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Crossing Boundaries

Groove's Ray Ozzie says his mission is to make computers more effective communication tools.

By Tommy Peterson
November 8, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - As the creator and chief developer of Lotus Notes, Ray Ozzie is responsible for putting groupware/collaboration software on the map, with more than 100 million people around the globe using Notes.
Ozzie is the founder and CEO of Groove Networks Inc., which makes collaboration software. Prior to his work on Lotus Notes, when he was president of Iris Associates, Ozzie was instrumental in the development of Lotus Symphony and Software Arts' TK Solver and VisiCalc.
In a recent interview with Computerworld's Tommy Peterson, Ozzie talked about what drives his interest in technology-facilitated collaboration and its relationship to the changing nature of business.

You're famous for Lotus Notes, and you describe Groove as a logical extension of your work in collaboration. Why does this particular problem in computing fascinate you? My base personality characteristics are relatively introverted, so the concept of me expending a career doing stuff that helps people communicate more effectively is kind of ironic. In PLATO, a computer-based education system, I was a systems programmer. I was fortunate enough to be exposed to early versions -- this was the '70s -- of e-mail and online group discussions and interactive chat like IM.
There was one person I communicated with on a software project; he was actually the project lead. I dealt with him in chat a lot, and he was a very, very slow typist. The chat on PLATO was a character at a time -- you'd see them typing as opposed seeing a line at a time. It just drove me nuts.
After some number of months, I finally met the guy, and he's a quadriplegic. He was typing with a stick. And if there was a crystallizing moment for me, that was probably it. It became really apparent that really I was working with someone's mind as opposed to anything else about them.

Ray Ozzie, founder and CEO of Groove Networks Inc.
Ray Ozzie, founder and CEO of Groove Networks Inc.
The next step in your career was a job with Data General doing data processing systems. How does that fit in? I went to work at Data General, [and] I was shocked because I had spent years working in this online community environment dealing with people and using the computer as a communication tool.
And then we came out here to "super mini land," or whatever it was at the time, and it was still data processing. At that point in time, I and a number of us who had been exposed to PLATO basically said, "Look, we've got to re-create that environment. We've lived this online community life; we've got to


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