R. Fink | If this doesn't fly, it's back to the runway

The Packet Rat

"Maybe I should have stayed home and attended the conference in Second Life. At least then I could fall asleep in privacy."

There's nothing the Rat resents more than air travel. Being somewhat of a control freak, the idea of handing over his destiny to the unpredictable forces of nature, corporate conniving and bureaucracy make the whiskered one a very cranky passenger.

'It's like Russian roulette,' he told his wife as he packed for IBM's Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Fla. 'The best you can hope for is to break even ... or for the other guy to shoot himself and open up an aisle seat.'

As it turned out, the metaphorical chambers did not spin in the whiskered one's favor that night, as his flight out of Dulles International Airport in Virginia was canceled, and Delta somehow still managed to lose his luggage.

'I hear Delta is actually an acronym,' the Rat said to his fellow passengers as he tried to keep himself at a low seethe. 'It stands for 'Doesn't Ever Leave The Airport.''

A long drive to BWI Airport near Baltimore and several hours of banging his head against the ticket counter later, the Rat was close to having himself sent Priority Mail to Orlando. But he finally got on a plane, and after three more hours waiting for de-icing, he was on his way. He arrived just in time for the keynote, smelling just as you'd expect day-old rat to smell ... but at least that meant people gave him plenty of elbow room.

'Maybe I should have stayed home and attended the conference in Second Life,' the wirebiter whined. 'At least then I could fall asleep in privacy.'

That's right'IBM ran a virtual version of Lotusphere in the virtual world of Second Life, where it threw attendees into the deep end as part of its attempt to transform the Lotus brand into something new, cool and 'Web 2.0'-friendly. In a virtual version of the Disneyworld Dolphin Hotel, IBM allowed those who couldn't get in the doors in Orlando to view the general session online, and network with experts and attendees.

The event was the launching platform for Lotus Connections, the 'world's first business-ready social software platform.' IBM is trying to create a collaborative environment that can capture the experience of the coolest of all the Web 2.0 tools ' safely within the enterprise network. Instead of using free online tools like Facebook, MySpace, Blogger, del.icio.us, MeetUp or 37Signals' BaseCamp, Lotus wants you to pay for tools that do pretty much the same thing. The Lotus team also showed off the ability to create 'mash-ups' in the Lotus client, pulling together data from multiple applications with some simple graphical 'wiring.'

Lotus officials also showed off some of the new capabilities of its SameTime instant-messaging client'including video chat and integration with telephony systems to create conference calls from IM chats.

'We need to make (collaboration tools) cool so that they will be embraced in the workplace,' Michael Rodin, the general manager of IBM Lotus, said during his keynote (and on the Second Life broadcast).

Of course, all of these things depend on IBM driving the upgrade cycle of Notes and Domino. But with all of that promised collaborative mojo, the Rat left Orlando wondering if Lotus' promises would finally do the one thing no software had ever done ' eliminate the need for him to get on a plane.

'I hope this is the last Lotusphere I ever have to go to,' the Rat grinned as he left a session on Sametime. Of course, if Lotus doesn't deliver on the promises, it might be the last one anyway.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected]


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