Time now to mention how glad I am to have left ibm.com in 1999.
My blood pressure dropped almost immediately from the low end of High to mid-high Normal. It's now pretty much in the Normal range though tending towards the high end of that range.
I started sleeping again at night. Prior to November 1999 I believe I slept a full eight hours about once a month, and that was usually from sheer exhaustion. It wasn't really sleep, just my body saying "sorry, time for maintenance" and shutting down.
I stopped screaming at people all of the time. Was kind of the normal mode of operation at www.ibm.com, at least for me, from 1998-1999. The corporation had decided to get "with it" in the web game and make web operations more "professional" and business oriented, and less seat-of-the-pants.
I had no problem with that except that I should have left when I recognized what was going on and how it'd both sideline me and yet suck me in for even more corporate angst.
Heh...the Corporate Webmaster was disintermediated.
Anyway, more tidbits for the book I suppose (which I really need to finish if I'm going to publish it for ibm.com's 10th anniversary).
The point of this post is that ibm.com is melting down. Not the physical servers or the software running on them. No, thanks to IBM Global Services I'm sure that that is now the most static, unchanging, and un-risky setup they could come up with.
No, I mean the organization that we built to support IBM's presence on the web. The meltdown has been coming for awhile, but the most recent moves are like the coup de grace.
See, in 1996 the ibm.com group was at most 20 people based in Armonk, NY. We had offices spread in a section of the second floor of the old headquarters. When plans for the new HQ were finalized it was made clear that there was no space for internet types.
We got kicked out of CHQ and were lured to Manhattan by various groups. Originally we wanted to move to 590 Madison since that was close to Grand Central. Eventually we moved to 55 Broad Street, down in the Financial District. IBM had had some sort of relationship with the developers or the Alliance for Downtown NY.
So, in the midst of preparing for LVG's speech at the 1996 Internet World conference, we packed up our offices and moved to temporary digs at 55 Broad.
The very next day the office wonks in Armonk shut off our phones.
The day after that, they gave our extensions to people who moved into our former offices. I'm not sure they warned the guy who got x5716 that he would now be fielding the 40-50 calls I used to get each day about some facet or another or complaint about www.ibm.com.
So, that kind of set the tone for our life at 55 Broad. Don't get me wrong, it was a blast to not be shackled by IBM's corporate culture, but as the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.
The big benefit was that we suddenly could hire people in NYC. Prior to the move we pretty much either got people who lived in Westchester or Fairfield, with a few brave souls who took the reverse commute on Metro North.
IBM stayed at 55 Broad for exactly five years. For various reasons, in the fall of 2001 the offices at 55 Broad were shut down, with staff either consolidating at 590 Madison, or IBM Hawthorne.
This past fall, IBM made the decision to close down the 590 Madison facilities and transferred the work location to White Plains.
This move has worked swimmingly, so much so that staff are resigning or transferring out as quickly as possible.
The coup de grace appears to be a recent re-org that is still in process or progress (or regress depending on your perspective).
I predict that within a couple months or so, www.ibm.com proper is redesigned to focus primarily, almost solely, on the PC division's products and services.
This assumes, of course, that a redesign is even possible. Seems that when the group moved out of 55 Broad Street an enterprising and efficient staffer threw away all documents in the document library, including any records of past redesigns.
But, no worries, I've heard that all of the work that had been done here in NYC can be easily offshored since there's no need for experience or historical knowledge when dealing with a simple business web site like www.ibm.com.
So, I'm glad I left ibm.com.
Anyway, what got me on to this post in the first place was that I was surfing ibm.com tonight looking for a replacement Thinkpad. I'd tried buying one in December but ran into the absurd little problem that IBM couldn't ship my Thinkpad by the end of the year due to a shortage of Microsoft Windows XP.
As soon as I hit the ibm.com site I got hit by the ever-annoying survey. This time, since I had time, I started working my way through it. But I gave up and cancelled out after the tenth panel or so. I don't have that much free time. And there was no carrot, no discount, no free mousepad, nothing.
I mean, why bother?
And this signifies to me, at least in my very focussed view of ibm.com, what's wrong with ibm.com. There's no one group or person focussed on what's good (or bad) for the site. It's just a tool, a portal, an entry way into the mess that is IBM's web presence.
We used to focus, perhaps too much at times, on the experience of IBM's web presence. Pages had to conform to design standards (and do today, moreso than in the past primarily due to content management tools). But there was something else which I used to lamely call technical experience of the web. How things linked to each other, how URLs looked, how applications performed. We did things like culling the error logs to add redirects for common misspellings. Our 404 pages tried to tie into the search engine. The search engine itself was optimized to direct certain key words and phrases to the pages we wanted them to go to (rather than relying solely on the pank ranking algorithm in use by the Software Group's search engine d'jour).
I don't know how much of that continues to this day. It's a nebulous thing, even less measureable or quantifiable than the user experience of the site. I certainly don't feel it when I surf through ibm.com these days. From my experiences in December with the aborted Thinkpad purchase to my experience tonight, it's clear that IBM's focussing its resources elsewhere. Entirely within it's massive corporate prerogative I'll concede, but much to its detriment.
ibm.com just turns me off. It doesn't invite you in to wander around. It even derails you from directed tasks (well, ok, I really got annoyed by the survey. Others might not be so easily distracted).
Eh. Doesn't matter. If you are not measuring something, and don't value it, you don't notice when you lose it. You notice the side effects, but not the root cause. It's a different site, and a different company, and perhaps they fit each other just fine.