If You're Not Part Of The Solution ...
So another year has come and gone. Good-bye 1994, and welcome 1995. But what's really changed aside from the calendar (and for some of us, even the new calendar caused some major problems). My last three editorials were written to bring about an awareness of what the future is likely to hold for the TPF community. Focusing my commentary on IBM, since they are the vendor, has produced what I can only call an absolutely "unbelievable" response. If you listen real closely, you'll be able to hear it also. No, turn off the radio. That's it. Now quiet the cat, and unplug the phone. Can you hear it now? The overwhelming din of silence. Shhhhhhhhush. That's what IBM's response was.
I have to be honest with you, and say that I'm not at all surprised. In fact, I would have been completely knocked over if I did get a response from them. But they've been the focus of my thoughts and concerns for 6 months now, and it's time to target the other players in the equation. The flip side of the coin is the user community, both the TPF customers and the TPF User Group. There is certainly responsibility and accountability which lies with the customer when we talk about the viability of the marketplace and the future of the product. In fact my personal belief is, that the majority of blame (if blame is to be assessed for the failure of TPF) lies with the user.
Anyone with a reasonable degree of common sense knows that it's the customer who drives the marketplace. It's the customer who demands the quality in the product, the availability of the product in the marketplace, and the acceptable cost of the product. It's the customer who influences the marketing campaign. It's the customer who dictates the look and feel of the product. It's the customer who is "always right"! So I ask the question; What has the customer done to promote the growth of the TPF industry? Scary isn't it? The silence is deafening.
Now I appreciate the nature of the beast. Getting two airlines, or financial institutions, or credit card companies to look beyond the ever-present specter of competition and secrecy is no small undertaking. But for those who would like to use that as an excuse, I would like to say "nope", "wrong", "sorry", "negatory", "no-way", and "nyet"! The excuse doesn't fly folks, and the reason is the TUG.
The TPF Users Group (originally formed as the ACP Users Group) has been around since 1968. That's 26 years, give or take a few months. Meeting on a regular basis twice a year, the TUG should be a non-political, non-restrictive organization providing its users with a structured opportunity for the free and unbiased exchange of information and ideas. The philosophy and the charter of the TUG provide an air of cooperation and common goals, once you've "checked your guns at the door". In reality however, this isn't the case. The practice of excluding non-IBM vendors and providers taints the very foundation of the TUG. By its very nature, exclusion negates any attempt at a free and unbiased exchange of information. Ask yourself who benefits when there is only one candidate running in an election? When the votes are counted, has the user won, or has IBM? Something's not right when the tail is wagging the dog.
Now I can't hold the TUG Executive Committee accountable for the way it does business, nor do I want to. They are not the bad guys! But I do hold the membership accountable, because they've lost track of what their responsibility is to the technology. This is supposed to be a "users" group. As such, it is the users who have the power to propose and enact new guidelines for the TUG. In the twenty-six years of meetings which have been attended by thousands of users, there have been hundreds of requirements put forth to IBM. Modify this, change that, enhance this functionality, improve that performance, etc., etc., etc. Why hasn't anyone ever submitted a requirement to the Requirements Subcommittee that once a year, IBM provide one new licensed user for membership to the TUG. More importantly, why hasn't the TPF user community, both within the TUG and without, done anything to promote the technology. Press releases, joint development announcements, product offerings, direct mailings... the opportunities were, and still are just waiting to be exploited.
We all have a stake in the survival of TPF. Some have more to lose than others if the vendor has no choice but to "fold his tents and leave town", but everyone will suffer the loss. When you consider the combined resources of the user community; the technological and marketing expertise, the combined financial potential, the wealth of united manpower, and certainly the instinct for self-preservation, there is no longer any reason or excuse to blame IBM for not signing any new TPF licensing agreements.
As customers of IBM you have the power. As licensed users of TPF you have the clout. As professionals, you have the ability. As participants, you have my support and respect. As bystanders, you have my sympathy, because if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.