This is a good lesson in change management.
A few months ago, users were greeted by IBM’s developerWorks website with a message stating “The developerWorks Connections platform will be sunset on December 31, 2019. On January 1, 2020, this wiki will no longer be available.”
For those not in the know, developerWorks has been the host of much of IBM’s online content for the better part of two decades. Blogs, Wikis, Files, Forums and Activities (essentially the bulk of the Connections product suite IBM sold to HCL) were all part of IBM’s documentation and support infrastructure. If you were reading customer-facing content from IBM, chances are it was via developerWorks.
The passionately protective IBM i community took the news with much frustration and suggestions of even hosting the content itself. In fact, I’m aware of a few other groups and individuals who were working to find solutions to the problem a little more privately.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Very important and sad! <br>IBM to Kill DeveloperWorks Site <a href="https://t.co/1X0giLvNlu">https://t.co/1X0giLvNlu</a> via <a href="https://twitter.com/ITJungleNews?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ITJungleNews</a></p>— Birgitta Hauser (@BirgittaHauser) <a href="https://twitter.com/BirgittaHauser/status/1189431891620962305?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 30, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I am currently scraping developerWorks for all the IBM i content. Should I self host all the pages or move it all to GitHub Markdown? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ibmi?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ibmi</a></p>— Liam barry Allan (@de__barry) <a href="https://twitter.com/de__barry/status/1187129118766387200?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 23, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">**Panic** "The developerWorks Connections platform will be sunset on December 31, 2019. On January 1, 2020, this community and its apps will no longer be available". Okey, now make me breathe again <a href="https://twitter.com/Forstie_IBMi?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Forstie_IBMi</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/TimRowe_IBMi?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TimRowe_IBMi</a> where will the content be moved? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IBMi?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#IBMi</a></p>— Torbjörn Appehl (@tappehl) <a href="https://twitter.com/tappehl/status/1184529249685954560?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 16, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The developerWorks Connections platform, which hosts a number of blog posts that I wrote about CHLAUTH and <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IBMMQ?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#IBMMQ</a> Security, is being Sunset at the end of 2019. Should I grab copies of the posts and host them on <a href="https://twitter.com/MQGem?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MQGem</a>'s blog? <a href="https://t.co/JwZ9SfRgUT">https://t.co/JwZ9SfRgUT</a></p>— Morag Hughson (@MoragHughson) <a href="https://twitter.com/MoragHughson/status/1184100617314340868?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 15, 2019</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
IBM’s Greg Gorman, who “owns” developerWorks, said that the “community overreacted to the announcement, and that the closures are not as broad as they are believed….We are only sunsetting the Community part of the site. For example, the language sites are not being sunset, nor are other areas ‘hanging under’ the dW URL. We are in the process of updating other parts of dW to fit with our recently released refresh of the IBM Developer site. We tried to be very clear in our wording with the announcement.”
The good news is that after the backlash, IBM clarified their position, and it turns out that it’s not all of the developerWorks content that’s going away (at present) and that all content will be migrated to a different platform. They’ve updated a FAQ website as an attempt to communicate exactly what’s happening to their customers and partners.
I’ve had a number of conversations in the last month with IBMers in the Power Systems community...mostly off the record. I will not comment other than to say that they understand the frustration and are working diligently to maintain and rehome this content. IBMers in the IBM i ecosystem are extremely sympathetic to the needs of its customer base.
So bravo to IBM.
However, I want to address this “overreaction.”
With all due respect to Mr. Gorman, the IBM i and Power Systems community would not react in alarm if the message was clear. Most people don’t know the underpinnings of Connections. Connections Communities, while being the only feature going away, can also be made up of all other Connections components. So Blogs may not be going away, unless of course they’re inside a Community. And getting information out of Connections is no easy feat. So people such as me, who know how Connections works, had more questions than answers.
Change isn’t a bad thing, and most of the time it’s pretty good, especially in the tech sector. But know your audience. I don’t want to bring up the AS/400, iSeries, and Power Systems naming argument, but I will. There’s a small but vocal section of the community still clinging to old names and old brands. That’s after over a decade of being on IBM Power Systems. That’s been almost as much time with the Power Systems brand as with the AS/400 brand. Despite the constant brand reinforcement and customer education, there’s still a segment of the community who’s going to upgrade “the 400” this year to a new one. That fact matters here.
The IBMers working on IBM i and Power Systems completely get the value of communication. I’ve seen the travel schedules of some of the IBM i product leaders who are on the road many days a year beating the streets, hitting the boardrooms, and attending every conference and user group possible to try to educate and enlighten the community on the future of IBM i and IBM Power Systems.
So, with IBM selling off its old Lotus line of products to HCL, you’re bound to see things like this. It’s inevitable. IBM has other tools they can use. And though the communication about the HCL deal was stellar, no mention of this type of change was made. It really should’ve been, especially since old documentation is still very valid. It’s not just the 7.3 and 7.4 stuff. I pulled up a manual on QSNADS source codes just last week. All that information has value.
When you’re trying to do something new, the more information you can provide up front, the better the reception you’ll receive. That works everywhere in almost any situation. There was no announcement letter, no webinar, no email...just a banner on the developerWorks site. Clarity is paramount in this community.
So folks, have no fear about your IBM i documentation currently housed in developerWorks. It’ll be saved, archived, and pushed somewhere else for consumption. It just could’ve been communicated much more carefully and clearly.