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Genii Weblog

Protecting your company's reputation: IQJam and Elenchus

Mon 27 Jul 2009, 11:33 PM



by Ben Langhinrichs
This is a difficult post for me to write, as I don't want to get in the middle of all the nonsense which has been percolating in parts of the community, but I feel like it would be a disservice to keep quiet on this matter.  In the past couple of days, there have been two announcements, first by Tim Tripcony of Lotus911 and next by Bruce Elgort of Elguji Software.  Tim announced that he had created a clone of StackOverflow.com, called Elenchus, "in about 7 hours" and then posted it on OpenNTF.org.  Bruce then announced the product which he and others have been hinting about, a Q&A system called IQJam.  (Note: while I do not work for Elguji, I have worked with Bruce before and he does use our CoexEdit in the IdeaJam software).

Now, leaving aside the fact that Elenchus seems to be a clear attempt at a spoiler, which is a tacky and undignified way for a prominent member of the Lotus community to act, what does each announcement do to the reputation of its creator, and by extension their company's reputation?

When Elguji brought out IdeaJam, it was heralded as an exciting and attractive website, but it has also proven its worth as an idea generation engine.  Many great ideas have been proposed, and some have been incorporated into Notes/Domino.  IBM follows the site closely, and the community has embraced it.  Elguji has carefully worked to enhance and build on that reputation.  IQJam seems like a natural extension.  I remember even trying to figure out how to use IdeaJam for a Q&A type purpose, and realizing that the functionality was too different to make it work.  I am excited to see IQJam, which has clearly been carefully designed with a mind to both creating a great product, and to protecting and enhancing further the reputation and credibility of Elguji Software.  How well the product  actually works remains to be seen, obviously, but everything about the design, development and announcement of IQJam speak to the professionalism and quality of the Elguji team.  If anything, this strengthens Elguji and its reputation by making it clear that they are not content to rest on their laurels (and there are plenty), but are reaching out to solve related problems for its customers.

But what about Elenchus?  Obviously, Tim Tripcony did not announce this as a Lotus911 product, but his announcement on his blog (with its prominent Lotus911 logo) does not clarify that the product is unrelated to Lotus911.  Furthermore, his name is frequently associated with Lotus911.  But why should this matter?

It matters because Tim doesn't seem to understand the difference between a hacked up imitation of a working system, and a polished, carefully designed and carefully produced product.  He was able to produce something that looked a lot like StackOverflow.com (some think too similar for legal comfort, although I don't really think that is much of an issue).  He was able to produce something that on a surface level seemed to work like StackOverflow.com.  Both feats are a credit to his ingenuity and to xpage development capabilities.  Neither has much to do with being a real product.  Tim's apparent belief that he is further along than he is represents a discredit both to him and to his employer.  Perhaps it shouldn't be so, but I can't read his post without wondering if there is a whole lot less to Bones, for example, than I had thought.  If a copied shell of an application created in 7 hours is passed off as a nearly finished product, that does not speak to the care and professionalism of Tim's company.  Now, I don't mean to slander Tim, who has clearly worked hard and written a cool demo showing some of the power of xpages, but it isn't close to being a real product, and he should know better.

Why am I so sure?  I haven't downloaded Elenchus and tried it out, so how can I say this with confidence?

Because I write real products, and every single significant feature in those products takes more than 7 hours of testing.  Even if I waved a magic wand and iFidelity appeared, fully formed and written, I could not and would not release it as if it were a real product.  Genii Software has a reputation,  as do I, and protecting that reputation requires more.  Protecting that reputation takes testing, and not just feature testing.  It takes testing of assumptions, testing by different people with different skill levels, testing of design flexibility.  It takes deliberation and reflection to be sure that you are meeting the customers where they need to be, research to ensure you are not violating anybody's patents, tweaking to ensure that installation, configuration and use are both easy and bullet proof.

If Tim had released Elenchus as a cool demo to show what you could accomplish in 7 hours, I'd be the first to cheer him on, and I'd also congratulate the Lotus911 folks for hiring such a smart and talented developer.  But his post does not claim that, and as such reflects poorly on his understanding of what a real product is, and by extension reflects poorly on his employer's judgment.  I wish it were not so, but that's the way I see it.  If an employee of mine were to release a product like this, I'd insist the he post an apology and clarification, and even if he did, I'd personally post an apology and clarification.  My company's reputation is too important to leave an impression like that floating around.  I don't know whether Lotus911 feels as strongly about its own reputation, but I'd assume they do.  How they choose to handle the situation will, like it or not, also have an impact on their reputation, whether for good or for ill.

Copyright © 2009 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:


833.1. Duffbert
(07/28/2009 05:33 AM)

Nice post, Ben... regardless of how one reads the reasoning behind the timing of the OpenNTF version, you have voiced (quite eloquently, I might add) the care and concern that all developers should be taking in releasing and advertising their software solutions.


833.2. Nathan T. Freeman
(07/28/2009 05:52 AM)

Wow, Ben. Unbelievable post. If an IBM or Microsoft employee posted a piece of prototype software on SourceForge and announced it on a personal blog, using a server they run out of their living room, what would you say if their employer "insist[ed] he post an apology and clarification?"

I'm deeply offended that you suggest that, as Tim's boss, I should some how dictate his personal pursuits, or demand editorial control over what he does on his own time and with his own equipment. If a large organization practiced such behavior, people would scream bloody murder. I would never in a million years imagine that I could tell one of our employees what he or she can or can't do on their own time unless it was an attempt to defraud our customers.

His efforts are for an open source project, as clearly indicated by his original post, and the link from which you can download the source code. He looked at something out in the world, though "I could do that," went home, DID IT, and then gave it away for free. And for that you want to claim that he "doesn't seem to understand the difference between a hacked up imitation of a working system, and a polished, carefully designed and carefully produced product."

But I guess that's okay, because you "don't mean to slander Tim." Sure, it's exactly what you DID, but it's not what you MEANT. I guess that's okay then.

I have no idea whether IQJam is the greatest or worst product in the history of software. That had no bearing on whether Tim's effort (which you explicitly state you haven't evaluated) is worthwhile. You of all people should know that the value of something isn't determined by the amount of effort that goes into it, but by the resulting subjective experience of whoever consumes it.

So here's someone that created a tool that at least has SOME surface value judging by the attention it's garnered. Who's then given it away to the world as a learning tool, a demonstration, and even -- if one wants to bother evaluating it -- as a value-added piece of deployable software. And you want to demonize not just the author, but the author's employer, for allowing Tim the treasured freedom and independence to spend his weekends however he damn well pleases.

Because apparently, posting a demo site and an open source template marked "Beta" is now "releasing a product" if a commercial software vendor happens to announce a similar piece of software the next day.

Ben, I have had the utmost respect for you for many years. Never have I heard you say anything to make me so morally incredulous.

I can assure you that you will NOT see an apology of any kind for someone posting a link to an open source project. I might as well ask you to apologize for building the Lotusphere schedule database every year.


833.3. Stephan H. Wissel
(07/28/2009 06:25 AM)

I'm not sure if I get the nature of your post. To me it looks like:

a) the time of an idea is ripe: StackOverflow, iQJam (and similar functionality but way less polished in our internal Q&A forums in IBM)

b) an interesting co-incidence of release times (a field day for conspiracy fans)

c) a new product from a trusted vendor

d) Code released on OpenNTF as a beta project

I think there is a clear difference between a released product with all the testing and support and some code given away as a result of a weekend hack. So the "approximately 7 hours" clearly sets the expectation what it is.

I wouldn't recommend Tim's code for production use, but definitely as a learning resource. I would recommend Elguii's products anytime - as I would recommend 911's *products*.

:-) stw


833.4. Ben Poole
(28/07/2009 06:36)

@2 "Very cool stuff, and even sites that are usually loathe to cover activity from Lotus 911 have picked it up."your words Nathan.

So is Elenchus associated with L911 or not?


833.5. Nathan T. Freeman
(07/28/2009 07:06 AM)

Lotus 911 takes pride in it's employees. We appreciate it when they conduct altruistic efforts to enrich the community because that makes the company look good. As Tim identifies himself as an employee, we appreciate his altruistic effort.

The observation that you quote is that some people like to studiously avoid drawing attention to anyone even associated with Lotus 911. So it was quite a surprise to get such attention, particularly in the form of a bug report. Tim was not directed to work on such a project, nor did his project require Lotus 911 approval. He coded it on his own initiative on his own hardware, and is not required in any way to get permission for actions on his own time. But we are very grateful that he is so altruistic to the Lotus community, and that he displays such tremendous skill and motivation. Developing a prototype of this site in a mere 7 hours is a near-superhuman feat, and we are very glad that Tim is a part of the Lotus 911 team.

To be honest about this, Tim brought up the idea that perhaps this should be built as a Lotus 911 product. The response was that we didn't have the capacity to bring it to market at the time, but it sounded like a cool OpenNTF project. And if he wanted to do it, that would be the best delivery vector.

Never in a million years would I have thought that other software professionals would take exception to a company allowing it's developers to make their own choices about how to spend their free time. I guess after nearly 20 years in this industry, I can still be surprised.


833.6. Sean Cull
(07/28/2009 08:43 AM)

I thought that it was fairly obvious that it was an early stage openntf type project - we all work with software - we all know how much work is required to do a professional job.

Have I had a naive existence in the yellow bubble for the last 10 years or has it all suddenly got very catty (spiteful)- is this all part of being Web 2.0 ?

( I suppose I am choosing to ignore the historical Natan / Vowe and Bill / IBM spats in my recollection of a blissful lotus bubble )


833.7. mark myers
(28/07/2009 08:58)

very refreshing post, clear, honest and to the point


833.8. John Lindsay
(28/07/2009 10:42)

I'm sorry but what is unclear about (Beta 2) and (Beta 2a) on the OpenNTF site when talking about this Elenchus app? Or are we saying that Tim knew about the Elguji stuff and decided to rain on their parade? I may be naive (actually I know I am) but it seems to me that Tim had a go at something a little different which by your own admission you see as a natural progression. I personally don't see this as a spoiler but maybe it is.

I regularly get ideas by seeing something similar somewhere else and thinking "I bet I can do that in Notes". Of course with my skill level it never turns out as nice as the item you would pay for.


833.9. Volker Weber
(07/28/2009 11:20 AM)

Ben, looks like you are now in the middle of this. :-) Thanks for your clear and honest post.


833.10. Henning Heinz
(28.07.2009 12:29)

I don't get this. To me it looks exactly like "a cool demo to show what you could accomplish in 7 hours" (with XPages).


833.11. Vitor Pereira
(07/28/2009 01:20 PM)

Ben, I don't get it either. Looks to me that you got Tim's intentions wrong.

P.S. - You have to be really dishonest to say that this is an honest post.


833.12. LongLiveLotus
(28/07/2009 13:31)

Ben, all,

as a none-blogging, under the radar, Notes afficionado of long standing may I make the following observations?

1. person a releases some open source software and company b announces a new product for the ND world - Great!

2. They do it at around the same time - So What?

3. Personally I find some of the language and tone in your post above ("spoiler", "tacky", "undignified") to be out of all proportion to what has actually happened and I wonder at the motives for this little war...

Lastly, please all, move on, unify and collaborate around ND - all this bickering is ugly.

Just my 2 penn'orth


833.13. Jack Ratcliff
(07/28/2009 01:44 PM)

Huh?? I'm really speechless. I really can't believe you posted this Ben.


833.14. Sandra Noronha
(07/28/2009 01:47 PM)

IMHO, all of these battles that have been going on lately in the "Yellow Bubble" are making just one victim: Lotus Notes itself.


833.15. Chris Hudson
(07/28/2009 02:08 PM)

You started with --- "I don't want to get in the middle of all the nonsense which has been percolating in parts of the community" --- but seems to me that you jumped in feet first anyway.

I agree with LongLiveLotus, Jack Ratcliff and Sandra Noronha --- all the constant backbiting, sniping and outright bickering going on in the so-called "Yellow Bubble" is ugly, undignified and has only one victim, the product we ALL make a living from.


833.16. Palmi
(07/28/2009 02:11 PM)

Looks to me that Ben is taking this way to seriously. Did his trip to Las vegas really get the best of him :)

I saw this app my thought was "Cool! nice learning tool" - great job Tim


833.17. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/28/2009 02:16 PM)

I don't question Tim's purpose, nor his skill. On the other hand, I take personal offense, whether I should or not, at the ready assumption some people have that well developed products and websites just happen and could be reproduced over a weekend. It shows poor judgment, and is insulting and offensive to those who have spent the time and money to develop a polished product.

As for the spoiler comment, this is based on a certain amount of backchatter on Twitter, Sametime and elsewhere both before and after the announcements. At first, I believed that this might be a coincidence. Now, I don't believe it. Regardless, and back to the point of the post, it gives the appearance of a spoiler announcement between two companies who have had a bit of friction. Appearance counts in reputation, and Lotus911 (and Elguji and anybody else) needs to take that into account. Nathan explicitly referred to this in his post as "activity from Lotus 911".

Regarding the victim being Lotus Notes, I'd disagree. The bigger victim is the software development industry, which is supposed to do more and more for less and less. Too many open source projects open with a similar "look, I was able to recreate xxxx in 7 hours", and that injuries those trying to sell products and ideas for which they have sweated blood. Customers then appear asking why they should pay so much if it is so easy to duplicate, and even if you tell them, there is a disquieting assumption that this software thing is easy.

This software thing isn't easy. Tim does a disservice to software developers, both ISVs and consultants, by conflating the ease with which a UI can be developed to spec, and the difficulty of developing a real product. By hyping Tim's project without clarifying that, Lotus911 does a disservice to itself and the community. That is my opinion. If you are surprised to hear me say it, you have not been following me closely enough, as that opinion reflects long standing beliefs.


833.18. Matt
(07/28/2009 02:30 PM)

If we define "coincidence" as the APPARENT relation of unconnected events, then I'd suggest that only those directly involved can say whether these events are connected.

I don't know that answer, but given the (IMHO) apparent subtext in many recent posts by persons close to this, I think a popular vote about whether this is coincidence is meaningless.


833.19. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/28/2009 03:10 PM)

To reiterate, even if it is pure coincidence, it can have an impact on your reputation, and you have to deal. Product announcements and product launches are tricky partly because they can be impacted by external events. I announced a product on Sept. 10, 2001. It might be coincidental that you won't have heard of it and that it failed miserably. At least there isn't the vaguest hint of suspicion that somebody else timed anything to hurt that launch.


833.20. Nathan T. Freeman
(07/28/2009 03:16 PM)

So basically, Ben, your complaint is that Lotus 911 didn't restrict Tim's personal activity in order to protect the secret business interests of Elguji. That and open source software sucks.


833.21. Peter Presnell
(07/28/2009 03:18 PM)

Ben,

There have been a series of blogs in recent weeks that have done little to unite the Lotus Notes community and further the cause of Notes itself. Add yours that that list!!!!


833.22. Craig Wiseman
(07/28/2009 03:22 PM)

@Ben.

Now I understand. The CIA was out to get YOU! 8-)

It seems really odd that Elanchus (really cool name, btw) was released when it was.

If I had done something as cool as Elanchus and then noticed that a competitor with with my company had - at times - rough relations had launched a (much hyped) fully polished commercial product within a couple of days, I would probably have posted something explaining the the coincidence. Actually, I probably would have been somewhat apologetic as I know how hard it is to launch a new product.

The way this was handled seems to speak about the intentions of the participants.


833.23. Matt
(07/28/2009 03:54 PM)

@Ben, I meant: those who can say don't seem inclined...


833.24. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/28/2009 04:59 PM)

Nathan

Please reread my points. Tim has a perfect right to do what he wants with his time, to create software that he wants, and to post it on OpenNTF. I would think less of Lotus911 if you tried to stop that. Similarly, Lotus911 has a right to insist that any employee clarify whether a project or product is endorsed by or supported by Lotus911. If a company does not choose to insist on that, as IBM and Microsoft and Google and Oracle and virtually everybody else does, than it should hardly surprise that company if outsiders assume that the product is supported and endorsed, especially if the employee's boss writes glowingly about it. And if the employee's boss does write glowingly about it, which is fine for a supportive boss to do, he should not also be surprised if the company is held accountable on a moral level if there is criticism about the project or product, whether about its functions, its promises or its timing.

Is that fair? Is it right? Maybe not, but this is the real world, and fair and right hardly come into it. You will note that the focus of my post is on a company's reputation. Reputation is a tricky thing to guard, and defensive blustering about your "rights" seldom helps to enhance that reputation. Life often does not feel fair, and you are often judged by how you deal with that perceived unfairness. You don't have to like it, but you do have to live with it.

Ben


833.25. Nathan T. Freeman
(07/28/2009 05:16 PM)

Ben, thanks for your concern over Lotus 911's business reputation. It's good to know that you have our fiduciary well-being at heart.

It's also good to know that when you say "If an employee of mine were to release a product like this, I'd insist the he post an apology and clarification, and even if he did, I'd personally post an apology and clarification," you're not suggesting that you would try to stop him from taking some course of action. Only to be ashamed of it. Apparently because even though you've never actually looked at the project, it must be impossible for it to be any good because nobody could possibly be that fast or product. So he'd better apologize for how bad it is in advance.

Not sure where you're getting the "defensive blustering about 'rights'." I read my replies carefully and can't find that word.


833.26. Joerg Michael
(28.07.2009 17:16)

Actually, I didn't see Elanchus as a fully tested, production-ready "product". It's an OpenNTF project, nothing more, nothing less. There are many, many OpenNTF projects that wouldn't meet your or anybody's metrics for "real product", but hey, they're useful. And the community now has another XPages sample application to learn from.


833.27. Chris Toohey
(07/28/2009 05:30 PM)

(Disclaimer: the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog comment - written by Chris Toohey in the year of our Lord 2009, July 28th - are solely those thoughts and opinions of Chris Toohey and are not to be associated with any former, current, or future employer. The author of this comment authored this comment on their own time [while eating an eggplant parmesan sandwhich]).

... Dude, really?

Ignoring my personal friendship with Tim Tripcony - who is in my opinion one of the only Lotus-specializing developers ON THE PLANET that could deliver a polished and shined "product" *in* the aforementioned 7 hours - I find your argument invalid.

Based on what you're saying, Elgugi should fear reprisals and the impact on its own reputation for publishing IQJam, which is nothing more than a platform-specific rip-off of Stack Overflow.

Tim's OpenNTF project is a showcase of the following:

1) A platform-specific, concept-accredited example of what could be accomplished with a small amount of effort and leveraging some of the newest features in a platform that interests its target-audience (Lotus portfolio developers and administrators).

2) The fact that this "product" - as you say - was published on OpenNTF means that it is a community project that Tim simply jump-started. Take a look at the majority of the successful projects on OpenNTF: they started with an initial release and were built upon by community members into full-fledged products.

3) The projects - quite frankly - evangelizes the technology platform without attempting to make money off of it's adopters, and delivers a decent first-pass release to those who need an immediate solution today.

For you to slam Tim - aside from that being bad karma - it's also quite frankly unethical. This community is WAY too small, and once you've tarnished your name it stays that way.

As to public statements and apologies, the *only* one I'd expect one from is you; your apology to Tim for blasting him for doing nothing more than contributing to this community that we all (supposedly) love.


833.28. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/28/2009 05:35 PM)

Nathan,

The apology and clarification have nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the project, which may or may not be the greatest thing since sliced bread. They have to do with the unprofessional (my opinion) trivialization of another company's software and efforts (in this case, StackOverflow.com's), and the (apparently) intentional and simultaneous dimunition of yet another company's product launch (in that case, Elguji's IQJam). Lotus 911 has plenty of skill and ambition, but might do well to better guard its perceived integrity and professionalism. If it has nothing to do with Lotus 911, a disclaimer (perhaps a better word than apology, although I tend to apologize readily to avoid bad karma) and clarification would be appropriate. You certainly don't need to do so - I just said that I would.

Ben


833.29. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/28/2009 05:44 PM)

Chris - I think it is great that Tim is as skilled and talented as he clearly is. I have nothing but respect for his skill. These do not necessarily equate to professionalism, and this action, as handled, does not seem professional. Similarly, your characterization of IQJam as "nothing more than a platform-specific rip-off of Stack Overflow" does nothing to bolster your case. It does, even with the disclaimer, tend to support the impression that this release was an intentional swipe at Elguji.

Again, I am not slamming Tim (OK, a little), but I am suggesting that his employer has some work to do with public relations and guarding its reputation.

Ben


833.30. Alan Lepofsky
(07/28/2009 05:57 PM)

I don't get it. As someone not involved in the Lotus world day to day anymore, this really has me shaking my head, which has not been buried in the sand by the way. I, like anyone else with eyes and ears can tell that there is some type of tension/turf war/whatever going on between Lotus911 and Elguji (and by extension OpenNTF). Whether it is personal, professional, or a cry for attention from BPs (Lotus911 was the star of Lotusphere in 2008, Elguji in 2009), or whatever else, I really don't care. I've always been a huge supporter of everything everyone does in the Lotus community. I've tried to never play favourites. I've supported those BPs whom I know really well, just as much as I have the ones I've never met. When I read vowe's blog post about Tim's app, I thought it was cool. I don't know much about x-pages, and I was glad vowe mentioned the app. Did I think it was a full blown product, ready for Lotus911 to sell to customers? No, not for a second. I did not see a press release about it, nor was there a link to a web site for anyone to contact Lotus911 Sales about it. It was just a blog post. I clearly noticed the vibe that people were posting about it being in poor taste for Tim to copy Stackoverflow, a site I'd never even heard of before this whole situation. Then along comes IQJam, the PRODUCT that Elguji has been working on, and hinting about for weeks. It looks excellent, just like their other products. It has a dedicated web site, and a link for contacting Sales. Clearly it is positioned as ready for prime time. People blogged about it, people Tweeted about it. I would not have compared IQJam to Stackoverflow, just like I would not compare IQJam to Elanchus. All everyone's talking about this has done is create more awareness for Elanchus than I assume Tim was ever was looking for. Is the timing of Elanchus coincidence? I doubt it. Did I think they tried to take a little poke at Elguji. Probably. However, all everyone has done is help them, so I guess mission accomplished. My bosses at Socialtext have been fantastic at teaching me to not talk publicly about others, and instead focus on our own business. (a rule I guess I'm breaking atm, but I consider you all friends, so it is worth it) I really like the "take the high road approach", and it has boded will for us with our customers. Anyway, best of luck to Elguji. Best of luck to Lotus911. Best of luck to all vendors, selling all types of products. If any of you want a Socialtext demo, you know where to find me. ;-)


833.31. Chris Toohey
(07/28/2009 05:58 PM)

@Ben:

Funny, the slamming (note: if you put something in parentheses, it's not like an aside on stage that only I can here Ben... everyone else can read it too) tends to be very anti-Tim, and - for some God-only-knows reason anti-Lotus911, but you never once mention that Elgugi "was inspired by" StackOverflow.

If you don't see that Elgugi's IQJam is nothing but a StackOverflow rip-off, why would you publically complain that an open source project that says it's a clone of StackOverflow is a rip-off/spoiler/piss-in-the-cheerios of IQJam?!

You're logic.. it baffles me sir.


833.32. Bart Severein
(28-07-2009 17:59)

I completely agree with Sandra Noronha. The only bad timing is not the Elanchus release but yet another fight in these difficult times for the Lotus products. We need innovation, not struggle. So two new releases? Great!


833.33. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/28/2009 06:02 PM)

Nathan,

What I would say, and obviously everybody handles this differently, is something like: "I was able to create a working demo with the same rough look and feel of StackOverflow in 7 hours. It shows the awesome capabilities of XPages. Obviously, this is not a finished product, but it may be a great start toward a community-built Q&A system, so I am putting it up on OpenNTF so that we can all work together and make it something great, perhaps something unique that can harness the capabilities of Notes/Domino and not just be a clone."

The fact that StackOverflow has had to defend itself against trivialization, and has done so fairly successfully, doesn't really argue to me that more trivialization is a good idea. This is one of those tendencies (the "I could do that in a weekend" claim) which plague the Open Source Software movement, and make it harder for companies to support OSS. Trivializing the commercial products just echoes back and trivializes the OSS projects, and potential customers are left with an impression that none of the software development is really that hard or worthy of respect.

Ben


833.34. LongLiveLotus
(28/07/2009 18:03)

Hello, me again, the none-blogging, under the radar, Notes afficionado of long standing

:-)

More observations:-

"I don't want to get in the middle of all the nonsense" - bit late now Sir...

Talk of "Reputations" and "Professionalism" in this thread is crass - you're killing yourselves in public here people.

You're all clever people,

Stop.It.Grow.Up.


833.35. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/28/2009 06:18 PM)

Chris,

There is nothing inherently wrong with copying a great idea. Innovation is a wonderful thing, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. There is also a very large difference between taking a great idea and seeing what you can do with it to enhance and improve the idea, or even make it available in a different context. Both Elenchus and IQJam have the potential to do that, but IQJam doesn't try to trivialize the concept and say that it is a no brainer. It respects the idea and tries to tie it to an existing technology, IdeaJam, in a way that enhances the idea and makes it available to the Notes/Domino community. Elenchus could have been that, but Tim blew it. People can argue why he did, but the context suggests that he and others were irritated with a fellow IBM business partner and decided to "stick it to them". Maybe that isn't true. Maybe Elenchus will be developed into a great offering that expands on the idea which StackOverflow (and others before them) have created. I hope so, as competition is good. It was the handling of the launch which was bad.

Would you seriously argue that there is no difference between a Blackberry which aims to learn from the success of the iPhone and a cheap iPhone look-alike clone sold on the street in Taiwan? Both are copying Apple at some level, but they are different sorts of efforts.

I hate to say it, but when both you and Nathan refer to IQJam as a rip-off, it does tend to support the conspiracy theorists. Look, if somebody wants to create a rich text to MIME rendering engine because iFidelity is getting such a good reception, they are welcome to do so. On the other hand, if somebody tries to fool people into thinking they have done so just to confuse the market and make life difficult for Genii Software, I'm going to be madder than a wet hen.

Once more: Tim is a great and talented developer. He may well have created God's gift to Q&A apps. I am questioning his handling of the launch, and and I am questioning that alone.

Ben


833.36. Sandra Noronha
(07/28/2009 06:20 PM)

Ben, even if you are totally right in your conviction that a competitor is launching a product similar to yours to hurt your company (which is debatable) and that that is unprofessional and hurts the competitor's reputation, a post like this is hurting *your* reputation.

Promote your product if you believe in it and let the community take it's own conclusions about the quality of it.

The only competitor that isn't hurt by this (and probably v. much happy with all of these fights) is... Microsoft.


833.37. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/28/2009 06:29 PM)

Nathan - The line which sticks out and caused 90% of the problem is right there: "There's really not that much to the site." It is a simple thing, but don't disrespect the efforts of others. Don't trivialize other people's hard work to make your efforts look better. I thought better of Tim, and by extension all of you. That is a ridiculous statement, and should be clarified, in my opinion.

Sandra - I appreciate your statement, and, trust me, I wish I hadn't felt the need to wade into this. I will endeavor to avoid such topics in the future and stick to postive, pro-active posts.


833.38. David Jones
(07/28/2009 06:36 PM)

Ben, you just said, "It is a simple thing, but don't disrespect the efforts of others. Don't trivialize other people's hard work to make your efforts look better."

With that, I eagerly await your apology to IBM/Lotus for your diminishing of their work in handling MIME/CD conversion (along with native rich text classes) while you make it seem so simple.

If you're asking for an apology or whatever from Tim/Lotus 9-1-1 over something like this then I'd say you owe quite a few to IBM/Lotus and even Microsoft with how Outlook works in handling the conversions.


833.39. LongLiveLotus
(28/07/2009 18:36)

ok...

ignore me.

go hang yourself Ben.

please - drop it and move on for the greater good


833.40. Nathan T. Freeman
(07/28/2009 06:37 PM)

"when both you and Nathan refer to IQJam as a rip-off"

Ben, having a difference of opinion is one thing, but I'm starting to get a bit tired of you putting words in my mouth. I never said "rip-off."

"Both Elenchus and IQJam have the potential to do that, but IQJam doesn't try to trivialize the concept and say that it is a no brainer... Elenchus could have been that, but Tim blew it."

So your issue is that Tim didn't show proper reverence to StackOverflow?

"Tim is a great and talented developer. He may well have created God's gift to Q&A apps."

But you wouldn't know, of course, because you haven't looked at it yet. You just want to complain about the quality of the code... no wait, the process of how the code was built... no wait, the text of the announcement... no wait, the timing... aw crap, now I've lost track.


833.41. LongLiveLotus
(28/07/2009 18:39)

Clarification - "hang yourself" meant metaphorically.

Also, thanks for not editing these posts - respect that.

LongLiveLotus


833.42. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/28/2009 06:49 PM)

Nathan,

I apologize. You are correct, I kept referring back up to the previous comments and misread the one from Chris and thought it was from you. You have been for more careful and circumspect, and I am sorry for misrepresenting you.

As for your comments, I have been clear from the beginning. Tim's product may be great. The way he launched it was not. The timing and apparent swipe at a fellow business partner was not. You can minimize the fact that his comment about StackOverflow was demeaning if you like, but the whole point of this post is that Lotus 911 risks its reputation being diminished by the handling of the launch. The question is not about quality, or process, and your bluster doesn't distract from that.

I advise you to simply not respond, and leave things alone for a little bit. I intend to take that advice as well.

Ben


833.43. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/28/2009 06:49 PM)

@LongLiveLotus - You are welcome.


833.44. Nathan T. Freeman
(07/28/2009 06:56 PM)

Just to be clear, you're saying that it would protect Lotus 911's reputation for Tim to apologize to StackOverflow.com for suggesting that they haven't worked hard on their .NET application that runs the site?


833.45. Flemming Riis
(28-07-2009 18:57)

standing from the outside looking this seems like reading a bad comic book , everyone screams opensource when its microsoft but when someone make a app that potentially can hurt the isv revenue people complain.

what will you do if openntf really picks up with gpl stuff ?.

use more time explaining why your app is better and better supported and xyz instead of shooting off attacks that looks like they were made in the kindergarden.

but its the typical yellowworld issue complain instead of showing why your stuff is better.


833.46. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/28/2009 07:14 PM)

Nathan - I doubt StackOverflow is paying any attention. I think it wouold enhance Lotus 911's reputation to acknowledge that they don't have any idea how much effort StackOverflow.com takes to build and run, and that they applaud their success. Since you don't even have a competing product, why would that hurt to say, no matter what technology they use?

Flemming - I am mystified by your comment. This post has little to do with open source, pro or con. In addition, neither one of these products is mine, or has anything to do with me. Elguji and Lotus 911 are both respected business partners, and I am friends with people in both companies (although they might deny it today). Even friends can make mistakes, and these two companies seem to have been feuding. I wrote my post to suggest that companies need to guard their reputations. I respect Tim Tripcony, although I think he made a mistake in the heat of the competitive moment. I respect Nathan Freeman, although he seems to doubt it. I respect Bruce Elgort, although he has been acting like an ass in recent weeks as well. I just want them all to realize that outside their little heated competition, they are all starting to look bad. This time, it was Lotus 911. Last time (when I was away and didn't have a chance to write a timely post), it was Elguji badly handling the OpenNTF Steering issue. I refuse to engage in criticism of either company beyond their actions, because I like all the people involved. Sometimes, you need to let somebody you care about know when they are embarrassing themselves. I hope that when I embarrass myself, people will let me know. (Oh, right, actually they seem to do that on a regular basis)


833.47. Richard Schwartz
(07/28/2009 07:34 PM)

Against my better judgement I will jump in this boiling pot:

IMHO, the timing of Tim's posting of Elanchus to OpenNTF is 100% of the issue. The coincidence in timing is not so great that I can't believe it is innocent, but given all the implications it is too much to simply dismiss out of hand.

With due respect to Ben and anyone else looking at this in relation to denigration of stackoverflow that may or may not be inherent in Tim's work and his posting... that's the flea as far as the Lotus community is concerned. The herd of elephants not well hidden behind this is all about whether Tim was aiming deliberately, on his own behalf or on behalf of Lotus911, to pre-emptively take the wind out of Elguji's sails -- along with the releated issue of how exactly did Tim know what Elguju was about to release?

But also IMHO, all it would take to clear this up is a simple statement from Tim that he had absolutely no clue what Elguji was about to release, that he had no intention of distracting anyone from their product announcement or denigrating the work they have done on any of their products. If Tim is willing to step up in public and state that this whole thing truly is pure coincidence, then I am willing to believe him and say that we should put this to rest.


833.48. Flemming Riis
(28-07-2009 19:45)

-Flemming - I am mystified by your comment. This post has little to do with open source, pro or con

as it said if i read the post as i do standing outside and looking in

Someone release a free product and gets bashed , use the time explaing why its better to buy the product from Elguji instead of going after the person that done the code.


833.49. Tim Paque
(07/28/2009 07:50 PM)

Wow, pretty heated. From the outside it certainly appears to be one competitor trying to take the wind out of the others sails.

It's a bit mean spirited, but often competition is.

However, I don't really think an open source option is going to cost IQJam any customers. It really is the difference between a Pinto and a Rolls Royce. Yea, they both do the same thing, but they really aren't taking each others customers.


833.50. Chris Toohey
(07/28/2009 08:17 PM)

Wow.

Okay, I forgot in this community that if you walk into someone else's backyard with a differing opinion that you're on the wrong side of "us vs. them".

Being in this community, rarely pimping anything for myself outside of community improvement efforts [when's the last time you saw me pushing one of my products?!], and attempting to always shout from the rooftops the efforts of anyone who takes time out of their lives to do something FOR this community... I tend to forget that there are some people - with apologies to Nolan - who just want to watch the world burn.

I found this post by following a link from David Leedy's post - who I've been paying a lot of attention to for his great contributions to this community - and felt my heart sink into my gut based on what I'd read.

One of my friends - who did nothing more than openly share with the greater community - was being ripped a new one by one of the more established members of said community.

I'll admit, I was/am very upset. But I'll take a few seconds to clarify a few things:

I'd referred to Elguji's product as a "rip-off" of StackOverflow based on your correlation.

If Elenchus == StackOverflow "rip-off" & Elenchus == IQJam spoiler, then IQJam == StackOverflow "rip-off".

See how silly that all sounds?!

If Tim had released an OpenNTF project and said "see all of those hard-working developers creating finished products? I want them to lose their jobs, have cavities due to lack of dental coverage, and - if it's not too much trouble - die in a fire. Love & kisses, Elenchus Project Chef", I'd the the first to question the motivations.

... but he didn't. He simply said that he'd seen a solution external to the community and thought that he could rather easily re-create it with IBM Lotus products.

Amazingly, he did. Even more amazingly, people are giving him grief for it.


833.51. Ben Poole
(28/07/2009 20:32)

Enough.


833.52. Richard Schwartz
(07/28/2009 08:53 PM)

Chris, you use the word "amazingly". I can too.

Tim did in fact do nothing more than openly share with the greater community, but amazingly he did this the day before another member of the community announced a product release of something that is amazingly similar.

That is what this is about. Nothing else in this discussion matters. Alleged rip-offs are irrelevant. There are no patents or copyrights in question, and almost certainly there is nothing patentable in question. Open source versus commercial product is irrelevant, and stataments that appear to minimize the efforts of commercial software ISVs are irrelevant. Some people may indeed care about those things, and Ben (unwisely, IMHO) has chosen to connect them to this discussion, but for the community as a whole and for this particular incident, they are really irrelevant.

What is relevant is the lurking possibility that this was no amazing coincidence. What is relevant is the possibility that an employee of one vendor deliberately employed a bush league tactic against another competing vendor, along with the possibility that this tactic may have been facilitated by a deliberate breach of confidence somewhere along the line. These things are relevant because, if true, they are signs of a significant deterioration in the spirit of respectful competition-cum-collaboration that has been a hallmark of the on-line Lotus community for a very long time.


833.53. Richard Schwartz
(07/28/2009 08:57 PM)

Nathan, I read those clues as being vague enough to describe almost any general-purpose collaborative application.


833.54. Nathan T. Freeman
(07/28/2009 09:01 PM)

"What is relevant is the possibility that an employee of one vendor deliberately employed a bush league tactic against another competing vendor, along with the possibility that this tactic may have been facilitated by a deliberate breach of confidence somewhere along the line."

Yes Rich, it would be amazing if someone did that.


833.55. Ben Langhinrichs
(07/28/2009 09:03 PM)

I've gotta go with Ben Poole on this one. Enough!

Comments on this post are now disabled..


833.56. Richard Schwartz
(07/28/2009 09:06 PM)

And yet, Nathan, it is entirely unamazing under the circumstances that someone might suspect it.