Angus: A spark?

I was relating news of the recent OCEAN conference to a friend who could not make it, and as I spoke, I realized I was talking a lot about the passion I saw at the conference. Certainly, our industry has been in a slump for some time, in terms of perception, in terms of passion, in terms of coding and modernization, etc. My session called “How To Be an IT Survivor” is always packed, but seems to be full of people who want to be led, rather than willing to make change on their own. Recently, and this includes OCEAN, I have noticed a subtle difference in the attitude of attendees at IBM i and Power conference and user group meetings, and contributors to online forums.

There seems to have been some corner turned. People are starting to understand the difference between IBM i on Power vs its predecessors. Whining about branding seems to be abating, and there is a genuine interest in IBM i and its future. RPG programmers are interested in becoming better IT developers, rather than just finding another RPGIII/RPG400 job. People are looking to expand their skill set, and are willing to learn outside their box of fear-of-change. Curiosity is creeping back into the community, manifested by the questions people are willing to ask at the smallest of user group meetings to the largest.

Certainly, attendance at IBM i community events has not increased substantially, but there are more online participants in IBM i related forums, blogs and social media venues. Twitter has more #IBMi noise as people begin to understand that vehicle. LinkedIn has far too many IBM i groups than seems necessary, but the membership in them is growing quickly. For example, the membership count of the IBM i Professionals group, which I facilitate, was once compared to the membership count of the AS/400 Professionals group. This was when the average new membership requests for a week was between zero and ten. Over the last couple of months, new membership requests in the IBM i Professionals group runs between five and fifteen per day. Eventually, the count will move in favor of the modern branded groups, much to the dismay of the outdated noisemakers.

IBM i noise has, subtly I think, started to move towards the positive. Certainly, there are lots of people who struggle with change, growth, evolution, modernization, and so on, and their only means of self-importance is to trumpet the standard tired-old complaints about name changes, IBM marketing and the like. And, there are a few, just a few, loud noisy complainants whose focus on life is slanted negatively, and will continue to attempt to make themselves bigger by simply making negative and content-free noise. The tide seems to be moving against them..

Take the discussion about COMMON membership this week on the Midrange-L mailing list. One lone voice began a tirade against a COMMON that used-to-be, rather than today’s much evolved organization. In the past, this voice would have had companions galore, all railing on the perceived failings of their community’s largest user group. This week, that lone negative voice remained lonely, with several positive points being made by a diverse range of contributors. Sure, it may not be a major change, but it does seem that the general tone of IBM i related conversations on the internet are slanting away from the negative.

So, we have IBM making positive noise (see this and this), internet forums and comments leaning toward togetherness and positivity, user groups and conferences taking on a more positive and curious tone, and less negativity as the old complainants turn tail and run.

Maybe this spark will ignite the fire.

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