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Recent Lotus Blog Posts

by dave 0 Comments

Standard disclaimer – the ‘migratenotes’ posts come from a Notes Migration blog that I wrote from 2007-2010.  More Info

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I’ve recently noticed a few “Goodbye” posts on Lotus-related blogs. And I want to make something very clear – just because someone starts work on Microsoft platforms (Or Google Apps, or whatever), that does NOT mean that your connection to the Lotus world ends.  I admit that I will now sometimes go a few weeks without reading Lotus-related blogs.  But I still do care about it.  I still put over 15 years into my career as a Notes guy, and even in the SharePoint world, it gives me a different perspective that allows me to design apps better than someone who has only ever tasted the Microsoft Kool-Aid.

Some of the comments and posts I have seen have acted like moving to SharePoint is the equivalent of a bad break-up — time to move on,  embrace the new direction, and never look back. I think that attitude does a dis-service to both the individuals who think that way, and the community as a whole.

What has made the Notes community an interesting place is the people, the attitudes, and the differing perspectives from which we all come. It seems like few of us came from “traditional” programming backgrounds. Many of us learned on our own, and due to the nature of Notes, we often learned good practices in software design before we ever learned good practices in programming.  This makes us unique in the IT world, as most other folk learned ‘good’ code first, then later learned how to apply that to good software designs. This difference in our perspectives can make us valuable software professionals under any platform. So I suggest that we all embrace this.  No matter what underlying technology we end up working with, embrace what we have learned, and design good apps. If we do that, we may even dare to dream that someday we can make new platforms into the same positive, efficient and effective platform that we all know Notes can be.

More Angst

by dave 0 Comments

Standard disclaimer – the ‘migratenotes’ posts come from a Notes Migration blog that I wrote from 2007-2010.  More Info

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I know, I know… I am done with this blog. No need for any more updates.

But I’m also feeling guilty that my last post was probably unfair to the IBM folk. Their attitude just came across badly, and set us against them.

So I thought I would provide a little more info on how things are going…

We’re down to 75 apps. All mail is finally off the system. Apps still send outgoing emails, but we have no more incoming emails. Room reservations are finally gone. I expect some people will be surprised that they stayed on Notes so long… the truth is, Exchange couldn’t compete with the flexibility of the Notes reservations system. We had a customized system that would allow people to order different table/chair configurations for conference rooms. The only way we got off of Notes for meeting reservations was to force it via management…. just telling people that they were losing functionality and had to deal with it.

Another surprise – our two problem apps which really haven’t found a good home on the Microsoft platform may have a better answer. People are looking into salesforce.com as a new platform for these apps. I haven’t seen enough of it to comment on its technical feasability, but the business folk like what they have seen, and one of our architects has confirmed that it can do what we need. I don’t see how that solution will save money, nor will it simplify our environment. But if this migration was based in ROI and simplicity, it never would have started in the first place.

But I really wanted to share how the job is feeling now:

On the good side, I like this place that I work. It is a decent company, with good people, fair compensation, and reasonable management. It is stable, despite the effects of the recession. I have no real complaints about the company or my position within it.

On the bad side, if I don’t want to be a Microsoft coder (and I don’t), I don’t know what my future here holds. I’ve chatted with my boss about my desire to find a new path… so maybe we will come up with something. But one thing the last few years have taught me — I just don’t like working with the Microsoft tools. I never intend to take another job at a Microsoft-based shop. I intend to find another role within my current company at some point in the future. If I cannot, then I will need to consider a more drastic change.

I’ve given MS a chance – I’ve spent 5 years learning their platforms and working with them. After that time, I think it is fair to pass judgment — I am adamant that I do not intend to build a microsoft-based career.

Quick Update from this Defunct Blog

by dave 0 Comments

Standard disclaimer – the ‘migratenotes’ posts come from a Notes Migration blog that I wrote from 2007-2010.  More Info

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Just in case anyone still has me in their RSS readers, a quick FYI:

We just hit a nice milestone. We have under 100 apps left in our Notes Environment.
As of right now, there are 99 apps remaining.

99 apps in our Notes Environment, 99 apps in Notes… Shut one down, archive it down…

IBM did come in and meet with us, trying to show us all the benefits of sticking with Notes, and all the new features in 8.5. Sadly, they missed the point. They showed us all the great new dev tools (xpages, udpated designer, etc), but nothing that would improve our business. It felt more like they were trying to recruit me into being their evangelist than actually listening to our needs.

Then, in regards to the migration, they said, “We are not aware of ANYONE that has actually shut down their Notes environment.”

Well, that just sounds like a gauntlet being laid down. I doubled my efforts to shut the thing down. And we now have plans in place for all of our major apps. Those plans will take time to realize due to the economy, but we have an answer for every remaining app.

I’m Done — Behemoth Post / Explanation / Conclusions

by dave 0 Comments

Standard disclaimer – the ‘migratenotes’ posts come from a Notes Migration blog that I wrote from 2007-2010.  More Info

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Before I left on my vacation two weeks ago, I was starting to get more inspired about doing more with this blog. I joined twitter, I starting putting together technical content to post…
But  I was also getting tired of SharePoint, as previous posts show. I wanted to take my week offline and see if that refreshed me.

It did the opposite. I’m less inspired by SharePoint than I ever was.

So this blog is complete. I think there is enough material here that it has served it purpose. It really doesn’t add anything to my personal or professional life, so here is one big final post to close things out.

Was/Is SharePoint a success?

Partially. We had many issues when we first rolled out our portals. The Server farms were badly implemented, the UI designs were horrid, they were thrown together badly incurring massive technical debt, and massive maintenance costs. That is where I came in. Since then, we have restructured the farm, and while that effort still has many tasks before completion, we are stable with a plan to get to our ideal infrastructure within the next 6 months. We have refactored the UI designs, and their technical implementation, leaving the content publishers with as much flexibility and power as any content management system. Our collaboration areas have grown, and our management of them has evolved, so we are in good shape for organizational collaboration.

However, the pains at the beginning mean that adoption of the technology was below expectations. Some groups gain much benefit from SharePoint, others ignore it or are downright annoyed by it. It was not the business-changing technology that was hoped for, nor did it save costs.

What would I do differently if I could go back and start from scratch.

1) Don’t use SharePoint. Sorry, but the cost of implementation and support is high, and I think even a perfect implementation would offer a poor ROI. But ignoring that…

2) Don’t skimp on technical planning. Think very carefully about long-term maintenance of the platform, and dig deep when analyzing the impacts of your decisions. Make every manager do a google search on “technical debt”, and spend at least 30 minutes following the results.

3) Don’t hire consultants — at least, not when we did, when MOSS 2007 was so new. At the time of our launch, nobody was a MOSS 2007 expert. So why pay consultant rates for people who basically are using us to learn a new technology, and then just writing .NET code anyway. Instead, hire some really good, sharp people internally, and let them run with it.

4) Don’t fall behind on patches. Ever. Microsoft knows that SharePoint has issues, and actively tries to fix them. If you are going to marry yourself to Microsoft, make it a productive relationship, getting their latest patches and fixes, and keeping in communication with them for support and to know their plans.

5) Train your users. Repeatedly. Record the trainings. Make them available online. The more powerful your users are, the more time the IT staff can spend on the platform itself, or on custom code. But that power needs to come with knowledge and insights that only training, experience, and a solid support staff can provide. Put in the effort to give your community those things…

6) Do not accept mediocrity in your IT staff. We all know that the corporate world has more than its share of mediocre IT staff. There are reasons for this, and it isn’t a bad thing in many cases — Not everyone can be a superstar, and much of corporate IT doesn’t need superstars. But SharePoint does. At least as of today – I have hopes that in 3-5 years, the platform will mature into something more friendly, stable, and robust. But for now, it is plagued with problems. Any IT staff member can handle these problems in the short term. But it takes top talent to do so quickly, repeatedly, and often, for months and years on end without running into morale issues. Running a SharePoint implementation is the 100-mile run of IT. Sure, it can be done. But the people who can do it well are freaking machines, not your average IT guy. Get those people on board Day 1 if you want SharePoint to truly improve your business.

7) Code Reviews and Architecture reviews. Do them. Mistakes in design become nightmares in support. Trust No One.

So where does our Notes Migration Stand?

Over the last 18 months, I reduced our Lotus Notes environment from 6000 applications to just over 150. 35 of those are group mailboxes that are in the process of moving to Exchange. 50 of those are basic logs of what happens in our business — the SharePoint replacement is in a pilot program, and they should be gone in a matter of weeks. 50 more  are minor apps, and would only take about 3-6 months to move, but we put that effort on hold due to the recession and its impact on our business. Our 5-10 major, massive apps are slated to be replaced by 3rd party products. Again, plans are in place, but the recession has those projects on hold.

In short, we expect to have moderate usage of around 50-65 apps for 2009, with everything else being shut off with a reasonable amount of effort in 2010 or 2011, depending on just how long this recession lasts.

The migration wasn’t rocket science. A lot of it was just being willing to dig in and do the work. It does require an understanding of the business, the usage of the existing platform. It also takes effective communication and negotiation skills. A consultant would not succeed by walking in the door, getting specs, and making plans nearly as well as a long-time business analyst who understands not only what goes on, but why. The migration requires less technical skill, and more business comprehension.

 

Recession?

Honestly, without the recession, I’d probably keep going with the blog, the migration, and probably enjoy it more. But being shut down into a maintenance-only mode means that there won’t be much to share anyway. Time to move my personal efforts into other projects…

SharePoint  Conclusions

1) If you are already a solid Microsoft shop… sure, go for SharePoint. You probably have the talent to make it work. If not, don’t move to a Microsoft-based platform just for SharePoint. There are other alternatives that will serve you better.

2) Don’t buy into the marketing. SharePoint is an effective collaboration tool. But nothing more. Use its strengths, but don’t expect it to transform your business in any way.

3) Everyone should revisit their stance on SharePoint in 3-5 years. If you already run it, look for future enhancements. If you choose not to run it, don’t let today’s SharePoint deter you from the SharePoint of tomorrow. I think it may come together.

Lotus Notes Conclusions

If you’ve got a Notes/Domino platform running, stick with it. If you don’t like it for some reason, fix the problems with your implementation of Notes. Don’t throw it out, expecting a new platform to be better.

Personal Conclusions

1) SharePoint isn’t fun.

2) SharePoint pays well. You earn every penny. Don’t go into it for the money. Be a fan of the Microsoft Kool-Aid or it will slowly incinerate you from the inside out.

3) The breadth of my IT experience serves me very well. I’ve been a programmer, and analyst, a trainer, a helpdesk grunt, a server admin, a technical writer, a web designer, and a manager. I have used every single thing that I learned in all of those disciplines over the last 18 months.

5) I have learned SharePoint. I have a solid bullet point on my resume and in my skill set. I don’t really care. Kinda like my Notes admin skills — sure, I can do the job, but I’ll likely never apply for that job. The SharePoint work has done well for my resume, salary, job stability, and all those things that I really should care about. But I’m a programmer at heart – none of that means much to me when the platform itself is dreary. Don’t get me wrong — I fully appreciate being blessed with a stable job at this point in time. But inspiring, it is not.

6) The past 18 months have been frustrating and educational, but with moments of great satisfaction when we finally do get things running the way we want.

7) In short, I’m getting too old for this crap. :)

8) Nevertheless, the closure of this blog changes nothing for me personally. I have the same job, the same roles, and the migration and SharePoint work will continue in my day-to-day life.

Thanks for reading and participating in the blog…

jQuery Performace Problem & Solution

by dave 0 Comments

One of my current tasks is to refactor our SharePoint portal’s design.

The original design was heavily laden with tables and large images.And each new subsite had its own master page, style sheet, and images directory. It was performing poorly in the browsers, and making it painful to create new subsites.

So I’m making a CSS-based version, removing all the images, simplifying the design while improving performance and flexibility.

The end result was much faster, but the look was too simple. It needed just a little something to give the design some depth.

And that is where jQuery came in — I picked up a Drop Shadow plug-in, and put some shadows around the main page elements. It was just enough to make the page look pretty decent.

BUT — performance degraded exponentially every time I worked with web parts. I haven’t determined exactly where or why, but I do know that somehow the jQuery calls combined with what SharePoint does to a web part page in edit mode was very unhappy. As-in, browsers hang and crashes almost every time I worked with a page.

So, I turned off the jQuery when a web part page is in edit mode by just popping the following into the code:

if ($(“.ms-WPAddButton”).length == 0){
…Do the jQuery Stuff…
}

In other words, I use jQuery to look for the ‘Add a Web Part’ buttons. If they are not found, I continue with the script. Editable pages have the simple interface, and run quickly. Normal content pages have the nicer interface… and still run quickly.

There may be a better way to handle this, but it has worked for me so far.