Over the last many years, I haven't always seen eye to eye with Steve Gillmor, but this time I think he puts the long view of Notes, Ray Ozzie, and Microsoft in a highly-mangified macro lens:

Lotus Notes was like the liftoff from the surface of Tranquility Base: it was logical that it would work but amazing that it actually did. It may be hard to remember what it was like before the Web, but Notes was ungainly and hacked on top of a Windows that should have been called Window. Notes validated the idea that Windows was a platform you could build something bigger on. The collaboration is the computer.

With Notes, Ray [Ozzie] discovered what happens when we think across boundaries. The very physicality of the chicklets, little rooms you could open up and rummage around in, code you could attach to make things happen even when you were out getting drunk or asleep. The idea that we could not only tame the neck-bolted Frankenstein that was Windows but that we could collaborate and free associate right under the noses of IT. No sexier than 5,000 Facebook friends, but for its time a landscape that drew me in and taught me that IP tunneling over the public net could produce a secret world hidden in plain site like the rooms we carved out of plowed snow banks as the day kept the snow malleable before night turned our work into smooth ice.

I'm not here to argue with Sir Tim and the WWW, but I remember what came before and after and that everything about Notes -- from its complexity to its economics to its underlying assumption that collaboration could even be practical at all -- changed who I was and what I expected. ...  Say what you will about the hairballs, but Notes made it so if you wanted to spend your time that way. It bound me to technology in a way that before was child's play and after became a life's work.
Well, +1 for me, Mr. Gillmor.  I haven't done anything else in my life for 17 years straight.  I'm not sure what it was that first attracted me -- the natural outgrowth of my Lotus 1992-1993 tattoos, that I bought the whole client/server messaging vision having spent way too many weekends doing chkstat/reclaim on cc:Mail post offices, or a feeling that even that era's Lotus community was a group of people I wanted to be around.  I'm not always sure why I've stayed with it -- I note with slight embarrassment that I've now worked with Lotus Notes longer than, well, Ray.  Many of you have longer tenures than I; original developers are still around, and honestly until I came to product management the first time in 1998, I don't feel like I really understood the power of what I was working on.

Gillmor's article is about Ray's departure from Microsoft, and mostly recognition that whatever it was that Ozzie was meant to accomplish there, he couldn't.  As I said last week, the Windows/Office mafia must rule with an iron fist; Groove is in some way absorbed into SharePoint 2010, but other than a few really smart people (fewer by the day), there's not much sign left of what or why Microsoft bought them five years ago, anyway.  Which, though I was soft about my pronouncements in public at the time, is no surprise -- Microsoft had been Groove's primary venture capitalist, and in the end Groove's officers had little choice but to let Microsoft try to recoup pennies on the dollar for what they had tried to accomplish.  

Link: TechCrunch: Saving Private Windows >  (Thanks, David and Stephen)

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