Andrew Pollack's Blog

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CULT Shirt Retirement

By Andrew Pollack on 09/08/2011 at 07:25 AM EDT

With mixed feelings, it is time for me to announce that I will not be producing a CULT shirt for the 2012 Lotusphere season and do not anticipate producing them in the future.

I've spoken to Rocky Oliver about this and he agrees that the time is at hand to end on a winning note. The CULT shirts were first created by Rocky Oliver and Henry Newberry more than 10 years ago. When Henry stepped away from the process in 2004, I took over the bulk of the production work and as Rocky became increasingly busy I took on the process as a whole. We had some great designs and a great deal of fun with the shirts over the years and I will always be grateful to the sponsors and to the community for supporting the effort.

Some of you are aware of just how much work goes into producing the CULT shirts every year. From gathering and coordinating sponsors to the graphic design work, subcontracting production, shipping, and distribution it was a matter of more than a hundred hours each year. In addition to the preparation work, it meant extending my stay in Orlando by two nights and dealing with renting trucks and driving around picking up dozens of boxes at the last minute as I was also finalizing presentations and preparing for other events around Lotusphere. It has been common for me to start Lotusphere exhausted. In the last few years while the community still appreciated the shirts, they have become something of an expectation rather than a treat, sponsors have been more difficult to find in these tighter financial times, and to be honest I just haven't enjoyed the process as much.

Lotusphere is still a fun and valuable event - at least so far - but it hasn't been the same atmosphere for me at all in the last few years. Many of the changes are positive overall. There is more business being done, the show floor is more successful, there has been a excellent balance of interesting content, and all the things you want out of a conference remain top notch. The mood, however, has changed. What was a fairly tight and highly geek oriented community is much more broad and business focused than the pure technical crowds of the late 1990's and early 2000 years. I think this is a reflection of the product line's direction and its trend in the marketplace but that's a subject for another day.

The final straw for me was a conflict I had while at Lotusphere 2011 with a fresh young lawyer who had been assigned by IBM to review the use of its logos and copyrighted terms on presentations and other materials. He had decided that my use of the "orange guys" from the old Notes Database icons which I had decorated with firefighting equipment and used as my twitter picture and on my presentations was "too derivative" and had to be removed. While his comments did not extend to the shirt itself, that was only because the shirts were outside his purview and because he didn't connect me with the shirts while reviewing the presentations. I sought assistance from some fairly high level IBM people, and while they understood that the use was reasonable and even positive there was nothing they could do because it was definitely derivative as well. As long as it was casually ignored, there wasn't an issue. Once pointed out formally, however, IBM could not let the use continue without risking losing the right to defend the same logo elsewhere. The frequently sarcastic nature of the shirts makes it a long step from anything IBM will issue a blanket statement permitting for the future, of course, so while the young lawyer was legally correct, his overzealous attempt to impress his bosses missed the point. He missed the obvious fact that he wasn't the first IBM person to notice the derived use -- surely every executive and marketing person who ever saw it had the same thought. The difference is that the rest of them were smart enough to allow a positive reference to continue while casually ignoring the obvious. By making an issue of it, this genius put me in the position of having to comply with the very specific request to stop deriving work directly from the IBM Lotus Domino logos. Unfortunately, images derived from the IBM logos have always been a large part of the design of the CULT shirts. Having now been officially asked not to make derivations like that, I do not feel it is appropriate to take the risk of ignoring that request for the future. The first time, a "friendly" request to remove the work is all that's necessary. Repeated use, however, can lead to things like lawsuits that even if I had a chance of winning, would be so far outside my ability to spend the money to fight as to be not worth fighting.

I do not want my decision here to sound like some kind of misguided free speech or editorial freedom issue. It isn't that at all. Of course we could produce the shirts without crossing the boundaries set by not using derivations of the the logos. It's simply that the more I thought about it, the more the remaining joy of producing the shirts was just sucked out of the process for me. A "last straw" doesn't have to be a big deal. By itself, there is nothing here that couldn't be easily ignored. Combined as it is with the other difficulties in producing the shirts, changes to the way I perceive the Lotusphere mood, and the general aging of the joke itself; it was simply time to call it a day.

Of course, if someone else wants to pick it up I'm happy to listen and to provide any advice I can. The first bit of that advice would be to suggest you try something else -- something new and fresh. There's room for someone else to step up and provide some fun.

There are  - loading -  comments....

re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Theo Heselmans on 09/08/2011 at 08:44 AM EDT
Just want to say THANK YOU to you, Rocky and Henri for doing this job, year
after year.
I've always looked forward to the CULT shirts, as there was a lot of fun/pun to
discover every time.
I understand your decision, and owe you a beer at LS12!
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Joe Litton on 09/08/2011 at 09:05 AM EDT
I've been SO AMAZED at the insanely cool shirts you guys have done for so long.
My first LS was only 7-8 years ago, but I think I've had a CULT shirt each of
those years, and have been just astounded each time at the dedication that went
into the shirts from the sponsors and especially from you, Rocky, and many
others who have worked hard and likewise in the background.

re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Andy Donaldson on 09/08/2011 at 09:29 AM EDT
I just want to say THANK YOU for always making sure that there was a fat man
size for me. You and Rocky, well, rock!
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Corey Davis on 09/08/2011 at 10:12 AM EDT
Thanks for all of the great shirts over the years! I truly understand your
reasoning and don't blame you for it one bit, but I sure will miss the shirts.
Maybe now you can enjoy LS just a little bit more.
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy John Paganetti on 09/08/2011 at 10:22 AM EDT
THANKS for all the CULT Shirts over the years as well! The hardwork and
dedication put into them were truely appreciated by any and all Developers
honored by receiving CULT Shirts. They will be missed for sure!
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Jason Hook on 09/08/2011 at 10:36 AM EDT
I've been lucky enough to get a shirt most years I've attended Lotusphere. For
each and every one of those thank you and Rocky and Henry and the other
sponsors! I'm sorry to see what is an part of the character of the event and
ownership of a little part of the conference disapear but I can completely
understand why you would decide to stop in the circumstances.

I was going to damn the lawyer with faint praise but I think you've covered it
very well.

Our shirts are now even more collectors items than they were before :-( Shame.
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Maey Beth Raven on 09/08/2011 at 10:44 AM EDT
THanks to you and Rocky and Henry (and others like Frencie who got you to make
actual women's cut cult shirts! THey were indeed fun and appreciated.

And it was always great to bring a few back to give to those who didn't get to
attend the sphere.
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy David DeWell on 09/08/2011 at 10:41 AM EDT
The CULT shirts were an absolute treat. I also know the feeling of volunteering
your time and not getting the enjoyment out of them. They truly made Lotusphere
something to remember on a yearly basis. Along with "who will be opening
session guest" to "what part is the Wednesday night party" is "I wonder what
the C.U.L.T. shirts will look like".

Bless you all for taking the time to make LS special over the past ten years.
Maybe we can let Nathan color his hair again... nevermind.. ;)
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Howard on 09/08/2011 at 10:57 AM EDT
Andrew (and Rocky), thanks for doing these over the years. It has been a fun
tradition to see the new shirt. Now you can have fun on opening weekend!

re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Yancy Lent on 09/08/2011 at 11:04 AM EDT
The end of an epic contribution to the community. Thank you, and everyone else
associated with this very cool concept.
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Roy Rumaner on 09/08/2011 at 11:09 AM EDT
Thank you to Rocky, Henry and you for taking the time to create what was always
a fun shirt. I think I have every one of them with 2010 being the only
exception. They will be kept in my box of retired Lotus memorabilia.
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Karl-Henry Martinsson on 09/08/2011 at 11:17 AM EDT
Thank you (and Rocky and Henry) for all your hard work. I treasure all my CULT
shirts, despite missing a few from the first couple of years. I still want the
Lord of the Rings and the Survivor ones. :-)
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Ed Brill on 09/08/2011 at 11:33 AM EDT
Andrew, Rocky, Newbs - thank you all. I've loved all the "Ed Brill" jokes over
the years, the honor of selecting the grand prize winner back oh 2004-ish, and
having to explain the jokes to my family and friends. I've got a whole drawer
of CULT shirts, and they aren't going anywhere. It's full anyway :-)
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Michael Wuerdemann on 09/08/2011 at 11:58 AM EDT
I'm sorry to hear that.
Thank you for all the C.U.L.T.!
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Robert Baehr on 09/08/2011 at 12:40 PM EDT
Thanks to Rocky, Henry, and You for taking the time to conceive, design, and
get to the masses an item that has become synonymous with Lotusphere.

N'uff said!

Bob Baehr
The Unofficial Poster Child for Lotus Notes and Domino
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Stuart McIntyre on 09/08/2011 at 01:49 PM EDT
Thank you Andrew, and Rocky and Newbs. Really appreciate all that you've put
into the shirts.

I will miss them for sure, but completely understand the reasoning. Given the
likelyhood that the conference name will change at some stage in the next few
years, now seems to be as good a time as any to stop...
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Curt Stone on 09/08/2011 at 03:31 PM EDT
I love the conference tshirts and enjoyed collecting them.
CULT shirt was always my favorite and coveted prize. Scoring one early at BALD
or ESPN was cool and made me feel part of the underground community.
Good run guys and thanks for effort over the years!
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Bill Malchisky on 09/08/2011 at 03:54 PM EDT
Always enjoyed the CULT shirts. Even used them as a prop for a client team LS
update presentation with the crew that didn't get to go to Lotusphere that
year. Everyone enjoyed them. From our conversations Andrew, I know it's a lot
of work annually for you and appreciate the community contribution. "Thanks,
for the memories..." to, Newbs, Rocky, and you.
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Bruce Perry on 09/08/2011 at 05:51 PM EDT
So long and thanks for all the shirts.

(here's hoping that's not too derivative)
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy JP Liggett on 09/09/2011 at 03:01 AM EDT
Thank you for all of the extra effort you guys put in over the years to produce
these shirts. It was a great run.

I only have one from 2005 (I tried hard to get one in other years, NG) but it's
a treasured memory of LS for me. I particularly liked all of the different
vendors that were on the shirt, collaboration in action.

It's would've been nice fo IBM to grant you a proper license gratis (hello
marketing department!!) so you would'nt have to worry about it.
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Lisa Duke on 09/09/2011 at 07:23 AM EDT
Thanks for all the years of doing these. The time off is well deserved. :)
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Dwain A Wuerfel on 09/09/2011 at 08:10 AM EDT
Thanks to the creators for the many years of joyful gifts. It was always a
goal for anybody from our team to bring back a CULT shirt for those not able to
attend. I hope it will continue, but also understand the complexity of doing
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Mike McGarel on 09/09/2011 at 08:40 AM EDT
Thank you Andrew, Rocky and Henry. Your hard work over the years is
appreciated. Finding a CULT shirt was a highlight for me at Lotusphere.
Thanks....By Craig Wiseman on 09/09/2011 at 04:48 PM EDT
Thanks to you, Rocky,and Henry for many years of enjoyment.

I have to agree that the "feel" of Lotusphere has changed of the last number of
years, as has what IBM's apparent vision for its various products.

For what it's worth, you've brought a lot of enjoyment and joy to people's
lives with the CULT shirts over the years. It's appreciated.
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Scott Tomlinson on 09/12/2011 at 12:09 PM EDT
An unfortunate end to one of key things that made Lotusphere. Thanks Andrew,
Rocky and Henry for driving this every year. It will be missed!
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy mdmadph on 09/26/2011 at 09:34 AM EDT
God, what an asshole (that lawyer). They're right in that they _have_ to
pursue it, when it's brought to their attention, but he could've kept his mouth
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Joyce Davis on 09/30/2011 at 02:54 PM EDT
Andrew - Sorry, I missed this post a couple of weeks ago. Thanks for all the
work you put into the shirts over the years. And thanks to Rocky and Henry too.
re: CULT Shirt RetirementBy Dwight Wilbanks on 10/06/2011 at 12:24 AM EDT
I too missed the post when it came out, because, the heart of the notes
community died and I mostly stopped reading all the blogs.

Thanks for your effort all this time. The phrase "no good deed goes
unpunished" comes to mind

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