Re: Lotus Notes -- Too much Hype !!!

Ravi Kalakota (
Thu, 8 Sep 1994 20:33:13 +0200

Brian Behlendorf ( pointed out something I didn't
think about earlier. Notes was meant for GroupWare and many-to-
many interaction to foster better communication in the organization.
A laudable achievement indeed.

WWW is meant for a "Digital Library" or an electronic publishing
paradigm based on "Open Systems" (yes! I dare to use the term). It
fosters the notion of non-interactive publishing as a method of

So, we have twoxtwo matrix here:

| "mucho" interaction| Non-interactive |
| dynamic | not so dynamic |
Groupware | Notes, TRN |WWW + annotations |
| Mbone | |
Publishing | Notes wanna be |FTP, Gopher, WWW |

So, Notes wants to get a piece of the action in the publishing
world as they see that organizations want the ability to
publish information (product & service information) as way
of interacting with existing or potential customers. Also
there is a notable trend in organizations towards cross-functional
information sharing that can only be accomplished using a
publishing paradigm with some semblence of document management.
In other words, the movement (socially, organizationlly etc.) is
towards a mixture of WWW paradigm + Groupware paradigm.

Lotus recognizes this trend is desperately trying to reposition
itself in this new environment. I have no complaints about that
as we live in competitive dog-eat-dog environment, with clients,
investors and traders dictating some part of strategy.

Well then what is the argument about? Will the underlying
technology of Notes implementation support this transition
to publishing in the non-proprietary, multiple-client, multiple
protocol, mutiple-servers having a variety of documents in a
varity of formats. For instance, can we run video documents in Notes as
easily as we in WWW/Mosaic? If the underlying technology changes
we have seen that WWW can adapt very easily because of the design
decisions that were made. Can Notes do the same?

My feeling is that Notes cannot survive in its current form
given the rapid change of customer requirements, need for
customizing or tailoring to specific customers and the new
standards, protocols and "convergence" taking place.

This is going to create a legacy so large that it will dwarf even
COBOL. Organizations are putting enormous amounts of documents
in Notes. As we have seen in the past reconversion is not a simple
matter and requires enormous expenditure. My argument in the previous
posting was that if you want to invest in Notes TODAY, think twice.
The world two years from now could be a very different place. If you
are investing mega-dollars in purchasing 5,000 to 10,000 licences then
you should think even harder about transition problems and demand that
Notes address some of these issues.

I have tried to deal with the issue of Notes vs. WWW from a conceptual
point of view rather than get mired in specific issues such as
HTML, HTTP, DocLinks etc.

I would love to hear what you think about my assessment. There are
several other things I would like to air my views on but time is
money so, adios amigos.

-- Ravi


Ravi Kalakota
Center for Information Systems Management
CBA 5.202, MSIS
University of Texas at Austin Phone: (512) 471 7962
Austin, Texas 78712-1175 email:

previous posting and thread:

Comments interspersed below.

On Thu, 8 Sep 1994, Ravi Kalakota wrote:
> i)Notes uses the compound document architecture (CDA) of DEC,
> which is probably the only implementation of Open Document
> Architecture (ODA). CDA attempts to capture the structure of document
> using a document application profile (DAP), similar to a template in Notes,
> and the layout information and tranform them into a binary bit stream for
> the purpose of document interchange between platforms. To do this it
> uses the notion of memory aggregates which are encoded bit streams of
> what the document contains and looks like. (See Byte 1992 -- Universal
> Content Access for more info.)

>From your below statement ("separation of logical structure from
rendering information"), that _is_ done by Notes, albeit on the server.
There can be multiple representations of the same data, using different
forms. Moreover, technologies such as Notes/FX, and tools such as ViP
and Notes API programs can pick out parts of the information and render
it in any way you choose.

It appears your point is that the client doesn't have choice like in
SGML. That is true -- the decision is made programatically beforehand by
the provider. However, as the great publishing debate on www-talk
several months ago showed, this might be greeted with applause.

> In other words, exchange NOTES is like exchanging binary files, whereas
> exchange HTML files is like passing source code around which can be
> customized or even personalized to the environment you are working in
> at that moment. This is a significant step forward that was never envisioned
> by the world in 1984-90 timeframe when NOTES was conceptualized and built.

See the comments above. Notes is not like passing around binary data.
You can use technologies other than today's standard Notes client (i.e.
ViP, VB/Link, Notes/FX, C API) to extract only the data. However, your
point about allowing run-time choices on the client stands.

> Another drawback of Notes is that CDA (according to a DEC Professional article)
> cannot handle Hypertext links as these would be dropped in the
> encoding process. Well, folks this is a major drawback of Notes that puts the
> HTML on a different plane altogether.

Notes has DocLinks that can connect to other documents on other databases
on other servers, in accordance with the Access Control List.

> 2. Search and Retrieval: Notes can only allow content searching using
> bit-pattern matching techniques. It is quite possible to use HTML
> markup to do more sophisticated searches such as sub-tree retrieval,
> because every HTML document is a tree, and even other sophisticated
> methods that were developed in compiler theory that we have not
> exploited in this environment.

You can comment on the esoterics of indexing theory. I can say that Notes
_today_ (based on Verity's engine -- Nick?? :^) gives full-text retrieval,
weighted hits, and internal highlights. Morevoer, it takes about three
mouse clicks to index a database. Finally, indices can be either
server-side or local (important for the disconected user).

In another vein, by using structured fields and categories, customized
views can be presented that organize content beforehand. Full-text
indexing is wrong, IMHO. Cataloging and classifying lend themselves to
browsing, and tools that simplify this are invaluable.

> My point is that unless Notes does a major rewrite of its software
> using SGML as the underlying document format, it is futile and pointless
> to even compare the two.

Which leads to my next point. It is futile to say that the WWW, as a
corporate solution, is equivalent to HTML. Where in the above have you
mentioned HTTP? So, some other comments:

1) Name one case of an HTTP server talking to another HTTP server

2) Name one case of a WWW user editing a document, and sending it back to
the server

3) Name one case of an active object going to the client, capable of
conditionally executing internal or external code, interacting with the
reader, and sending a result to the server

4) Explain how WWW addresses nomadic users, when all of the programmatic
intelligence is on the server (CGI) and there is no model for
client-server or server-server replication

5) *Today*, Notes has corporate ACL (very robust, point-and-click) with RSA
security, and the tools to administer it

6) Name one client or server that has implemented the Version attribute in
the HTTP spec, thus allowing revision control

7) Notes can be bought from a Fortune 500 company with a support staff,
maintenance agreements, a third-party catalog, and contracts with the
government (I disagree the true importance of any of that, but others
believe it)

I could name WWW technologies that are addressing all of the above,
namely Harvest:
However, asking an MIS to get twenty pieces written by twenty places,
that may or may not compile on your platform, and are an absolute *bitch*
to administer (oh, what even a _curses_ admin interface would do for a
WWW server administrator), might be asking too much.

Funny, I have come off sounding like a Notes zealot, when the opposite is
true -- I think that the popular press is beginning to view "Mosaic"
(snicker) as more than a toy, and a Notes competitor. Notes is too
monolithic, and I don't think the Notes 4 rewrite is going to change its

Well, that's the end of this spiel.

Paul Everitt V 703.785.7384 Email
Connecting Minds, Inc. F 703.785.7385 WWW