December 08, 2004

The Gilmore Boys Take Notes

Doc points to the latest Gilmore Gang , where the boys are celebrating 20 years of Lotus Notes.

Where have I been? All this time I thought using "Celebrating" and "Lotus Notes" together was an oxymoron!

Having been an on (at unfortunate times during my career) and off (blessedly) again Lotus Notes user since 1991, I can say quite passionately that I'm no fan. I always felt that Lotus Notes was the not-quite program of the 90s, missing the mark on usability, openness, and just plain sensible features for normal people.

My most annoying run with Notes was while I was at Ketchum. As part of the IBM team, we and they communicated exclusively via Notes, in that cryptic, screwed up mail address kind of way that Notes demands, as if communicating with a megacorporation wasn't difficult enough. We couldn't receive Notes messages in any other email program. Couldn't send from anything but Notes. Couldn't export Notes messages or documents to, say, a usable application like MSWord, or even Word Perfect. And good luck trying to copy and paste and have the resulting document look good or make sense.

Even better, since I lived among many worlds at that time, I had to regularly communicate via Outlook and my personal email to see what the world beyond IBM was saying. How annoying. Not to mention all the times it hung. I lost more good ideas in Notes than in any other software medium--except Blogger.

I will say that in it's early days, when I used Notes at Kodak, and when I went to Notes Application Developer training (YES! ME!), Notes was an advancement over what the semi-literate technical communicator had access to. At times, I felt Notes was elegant even, making it easy for non-programmers to create and enhance applications and documents like a semi-professional. Giving that ability to a semi-pro is rarely a good thing, however. Especially when it comes to development.

Lotus Notes is sort of good for many things, but not really great for anything. I guess that's my way of saying, so, happy birthday, Notes.