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Never Say Never

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"Ok, so let me see if I've got this straight."

I was on the phone with my friend Bob. I've known Bob for years. He's a former Navy guy who now does electrician work at Disneyworld. He's seriously bright, but doesn't know squat about computers. And he was trying, once again, to figure out what the heck I was doing with my life.

"You're starting another Notes publication?"

He stretched out the word "another" so it seemed that he was entirely incredulous of my actions.

"Well, yeah," I responded with some enthusiasm. "But this one's on both Notes and Domino."

"I think I understand Notes. It's this kinda email, database, group-think thing from IBM, right?" I hadn't heard it described exactly like that, but he was certainly in the ballpark. "But what the heck is Domino? Didn't Kim Basinger play Domino in Never Say Never Again? You're writing about a Bond girl?"

I shook my head. Of course, he couldn't see that through the phone. "Uh, no Bob. We're not doing a journal on James Bond, as cool as that might seem. We're doing a journal on Lotus Domino, a very cool server technology, and on Notes. They work together."

"So you're not writing about Claudine Auger, who plays Domino Derval in Thunderball. And you're not writing about Kim Basinger, who pretty much remakes the character as Domino Petachi in Never Say Never Again," Bob was spouting Bond flick facts with a scary degree of finesse. "You're just doing another techy journal on this Lotus Domino thing?"


"But haven't you done this before?"

Bob was right. We had done this before. In fact, we'd created no less than four Lotus journals, and a book. Back in 1993, I wrote a book called Lotus Notes 3 Revealed! It was the second book ever on Notes and was quite popular. Based on the success of the book, we did our first journal, Workspace for Lotus Notes. Since we were new to the whole journal publishing business, we partnered with The Cobb Group division of Ziff Davis. Ziff, as you probably know, is the largest independent publisher of computer magazines, and Cobb is their division that produces journals and newsletters.

The other part of the "we" in this, by the way, is Managing Editor and Vice President of Publishing, Denise Amrich. While I've been responsible for the overall direction and technical vision of the publications (the editor-in-chief), Denise has been responsible for making it all happen. She wrangles the authors, sometimes coaxing, sometimes threatening, to get articles in on time. She's responsible for making everything come together on deadline each month. Together, she and I have made a pretty hot little journal-running team.

Making Workspace work was a challenge. Ziff liked reaching mass readership, so we aimed Workspace at all Notes users, not just administrators. The problem was, it was tough reaching end-users because most Notes installations of the time were installed through business partners and Lotus. There just wasn't a master list of Notes end-users. And, of course, the Web wasn't really there yet.

So while Workspace was a critical success and an incredibly high quality publication, it wasn't really a commercial success. Meanwhile, it was becoming clear that cc:Mail was an enormous market force. We'd been approached by the cc:Mail people in Mountain View to do a new journal aimed squarely at cc:Mail. Cobb approved the idea and we were away. The Insider for Lotus cc:Mail was launched. It became pretty successful. So successful, in fact, that compared to Workspace, it was a screamer. Cobb decided to shut down Workspace and migrate the readers to cc:Mail.

We thought we were out of the Notes publishing game for good. We were wrong.

Two interesting things happened. First, Lotus had this funky little CD-ROM publication called The Notes Enthusiast. It was a quarterly CD-ROM with tips, techniques, and a bunch of databases. They'd done a deal with another division of massive Ziff-Davis to jointly publish the thing. But they had nobody to run it.

Who, they asked, inside the Ziff organization knows how to do Notes publications? Well, they found us. Strictly speaking, we weren't in the Ziff organization, since we're an independent company. But we'd partnered with Ziff on the other journals and we signed up to manage the Notes Enthusiast through it's run of contract. So for another year, while running Insider for Lotus cc:Mail, we were also producing the editorial content for the Notes Enthusiast.

It was a fun little magazine, but when the contract was up, we again figured we were out of the Notes publishing business. Hee hee. No chance.

A little over a year ago, we got a call from our good friend Bob Artner at The Cobb Group (not the same Bob as above). He sounded a bit sheepish. "Uh, would you possibly be interested in running another Notes publication?" he asked.

"Another Notes publication? Didn't we decide it wasn't a big enough market for Ziff?" I asked, shocked.

"Well, yeah, but see, we just acquired the newsletter division of IDG and there's this Notes publication. We want you to run it for us."

It turned out this Notes publication was The Notes Report, the grand damme of the Notes publications. In fact, we competed with The Notes Report when we had Workspace. It was a very cool publication. But, apparently, it wasn't the focus of IDG's attention and so readership had dropped off pretty tremendously. And at over a hundred bucks a year for a subscription, only those with very rich blood were interested in signing up.

What the heck. Denise and I thought about it and signed up. Then the other shoe dropped.

"Um, David, we've got a bit of a problem. We don't want to skip any months for readers. So do you think you can produce the first issue of The Notes Report pretty quickly?"

I had a bad feeling about this. "How quickly?"

"Within two weeks."

Two weeks? TWO WEEKS!! Well,



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