Sunday, August 1, 2010

Back to basics with Notes: what are the basics?


By Mick Moignard

Last week, I talked about all the little problems Notes could solve. These things exist in your environment too. Just look at all the instant database applications that you have that are hosted in spreadsheets stored on shared drives. Every one of those is a Notes collaboration application waiting to happen.

"They might not be the prettiest of applications, but they are often ready tomorrow -- and that sort of ROI is hard to beat."

This is especially true when the Notes client is sitting there waiting to run the application, because even with the advent of XPages, it's hard to beat the development time of these sorts of applications when done in the old-fashioned way with forms, views and form-based dialog boxes aimed at the Notes client. They might not be the prettiest of applications, but they are often ready tomorrow -- and that sort of ROI is hard to beat.

For a second, let's go back to Ray Ozzie's point about Notes becoming the preserve of specialist professional developers. In Notes 3 days, programming was @functions, which anyone who had used 1-2-3 or Excel would be familiar with, conceptually, if not in detail.

The advent of LotusScript -- and the fact that Designer became a paid-for extra component -- moved the development scene away from these end-users. Not much that's happened since -- Java, JavaScript, XPages with its blend of JavaScript and @functions, composite applications -- has changed that.

I grant you that Widgets and Live Text put capability back into the hands of end users, but I've not yet seen a great deal of evidence that this is the, or even a, next wave of innovation. Don't get me started on whether the Eclipse UI thing is a step forwards, backwards or just sideways, either.

Notes and Domino application development is now the plaything of the professional application developer, yet it is the business user who pays for the end result. App Dev is not an end in itself, it's just an enabler towards a different end, that of the delivery of functional applications to end users to solve business problems and deliver a return on investment.

Here's the nub of my argument. In making Notes and Domino require professional Appdevs to get an ROI, we've raised the cost bar to the end user in terms of delivering functionality, notwithstanding the fact that Designer is now free to anyone who already has a Notes or Domino end user license.

But the functionality that so many end users require, crave, even, isn't line of business applications. It's all the little things, quickly put together and quickly deployed that make their lives easier and enable them to spend more time and energy on the things that they're actually employed to do.