger. Second, they're trying to create a trend toward centrally-managed component-based collaboration. That makes sense for IBM because it plays to their traditional strength in tightly managed computing environments, and because there are lots of service opportunities inherent in a component-based model.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is faced with the emergence of a real trend toward open standards in data formats. It's not something that any company has to push. It's the logical next step for local data now that XML is becoming the primary interchange format. And Microsoft's answer is "our next release will be better than the open standards that the market is pushing everyone toward".

OTOH, what you're missing is that this is completely expected behavior on Microsoft's part. They can not get by with "embrace and extend" on this one, because Office is such a huge portion of their income. IE's "embrace and extend" strategy (e.g., they had AJAX long before anyone knew it should have a funky name!) worked for a while, but it is now losing market share to open source. Microsoft has to do everything they possibly can to avoid letting the desktop suite market become a commodity market. Frankly, I don't think they can prevent it, but they can delay it, and that's exactly what I think they're trying to do.

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