IBM Lotus Domino: Classic Web Application Development Techniques – Book Review

The folks at Packt Publishing are continuing to expand their shelf of IBM Lotus books.  Their latest addition – Classic Web Application Development Techniques by Richard G. Ellis.

Before I tell you how absolutely awesome this book is, I have to get something off my chest.  The word “Classic” in the title is the absolute key word here.  Mr. Ellis starts off the book by saying that everything here was written for and tested with Domino Designer 8.0.  Upon reading that sentence I just had to go back to the very first page to check the publication date: someone is playing a trick on me.  Alas, no tricks.  The book was indeed published in March of 2011.

The book also stays away, far away, from anything related to XPages and says so right off bat.  But it is about classic development after all.

Once you get over those two facts, the book is actually very good.

I was afraid that it would stick to the trivial topics of web enabling Domino applications and using framesets and tables to layout an application.   Of course, you can’t talk about web development without explaining the basics of including HTML in a Notes form.   And the book certainly does mention framesets and tables.  However, it quickly moves to more advanced techniques of using DIV tags and CSS to effectively build a modern-looking web application.  And for Notes developers who are not faint of heart, there are even sections devoted to advanced JavaScript and AJAX calls to boost performance.

If you are an advanced Domino developer building web applications every day, this book may not be for you.  But if you are a Notes developer who is making a transition to the web and want to know how to web enable your awesome Notes apps without looking like they were built by 5th-grader in 1999, get a copy of the book.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a better single source collection of Domino web development tricks.

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The Lazy Project Manager – Ridiculously Simplified Synopsis

The Lazy Project Manager is arguably one of the better project management books I read in a while.  It does not propose to teach your hard project management skills, the ones that being a PMP is all about: WBS, costs, schedules, etc.  Instead, it focuses on some of the softer skills, the ones that we often forget about, thinking that a good Gantt chart is all a project needs.  You probably have heard it all before at some point, but the book is a short, it reads well and serves as a great reminder.

As someone said on Shelfari.com, “Twice the taste, half the calories of regular project managers.”  And writing a simplified synopsis of it is easy — Peter Taylor provides it himself at the end of the book.

  • A project is thick, then thin, then thick again.  As a project manager, work hard at the start of the project.  Then you can rest in the middle of it and work again at the end to see it to a great close.  Kind of a variation on the old proverbs: measure 10 times, cut once; fail to plan, plan to fail.
  • Stay ahead of the game, start confidently, dress appropriately.  I especially like the dress appropriately part.  Dress appropriately for being in charge of a project, and not just for the organization you work for.  You don’t have to wear a suit everyday but being dressed a notch above everyone else won’t hurt.
  • Manage your project sponsor; know what’s in it for them.
  • Manage the project and scope creep.
  • Avoid communication breakdown.  But know when to communicate and how.  Multi-page status reports make for great documentation but, if nobody reads them, for poor communication.  As a project manager, sometimes you have to get out of your office and have a face-to-face conversation.
  • Have fun.
  • Stay calm.
  • Get the best team and retain them.
  • Don’t overload yourself.
  • And make sure to learn from each project.

I love books that can be summarized in a bullet list.

Look, ma. I’m in a book!

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In THIS book

I was fortunate enough to be a reviewer of Packt’s new book in the IBM’s series: Lotus Quickr 8.5 for Domino Administration.

 

Making it Big in Software – Book Review

Sam Lightstone, the creator of MakingItBigCareers.com, has a new book out — “Making it Big in Software”.  The book is published by Pearson Education Prentice Hall.

This books is a singular Real and Business World Survival Guide for Geeks.  Think of it as a business book for programmers written by a programmer.  How often do you see a career-advise book peppered with references to C++ and FORTRAN?

If you want to have a career in IT and not just a job writing code, your great programming skills alone are not enough.  Every year, colleges turn out a fresh crop of computer science graduates with roughly similar skills: they know several core programming languages, they know data structures and algorithms, they took roughly the same courses and wrote roughly the same programs.  They all get roughly the same first job — writing code for some company.  Yet some of these grads go on from their first job to managing projects, running teams, rising to positions of elevated authority and responsibility, while others build a career out of going from one programming job to the next.  “Making it Big in Software” focuses on skills beyond brilliant programming abilities.  It covers the skills necessary to build a successful career in today’s world of technology.

“Making it Big in Software” is a must read for anyone who is about to graduate or just has graduated with a degree in computer science and is faced with the question “Now what?”.  The book offers suggestions for building your resume, finding the right company to work and acing the interview process.  It will help you get started right.

The book is also a good read for those of us who have been in the industry for a while.  It is full of gems on topics ranging from networking and working the organization in your favor to time management and patenting.

To support his ideas, Sam Lightstone included interviews with 17 of the software industry’s biggest stars from Steve Wozniak, inventor of Apple computer, to Ray Tomlinson, inventor of email, and Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux.

Perhaps “Making it Big in Software” won’t make you a VP at Google, but it will help you make the most out of your chosen profession.

IBM Lotus Connections 2.5 – Book Review

The wonderful folks at Pearson Education sent me a copy of a new book from IBM Press IBM Lotus Connections 2.5.  The book was written by a team of some very talented people at IBM, including Tim Speed.  Several years ago I had an opportunity to work with Tim Speed on a Domino 6 upgrade project.  Everything I know about executing a proper Domino upgrade project, measuring a server’s performance and gauging hardware resources I learned from Tim Speed.  So having Tim’s name on the list of authors set certain expectations for me.  And I was not disappointed.  The book arrived at a perfect time: we at PSC were in the process of deploying Connections 2.5 internally and I was able to use the book right away learning what was possible and how to use some of the new features.

Let me begin by saying that this book is not for the faint of heart — it is very technical.  Other than some opening sections about Social Networking, the book gets real technical real quick.  Lotus Connections is arguably the best product to come out of Lotus in a long time.  But for us, the long time Lotus experts, Connections is very different from other Lotus products that we may be familiar and comfortable with.  The book got me to appreciate the complexity of Connections, the architecture and the design behind it.

The book does a good job explaining what is involved in deploying Lotus Connections in an organization and how to install it.  The book covers the options for connecting it to different LDAP directories, using different databases and platforms.  The different scripts that need to be run as a part of installation and configuration and the various “behind the scenes” configuration variables make this book invaluable for anyone who has to configure and administer Lotus Connections.

For a consultant specializing in advising organizations on best practices of planning and deploying an enterprise social networking platform, the book offers some very valuable tidbits.   And the section on using Lotus Connections covers Day-In-The-Life scenarios, which would help any Lotus Connections evangelist help their coworkers learn how to make Enterprise Social Software work for them.

Of course, the book is not without its faults, although most of them are not with its content but rather with the organization of the book itself.

First of all, I found that the Index of the book was a disaster.  The multiple levels of indentation, the run-on indents that span multiple columns and pages, the mixing of proper and lower case words — all of it made the Index very confusing and nearly useless.

The organization of the book seemed done rather haphazardly.  It is a reference book written by techies for techies: if you want to do THIS, here’s a section that explains how to do it.  But the poorly organized Index makes it fail as a good Reference.  And if you’re looking for a book to guide you through the steps of installing, configuring and setting up Lotus Connections, this book is probably not going to work for you.

And on the content side, the book made no mention of SharePoint.  It would’ve been good to see a section on integrating Lotus Connections with SharePoint.  Instead, the authors decided to include a section on integrating with Confluence – an odd choice.

In conclusion, this book was written by a team of very talented and knowledgeable individuals.  They compiled good reference material for everyone working with Lotus Connections: administrators installing and managing Connections, developers extending Connections through APIs and widgets, evangelists and consultants supporting social software deployments in organizations.   The book, however, falls short of being a great reference book based on its organization and index.  It may be better in an online version, where it is fully searchable.  A free online edition is available for 45 days through the Safari Books Subscription service.