Fear And Loathing At Lotusphere


(Full Disclosure: If you don't like 'Inside Baseball' accounts of tech journalism and bad PR moves, you might want to skip this installment.)

Life's funny sometimes.

Flying into Orlando Saturday, having escaped Boston just hours in advance of the biggest blizzard since 78, yours truly was looking forward to some sun and maybe even some preview show work.

Most reporters out of the northeast are still stuck there and I was logging some quality broadband time from the Lotusphere press room on Sunday. That is until IBM decided that letting press work in the press room posed some kind of hellish security risk. Letting journos in a day early? Unheard of!

This was ironic because I was thinking on the plane about some of the biggest tech PR flubs going back a few years. Many came to mind. Notably the OpenDoc demo at the Javitts Center where the poor designated demo-doer, perhaps overcome by a deadly combo of heat and nerves, literally passed out while trying to show how OpenDOC beat the crap out of Microsoft OLE. This poor very-young woman had to sweat through the paces in front of the combined brain trust of Novell's Bob Frankenberg, Apple's Michael Spindler, IBM's John M. Thompson, and (I think) a big WordPerfect cheese.

So concerned was Spindler that just minutes after the poor woman was dragged offstage he stressed to the media that any demo problems were NOT Apple's fault. His concern for her well being was striking by its absence. Not a good way to impress the assembled media.

Another: Microsoft's DOA plug-and-play demo terminating in the blue screen of death at a Comdex Spring/Windows World extravaganza in Chicago. Bill Gates, who was onstage, was not amused. (Honorable mention should go to this year's similar but much-more-hyped CES disaster during Gates' keynote.)

But IBM's decision to bar press from the press room Sunday stretches credulity. Various "suits" (well "polo shirts" is the operable term now) claimed security concerns. Sorry folks. If you WANT people to cover your show, let them do so. And if IBM's infrastructure is as secure as you say, what are you so afraid of???? No press in the press room reeks of Dr. Strangelove's "no fighting in the war room" scene.

In a get-over-yourself moment, I have to admit that the wireless access in the nearby hotel lobby was largely operable (that in itself a major feat). But, in all seriousness (or seriousity as Woody Allen would say) what is wrong with this company? If they want folks to know about their confusing Notes/Domino/WebSphere/Workplace lineups, this is not the way to run a show. With coverage of this particular event at an all-time low, here's a novel a way to dampen it further. Good going.

For any of you out there who still care about Lotusphere news, the company this week will re-tout Notes/Domino 7 release, the new Workplace 2.5 and it's Activity Explorer as well as Workplace Designer, a point release of WebSphere Portal Server.