2008 – the year I broke free

Well that’s 2008 done and dusted, and 2009 already begun…

So what did 2008 mean to me?

  • An end to employment – the week of Lotusphere 2008 was my last employed by my previous company.  Whilst missing the ‘sphere last year was by no means the only reason for moving on, it was possibly the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.  Lotusphere is such a big part of my world both personally (as a blogger, evangelist and member of this community) and professionally (in my opinion every serious Lotus partner should be there every year, else really you should question your commitment to this business), that having my registration withdrawn sent me a rather large signal that my passion and objectives were not shared by that organisation.  Having sat down and thought things through, that was definitely the case.
  • A new beginning – Collaboration Matters Limited was born at the beginning of February. My own business – not the first company I’ve created, but the first that was to be my full time occupation and primary means of paying the mortgage. Definitely an exciting move, though somewhat daunting too!  Aiming to provide consultancy and solution provision to small to medium businesses, specialising in Lotus Quickr and Connections plus other third-party technologies, we wanted to be an easy company to deal with on a short- to medium-term contract basis, keen to partner with others in the business and determined to offer great value to our customers.  11 months in, we have been blessed many times over, finding fabulous opportunities, making wonderful relationships with partners and customers alike, and generally feeling that this is the best move we could have made.
  • Trust – on others and on the Lord.  Running your own business is always challenging, and is impossible to do on your own.  2008 taught me to depend on many others, without whom life would have been difficult in the extreme.  From those individuals at my first customer, Oak Ridge (who took a punt on the unknown), through partnerships with IBMers and other lotus partners, to those in the community I haven’t even met yet from whom I have received the highest quality assistance, there is no doubt that my passion for ‘community-centred collaboration’ has paid me back many many times over.  I am truly thankful to all those that have helped along the way.  More importantly still, every time I have hit an issue this year, or have looked ahead in concern at a period of possible inactivity in the future, something else has always been delivered into my hands that fitted my needs exactly.  There is nothing like uncertainty and doubt for showing that there is a plan, and things undoubtedly happen for a reason.
  • Travel – Collaboration Matters’ first ever contract led to an exciting trip across Europe, from the UK to Germany, then down through Austria, Slovenia, Hungary and eventually into Bulgaria.  Whilst there were many wonderful experiences and a few hurdles to overcome along the way, losing my passport three hours before my flight home from Sofia was probably the low point!  My hosts, Andre and Marietjie showed great composure and no little faith in dealing with the crisis!  Another great example for me for the future!
  • New skills and knowledge – I’ve been graced with some wonderful opportunities to learn on the job this year, from IIS/Domino integration, through TDI workflow development to CSS coding and re-skinning of applications amongst many many others.  As a consultant, one must obviously be capable of leading customers through projects and technical issues, but often whilst doing so we do get the chance to look at how they deal with things in their own way, and this provides a great source of additional knowledge and experience that can be used elsewhere!
  • Blogs – my portfolio of blogs has grown yet again this year, with the addition of the Symphony Blog and my contributions toward the Lotusphere Blog currently.  The numbers of hits on all the blogs has grown significantly this year, predominantly through additional traffic from PlanetLotus and Twitter.  More importantly, I still receive comments from others I meet saying how valuable the blogs are to them – as long as this continues I’ll continue to nurture them…
  • Twitter – what was life like before Twitter? This time last year I’d just played with Twitter and Jaiku – seeing what the possibilities were.  Then Chris Miller started the Lotusphere stream, I started to contribute even though I wasn’t at the event, enjoyed the conversation, and I was hooked!  Since then, I’ve tweeted nearly 3,500 times, have 600+ followers and couldn’t imagine my daily life without it.  Work has come from connections made on Twitter, I’ve had advice leading to problems being resolved, and I’ve met folks when travelling that I’d only ever conversed with via tweets.  It’s an amazing communications medium.
  • Connections – 2008 was the year that Lotus Connections came of age.  Whilst the announcement of Connections at Lotusphere two years ago and its launch in June 2007 were tremendously exciting and thought-provoking, very few of my customers were truly in a position to contemplate deploying it, and to be honest, the product wasn’t really ready for mass roll-outs.  The Connections 2.0 release in June this year changed all that.  The software had matured, the feature-set was more complete and organisations were ready to move forward with pilots and production rollouts.  Since June, I’ve been personally involved in delivering over half a dozen major Connections environments and am discussing many more.  It’s a great product and is helping many organisations change their culture for the better.  Sure, it still has its foibles, but the truth is that the benefits are huge.  I can’t wait for more news at Lotusphere later this month.

and lastly…

  • Fun, laughter and relationships – this community is amazing!  I’ve been dabbling in the Yellow World for 13 years now, collaborating with others in forums and other social spaces for most of this decade, and seriously blogging and networking for the last 3 years.  If I analysed the time spent on my engagement in this aspect of my work in that time, it has grown exponentially year-on-year.  I’m regularly up at 5am to blog or communicate with others.  Madness some would say.  However, the return on that investment has been a factor of 10 or even 100+.  For every one of my blog posts, I’ll read tens or hundreds of others; for every answer I add to the forums, they’ll be loads that others have added that help me; for every tweet I add to Twitter, they’ll be many more links and suggestions from fellow yellow-bleeders that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  That’s the serious bit.  However, the incalculable benefit is the friendships that have grown in the past year, the wonderful IM and Twitter conversations I now have, the sessions in the pub at LotusBeer and other events, the genuine care and affection that has sprung up simply from our common interest in this strange Yellow software brand.

So what next? What about 2009?  Too soon to say for now.  More of the same for the first three weeks of the year, then Lotusphere! Yay – I’ll be there, blogging, tweeting, networking and presenting.  If you’re there, please please get in touch – I would love to meet you and share a beverage or two.  Want to know how to get hold of me?  Check out all my contact and social networking details at http://collaboratewith.me.

Happy New Year to you all!

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!