Tag Archives: IBM

European WebSphere Technical Conference 2011

Although I realise that it seems as though I do little other than spin around “the conference circuit” at the moment what with the various events I’ve blogged about lately, that isn’t entirely true! However, it is just about time for another European WebSphere Technical Conference – something like a cut-down IMPACT run in Europe, a combination of the popular WebSphere and Transaction & Messing conferences we used to run – with plenty of technical content on the latest technologies.

I’ll be in Berlin next week 10th-14th October, participating in at least one panel, speaking about MQTT, and also covering the latest on IBM MQ messaging technologies as they relate to cloud and web. There’s a Lanyrd event page where I’ll try to collate information relating to the individual talks.b

I have a feeling that by this time next week there could be quite a lot to talk about… 🙂

Virtual Worlds and Technology Futures

Last week I was privileged to be invited to give the closing keynote at an event called ReLIVE 11 (Research and Learning in Virtual Environments) at the Open University. This was certainly a big deal for me as I was in the company of some brilliant academic minds and some tech celebrities – plus, the OU is an important and well-known institution (despite the fact that I heard Leo Laporte say that he’d never heard of it on the MacBreak Weekly podcast I was listening to as I drove to Milton Keynes last Tuesday evening!).

I’d previously explained to the organisers that I hadn’t spent so much time exploring virtual worlds lately as I was doing three or four years ago at the height of IBM’s involvement with platforms such as Second Life and our own internal Metaverse. Having said that, I have spent more time with gaming platforms such as XBox and the Nintendo 3DS since then, and more recently also Minecraft. Naturally I did have that business perspective and story to share… and, as the closing keynote I had the interesting task of pulling together the threads we’d covered during the breakout sessions at the conference, as well as attempting to look ahead to what trends might be important in the future.

The video is online via the Open University website and the talk with Q&A lasted for about an hour. More coverage of ReLIVE 11 is aggregated on Lanyrd.


As I noted in the opening and closing sections of the talk – predictions of the future are a hit-and-miss affair. We may now have tablet computers arguably even cooler than the Star Trek padds and communicators, but I’m still waiting on my hoverboard. Nevertheless, I tried to frame the story of IBM’s exploration of virtual worlds and 3D environments with some discussion of trends. It also gave me an excuse to talk about Back to the Future, and a cool ad that Nike recently released tying back in to the movie.

I want to reiterate (as it may not have been clear from tweets that emerged during the event) that these were very much my own thoughts and not the views of my employer – in fact, I was attending the event in a personal capacity. So, per the presentation, my thoughts on trends to watch in the next five years:

  1. 3D Printing: I’ve seen RepRap and other 3D printers more often in the past couple of months than ever before, and it is clear that prototyping and fabrication are coming within financial and technical reach of more than just the early adopting minority. That’s not to say this is something I see going “mainstream” – but as access opens up, expect to see many more interesting things happening here.
  2. Social broadcast: I think “TV” is rapidly giving way to a more generalised broadcast media that is being consumed across multiple devices, remixed, shared, etc. I also think that social streams are adding to the experience of how these media are being consumed, as evidenced by hashtags broadcast on BBC programmes, and the ways in which conversations form online around events and video streams.  A nod to my friend Roo Reynolds too, a man constantly way ahead of his time…
  3. Touch and Gesture: we already know that the ways in which we interact with technology is evolving fast. Watch any child approach a large screen and attempt to press the screen, expecting their cartoon hero to become interactive. This is not going to stop – Microsoft have some amazing technology in this space with Kinect and we should get used to and embrace the changes as they happen if we want to evolve.
  4. Big Data: a nod to my own organisation’s Smarter Planet story, and an acknowledgement that every one of the major tech firms is investing in ways to store, mine, slice and analyse the increasing amounts of data flowing in from the environment and our personal signals. This is just a continuing story, but we’re at a point where it is a red hot topic. It would have been a good point to mention Watson, if I’d thought on my feet quickly enough!
  5. Identity: this is not so much something where we will see technical progress necessarily, as an area I think will be a threat, and difficult to resolve. The nymwars of Google+ are one edge of the issue. I believe that there is a real tension between the freewheeling days of the earlier Internet, the desire of individuals to make their own choices about identity (often for valid social reasons, other times for vanity), and corporations and political entities that want to close this situation down. This is going to be a tricky one.

So what of virtual worlds? Three words: Not Gone Away. They may have morphed, lost their early shine, the bubble burst – but we have a range of immersive experiences (and social, but not necessarily immersive ones) through which we interact. I mentioned Minecraft and how that is being used for teaching. I talked through IBM’s work with serious gaming. I spoke about the IBM Virtual Center briefly, and that’s online and used today – in fact Jack Mason just posted a nice deck on that which carries some statistics, if you want to learn more.

Thoughts on education

I clearly was not the most experienced individual in the room when it came to discussions about teaching and education, and I particularly enjoyed hearing different presenters at ReLIVE11 talk about how they are using OpenSim, OpenWonderland and other platforms. However – after my recent post on Raspberry Pi and my exploration of the Brighton Mini Maker Faire I’ve been thinking increasingly about Maker culture and how we could bring technology teaching back around to practical matters.  I was disappointed to read the Government’s (lack of) response to John Graham-Cumming’s recent letter on the same subject, though.

One of the things that I called out as a barrier to the adoption of immersive worlds and new technologies at work is something I’m calling The Empty Room Problem – the fact that unless you build it and then populate it, they will not necessarily come. I’ll be writing about this some more shortly, prompted by Derek Jones’ great blog post.

During the Q&A session I gave an answer to one of the questions which contained some ideas I’ve had on a possible curriculum – I’ll try to expand on those in the near future as well.

WebSphere MQ and Ubuntu (and other developer resources)

For some time now, I’ve been using Ubuntu as my desktop operating system. Although I’m yet to be convinced by Unity (it’s getting there, the more I learn the shortcuts and stick with it), I do know that Ubuntu is a hugely-popular platform for developers – and I know that many of my colleagues at IBM who are in development roles choose our internal Linux-based client options (which cover a range of distributions), instead of Windows or OS X.

So, what about developing with or using WebSphere MQ on Ubuntu? Well, the officially-supported platforms for WebSphere MQ V7.0.x don’t include Ubuntu – that’s primarily a combination of the relative popularity of RedHat or SuSE Enterprise platforms in production deployments, time and resource spent on testing, and the fact that it would probably only be practical to test and support it on a Long Term Support release if it ever became supported.

However, it is possible to get WMQ installed and running on Ubuntu without jumping through too many hoops. The primary stumbling block is that the software is packaged in RPM format rather than in Debian/Ubuntu-friendly DEB files. One piece of advice is to avoid any guides that suggest converting the packages using alien… it may seem unusual, but you’re likely to find it far easier to get it working by installing rpm on the system instead. My colleague Rob Convery has posted a couple of very useful blog entries on this subject which I’d recommend if you have a need to get yourself running on Ubuntu – again, bearing in mind that it is not an officially supported platform, and that should you encounter issues then it might be necessary to reproduce them under RHEL or SLES when raising a service call with IBM.


There are other ways to get to use and learn about WMQ too, of course – for example, you could grab one of the IBM Industry Application Platform cloud images to run on the IBM SmartCloud or Amazon EC2 (containing WAS V7, DB2 Express-C 9.7, and WMQ V7.0.1, running on SLES), or you can try a number of the WMQ family products in IBM’s SOA Sandbox, (including WMQ File Transfer Edition, and WMQ Advanced Message Security). You can also check out the MQonTV YouTube channel. Let me know what you think!

WebSphere doodle

WebSphere doodle

Originally uploaded by andyp uk

Some random doodling I did on the Nintendo 3DS a little while ago. Yes, I have little artistic talent.

Does the term “reverse mentoring” devalue the mentor?

present participle of men·tor

Verb: To advise or train (someone).

If there’s one thing social technologies can teach us, I believe it is this: hierarchies are so 20th Century.

I came across the term “reverse mentoring” today – not the first time I’ve heard it, indeed I was invited to “reverse mentor” an executive myself at one time, but today… it got to me. Far from being an “exciting, unique program”, I think it’s an offensive way of describing knowledge sharing and relationships. It implies a polarity in the relationship, and more than that it emphasises the idea of seniority and implies a lower value in the therefore “junior” partner.

I tweeted about this earlier, and was challenged to clarify by @SuScatty:

So I went ahead and explained:

Now, to be fair, the definitions of the words “mentor” and “mentee” typically do refer to age or organisational seniority. However, the key part is surely about sharing experience. Age can be discarded almost immediately – it’s perfectly possible and legitimate for one individual to be in a higher position than another in a company regardless of age.

hierarchiesSomething I often discuss when I give talks about the transformational power of social tools in the enterprise is that, more and more, it is relationships and open sharing of knowledge that can build innovation and progress in a company. The classic “command and control” organisational structure we’re familiar with was invented by the factory owners of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th Centuries, and largely perfected in the early 20th Century by Henry Ford and his need to run an efficient production line. As companies grow, this kind of structure causes stratification to occur and silos to form, ossifying the way in which a company can operate. That’s one of the reasons why, at the turn of the 21st Century, some of the more innovative organisations like W.L.Gore, Google and Whole Foods have deliberately eschewed the traditional top-down model. For more on this, I strongly recommend Gary Hamel’s short (and unimpressive-looking, but actually very insightful), book The Future of Management.

networksSocial software and tools can create flatter, more fluid organisational structures, deliver greater productivity and effectiveness, and importantly: build trust. In my own experience, it has done just that. I’ve got a formal management chain that I pay attention to from the perspective of overall direction, vision, and administrative tasks, but I have a heavily cross-functional, cross-divisional, cross-geographical network which enables me to contribute to and draw value from the wider business.

To pick on a couple of random folks in the IBM organisation, who I’m hoping (!) won’t object: by titles, Bob Sutor and Ed Brill are my “superiors”, but the facts are that I interact with them very evenly and freely across social networks, and I imagine that they might choose to seek my advice on topics that I might know more about than them if the need arose. Would I see that as “reverse mentoring”? Not really – it’s advice and support between colleagues, friends, or whatever the relationship might be. Knowledge sharing. I like to think that the exchanges of information between myself and those I provide mentoring to, and those I’m mentored by, are very much two-way – and that both sides benefit by finding support, new ways of thinking and filling out gaps in knowledge.

So back to this idea of “reverse mentoring”. Why isn’t it just about a relationship where a mentor – the one with the greater experience in or knowledge of a particular space – offers the benefit of that wisdom to a mentee? That’s just… mentoring, isn’t it? The other word is redundant – unless you are trying to reinforce that outdated organisational hierarchy you’re clinging to…?

BTW: Bob, Ed… of course, I do bow down to your superiority in all things! 🙂

Last words go to Su again: