E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Sebastian Thomschke – Innovation in Its Purest Form

There are days like yesterday where one gets to experience mix feelings upon receiving certain types of e-mails or bumping into specific blog posts that you thought would have been totally unexpected. There are news items that you come across and have a strong sense they may be related to April Fools’ Day, specially if they happen on the day before or on this very same day. Yet, when you come to digest them properly, you realise they are not and you are faced with some interesting piece of news that you just don’t know how you it is going to sink in!

Well, yesterday I had one of those days. And that’s probably why I am posting this entry today, I suppose, as I feel it deserves much more than an e-mail reply or a blog comment to an internal blog post I know is not going to be seen any longer by the original poster. Yes, that is right. Yesterday was the last day at the company from Sebastian Thomschke.

"Who?" – you may be asking yourself, right? I know that for most of you that name probably doesn’t ring a bell at all and that is fine. For some of us though that name meant a before and an after in how we boosted our productivity in IBM as far back as 2001! Yes, indeed, I realise that it may still not sound very familiar, but allow me to spend a few minutes sharing with you why I received with mix feelings the news that Seb was moving into other pastures…

Back in 2001 we used to have an online real-time collaboration tool called IBM Community Tools that a whole bunch of us, early adopters, started to play around with knowing that it was that kind of Instant Messaging tool that would disrupt tremendously the way we collaborated and shared our knowledge with other peers synchronously. Such tool introduced a good number of very innovative approaches towards connecting and reaching out to other knowledge workers. Examples like what was known, still is, as the Broadcast Suite, are the kind of stuff I am talking about over here.

Well, IBM Community Tools started to grab, more and more, the attention of plenty of other different people, and one of those folks was Seb himself, who was the very first person who developed plugins for such nifty application. Plugins that although not initially part of the specific tool, little by little, they eventually made it into the final product. So for a good number of years Seb has been providing us with an incredible amount of plugins each of which increased our own productivity tremendously! And all of that without asking for anything in return. Seb just simply ventured into exploring the potential of an IM tool that was going to revolutionalise the way we connect in real-time and decided to share his innovative approach on how you would work smarter, not harder.

From there onwards, and not only for that application, Seb took things into the next level and started hacking some really really cool Lotus Notes databases that still today have got a huge traction, to say the least! I am still using a few of them to help improve my own productivity. And yes, they work for the Notes 8.5 beta client on the Mac, too!

And, lately, he was also working on a new, very remarkable Enterprise 2.0 approach on how to enhance the overall experience of both the Intranet and the Internet to help accommodate knowledge workers have faster access to information. Unfortunately, I will not be able to comment much more on this, since right now that particular application I am talking about is on a pilot phase and hasn’t gone public. But believe me, if it ever does you will be the first to know 🙂

Either way, that’s what Seb did to this company. If you would be asking me to define in one single word, or a couple of them, I think it would be rampant innovation without asking anything in return! Now you understand where the mix feelings are coming from, right? Well, not only that, he is also a wonderful person. After all of these years hanging out together in multiple various online spaces, testing out his productivity hacks, providing feedback, improvements, enhancements, and whatever other discussions, we actually never got to meet up face to face. Till this year. In Lotusphere 2008! Yes, I had the enormous pleasure of finally meeting up with him and in person he is even nicer than what he is online! And those who know him personally could certainly comment on that one!

Thus that’s why yesterday and today I have been going through a bunch of mix feelings, because even though it is a terrific event to see how one of your good friends moves into other pastures and decides to start a new adventure, I am sad that he is no longer with us in IBM. I do seriously wish him all the very best of luck and I am sure that we would eventually meet up again at some point. Now you know why I titled this blog post like I did.

"Hang on?" – you may be thinking – "Wait, he just developed a couple of features for an application that is no longer there! You must be kidding, right?". Well, not really. For those folks who may not know it, IBM Community Tools, along with Notesbuddy (And I will talk about this one some time soon as well) are the two main sources of input that were provided to come up with what nowadays you know as IBM’s Lotus Sametime (Both 7.5.1 and Sametime 8!). And, in fact, a good number of some of the features and hacks he put together are now part of Lotus Sametime Advanced 8!

That is correct! What it all started as hacking away in his free time and see where he could push the limits through innovation, a couple of years later, became a very solid IBM collaboration and knowledge sharing tool! And even more merit comes into place when some of the Web 2.0 concepts you will find in Sametime 8 come from what he did in the past! And all of that just talking about the kind of impact his rampant innovation did to such product line! Just amazing, don’t you think?

If you are not sure just yet what I am talking about, a good number of the folks I follow have been sharing their thoughts already on IBM’s Lotus Sametime Advanced 8. You may want to go ahead and check out some of those links. For me, you would see now why I thought that this blog post would do a bit more justice to Seb than an e-mail reply or a comment to his internal blog post where he mentioned he would be moving on, starting today!

From here, I just want to give my sincere thanks for everything!!! to a former colleague and a good friend, I am sure to bump into once again, who showed us all the way of how far a single employee can push the limits if they set themselves to it! Seb proved it and for that he will be missed. Wherever he may go next, they just don’t know what they got in their hands. I do.

Well done, Seb!!

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  1. “rampant innovation without asking anything in return”
    Well said Luis ! This defines Seb very well. I never met him, but I got to use the results of his job (the tools in the bluebar are amazing). I will miss him as much as you do. Is a sad day, but we all wish him the very best for his new endeavour. Wherever he may go next, they have better beware, he’ll introduce a massive amount of innovation there, be prepared.

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