A colleague asked me the other day if I could define what it is about the Lotus community that is so unique.  There are strong communities around many technology products... each with many of the same attributes of passion, dedication, awareness, evangelism.  So what's different around here?

I think there are a few attributes that stand out for me in the Lotus community.  One is longevity.  A customer once told me that he stayed in his job as a Notes admin because a) he enjoyed being part of the community and b) liked the guaranteed ticket to Orlando in January for Lotusphere.  Let's stay focused on the former for the rest of this post...

Another aspect that is unique to the Lotus community is a willingness to act.  Many of the successful Lotus business partners, all over the world, exist and thrive today having grown out of a passion for the products and for the market space.  User groups and online forums (not just those on "notes.net" but also places like atnotes.de or the Japanese Consortium) have shown remarkably resiliency, in some cases running a dozen or more years.  OpenNTF.org is over six years old, and numerous community bloggers have run well past five years online.  Not every effort over the years has been successful, but new community sites like PlanetLotus and bleedyellow.com have become instant successes.  Moreover, many of these have been sustaining beyond their initial visions, or visionaries.  Personalities change, but the efforts go on.

Last week, John Roling wrote a great article in Intranet Journal called "Collaborating in the Lotus Community".  This is a great primer for someone new to all the online avenues for networking, collaborating, and sharing with others:

You may ask yourself, why do I care about any of this? Well the reasons are simple. By becoming part of the Lotus Notes user community you can easily gain access to some of the best minds ever to wield a Notes client. You can make contacts with these people, interact and learn a lot.

For me, if you join in the fun, I get to hear another voice, another perspective and ultimately we all wind up stronger as a community.
Roling's article covers all the key tools in the community today, including podcasts, LotusUserGroup.org, IdeaJam, and the original heart of it all, notes.net (now IBM developerWorks Lotus).  It is a great pass-around article to your friends and colleagues who may not know about the plethora of resources.

John Head took the idea a step further.  He built some presentation slides which highlight these community tools:

So, what is my point in highlighting these other than increasing awareness?  I believe that we at IBM Lotus have an obligation to help with the marketing of these community sites and tools.  While I suspect that IBM can never rise to the level of expectation around what the community would like to see done, for sure there can be more links, mentions, and exposure for these many avenues where the community contributes to the success of Lotus software.  

Clearly, with the financial performance that IBM has publicly reported over the last 3+ years, Lotus is a brand that is growing, and the community efforts have been a huge part of that.  In the Notes/Domino business, tens of thousands of customers have come together, and found that the product they use has a strong future...because the community demanded a strong future.  The community demonstrated that as IBM renewed its investment in Notes/Domino, the market can amplify that and respond favorably.

I'm hopeful that my Lotus colleagues will join the discussion that I am expecting to take place on this posting.  We can definitely do more to partner with the community.

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