In today's ComputerWeekly column, Ian White, asks, "Does the world really hate Notes?"

No. I think the world loves to complain.

As far as Lotus Notes is concerned, I run into folks that say they hate Notes as often as I run into users that say that they hate (insert product name here).  (I even know Mac users that complain about their software. Shocking, I know.)

In my experience it often comes down to
   a) no understanding of "What's in it for me?", or
   b) lack of training - management simply said here's your new tool
How do we, the Notes community help fix this problem? I think we need to start by understanding the problem.

Many years ago, Zig Ziglar taught me that most people never ever change their mind. They simply make new decisions when presented with new information.

I've been able to show many a self-proclaimed Notes-hater new information -- a simple few things that they can do that will be personally beneficial to them -- and almost immediately they change their song about Lotus Notes.  

It's that easy.

If it's that easy, why isn't everyone singing the praises of Notes?

Sometimes it comes down to poor implementation or implementation for the wrong reasons. Many companies deploy (insert product name here) hoping for a "solution," a magic pill that will fix their problems. Invariably, I find that users in these organizations are the most dissatisfied. When an organization deploys Notes, it needs to have a clear understanding of the role that Notes will play in their overall knowledge strategy. Equally important, however, the organization needs to make sure that their users understand what Notes can do for them as individual knowledge workers.

There's a lot of misinformation and even lies concerning Notes in the market place. A product just doesn't survive for 20+ years, and grow, and thrive, without a reason. Notes is a great product, backed by an incredible team of some of the most talented designers and developers in the world. I think Notes is a very powerful tool and, for the right situations, may even be the best tool. But it is still a tool. Meanwhile, Seattle continues to spread misinformation about what Notes can or cannot do and, in the absence of credible response from Big Blue, many assume the accusations to be true. I think that IBM's done a great disservice to Lotus Notes by not actively responding better to the FUD coming from Seattle. Ed Brill's an amazing champion, I greatly value what he does for the Notes community, but end users don't read Ed Brill's blog. While Ed serves a vital and important role, he's preaching to the choir - we already "get" Notes. Ed's responses need to find their way to IBM's marking department and IBM needs to confront the issues head on in public.

While I'm on my soapbox, I'll also mention that I think that IBM needs to give away the designer client with every Notes client. I'll write more on this in a future post, but for now, I'll say that I believe this would do a lot to drive innovation in the Notes space. Not having a designer client is like not allowing the formula editor in Excel. Now, as a former Admin, I can hear the groaning now "we don't want the users to have this power!"  Fine, then lock them out or allow them to innovate on local files - which is what I do. But don't stifle the imagination and creativity of the users. There are a great many smart people out there, Notes end users, that would be happy if they could create something.  Again, I'll post more soon, but welcome discussion.

Back to the "What's in it for me?" question about Lotus Notes. I think that IBM and many companies send the wrong message when it comes to Notes and this may be why many end users have trouble. IBM and big corporations tell users that Notes is good for Communication (true) Notes is good for Collaboration (also true) and Notes is good for Coordination (very true). All of these things that Notes can do are for the benefit of the organization. But what about the little guy? But what can Lotus Notes do for the individual? I think it can do a lot. Many of my clients -- some of the most productive people in the world -- think so also.

So, the next time you encounter someone that says that they hate Notes, ask them if they a) understand what Notes can do for them and b) if they were ever trained in how to use Notes.

As an eProductivity specialist, I've been showing folks how to use Notes productively for 15+ years. I've also created a product, eProductivity, for people to implement David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology in Lotus Notes. What we are learning from our customers is that, by using Lotus Notes and eProductivity, they are reclaiming up to 30 minutes a day that would otherwise be wasted on managing their work. With eProductivity and the GTD methodology, they are able to work from their lists and maintain control and perspective. Do these people love Notes? You bet. Why? Because we make Lotus Notes personal and they can experience the personal benefits that Lotus Notes has to offer.  Guess what? When people personally benefit from using Notes, their entire organization benefits. The productive benefits trickle up through the organization and communication, collaboration, and coordination are all enhanced.

So, Ian, I don't think the world really hates Notes. I think we, the Notes community and IBM, need to do a better job at demonstrating (and communicating) how Notes helps make individual knowledge workers more productive, which will in turn roll up into organizational productivity. Then, more people will tell us that they love Notes.

This is a topic near and dear to my heart.  I'm sure that there will be a wide range of view points. I look forward to continuing this conversation.

What do YOU think?

Discussion/Comments (15):

Tara ( 8/29/2008 12:20:33 PM
Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so

I don't know about the world, but I know I hate Lotus Notes! My biggest disappointment when switching companies for a new job last year was that I wasn't getting away from Lotus Notes! I won't argue with any of your points about poor deployment, utilization, marketing, etc. I don't know enough about it to even try. What I hate is the interface. We use MS Office for everything in my company, and Lotus Notes is just based on a totally different interface and way of working, so for that reason alone, I hate it. I'm a Microsoft girl! What can I say? I understand that Notes can be a powerful collaboration tool, but it's too complex. Most of my needs can be met by a shared network drive or a simple Web2.0 solution. The "databases" that some people in my company have created confound me...and I'm a technically inclined person, so I can't imagine what the "average Joe" does when they access one. Some of my issues could be fixed if we would upgrade from R6 (vCal or iCal integration), but I'd rather just migrate over to good ol' MS Outlook!

Sam Bramar (): 8/29/2008 1:07:44 PM
Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so

Yes it's quite true, the world does hate Lotus Notes.

From it's 30 second load times to kludgy non-intuiatve interfaces, it just isn't conducive to what I would call an efficient productivity application.

Couple this with the quirkyness it exhibits and you get a real piece of work.

Here's a brilliant site that outlines many of the reasons why people hate Lotus Notes: { Link }

Mike McP (): 8/29/2008 2:00:02 PM
Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so

@2: 30 seconds? I even use R8 on the Eclipse platform, and I can get to my inbox in well under 10 seconds. The old-style R8 client is almost instantaneous after I've put in my password.

That site is old news...based on antique versions. It's about as relevant as me writing a page on why Vista sucks and pointing to screenshots of Microsoft Bob from the early 90's as my evidence.

Eric Mack ( 8/29/2008 2:05:57 PM
re: Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so

Hello Tara, thanks for sharing your experience. I too, am a Windows Guy (XP for me) yet I "live" in Notes. It's the first app I load in the morning and the last one I shut down. In a sense. Notes has become my operating system. I understand your point about the Notes interface being different from the Microsoft way of doing things. At the same time, I encourage you to look past the differences and look to the results - what can you accomplish. I still struggle any time any vendor changes the interface on me (e.g. Microsoft with the Ribbon UI or Notes 8 with calling a "database" an "Application") still, I look at what I can DO with the app. Lotus Notes has evolved considerably over the years since I first started using it with version 2.x. That said, I agree that the Notes interface has been far too clunky, visually, for too long. Fortunately, in Notes 8, that's all changed. Mary Beth Raven and the Notes 8 design team have done an amazing job of taking an already poerful program and making it nice to look at, too. if you get a change and have the interest, you may want to see what I;ve done with Notes and eProductivity - and it works across Notes 6-8x. Thanks for your comment.

Ian White ( 8/29/2008 3:26:44 PM
Tweet for Notes

Having started this discussion with my post I just want to bring back the discussion to the point:

IBM needs to communicate with end users not just the technical community if they want longevity. This is also true about Foundations, Symphony, etc. The pay-off para was about using Lotussphere registration as a springboard for a 'tweet 4 notes' campaign, simple low-cost stuff but potentially effective.


Eric Mack ( 8/29/2008 3:34:35 PM
re: Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so


I had already been thinking about these topics when I read your timely blog post this morning. So, I unloaded my thoughts in this post. (sorry)

I fully agree with you that IBM needs to communicate with end users not just the technical community if they want longevity. In this era of social networking, I think that IBM marketing needs to extend the "conversation" to the knowledge workers actually using their products not just the people buying them. This extends to all products, including Foundations, Symphony, etc..

Your idea of a 'tweet 4 notes' campaign might be an excellent way to accomplish this. I look forward to seeing how or if IBM responds to this discussion between Notes users.

Warm regards,


Ian White ( 8/29/2008 3:44:21 PM
Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so

That's my problem, over the years I have had lots of great ideas that rarely get taken seriously - its a lonely path (sigh) :-)

Keith Brooks ( 8/30/2008 7:51:43 PM
Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so

Ian has an interesting idea. Lotus could also have someone dedicated to these disscussions in Twitter. I know various people to at times engage, even I do.

And some of the blog posts, Fudbuster Fridays is about some of this too. By the way Alan was doing many posts of whats cool in notes, but I think they also went to the choir more than end users.

Eric Mack ( 8/30/2008 9:12:14 PM
re: Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so

Good idea, Keith. I enjoy your Fudbuster Friday posts, too. - Eric

Miguel Calvo ( 9/1/2008 3:11:27 AM
Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so


I'm a technical guy, that has been working with the Lotus platform for years. As Eric says, "It's the first app I load in the morning and the last one I shut down."

I understand that people can like or dislike the interface, it's quite different than Microsoft's. But, I also do think that the Lotus is making a great effort in closing the gap between "nice" MS interfaces and the Lotus one.

Regarding communication between Lotus and the end user, there is a blog, "Notes Design blog" { Link } /NDBlog.nsf/ driven by Mary Beth Raven, the person responsible for the Lotus Interface Design Team, that explains and collects ideas from user experience in order to design new UI for new Lotus Notes releases. It's a place to visit to let them know what you need in the Lotus client and to explain how you use Lotus Notes. It's quite interesting!

Miguel Angel

Eric Mack ( 9/2/2008 1:53:02 PM
re: Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so

Thanks Miguel, you bring up a good point.

While, from a productivity and knowledge sharing perspective, I'm quite happy with the current versions of Lotus Notes, I think that Mary Beth and her team are doing a fantastic job of making the new version (R8) even easier to use and prettier to look at.,

Thanks for your comment.


PatrickNF (): 10/3/2008 2:23:30 AM
Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so

Lotus Notes is my enemy. I would never again join a company that uses it. It makes me so much less effective at my job.

I want email, calendar and contacts - the basic things that Notes simply can't do. I don't care that Notes does other things well.

Patrick Neylan (): 10/3/2008 4:20:49 AM
Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so

Just a couple of things on Eric's cockeyed piece of puff, which praises Notes at length without actually explaining anything.

He says: "Seattle continues to spread misinformation about what Notes can or cannot do". I've never heard Microsoft say anything about Notes. All I know is my own experience, starting with an email exchange about 18 months ago. Me: "Good grief, I can't even read your emails without pasting them into another program and reformatting them." Her: "Yeah, we use something called Notes. I hate it."

Then I moved company, and saw the full horror for myself.

Notes lovers resemble a cult, huddling ever closer to reinforce their mad beliefs and shut out the clamour of reality. When asked to justify this, they mumble something vague about "co-ordination" and "collaboration", as if this somehow makes up for its failures to do the basics. It's slightly better at allowing you to edit attachments, but that's it.

Still, I could use better collaboration. So can I collaborate with Word docs? Er, no. Excel? No. At least, not according to Notes' own Help pages. In other words, I've got to renounce the outside world and join the Church of Notes in its remote mountain community.

No thanks.

Peter Owens (): 11/11/2008 10:28:46 AM
Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so

I hate LOTUS notes with every fiber of my body, and I pray to god that Lotus and everyone affliated with them is cast down to hell for all eternity

Patrick Neylan (): 11/14/2008 5:42:55 AM
Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so

Eric says: "organization needs to make sure that their users understand what Notes can do for them as individual knowledge workers", but I can't find anything on this site that shows me what Notes CAN do. Eric says Ed Brill's site is great but users don't read it. I've read it, and I still don't get it because it's pitched at technically minded users who already understand (and like) Notes, or at those who are part of an anti-Microsoft crusade.

The fact remains: after six months of using it every day, I literally DO NOT KNOW what Notes 7 is, other than a mediocre email program with a very poor Contacts section. While Notes 8 looks better, can IBM really have learned any lessons in the move from 7 to 8 that they hadn't learned between 1 and 7?

Still, this mysterious collaboration thingy has given me the idea of using GoogleDocs to share files across my organisation. So Notes has helped me, albeit not in a way it intended.

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