The traditional Lotusphere (now IBM Connect) event wrap-up (of a sort)...
Each year around this time, I try to sit down and write a recap of the Lotusphere conference I just attended. I guess I can say this year will be different, since the conference is now officially called IBM Connect. But for me, the "different" goes much deeper than that.
It's not a secret that I'm doing mostly SharePoint work these days at my place of employment. The Notes applications I've built over my years of working there are being obsoleted and archived. By this time next year, there's a reasonably good chance that no active Notes applications will be in use any longer. Of course, that's been the wish since 2009, but one person can only do so much when it comes to being point for inventorying, maintaining, shutting down, migrating, and otherwise babysitting 2100 Notes databases. As much as I'd like to learn and use XPages, it would only end up being a personal project for me. I won't ever see Connections, and everything else that IBM sees as bright and shiny these days are not targeted as something a sole developer would pick up and use on their own.
Bottom line... when it comes to IBM Notes and IBM Domino, I'm "legacy"... I'm "classic"... and to be blunt, that's not very far away from being "obsolete".
So why did I go to Orlando again this year? I'm not an IBM Champion for 2013. Speaking wasn't going to be a possibility. A vendor was kind enough to let me work for them at their booth in the Vendor Showcase (thank you *so* very much), so I was able to have the full conference experience. But why go to a technology vendor conference on my own dime for a technology that isn't my primary focus any longer?
I'll let Volker Weber sum it up far better than I can:
Connect 2013 was very emotional. Lots of folks are afraid of the future. "I wanted to see my friends one last time", that was the most touching statement I heard. Tearjerker.
Let me tell you something: life is about people, not about technology. Your friends will be your friends. And you will see them again. And again, and again. Technology changes, friendship lasts. In change, there lies opportunity.
The "I wanted to see my friends one last time" statement was mine. For me, it was more than just a tear-jerker. It bluntly and completely shredded and tore me up inside. For those who had the "pleasure" of saying good-bye to me on Wednesday or Thursday (or any other time, for that matter), you did not see me at my best. You saw a raw, emotional me. It was as if I had never taken an anti-depressant in my life. Not even Ativan (something I opted to try *knowing* I was not going to handle this well) made a dent. I knew this was coming. I knew the feelings were going to be there. I knew the emotions were going to be sitting on the surface, ready to make an appearance at a single word or thought. I even considered cancelling because I didn't want to say the good-byes. But ultimately, I knew I had to go. I couldn't drop the last seventeen years of my life by ignoring it. I know that I'll still see everyone via Twitter, Skype, etc. But that's not a substitute for sitting down with someone over drinks and having those deep hours-long talks that are forever remembered.
For those of you who don't understand Lotusphere, it wasn't a technology conference. Yeah, maybe it was in 1997 when I first attended, having a sum total of three months of Notes experience. But it was there I decided that this Notes thing was something I wanted to be good at. Reaching out to other Notes professionals, I learned what it meant to "be social". I learned how to speak in front of large groups, how to help others reach their goals, and how to be part of something bigger than the sum of its parts. It led to trips overseas, two books with my name on the cover with co-authors, and some of the deepest friendships I've ever had. Much of what I've become as a technology professional and a person can be traced back to a technology conference in Orlando in 1997.
Life *is* about people and not about technology. I'll probably see a number of my Notes friends in other venues, at other times. I thought Lotusphere 2012 was my last year. I guess this year was "My Last Lotusphere, Attempt #2". I certainly didn't go back for the latest updates in the IBM technology portfolio. I do care what happens in that space, and I am interested in where it goes. However, it doesn't impact me professionally like it used to. I'm traveling a different technology path now, one that for many years I labeled as "evil" and "the enemy". Perspective now tells me it's just a technology to solve business problems. It's the community behind the technology that matters. I am and will continue to make the same types of friends there that I've made over the last seventeen years with IBM and Lotus. It doesn't mean I drop the friends I made, as that doesn't change. It just means that those personal face-to-face times I treasured *so* much each January drift away.
So how do I wrap up IBM Connect 2013? It was all about people... my close and deep friends... and minions (you'd have had to been there). 2012 was not an easy year for me, and who knows what 2013 will hold. This last week was bittersweet in so many ways. At some point, I might even be able to talk about it without losing it, and without hiding behind a keyboard. I hate being so emotional, and I wish I could just flip a switch and turn them off. But unfortunately I can't, and I'm stuck with what churns inside.
Let me just say thank you for an incredible ride over the last seventeen years, and thank you for realizing over the last couple of days that sometimes hugs have to substitute for words, as words were just not possible.