Sunday, June 18, 2006

Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie: chant of change at Microsoft

Most of you already know that Bill Gates is handing over the reigns at Microsoft so that he can pursue his charity work. However, you may not know much about the guy who will be taking his place as "chief architect." The new chief architect is a very interesting man by the name of Ray Ozzie, a native of Chicago and a graduate of the University of Illinois. The Austrailan has a very interesting article about him: Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie: chant of change at Microsoft, and here's a very interesting quote from the article:
"Mr Gates himself was once moved to declare Mr Ozzie 'one of the top five programmers in the universe' and revealed that he and Mr Ballmer had wanted for more than a decade to persuade him to join Microsoft. To the outside world, Mr Ozzie's programming prowess is known mainly through Lotus Notes, the e-mail and collaboration software that he masterminded, which was acquired by IBM in 1995."
The reason this quote grabbed my attention was the reference to Lotus Notes, an amazing e-mail, document management system that I used to create applications for. It truly was an amazing piece of software, and I still have not found anything close to it in terms of document handling capabilities and ease of use.

Sadly, the corporations I worked for did not understand the usefulness of Lotus Notes, and often it was used for e-mail, and little else. When I started showing the folks that amazing things Lotus Notes can do in order to help improve cooperation and communication, they were quite amazed.

The beauty of Lotus Notes is it's ability to handle documents. Of course I'm referring to electronic documents, not paper, but there are tremendous advantages to keeping documents electronic, and forgoing paper altogether. Though I really like paper based books and magazines, electronic documents can be far more useful in a business environment.

A simple application I built at one corporation was a "bug report" system, built using Lotus Notes, that simply kept track of any problems related to the various computer systems our little development team worked on. What was nice about the Lotus Notes bug report, is that everyone could view it...the user who had a problem, the manager of the user, the project manager of the development team, and the programmer responsible for fixing the bug. In other words, it was a simple, effective way of tracking a system problem from it's initial reporting until its resolution. And instead of constant e-mail and phone calls for status requests, one could simply view the Lotus Notes bug report to see what was being done.

All this is tremendously easy to do with Lotus Notes, as long as you have a person who knows how to develop applications for it. But once the applications were developed, they were incredibly easy to use, much, much easier than anything I've seen provided via the Internet. As a matter of fact, I don't find the net as effective a way to collaborate on projects or issues, simply due to the various hurdles and roadblocks one encounters to do even the most simple things. For instance, if you have a bunch of digital pictures that you want to share with the world, you need to find some sort of digital picture hosting mechanism, like Yahoo or Kodak. If you want to share your thoughts and writings, you need to sign up for a blog. If you want a calendar and e-mail, you need to find something like G-Mail or HotMail.

But how much better it would be if I had one little "slice" of the internet, where I could post my own pictures, my own documents, have my own e-mail, calendar and so on, and not have to worry about regeristing with yet another service to do all that for me. Sure, one could buy their own domain name, set up their own internet site; but for those of us who've done that, it becomes a HUGE and time consuming endeavor, no matter how simple the site is. Using the web is no where near as easy as it could be.

The problems I have with the Internet are somewhat related to the problems that I have with traditional Christian religious institutions--they make it very difficult for one to express themselves and use their God given talents in a way that both blesses the community and blesses ourselves! Perhaps we need a church model that is the equivalent of Lotus Notes: something easy to use that can allow various people access and the ability to contribute something meaningful.

The Internet, with all of it's headaches and difficulties, at least provides some sort of foundation for this type of expression and affirmation. And best of all, it's world-wide, so you can easily communicate with someone in Africa as you can with someone down the street.

It's strange that this sci-fi level of technology--the Internet--is doing more to foster community and cooperation amongst individuals than the traditional Christian religious institutions could ever hope to do.

Amazinging, it's the Internet that is giving us a glimpse of what a church can be and do.

<>< TM

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