Spring Ahead, Fall Behind
November 9, 2015 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Many of us have been in this community for a long time, and whether or not we mean to, some of us still call our platform the AS/400, or “the four hundred,” or even the iSeries because old habits die hard. Call it what you will, but this is still a community, and it is one that we are members of and, for the most part, one we are all proud to be members. I, for one, wish that we had a better sense of the breadth and depth of this community, something a bit more than just the results of surveys and straw polls.
I have lamented this recently in a call for you to take the survey that we are co-sponsoring with HelpSystems and PowerWire.eu, which many of you did and for which I am thankful. A publication is only as good as the insight it can bring to bear from as many sources as we can accumulate.
Which brings me to my next, and perhaps more important, point. The world is different, and we are not as good at telling the story of the IBM i platform as we used to be, and I think this is a big problem. As a professional storyteller of sorts, I know a little bit about what I am talking about here, and to be quite blunt, I miss the interaction I used to have with many of you, directly, about what you are doing, what you are not doing, and why. I miss telling your stories, and I want to start doing that again, and I am going to need your help.
As I explained two weeks ago, I used to have access to wonderful and rich databases about the datacenters and data closets of the world, and could do all kind of demographic analysis on the AS/400 installed base, and more importantly, target specific industries for analysis to find out common threads and different strategies between customers in certain segments of the economy, around the globe. I was a cub reporter back then, with little experience in both computing and business, and the countless hours that VPDPs and IT managers and CIOs spent with me, telling me the story their company–to see the evolution of their systems and the applications that run on them–was a kind of education that you can’t get any other way. And there is no better education.
So here is the problem. Or rather, the set of problems. First, everybody is crazy busy these days and, two, no one answers their phones any more if you can get their phone number. Every month–The Four Hundred was a monthly paper newsletter back in the day–I did a different segment of the economy, and found out fascinating things about how customers ran their AS/400 shops and the kinds of things they wanted to see in the platform. Times have indeed changed, as daylight savings time reminds me, and in this respect, not for the better. I used to slow down and learn, so you could learn through me. But everybody has a PR gatekeeper these days, in a way that they did not in the past, and the Internet makes everything move at a torrential pace instead of a measured one, and I think this is neither desirable and healthy. Maybe you are the Internet’s bitch like I am, too, and you feel a similar frustration. If so, let’s have a beer sometime. All of us at the 125,000 companies still using an IBM i box, if it takes that. (I will start brewing in larger volumes. . . .)
There are two things that you may have forgotten, so I will remind you of them.
The first is that your story, at your company, is important to us, to all of us, and that others need to hear your stories to help maintain the community. People don’t get to COMMON or other local user groups like they used to, and even when they do, they are a bit frantic. (I know I usually am.) The other thing that is important is that we, here at IT Jungle need to tell your stories. Not just because of the decreasing amount of information available from IBM about what is going on in the Power Systems-IBM i base, but because we are storytellers.
You got into your career (or jobs, depending on your attitude) because you wanted to create applications or manage systems, or both, and you take pride in your work. We became writers because we believe that reasonably intelligent people (none of us are rocket scientists, mind you) can add value as curators of information and providers of a narrative arc that makes such information better and more fun. I took the job as the first editor of The Four Hundred back in the summer of 1989 because I was starving, no question about it, but I stayed at this for 26 years (so far) because I felt that I was adding value. That is why Alex, Dan, Jen, Ted, Mike, and others who contribute to IT Jungle still do it. We could do other things, but we are part of this community and this is what we do. Well, up to the point where we are not, which we hope is still many years hence, as it has seemed to be for the past 15 years.
In case you haven’t noticed, just like you face an uphill battle against the onslaught of Windows Server and Linux and the cloud at your datacenter or data closet, we face the insatiable neediness of the Internet and the need to get people’s attention during times when it is harder than ever to do so. So I am ripping a page out of the old TFH playbook and getting us back closer to our roots. I am tired of springing ahead and falling behind, as it were.
We want to tell stories–your stories–about how you have been an IBM midrange customer and why you continue to be. And we need your help to do so. We need you to reach out and contact us when we ask you to, and do an interview. This will be more time consuming than taking a survey, but it will be more valuable and I promise we will make it fun. I have never given a boring interview, and I am not about to start now. But we need to talk. Anonymously if need be, that’s fine. We want the truth, and in detail. This is what matters. I will carve out a special notice in our newsletters to tell you about topics as they change.
So, let’s pick our first topic. I want to talk to companies that have upgraded to Power8 machines or bought new ones. I want to understand the business factors that drove these decisions, and the obstacles facing such an upgrade. You can reach me through the Contact Us button at the top of this web page.
Let’s have some fun.