Lotus fans: Show me the money or shut the hell up


opinion If there is one thing I am absolutely sick to death of, it is the pathetic rantings of die-hard Lotus Notes fanboys about how technically superior their product is, and how everyone else who isn’t drinking the IBM kool-aid is somehow incredibly “biased” and don’t understand Notes’ obvious superiority.

Let me walk you through an average day in these people’s lives.

Courtesy of their Google Alerts set on key search terms like ‘Lotus Notes’ and ‘Domino’, when they slouch cringingly into their Office Space-esque working environments just before 9AM every morning, they receive an annotated list of stories posted on global websites about how yet another mega-corporation has dumped Notes, typically in favour of the ultimate evil and hated destroyer of worlds, Microsoft Exchange.

Instantly, and despite the fact that this happens every day, the fingers of these Lotus Notes’ fanboys tighten in terror around their 1980’s IBM-branded coffee mug filled with weak herbal tea. Their throat seizes up as if they are having an asthma attack, and a series of short, disjuncted noises issue from their mouth as they gaze fixatedly at the screen, their beady eyes unable to look away from what they perceive as a horriffic event.

Then, setting the tea down shakily, these Lotus fanboys scrabble with gnarled fingers at the keyboard and mouse until they find the comments section of the website concerned. “BIAS!!!” they scream. “This journalist must be BIASED against Lotus! He’s on the Microsoft payroll! Look at all the Microsoft advertisements on the site! It’s a CONSPIRACY!”

They then proceed to outline in amazingly detailed prose the technical reasons why the Lotus Notes/Domino ecosystem is inherently better than Microsoft’s Outlook/Exchange alternative. The extensibility of the platform. The number of third-party additions. Its easy upgrade path. The fact that you can now get it “in the cloud” with Lotus Live. Its better security and integrated collaboration features.

And the list goes on.

Without fail, they punctuate their article with yet another, slightly more veiled jab at the journalist writing the article, before collapsing briefly into their chair as their anger dissipates and they raise their mug of herbal tea once again as a knight in the Crusades would have raised his sword, believing that they have righted all wrongs and put the world to harmony once more. “I showed him,” they think, and start preparing the daily email to their chief executive justifying why their company’s Lotus email system won’t sync with his mobile phone.

We received the perfect example of this yesterday, after we published an article about local company Steinhoff shifting to Microsoft’s hosted BPOS platform.

“This is the most emotive and biased article I have read for a long time. This is not information, it is Microsoft propaganda and shows your organisation and your so-called reporting to be nothing but an arm of the Microsoft marketing,” screamed an individual named Paul. “Grow up and give us some real news backed by facts, not your obviously biased opinion.”

Thanks Paul. I deleted your comment, because unlike those of other readers, it had nothing constructive to add to the conversation. Actually, I enjoyed doing so, because I am a former systems administrator and I can be petty like that at times (see the Bastard Operator from Hell). But I re-publish it here as a prime example of the case I have described above.

The problem with Lotus Notes fanboys is that they are incredibly hypocritical. Long-term readerswill know that this author has written dozens of articles over the past several years about email platform migrations in large organisations. Yes, many of the stories have been about Notes/Domino customers migrating to Microsoft Outlook/Exchange, and there is an undeniable trend in this direction. However, we’ve also written many stories about organisations migrating off every platform under the sun and onto Google’s Apps suite, which is in direct competition with both IBM and Microsoft’s options.

But here’s the thing: The Lotus Notes fanboys never come out of the woodwork to discuss the situation when a Microsoft customer goes Google — or even onto another platform like Zimbra. They only get excited and jump up and down when Lotus is involved. They have absolutely no interest in discussing organisations’ actual email needs logically and rationally in the context of their businesses — they just want to impotently scream bloody murder whenever their personal lovechild takes a bodyblow.

Ironically, whenever we write a story about an organisation ‘going Google’, it’s the Microsoft fanboys who list us as their number one public enemy. I’d bet Microsoft fanboys are probably a little better dressed than Lotus fanboys, but they still scream similar things at us.

“BIAS!” they scream. “Gmail is not ready for the enterprise! It’s insecure because it’s hosted overseas and the US Patriot Act means the Government can see up your skirt! Look at all the Google ads on the site! This journalist must be on the Google payroll! It’s a CONSPIRACY!”

It’s remarkable how similar Lotus and Exchange fanboys are — almost as if they were separated at birth. It would be as if Pauline Hanson and Sarah Palin were originally twins but grew up in separate households and came to form the same ridiculous views but for completely different reasons.

Right. Now that I’ve insulted all of the Lotus Notes fanboys sufficiently to get their attention and send the Google Alerts emails springing like demonic hyperactive mice into their inboxes, I want to get to the real point of this article: To issue an open amnesty and invitation to them in bulk.

The thing about most technology journalists is that although each probably has an email platform that they prefer, because we’re all heavy users of email, we’re not usually paid to express an opinion about that (although sometimes we do) — we’re usually paid to report on the news of the day and describe what’s happening out there in IT departments around the world.

I say this to make the point that I would LOVE to report on new deployments of Lotus Notes/Domino. I’m FASCINATED with the current state of enterprise collaboration (as geeky as that may sound) and I’ve been reporting on this space for the better part of a decade now, after working as a systems administrator on mail systems and other assorted and sundry items myself.

The problem is that I simply have not been able to find any new deployments of Lotus Notes/Domino in Australia at all for the past several years, so despite my best efforts to the contrary, I have to go on reporting new Exchange and Google Apps deployments — and even new Zimbra rollouts — because I simply do not know of any new Lotus ones.

Where possible, I have reported on Lotus Notes upgrades. I really enjoyed doing that, because I got the chance to tell a different story from the same old, Organisation X dumps Lotus Notes for Exchange/Google Apps yadda yadda yadda. And also, again, as dumb as this sounds, I like talking to IT managers, systems administrators and CIOs about their systems. I’m just wired that way.

So today I am issuing an OPEN INVITATION and AMNESTY to Lotus Notes fanboys.

If you come up with an Australian organisation who is deploying a new installation of Lotus Notes/Domino of 100 seats or more, I will guarante to interview them. I will guarantee to write a story of at least 500 words and probably longer about their deployment. If they will let me and it is in Sydney, I will even physically travel to their office and do a video interview with them.

This guarantee also extends in part to those upgrading old installations of Lotus Notes. I guarantee that if you can come up with an organisation of 500 seats or larger who is upgrading their copy of Notes/Domino, I will guarantee to interview them as well and publish a story.

I issue this amnesty so that it is on the public record that I am not a “BIAS” journalist and that I am interested in email platforms of all stripes. If I break my word on this, please feel free to slander me in public as much as you want to.

But, Lotus Notes fanboys, here’s the kicker.

If I do not receive any invitations to interview Australian Lotus Notes customers over the next 12 months, you must acknowledge this. You must acknowledge that IBM’s precious email and collaboration platform is suffering a slow and prolonged death by a thousand cuts, and that it will shortly be consigned to the graveyard of history as Microsoft and Google divide up its once strong empire between them.

If, Lotus Notes fanboys, you do not come up with the goods in the next 12 months and let me know about some new Notes/Domino customers, you must quit your incessant bitching that journalists are “BIASED” and walk away. It would make me extremely happy if you then undertook Microsoft or Google re-education and admitted the error of your ways, because then I could laugh at you and point out that you had sold out to one or both evil empires, and that if you were real men, the truth is that you should never have stopped using EMACS in the first place and that graphical user interfaces are for wimps.


Image credit: The film Jerry Maguire, the “Show me the money” scene


  1. Hey, credit where it’s due: at least Lotus Notes 8 correctly renders fonts called through the Google font API. Even Gmail doesn’t.

    Then again, Lotus Notes 8.5 doesn’t.

    PS: VI for life.

  2. I’m actually hoping you do get an interview. I’d love to know why someone would adopt Notes in the current marketplace with (in my bias, non-advertiser supported opinion) there are far better products. I can understand upgrading, but a fresh adoption would be interesting to hear about.

  3. Hats off to you Renai for setting the record straight on your point of view. I consider myself one of the Lotus fanboys, as you call us, and don’t see the issue with us getting up in arms when someone attacks our platform. I would think a developer of any platform they develop for and love would do the same and if not they should, as you said, walk away, get re-educated, and admit the error of their ways.

    I admit that I am a little biased to Lotus, but have to say that I would rather an organization properly scope out all the options for what will best fit their need and commit to that platform 100% whether that be Microsoft Exchange, Google Gmail, or Zimbra so that they then have no reason to bad mouth the Lotus product for not being what they have been so used to using for the last several decades.

    I am not aware, not 100% sure, of any news articles talking about a security breach of an organizations mail system that was using Lotus, but Microsoft and Google hmmm.

    Again, hats off to drawing the line in the sand.

  4. It seems accusing authors of bias stirs an even bigger emotional response than telling Lotus “Fanboys” that Exchange is better than Notes..LOL..

    I don’t think any genuine person would deny the fact that Lotus Notes is a dead man walking at this point. And for the record I don’t have an IBM coffee-mug.. smashed that years ago.

    Wow.. what a rant (good ending though).. i thought I was a ranter.. You clearly have too much time on your hands..

  5. I could definitely be classified a Lotus fanboy, but I thought this article was fantastic. While I didn’t agree with every specific point, you’re obviously a very talented writer, and I found myself chuckling at your caricaturization of my ilk (although I had difficulty relating to the depiction of working conditions, since it’s been quite a few years since I set foot in a cube farm for any reason other than the occasional consulting gig).

    For me personally, there are a couple factors that make it difficult to believe that Notes may actually be “the walking dead”. The first is that this mantra has been an ever-present background hum for the entire 13 years I’ve worked with Lotus products. When I first encountered Notes, it was less than 9 years old and already dead. Now it’s coming up on 22 and it’s dying. This makes it a struggle to accept assertions of its demise as “news”, since many have been offering the same characterizations for so long, yet the platform remains. Hence, while it’s very possible that Notes will soon disappear entirely, history makes it safer to bet against that possibility… if I’d believed the same assertions when I first heard them in 1998, I would have missed out entirely on what has been a most enjoyable career thus far.

    The second factor is the complication presented by the platform’s dissociative identity. Without attempting to extol Domino’s merits or deride other platforms, the reality is that Domino is first and foremost an application development platform; its messaging features are merely one application that has been developed upon that platform, ships with the product, and typically gets all the attention. Every few years, it seems, IBM remembers this, adds new development features (most noticeably, with the introduction of an entire JSF implementation in the most recent major release, 8.5), which causes some invigoration as existing customers discover the new things they can develop, and new customers are attracted to the platform. Then IBM goes back to talking just about incremental messaging features like ghosted calendar entries, and the notion that Domino competes with Exchange or Google Apps – instead of PHP, Struts, Rails, Couchbase, Salesforce, et al – resurfaces.

    As a result, the individual event of one organization migrating their email to a competitor’s solution actually does seem like news – particularly when this happens frequently and publicly enough to appear to be a trend. But the reality is that each organization has, upon successful completion of such a migration (which history, again, indicates is never guaranteed), what they already had – email – albeit, with a couple incremental features that they didn’t use to, along with new problems they never used to have to worry about. Due to this dual identity as a messaging platform and custom application development platform, it’s not at all uncommon for an organiztation that has “ditched Notes” to still be using it a decade later… because whoever decided everyone should be using Outlook didn’t think about the mission critical apps that run their business, and after shifting all the mail, find themselves unable to identify a superior alternative to handle their CRM, purchase requisition system, corporate website, and engineering change control process (and, typically, hundreds of other apps of varying nature), all of which have been running for years on a single server cluster. So they keep paying IBM license renewal fees, employing Domino developers to support and enhance those applications, and (hopefully) periodically upgrading to newer versions of Domino to enjoy the newly available application development capabilities. They just no longer get email for free. And Notes is dead, because more and more companies use it for what it’s best at, instead of a tiny subset of what it can do that, sadly, gets all the press… even from IBM. Admittedly, I’ve seen indications lately that the last part of that may be shifting a bit.

    In any case, I applaud you for issuing this challenge. It’s not enough for IBM (or those of us whose career revolves primarily around their software products) to assert the platform’s vitality and simply ask others to just take their word for it… they need to publicize the customers who are as excited to be embracing it as those who are excited to be abandoning it. But in all honesty, I don’t expect this type of debate to vanish. As I mentioned earlier, many have been trumpeting the demise of Notes for so long I can barely remember a time when I wasn’t hearing it… and there are always fanboys like me passionately contradicting those assertions. I would not be surprised in the least to see an article published by another journalist in five years’ time expressing precisely the same sentiments you have in this one.

    • This is one of the best and most insightful comments I have ever seen posted on Delimiter.

      Tim, I particularly agree with what you’ve said here about the fact that Notes has been ‘dying’ forecer, and that the Notes platform is about far more than email or collaboration.

      As I wrote a few years ago (http://bit.ly/hxdCAr), I feel IBM needs to productise Notes so that it much more of a distinct enterprise collaboration product, and so that it has its own division which focuses development just on those collaboration features and on keeping up with Exchange and Google Apps. Its amorphous nature means it is difficult to get a grasp on what Notes really does inside many large organisations — it so often provides such a wide range of services.

      Hopefully we’ll come up with some good responses to my challenge, anyway :)

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. For the record. There are still thousands of Notes customers out there ( together with CC:Mail this product once had a 60%+ market share) but I consider the number of what you call die-hard Lotus fans is little (even lower if you subtract IBM Business Partners and IBM employees). Unfortunately I am still too busy with Notes and Domino work to comment on every article how great is was (or not).
    Most people working with Domino do NOT close their eyes anymore on what’s happening out there. So yes I do believe that Notes and Domino are on its way out. And yes it has been a long, and in parts painful, process. But it will take a long time until Microsoft and Google might celebrate a “Mission accomplished”, And in the meantime there is money to be made here.
    And considering what IBM has tried to get rid of Notes and Domino (in the past) I must say that there still is a solid number of customers who just decided that the platform has a lot of value, no matter what the competition or IBM is saying.
    And yes I run a Google search for Lotus Notes but I don’t have an IBM mug and drink coffee not tea.

  7. I always suspected that the reason the Lotus Notes fanboys were so vocal was because many of them are contractors who are having trouble finding work, so they have a lot of free time on their hands :-)

  8. OK Renai, if your offer is an honest one, I will take your challenge.

    I am happy to provide you with the contact details of several Australian companies that are new implementations of Domino in the last 5 years that have more than 100 users.

    I won’t disclose their details in this forum, but my list will include:

    1) A Tasmanian Government Department with about 500 users.
    2) A Tasmanian Construction Group with over 600 users.
    3) A Sydney based Electricity Distributor that is currently preparing to roll-out a Domino system to over 5,500 users.
    4) A Sydney based Building Management/Construction Group that is rolling Domino out to over 600 users.

    I will contact all these organisations in advance to gain their agreement in principle to be interviewed by you, just to make your job easier.

    The Westfield life safety system that I mentioned yesterday is a fantastic story with over 5,600 new Domino users implemented 2 years ago, but Westfield don’t comment publicly on these projects as a general rule.

    I have got more, but let’s see how you do with these for the moment.

    Please email me for details.


    Ian Randall

  9. “the fingers of these Lotus Notes’ fanboys tighten in terror around their 1980′s IBM-branded coffee mug filled with weak herbal tea.”

    I stopped reading there. If you want an opinion you should probably stop with the name calling or ad hominems.

    “pathetic rantings”

    I read your other article, those rantings looked more like correcting you. No interest to read any of your other stuff.

  10. Next time you report on a migration, as you probably will, please mention the version of Notes the organization is moving from and how long they used Notes in the past.
    Terms like “Nail in the coffin” may just be to get attention, but do seem to indicate bias even if that was not the intent.
    The problem for me is that these pieces are mostly a rehash of vendor marketing. There are very few areas which point to increased ROI or solving a specific issue, or better use of alternate technology. Basically, no depth.
    The marketing does it’s job, which is to engage on an emotional level, hence the majority of your responses are going to be in the same vein.
    Put some meat in the next one.


    • heh I can assure you I don’t sign up the ‘vendor marketing’ spin train ;) I am putting as much meat as I can in my yarns … hopefully we’ll do more investigative work later this year as we get more resources.

  11. Ahhh Renai, this brought a chuckle to morning. Excellent article.

    Having previously been a developer in the Lotus Domino stack of IBM technology, working with enterprise and public sector clients, I can say there is a significant amount of truth in this.

    There is a definate market decline in Australia of IBM tech towards Microsoft and Google for mail/colab/cloud based apps, and Oracle is now going to start hammering them in the integrated hardware/software offerings.

    Yet I can imagine the fanboys arcing up in response already, and I know a number of them personally, so I speak from experience, ready to defend the offerings of Big Blue with stories of “Lotus Notes was the first ever product capable of ….” etc etc. Sorry, heard it all before. I used to be a programmer, I am well aware of the platform architecture, its capabilities and limitations.

    I suggest you add two extra questions to your interviews if anyone is game enough to provide you contact details;
    1. How well did you implementation go? (resource availability & project completion time)
    2. How happy are you now?

    And yes, one of my previous bosses had a white IBM mug stained black on the inside from black tea.

    Don’t forget though, IBM reinvented itself once under Gerstner, I am sure the glory days will return …. just like OS2 did.


    • hehe cheers Jared, glad you enjoyed it!

      I personally think IBM is far from being down and out … they have so much scale that they really can achieve anything if they put their mind to it. I’d actually like to see them make a serious play at enterprise cloud email. I don’t think it’s been cracked yet — either by Microsoft or Google — and I don’t think Lotus Live is the solution yet. I’d like to see IBM start something from scratch here, deep development, and incubate it for a couple of years. Done right, it could spread quite quickly — look at Yammer.

  12. Arrrr Jared you make me laugh.

    Whilst your chortle away, IBM’s profit and stock price has been doing rather well thanks


    Certainly everyone has a lot of catching up wiht Apple or Google….

    What’s really sad is that all of these are US companies. If only Australia had a large IT organisation of the size of a Citrix, VMware or even an IBM we could all be proud of. I guess Australia is good at digging stuff up out of the ground and letting other countries ‘value add’


  13. Looks like your going to be busy with interviews Renai :) in the mean time it wouldn’t hurt to include the REASONS why people are moving to exchange…business has become lazy and fragmented, everyone want’s something out of the box and MS are really good at selling that dream…reality is however lots of $ need to be spent on any MS solution to get the same functionality as you get in LND out-of-the-box…sure you need to hire a developer to run a LND site properly however it’s a good investment as you have flexibility to give business what they need without purchasing another stand alone solution and trying to marry it up with exchange in the hope things works. I think you need to do a bit more research on what Notes does/can do and also include the fact there are too many CIO’s out there who simply want to move to exchange because that is what THEY are used to…once done and running costs start to climb they leave and go on to mess up another site. By this stage it’s usually too late to go back to Notes as the IT budget has been blown on converting everything LND to exchange during the 3yr migration project. Sad state of affairs.

    • I agree with the ‘out of the box’ comment, as I wrote back in 2006 about Lotus Notes:


      To be honest, I’d question any project which required a software package which needed to be heavily customised. Sure, Notes is extensible and so on, and can a billion things, but there are probably software packages in most of those billion verticals which can do those things better (for example, Exchange on the email front, WordPress for web publishing), but don’t require customisation that will later on prove to be very expensive as it will be hard to support.

      Even the CBA mentioned this the other day, when speaking about their core banking overhaul with SAP/Accenture — they tried to keep customisations down so that they didn’t have problems later on with upgrades.

  14. Interested in some Australian organizations running 90% of their backoffice operations on SAAS run on Domino? I’ve got a couple that are in the 3000-5000 range. No Notes client though (all web-delivered.)

    @Tim hits the nail on the head. Notes/Domino is a RAAD platform, email just happens to be another application that it can do. The newer versions of said mail template are quite excellent. Unfortunately IBM didn’t “get” the RAAD aspect as the critical piece until a few years ago, but they definitely have seen the light and are pouring significant amounts of money into this area.

  15. The article is good, I must admit. Holywars between Notes and Exchange fans are more or less permanent but I certainly think that those solutions will be much less used in the nearest future. Although for large corporations having their own deployment of any collaboration platform is affordable, for small and medium businesses it’s rather too complex and too expensive. Look at our heroes – MS and IBM, you’ll see that after talking a lot about the cloud computing they are coming up with real office solutions. Office 365 vs LotusLive vs Google Docs – this is the holywar of the future, that’s what I think. And I believe that anyone with open eyes sees the differences between these platforms.

    Another thing I’d like to mention is that concentrating on Notes vs Exchange discussion is seen rather strange these days. Com’on guys, it’s 2011 outside of your small office box. IBM and Microsoft offer much more than just email suites. I’d rather hesitate that anyone who decides to implement any of those offerings does only email. Both players are moving forward social collaboration with giant steps and their solutions have very little in common. IBM did a great move with Connections when MS only had MOSS 2007 that could barely be considered as a social platform. However Quickr was probably targeted as SharePoint competitor. Now MS tries to include everything in SharePoint 2010 – social stuff, collaboration, shared workplaces and team rooms. And whilst IBM pioneered there with Lotus QuickPlace ages ago it seems that MS has huge success on the field.

    Also look at the IM and conferencing offerings, at this moment probably IBM has the best solution with first Lotus Sametime Unyte and now LotusLive meetings that is competing more on WebEx field and Sametime was always one of the strongest offering in Lotus portfolio, starting when no one considered IM as widely used enterprise solution.

    So as the conclusion I would also mention that I see IBM/Lotus created some revolutionary ideas for the time but when implementing they sometimes forget to consult with UI and UX experts, they had major time gaps between versions and look too much at the legacy (although sometimes it’s good). When Microsoft just take steps and rewrite MOSS 2007 to SharePoint 2010 where you can pull all your hair with the migration, IBM can’t afford this. The IBM strategy works for keeping some major customers and let them migrate painlessly but modern businesses are rather prepared to take steps for big updates and get something new, good looking and trendy. But IBM is barely looking at that segment and this is in my eyes one of their poorest feature.

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