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Getting Lotus technologies to tomorrow's developers

Vo-Tech - 
Wikipedia The other day, I had the pleasure of proctoring a development assessment to a local vo-tech school. The assessments were designed to test the principals of project-based development rather than focusing on a particular technology, which was broken up into two sections. Section 1, the student was tasked with creating a simple payroll application that accepted specifically-formatted input and was to be designed to provide specifcally-formatted output. Section 2, the student was tasked with creating an application logic diagram or pseudocoding based on a descriptive requirements document for a given project. The good news - for both sections - the kids rocked it! They were able to understand - after my real-world explanations of why they'll actually need this in the field that they've chosen to go into - the need for creating manager/VIP-friendly overviews prior to delving into a given technology. They also quickly grasped the concepts of "sometimes it's just better to shut up and give the [manager/VIP] what they want instead of trying to tell them of a better way to do things"... especially when the manager/VIP driver - in this case - was a state assessment looking for specific output and application functionality.

The more left-brained completed the tasks first while the more right-brained were focusing on cleaning up their workflow diagrams and color-coding various items, etc.. It was an absolutely fascinating look into the young mind, and a great tool for me to gauge the mistakes that I make even to this day: either ignoring UI for speed of delivery or actually focusing on UI or refining functional processes resulting in delayed delivery.

While waiting for the students to finish, I began chatting with and answering questions of the more curious who had turned in their work. After telling them that they actually would use algebra - sometimes every day in fact - I began to talk to them about what technologies excited them.

The results? Mixture of mobile devices/software, gaming, and web. Kind of what I had expected to be honest...

What I hadn't expected was one of the students showing me their classroom textbook. It was a shock to see that their development textbook was a Microsoft .Net Student Resource Book. In chatting with the kids, I quickly realized - in absolute horror - that all assumed the need to leverage .Net to do work-related development while other development technologies were more for personal/non-professional ventures.

Before I left for the day, I spoke at length with the teacher, and expressed my surprise in their understanding of what technologies were being used in the enterprise while also offering to come in at a later time and speak with students - outlining both the various technologies and ways those technologies are used in the enterprise, while additionally showing them some pretty slick real world enterprise-level applications.

So it looks as though I'll be helping expand some minds - if not this semester - then in upcoming semesters.

So what's with the title of this post?! I hear you ask? Well, several things...

  1. I am absolutely eager to push Lotus technologies... but that's taking a biased stand, ultimately doing the students the same disservice that educating them in .Net is doing today.

  2. If I can focus more on globally adopted technologies, methods, etc. - such as XHTML, JavaScript, Java, et al - I can not only showcase some you can do this today work but ensure that I don't teach them today what turns into a moving/lost target tomorrow when they're in working world.

    For example, if I teach the kids about Lotus Notes and focus on @Formula, who's to say that @Formula will be around by the time they hit the enterprise? Look at the C API. Sure, still useful... as long as you're running a C-based client/server. And with XPages moving to the Lotus Notes client and a possible localized SSJS engine - @Formula becomes more of a legacy thing than anything. YMMV here; that's just my opinion...

  3. Does IBM offer student discounts/training materials/etc.?

For that last one, I'm completely ignorant -- I don't know! Are such discounts and courseware available? Is the development environment readily available to a student?

I suspect not...

This isn't an attempt at a re-hashing of the Domino should be free! thing - don't get me wrong - but... well, two quick examples and then I'll leave it to the comments section of the post:

  1. A few months ago I was contacted by a college student in Ireland who's professor is teaching them Lotus Notes. Awesome right? What I thought was really cool was the fact that Will - this student - came across the Lotus Online Community. Will, if you're still listening, check in and share!

  2. One of my Notes Shop-customers decided to outsource two of their IT department groups - helpdesk and desk-side support - to a somewhat local firm. This firm does not have a competency in Lotus Notes. When I engaged the site manager, she informed me that she was unable to find anyone in the area that knows Lotus Notes.

Lotus Notes is a technology that - today - you don't go out and actively seek to learn unless 1) you have a job requirement to do so or 2) are looking for employment in a company that uses Lotus Notes... and thus have a job requirement to do so.

Can that be changed?

Why do people want Microsoft Exchange? Simple really, Outlook is what they use at home. It's what they're familiar with. It's what they know. There's no ramp-up time needed. It's consumer-ware. Consumer-ware - incidentally - that drives technology purchases in the enterprise.

Is it better? Not as far as I'm concerned. Is it safer/more secure? Not hardly. Do people care? Not really...

It's not the featureset or the capabilities of a product that gets people to use it, it's the ease of getting it, ease of use, and not having to feel like you know how to use it in order to use it.

Ok, last point, and then I'm getting back to the project list. It's Monday after all...

Do you think people want to hear well, you're using it wrong or it's not just email, but an application platform? With responses like that, you wonder why some people in IT are thought of as egotistical prigs...

About the author: Chris Toohey

Thought Leadership, Web & Mobile Application Development, Solutions Integration, Technical Writing & Mentoring

A published developer and webmaster of, Chris Toohey specializes in platform application development, solutions integration, and evangelism of platform capabilities and best practices.

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