I wouldn’t want to start doing Notes now…

Well actually I would – I love the product but this morning after seeing a developerWorks article titled “Using and understanding Reader Names fields in IBM Lotus Notes and Domino” I caught myself thinking: “Who actually reads something as basic as this?”

I only just finished the thought before realizing that although I have been with the product for a LONG time and consider most of the features well known, many new developers are coming to Notes each year. I wouldn’t want to start now because where do you start?

When I started with Notes I think there were about 3 different courses available with nested @If’s and understanding the difference between @DbColumn abd @DbLookup being some of the most advanced topics. I haven’t counted but my guess is that there are a hell of a lot more courses now! 🙂 Where do new developers begin? Is the scope of the product now such that the developers who will become the “jack-off-all-Domino-trades” are gone? Will new developers have to specialize to actually grasp the product and be productive? How long will it take before they are actually able to contribute to a decent size project? With quality design elements that is… Not just forms with a couple of fields or views, designed in a way that would make Nathan Freeman and Chris Blatnick scream! Quality stuff ready for prime time…

It’s a whole different ball game now. New technologies. Different platforms. Different languages. Different vocabulary; Notes, Domino, Eclipse, RCP, Expeditor, Form, View, Script Library, PostOpen, WebQuerySave, Design Synopsis, Principal field, Amgr task, Composite application, web service…. Considering that I already used Notes and Domino interchangeably above, although the words mean totally different things, doesn’t make it easier.

When were the last time you started a new junior developer off in Notes/Domino development? How long did it take before he/she was productive on his own? My guess is that it took a long time. I’m not saying that it is impossible, but I find it very hard to get new developers going in Notes. There is just so much stuff you simply have to know before you can produce anything that is off value to the customer (whether he be internal or external to the company).

I guess you have to start with the basics and just accept that it takes time.

Simply having to know a lot of stuff and starting with the basics concludes the rant and takes me back to the article on reader/author fields. Good thing these articles are still being written – where would we be without them… 🙂

6 thoughts on “I wouldn’t want to start doing Notes now…”

  1. I have a programmer here who started to program for the notes client last year, coming from a leraning path called “fachinformatiker”. Learning Notes it took her nearly a year to get through most of the issues related to programming notes databases so that she could be given more than the most basic tasks for programming. And we have not yet started to educate her for designing web frontend or portal frontend databases.

    This is one of the things i am constantly bitching about. Yes Domino/Notes is ultra cool and the new version is going to introduce a lot of more than nice new features, but more and more we are cutting ourselves of from those beginners.

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  2. I started Notes development pretty recently – with a beta of 7 – and I found that it wasn’t really the sheer amount of topics that was the biggest problem. Instead, it was just getting used to the countless “Notes-isms” that seem bizarre when coming from other platforms (that is, all of the “I have to do WHAT manually?” moments).
    So the real hurdle is getting from the “I guess it’s going to make me write yet another update-the-responses agent” stage to the “you mean I can just write “#”+@Left(“1-a”:”2-b”;”-“) and it’ll do exactly what I’d expect? Cool!” stage. Things like web services and Query/Post events are easy to pick up as you go along compared to the huge conceptual move to the basics for a new developer.

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  3. It’ makes 6 year that I’m a Notes Developper. I have worked as consultant and now I work in a company as a developper. I remember the first Notes developper I met. No, in fact I remember the headache and the panic in front of the task (“why do I leave my M$ servers…”). It was a very good choice :-). It took me 6-9 months to learn but I worked closely to an senior Notes developper (I think he was tired more than me at the end of the day ).
    Another exemple, in my country (Switzerland), teenager can learn a job during 4 year after “standard” school. They learn both in professional school (theory) & in the industry (practice). The company do pay the school… and the teenager. After that they can go to university, ect. In this context we have trained two guys in 2-3 years. We have started with small functions and finally medium Notes/web application . Now, technically, they can follow guideline and give feedback on their projects.
    But the problem is the rigour or rather the open nature of the platform . You can put code everywhere, hide-when, field formula, form events, libs, agent… For the new comer it’s hard to find the right way or to understand code from others… certain other…
    Thank you for your LS tools Mikkel

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  4. Well with blogs like yours getting started with Notes, and in my case getting started with Java in Notes, had surely some nice moments. So thanks for that =)

    Lars

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  5. Was it simpler in the old days?
    Not if you were thrown in bigger projects where generations of other noobs have developed their skills, while slowly piling up a dauntless monster of app.
    Webservices, Eclipse Viewers, JSR 168 Portlets are easy stuff compared with the stuff I had to fight with back in 1999. Where all those people happily used those “easy” constructs. In a big enough app those constructs are not easy no more.

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  6. If I had to start in IT today, I wouldn’t know where to start on anything, let alone Notes/Domino. IT is so much more complicated and interdependent than it was when I started with Notes in 94. Back then, the company was running IPX & Novell for File & Print, SmartSuite for desktop apps, cc:Mail on OS/2, and Notes 3 for apps. I started by working on the helpdesk and got thrown over to the Notes Admin who needed some help.

    The best advice I would give anyone looking to learn more about Notes is to learn how to be a Domino administrator first. Learn how the servers work, how they interact with the clients and other services. Get an understanding of how a Notes network is hooked together and where things can go wrong. Understand what security is all about and how it’s done correctly.

    Once they have that knowledge, then you can let them start to develep applications. Let them start simple, like developing an application to solve a specific admin problem or track something that pertains to what they were doing as an admin. The simpler the problem to be solved, the better. This database should be nothing more than a tool for teaching the methodolgy for developing a Notes/Domino app. Figuring out where all the code goes is half the battle. Allowing the person to learn on their own, but have a place to ask for help is essential.

    From there, it’s just experience and the daily grind that will make them learn. The thing that we really have to remember is that not everyone is cut out to be a developer. You should be able to tell pretty quickly if the person has the aptitude to write apps.

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