MIAMI BEACH -- The Common user group opened its fall conference here yesterday by unleashing iSociety, an online social group that acts as a kind of Myspace for users of the System i, iSeries and AS400.
The group is designed to nurture the current cadre of System i programmers and expand the community to newcomers and is expected to include online chats, blogs, training opportunities and a job board.
Common made the announcement at its opening session and town meeting yesterday at the Miami Beach Convention Center, where the conference is being held all week. Some felt iSociety, which will be hosted at isociety.common.org for now and at isociety.org in the next week or two, was like preaching to the choir. But IBM executives and iSeries consultants took the stage spelling out how it was going to draw new users to the platform, an effort that has been ongoing for many years with limited success.
"This is a community to include all of you and it's to include all the people who have a System i," said Trevor Perry, a System i consultant and owner of Angus The iT Chap, an iSeries focused Web site. "It will also include all the people we want to recruit. The more noise we make, the longer the system is going to survive."
Reaction after the conference was mixed, with attendees saying they felt it was a good-hearted effort but wasn't sure if it was going to help revive the System i platform. One person, during the town meeting section of the event, commented that the logo looked like a "Workers Unite" propaganda poster straight out of an early 20th century communist Russia.
"They haven't done a good job in marketing," said Willy Bernaerts, president of WB Consulting in Belgium. "This could be good. I don't know what the result will be."
When signing up for iSociety, prospective members must first sign off on the "iSociety Creed," a takeoff of the Christian Apostles' Creed, that goes like this:
"I believe in one system that fully integrates all things visible and invisible, and provides abundance to businesses everywhere.
I believe that this only system was created to enlighten business people, and free them from the tyranny of the technologists.
And I believe that, one day, there will be just one system, and that all others will be pale imitations of it."
Visitors must then click one of two buttons: "I believe" or "I don't believe."
Members will be able to build profiles, including professional and private information and a picture. They'll be able to do many of the things that Myspace members do, such as forming online friend lists and seeing who has visited your profile. The iSociety Web site will have an iSeries-focused search to look up articles, technical tips, blogs and other materials.
Other key members of the community group are David Gibbs, founder of the listserv Midrange-L and John McCarthy, a member of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln team that helped design the site.
IBM, meanwhile, will be trying to draw audiences to its own site, called "The Truth," which will be connected to iSociety. IBM's Web site will basically look like hundreds to thousands of graphical "i's" floating around on the page, and if you click on one, you can read a System i user's experience with the platform. IBM executives hit the stage to encourage attendees at the event to sign up for their Web site and submit testimonials.
Elaine Lennox, vice president of iSeries marketing, said IBM wouldn't censor the testimonials as long as they were truthful and not obscene. The Web site is here.
To get word out about IBM's and Common's investment in marketing the iSeries, IBM plans on releasing a series of clips into cyberspace that Big Blue is calling viral videos. In a preview of the first video, a group of young, twenty-something IT professionals are in the middle of a desert with a bunch of IT equipment that is presumed to be lower end x86 systems. The premise of the video is that the IT guys have just gotten a System i in their data center and no longer need the x86 systems, so they take the servers and destroy them through various methods: blowing them up, cutting them with a saw, sticking a sword through a monitor. The catch line at the end of the video is: "I don't want junk servers. I want control. I want an i."
Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer
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At the conclusion of the COMMON user group conference in Miami Beach last week, Randy Dufault took over for Beverly Russell as president of the group. Dufault, a principal in the government practice for MBS Technologies Inc. in Minneapolis, has been attending COMMON conferences since 1988 and has worked with IBM midrange systems since 1983, starting with the System/36. He's been treasurer of COMMON the last two years.
In a recent conversation by email that spilled over to the phone, Dufault talked about his perceived role at Common, the new iSociety and the future of the System i. Here is a portion of those conversations.