Lotus Redbooks decision – This is SO wrong…

Volker, Carl and others have forecast this day, but I scarcely believed it could be the case. After all, why ever would IBM abandon the enormously successful Redbook concept for current and future Lotus products?

For those that aren’t aware, Redbooks are PDF-format books published by IBM’s ITSO organisation, researched and compiled by teams of IBMers, BPs and customers. What makes them different to the average IBM document is that they don’t attempt to be the ultimate reference guide to the products, but instead take the reader through the process of implementing (or upgrading, migrating, extending etc.) the product in a real-world scenario in the ITSO labs. Often they contain real nuggets of information not found elsewhere and usually describe the product in “warts and all” terms, listing the issues as well as the benefits of a particular approach.

In short, they have permanently occupied several key spaces on my bookshelves as I have implemented Domino, Notes, Sametime, Quickplace, Portal and other IBM products such as TSM in the past.

So why this post? Because it appears that a key member of IBM’s WPLC (aka Lotus) business unit has decided that the Redbooks are simply too costly to produce for the benefits they offer.

Chris Byrne puts the issue very well:

Why is Lotus making this decision? Why do members of the Lotus Software
family value the Redbooks so much? What impact will it really have on the
community as their are many people out there who have never even heard
of the Redbook collection? Is IBM Lotus Management missing the point on
the intangible value of the Lotus Redbooks to the community? Are IBM Lotus
Business partners only upset because they are losing a valuable marketing
tool as their employees will no longer be able to be on the Redbook team?
What other models are there to put together similar content?

I believe that this is a very regrettable move for IBM/Lotus to make at this stage, given the number of significant new Lotus products that have come to market during 2007 (Notes/Domino8, Quickr8, Portal Express 6, Sametime7.5.1, Connections, Symphony etc.), and the genuine resurgence in the Lotus business. This is the time when IBM should be making every effort to ensure that Lotus products are easy to implement successfully, that best practices are known and followed, and that the vital work of partners and ISVs is supported by high quality documentation from IBM.

As I think this is such a big issue, I have created an online petition where anyone else who feels similarly about this decision can sign up. This is the statement I have come up for us to sign:

“We believe that ITSO Redbooks are an essential aid to the Websphere
Portal and Lotus community, that more Lotus Redbooks are required for
new products such as Notes/Domino8 Quickr and Connections, and that
they should continue to be published in the future.”

This petition will be live until the end of September (or possibly later) and at that point
I will send it to those in IBM responsible for the WPLC/Lotus business.
I urge you to sign it if you agree with the statement.

Hopefully, by that stage we can get many hundreds or even thousands
of signatures. To help with this case, if you agree with the message,
please could you publicise this petition via your own blogs, Facebook
profiles, personal relationships etc.
Your efforts will be much appreciated.

As Carl posted on his blog back in 2005 (the last time IBM considered this move):

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