It Is Time To Tell Us What You Are Up To
October 26, 2015 Timothy Prickett Morgan
None of us in the IBM i community can do well by driving down the road at dawn without the headlights on, and without market research, we can’t tell where we are at and where we are going. Back in the early days of The Four Hundred, when having a midrange system at all made you cutting edge, rich data about the customers using these systems was available, for the clever at least.
We were among the clever, but we were dependent on other organizations to do the demographics and survey work that brought us those rich datasets, and we did our part by combing through this data and providing insights. They were the big data, and we were the data scientists, to use the modern parlance, and I have to tell you, it was a hell of a lot of fun having access to all kinds of data about what many tens of thousands of IBM midrange shops were doing. You could see things, you could be helpful, which is what every publication strives to be. It was of immense value, and I know that because two decades ago people paid $250 a year for a subscription to this newsletter, and in 2015 dollars that would be about–wait for it–$400.
We live in a time of immense data sets, but the data about the IBM i community has never been thinner. There are a lot of reasons for this, I think. Back in the day, when Computer Intelligence, IDC, and ACR created databases of IT shops and all their hard and soft wares plus contact information for the key people in the organizations, this was a sales tool that was in turn sold to IT vendors for direct marketing and also to help them get a sense of what people were doing. By far, Computer Intelligence–now part of Harte Hanks–was the best of the lot, and the original publisher of The Four Hundred, the Mad Dog you know as Hesh Wiener, was friends with Hugh Tietjen, the founder of that wonderful database. I had full, unrestricted access to this database, which, from my memory, had information on 250,000 North American IT shops and something like 150,000 European shops. In my early years as editor of this newsletter and contributor to several others, I learned about relational databases by using them, by coming up with crazy questions and correlations that I posed to the IBM 3081 mainframe and DB2 database running on it.
The data was rich and wonderful, and the kind of thing that passes for “information” today is such thin gruel. It is barely data, to be honest.
It is funny. We live in a world where supercookies and smartphones track our every move, and Skype and Gmail know more about us than we ourselves do, but we have very little idea about what IT shops are doing because such rich datasets as the ones from Computer Intelligence do not exist. If there was a way to poll datacenters automatically and build such a database as I once had access to, I would do it and build a business based on this database. Computer Intelligence did it by phone surveys, a very costly method in the 21st century given that people have the mistaken impression that information is not worth very much. (Or rather, they won’t pay very much for it.)
In the absence of such rich datasets, including those we occasionally saw from inside IBM, we have to try to do this work ourselves. We are grateful for the partnership between HelpSystems, PowerWire.eu, and IT Jungle to survey the IBM i installed base and try to take the pulse of IBM midrange shops. But here’s the deal:
If you don’t take the survey, which I know full well takes some of your precious time, we can’t help you understand what is going on out there. So, I am asking. Me to you. Just between us. For the good of the IBM i community. Can you please take some time and take part in the latest IBM i survey? It’s important.
You can do so at this link.
Thanks a lot. It means a lot. We will all make it worth your while with the insight we can bring to bear.