October 18 2007
It's been a couple of days since Bruce Elgort and Elguji software announced their project, the IdeaJam and "Elguji Ideas" software. There was obviously quite a conga line of congrats and good tidings in the community following the announcement. My silence was not meant to convey anything other than busy-ness, just like my early departure from the Lotus Collaboration Summit on Tuesday was only about trying to close a deal and help with some 2008 planning (so, apologies to Greyhawk, Sam, the Salvation Army group, and any of the other partners and customers I had hoped to chat with during the afternoon).
With some time to reflect, I suppose the rest of the reason I didn't join the initial chorus is that I'm optimistically skeptical about the Idea Jam project. Clearly, the ideajam.net site that Bruce and team have built is a very very impressive Domino solution. It has every engaging and usable aspect of the Web 2.0 / AJAX era one can imagine, and has a real visual appeal. I can see a lot of behind-the-firewall application for the application itself, regardless of this discussion and context.
However, I have a wait-and-see attitude about the ideajam.net mission of providing input to IBM Lotus. Notes and Domino are products with a community of millions all over the world. Even with incredible success, only a portion of those customers and partners will participate on ideajam.net. Some will refrain due to language or cultural barriers; others because of real or perceived company policies; still others because they have other vehicles for communicating to Lotus.
To make this clear -- I am very happy for Bruce, Gayle, and the rest of the team for taking a vision and making it reality. I admire their drive and initiative, and in the end, they may have exactly the right formula for success. I don't know. The site is a very real experiment in how social networking can influence vendors and marketplaces. But it also has the potential to mis-set market expectations, put a spotlight on product deficiencies (one that we all know the competition will try to exploit), and could create an us-versus-them mentality. Product development by democracy has some interesting opportunities, but also some serious challenges. The classic "Innovator's Dilemma" could play out in a very visible way on this site.
If the top-ranked Notes 9 feature request from that site doesn't get implemented, I worry that we'll end up with a lot of breakage in the community. Or that the resource to build that top feature request will have been traded off from some other critical effort that didn't get voted on. We don't know. Social networking offers some really incredible new ways of thinking, and I don't want to be the person who can't handle change. So, I will absolutely be reading and participating in the IdeaJam.net site when it launches next month. I hope you will, too.