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UserSphere tries to fill Lotusphere Europe's void

Even though Lotus Software cancelled Lotusphere Europe in Berlin this year, birds of a feather can still flock to England for their annual revelry. UserSphere, an independent conference organized by The User Group, will try to capture a little piece of Lotusphere next week through keynotes, best practice seminars and breakout sessions.

Earlier this year when Lotus Software cancelled Lotusphere Europe 2001 citing venue and timing issues, European Lotus users and business partners were left to wonder if or when another such forum might take its place.

For this year at least, UserSphere has filled that void. Organized by The User Group, a U.K-based collaborative technology association, the independent Lotus conference and exhibition will take place Thursday, October 18 at the Unipart Conference Centre in Oxford, England.

Michael Chapman Pincher, CIO of The User Group, told searchDomino that the one-day conference has been taking place in another form for several years, but its name and date were changed this year to attract developers and administrators who would have attended Lotusphere in Berlin.

"We took the opportunity to fill that gap, so users -- in particular users in the U.K. -- could come to an event, which was going to look at some of the issues that Lotusphere looks at without the Lotus hype attached to them," said Chapman Pincher.

To that end, The User Group declined inviting members of the media to the event. That way, "Lotus can admit where certain bugs are and customers can admit when they're not doing things right," said Chapman Pincher.

Though representatives from Lotus and parent company IBM Corp. will attend the show and address the attendees, the event will focus on user issues. The day will begin with keynotes by industry experts on the state of the industry and the state of Lotus Software, followed by interactive sessions on Lotus licensing changes and Rnext, the latest version of Notes.

In the afternoon, breakout sessions will focus on topics such as remote Domino administration, solutions to developers' challenges, Sametime 2.5, QuickPlace 5.8, and the latest on peer-to-peer collaboration company Groove Networks, which was founded by Notes creator Ray Ozzie.

Lotus has undergone a considerable restructuring effort in the past year as IBM transformed the formerly autonomous software firm into one of IBM's four software divisions.

"What has effectively happened since the final subjugation of Lotus into IBM is neither are externally focused at the moment. They're not focusing on customers, because everyone is thinking about their own jobs," Chapman Pincher said.

Normally, the European user community would meet at Lotusphere Europe to express its concerns, said Chapman Pincher, but lacking that venue this year he said The User Group thought it best to step forward and provide a communications outlet.

Chapman Pincher said 15 exhibitors and about 150 attendees are confirmed to attend UserSphere, but reluctance to travel following the September 11 terrorist attacks and allied retaliation may alter those numbers.

Esnahost, a Domino hosting firm, will sponsor the event and will award prizes such as a ride on the world's tallest ferris wheel, the London Eye, and a white water rafting trip. Admission to UserSphere costs £130.00 (about $189.00).


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