Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

By Date: January 2007

Picking a Name for Your Domino Form

Domino Designer allows you to pick whatever form name you deem fit. It can contain letters, numbers, spaces, special characters. However when you develop for the web you might want to be a little more picky with what you use. Domino renders the form name into the HTML form name when showing the form in the browser. It also generates some JavaScript referencing this form. The form "Memo" is translated into "_Memo", "Response" is translated into "_Response". However "9. Market Survey" or "action.7" or "Bla Blub" all get translated into "_DominoForm". So if you have any logic that relies on the form name, you want to make sure the form name you pick can serve as a JavaScript variable name too.
If you retrofit an existing application, you might want to use form alias to achieve that. And for replacing that form name everywhere else there is Teamstudio Configurator.

Posted by on 31 January 2007 | Comments (1) | categories: Show-N-Tell Thursday

Escaped from the lab

A few hours to Lotusphere's 2007 closure. A plane is waiting, so I'll miss the general closing session. There is an incredible amount of information to digest and it might take a few days until I get on top of it. One big difference to last year: nobody was talking about threats from Microsoft anymore. The new and improved products were all the buzz. I found the possibilities of Expeditor and composite applications intriguing. A lot of brains already crack their heads what they will build with that. In this context
The old joke goes: IBM doesn't release prisoners software, software escapes from IBM's lab. And I've got a quick glimpse of one of these fugitives:
Escaped from the lab
A composite, that automatically can launch your email (or other) attachments in a preview window with slide-show capabilities. Since it has escaped, we don't know if it ever will make it back into the product <g>.

Read more

Posted by on 24 January 2007 | Comments (0) | categories: Lotusphere

BP308 - Leverage DXL and OOP to Build Powerful Tools

Mikkel Heisterberg presented on my favourite Domino topic: DXL. As take away he promised insights into namespaces, Do's and Dont's and working code. Mikkel quickly explained the perils of using namespaces and how to use it properly. On he went to explain some uses for DXL. The first is a backend import of pictures in Notes using DXL. The next how to deal with image resources. He gave good pointers, that you need to pay close attention to DXL's details, e.g. Items are broken into 32k junks, so an image will very likely be stored in more than one item.
He then went on to run quickly through the advantages of OO programming. Of course <g> he took a stab on the limitations we face in OO LotusScript. Mikkel is confessing Java fan (doc.recycle() anyone). Using his excellent LSDoc he explained why and how he used OO in LotusScript. But he didn't stop there. Taking a page from Java's pattern principles Mikkel showed how to implement them in LotusScript using a base class and some implementation classes. More of explanation of his LSDoc library.

What I liked
Cool implementation of a callback function in LotusScript and a cool implementation of "Chain of Responsibility" in LSDoc's DecisionMaker.

What I didn't like
I would like to see more of the code, but sessions are time limited <g>.

Posted by on 24 January 2007 | Comments (0) | categories: Lotusphere

BP204 - Integration of OpenOffice and Lotus Notes and Domino

Alan Bell and John D. Head delivered the session. In the opening statement Alan promised to show code, code, code. To build up suspense Alan promised that Example 8 will blow our minds. John gave a brief overview of OpenOffice.org and the fact that it implements the   ISO/IEC26300 standard for office document. OO uses UNO (Universal Network Object) to access OpenOffice. The equivalent of a NotesSession in OO is the ServiceManager, the equivalent to NotesUIWorkspace is com.sun.star.frame.Desktop. Alan walks though the code to put Hello World into the text editor, the spreadsheet and the presentation editor. They stressed the point that the code is the same for similar tasks, so the learning affordance is quite low. The documentation is very extensive with the developer guide exceeding 1000 pages. However the API documentation is more geared towards Java and C, so it takes time to get used to.
On with some example: Complex table, mail merge and a spreadsheet that uses a Spreadsheet class (courtesy Alan Bell) to abstract the interaction. Inside the Spreadsheet class works a list of columns. Columns contain lists of cells and cell is a class where all the work goes. Alan shows how to transfer RichText formatting from Notes views to spreadsheets. John then showed the direct creation from PDF from a Notes document. Then John showed that all OpenOffice examples run natively in the productivity editors of Lotus Notes 8 (availability to be determined).

What I liked
Cool usable code.

What I didn't like

Posted by on 23 January 2007 | Comments (0) | categories: Lotusphere

ID108 - IBM Lotus Notes 7 for Linux Client Deployment Experiences and Roadmap

Two IBMer (Simon Butcher, John Walicki) and Jean Pierre Dumoulin from PSA (Peugeot) walked us though the current status, deployment experience and the future roadmap. The feature set for Notes 7 on Linux is well known with integrated chat and smart icons missing. The offical Beta for Notes8 will be out in Q1 and will be feature complete compared to the Windows version. Tested platforms are RHEL4 and SLED 10. As we all know other distributions work well too.

Pierre then shared how PSA made Linux and integrated part of their IT strategy. They target about 20k seats within a workforce of about 200k. They use this Linux deployment to keep Microsoft at bay. PSA wants users to ask for the Linux Desktop instead of forcing them to use it, so they used Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop with XGL which looks good works well.
John walked us through how IBM's philosophy to emphasise on business value and applications rather than an operating system. So providing the applications for business and lowering the TCO brought Linux into the picture. IBM runs a heterogenous environment, so they can provide Windows, Linux or Macs where ever the are the best fit. He explained how IBM customized the installation process and the distribution to fit their needs. He was very clear about Linux not being the prime time environment for everybody, but a specific - and growing - community of users. He further shared considerations who could be a member of the community for the first deployment.

What I liked
PSA managed to get Novell and IBM engineering working together. Clear message when to use and when not to use Linux and what you are in for.

What I didn't like
IBM using Redhat instead of Suse (Suse's headquarter is located in the country of Franconia, where my home town is located too, so I favour Suse over Read Read -- little patriotism, no technical reason)

Posted by on 23 January 2007 | Comments (0) | categories: Lotusphere

ID102 - Designing a World-Class User Experience for IBM Lotus Notes

Mary Beth Raven and Chris Reckling presented on why the Notes 8 client is how it is. MBR shared the 4 attributes of  a world class user experience:
  • Visual Style: the icons, the colors, the visual details
  • Usefulness: day to day task oriented work rather than tool oriented
  • Execution: Attention to detail, aspiration to details
  • Innovation: Add new features to get the work done, faster, more accurate and enjoyable

Visual Style
Raven shared why they used personas who use Notes in a specific context to achieve specific goals. She used my favourite story about the princess and the moon to explain that you have to get into the mind of your users. ( ISO 9241-11 anyone). With the help of surveys and study groups the usability team first settled on a colour schemes. After that with the help of wire frames the base layout was born. Taking the possibilities of implementation into account the Notes8 Beta as of today was born.

A lot of steps were involved here. A key point was not to phrase "the user can" but "In R8 Samantha can..", so the personas were used extensively. The step in detail:
  • Prioritize features starting from 4000 feature request: Focus groups, surveys, Sticky notes exercises
  • Design and hold Design Reviews: Online documents, Paper specs, Prototypes, Reviews, Reviews, Reviews
  • Users First Program: Visit customers
  • Usability Test, and Re-Test > 475 test so far.
  • Blog and gather feedback
Then MBR showed a few of the new features including the search, the start button and the side preview.

  • Attention to detail
  • Delighting users with the experience
  • Fix usability bugs
  • Design Review
  • Usability Testing

  • Work closely with the IBM Research Lab (contributed Activity centric computing)
  • Usability test on new features
  • New features: Conversations, Filter dialogue, Sidebars (put things into your peripheral vision --- I want a wide screen now!), Grouped tabs

I think putting users on centre stage is a welcome departure from the featuritis of previous years towards better software.

What I liked
MBR rocks!

What I didn't like
IBM should have started doing this years ago

Posted by on 22 January 2007 | Comments (0) | categories: Lotusphere

Lotusphere 2007 : The General Opening Session

"See me, feel me, touch me, heal me" - The opening song prepares for some more wizardry.
Mike Rhodin is addressing the crowd: 2006 was the best year for Lotus ever. Two years of double digit consecutive growth helped Lotus to outgrow the market (so much about a dying software <g>). In Q4 Lotus grew 30% year-to-year. There supposed to be almost 7k attendees at Lotusphere (you might want to calculate yourself). If you can't make it to Orlando you can attend Lotusphere in Cyberspace.
The guest speaker is none other than America's first man on the moon Niel Armstrong. He shared the story of manned space travel and IT from his very personal experience in a very humorous anecdotical way.

Back to Rhodin: He's preparing the crowd for the new announcements. He claims that the single benchmark for Lotus offerings will be how much more productive Lotus can make their users. He is stressing the importance of collaboration and the perils of failure to collaborate in a highly diverse workplace, where "Office" more and more refers to a mental state rather than a physical location. New ways to work require new ways to collaborate. "eMail, that is for my grandfather" seems to be the motto for younger generations. To foster change and speed adaption of  new tools they need to be Cool intuitive and easy to use. If that happens new ways to work are adopted in a viral fashion. Accelerating change requires new ways to make applications available, so the new term of "Application assembly" will take centre stage.

On with the presentations of Lotus Products:

Sametime being first.
IBM had announced Sametime 7.5 on last year's Lotusphere and managed to  deliver the client, the public gateway and the mobile clients. Building on that momentum new capabilities for Sametime are announced to be available in Q2: Video Chat, Linux Sametime server, Linux clients, Mac clients. Sametime's new motto is UCĀ² (Unified Collaboration Square). All customer/partner messages played revolved around voice/video integration. The demonstration shows the new tabbed chat feature with the user's picture as tabs and the full video chat capabilities. Sametime allow to convert any chat directly to a call, access your voicemail and integrate your local and mobile phone systems.

Lotus Notes
The number of Notes users stands at 130 Million users. Already 100 companies use Lotus' build in SAP integration. More than 500 large organisations moved from other offers to Lotus Notes. IBM had announced the Notes client code named "Hanover" last year. Today the code name is officially dropped and Lotus Notes and Domino 8 are officially announced. The demonstration runs slick with a short flight though the enhanced mail experience, the mashup (composite) applications and the IBM productivity editors. The capabilities to convert everything into PDF got loud applause. The tab preview is way cool. Domino will get enhancements: Message recall, optional 64Bit support, integration into IBM's email archival. Domino will allow to authenticate against more external directories.

Lotus Quickr (the artist formerly known as Quickplace)
(someone drank the Flickr cool aid --- goodbye Quickplace). Quickr comes in various edition. The personal edition is available for any Notes users through a web interface. Quickr serves as a mountable, replicatable file system. The personal edition of Quickr is free for existing Notes customers!!!! For teams there is the Quickr standard edition that comes with a huge set of templates for different tasks. Quickr Standard edition replaces Lotus Quickplace. Existing Quickplace customers (under maintenance) will get Quickr Standard edition for free. Quickr will support various repositories including FileNet and even Microsoft Sharepoint. Quickr can be accessed from a browser UI, from your file system (Explorer) and within Sametime. You have the new capabilities to "Chat about a document". When dragging a file from Quickr into a Notes email it will allow you to send a document link instead of the document itself. The marketing pitch "Quickr is simply the easiest way to share".

Websphere Portal
Portal is the biggest integration tool available today. IBM has integrated over 1000 Domino applications with Websphere Portal. Portal6 allows to integrate Google gadgets. Portal6 has been around for a while, but today IBM announces IBM Websphere Portal6 Express. Portal6 Express will install very fast and provides a ready sample for an Intranet and Extranet to get started. I'm curious if the claim "It installs faster than it takes you to watch your favourite sit-com" will stand the test of real world scenarios. There will be a personal portal that allows you to access Portal off-line (DOLS anyone?). The demo showed the document integration and web2.0 capabilities.

Lotus Expeditor (and friends)
To unify development for Notes, Websphere and Sametime development and mashups Lotus makes available Lotus expeditor. The big news: Bundled with Domino Designer 8 developers can use Lotus Component designer to build JavaScript components that can be deployed to Portal, Sametime, Lotus Expeditor and/or the Notes client. The demo actually proved how to do that. Mental note to self: Download expeditor.

Lotus Connections
Touted "The industries fist Ready-for-Business social software" Lotus Connections (code name Ventura) features:
  • Activities - fully integrated into Sametime and the Notes Client (but  not off-line yet) -- a shared task and link list. Add to activities from Notes, Microsoft Office, your browser or Sametime. Sametime even sends you a little alert when new stuff is added to your activities. The difference to your regular 2do list is the integration into all the applications you use. The quality of the integration will be key for the success of activities. Activities features a read/write Atom REST interface, so the bets are that it will work well (after the teething phase of course).
  • Profiles: a comprehensive people directory. This component has been developed inside IBM over many years and powers IBM's award winning w3 intranet blue pages. Think LinkedIn or Xing for enterprises.
  • Blog Central: A comprehensive Blogging solution - Blogger.com for the enterprise.
  • Dogear: Social Bookmarking, think del.icio.us for your company. Dogear plugs into your search and your browser, so you can see who has bookmarked a specific page.

All these components are fully integrated delivering more value that separate component. The big question: what size does an enterprise need to create enough gravity to take full advantage of these tools.

One final observation: Not a single IBM logo on screen. Only Lotus.

Posted by on 22 January 2007 | Comments (3) | categories: Lotusphere

BP202 - IBM Lotus Domino and PHP, Let's All Work Together

This year I'm assigned as a room monitor in the afternoon. This limits my ability to select sessions I want to visit. On the other hand I'll see topics I wouldn't have considered. PHP wasn't on my radar. To run PHP you can download a LAMP or WAMP package that installs everything ready to go in a single installer. You also can get bits and pieces yourself that will take about two to three days to understand all this. Of course you simply can sign-up  for a PHP hosting package. The sites demonstrated used cPanel and Fantastico, which is a ready made set of scripts. The presenters walked us through the various applications that are included in the script collection. The advantage of PHP is not the language itself but the gazillions of ready made scripts that you can use at your convenience.
So the big question is: when would you use PHP and Domino together: in a nutshell if there are ready made components PHP seems to be a valid option. Of course you need to consider a lot of stuff: where will the stuff live, how much data gets passed back and forth and is single sign-on needed. The session went on to discuss the if you should have one or two servers. Instead of theoretically musing about that, they showed this using a few demos. Two boxes is pretty straight forward. A single server requires to configure Domino to run on a different port (81) and use Apache's mod_rewrite.
They then went on and discussed how PHP and Domino can share data. Suitable methods could be HTTP, ODBC and ADO (this one is Microsoft only). Again they used ample examples that illustrated their points. ODBC and ADO seem to be limited to Windows and the HTTP example used Windows only (XMLHttp Object) too.
Next topic was the concepts you can use to implement Single Sign on. A bit fluffy here. But see for yourself.

What I liked
Good overview why you want or don't want to mix the two environments.

What I didn't like
Code examples for HTTP were windows only.

Posted by on 21 January 2007 | Comments (4) | categories: Lotusphere

JMP401 - Introduction to Composite Applications for IBM Lotus Notes and Domino and IBM Websphere Portal

If you ever have wondered what a composite application is, this session sheds light on it. In the beginning definitions were given: A composite (application) is a collection of components brought together for a business purpose. A component is a application that processes and renders data (like a nsf) and a component view is the visualization of these data. One big difference to classical application is that there is an additional step before you use an application. Developers build components in various ways (Domino, J2EE, Java etc.). After that a Assembler (a person) wires the components into a application. Since the assembly is a rather business driven exercise you can leave this step to power users. This allows to combine components in ways that haven't been predicted by the component developer.
So Composite applications are the business equivalent of the more free wheeling web 2.0 mashups. The major difference here: Notes Client components are not limited to HTML and URL linkage. IBM choose WSDL as definition language to wire components together. This relieves you from learning another interface standards.
The session gave a further overview of IBM's offerings to create components. They range from developer-only to user-suitable tools: Rational Application Developer,  Lotus Component Designer, Domino Designer, Portlet Factory and the template editor.
At the core of the composite application sits the Property Broker. So every component calls the Property Broker that links published properties with published actions. E.g. a published property in a Notes view could be emailid and an action in a view could be GetCustomerByID. The very moment you select a document in a view the view reports the view reports the change of the emailid to the Property Broker. The Property Broker then calls all defined actions that have been literally wired to that property.
The demonstrations for both Notes and Portal were pretty slick.

What I liked:
Components bring the flexibility of Web 2.0 Mashups to the enterprise. Re-using WSDL as wiring protocol is a smart choice. The ability to mix'n match Portal and Client fosters reuse.

What I didn't like:
Properties and Actions currently need to be a 1:1 exact match. The property broker can't do transformations (e.g. just add the customer number from component 1 to an URL and then feed it into component 2). Here is work to do, that has been done elsewhere already.

Posted by on 21 January 2007 | Comments (0) | categories: Lotusphere

Five things you don't know about me

So Kevin thinks it's my turn.
  1. As a pre-tenager I was singing in our school chorus. I had a beautiful alto voice and according to my teacher talent. Then the hormones kicked in and brought an abrupt and terminal end to my aspirations
  2. My college paper was about thermos dynamics and the Carnot cycle. As part of the preparation I acquired a set of old fridges, which I hoped to turn into a heat pump. The endeavour utterly failed but helped to found a urban legend at my college with wild stories about that student, who had all sorts of mishaps turning fridges into heat pumps.
  3. I was working for Club Aldiana as computer trainer for a while. As part of that job I had to bring computer equipment to Tunisia. There I spend a whole night being trapped at a police post since I refused to pay the officer a bribe for letting me go. I only got of the hook when the head of police arrived, who was a golf buddy of the local Aldiana manager.
  4. I was member of a motorbike club named "Die Kuhle Wampe" (named after a movie by Berthold Brecht). The club was politically active and the federal board was heavily infiltrated by the West German Communist Party. On the regional level we were much more pragmatic running campaigns for safer driving and we poked fun on the infiltrators. After that I never understood how my NATO security clearance for my national service at the German Airforce got approved.
  5. As a young IT contractor I moved to Munich. The company I was working for got into trouble with a large project delivery and couldn't pay the salaries. We were all hanging in to finally deliver (what luckily worked out and gave me both the outstanding pay as well as first-hand experience in crisis management). Due to the lack of cash I had to survive on ten bucks a week for about three month. My pride stopped me from going back to my family and ask for help. In that three month I even did a weekend trip to the Netherlands. Then hitchhiking was still an acceptable mode of transportation.

Let's see who is next.

Posted by on 12 January 2007 | Comments (0) | categories: After hours