Well, in this case, it’s probably more like “Dave and Jeff and Bob vs Goliath”…but you get the gist.
WARNING: this is a long one. It kind of has to be. So strap on your helmet, grab a beer (or two…again, “long”) and cuddle up for a read and a half.
And we weren’t ever going to get into this story publicly. There wasn’t a need. There was no purpose. It’s like we’ve said before – there are quite a few “Don’t Be That Guy” entries that will never see the light of day because even though it made us feel better to write them…actually publishing them would just be inflammatory.
Unfortunately, in light of a few recent articles that have come out and the ensuing questions we’ve received about the topic, we have no choice.
And so get comfy and settle in, because it’s time to tell the story of what really happened with the conference we were pulling together, the chaos that ensued in our lives for the better part of a year, how we tried to do the right thing and nearly got royally screwed over it…
…and why certain companies around town are going through a rebranding exercise that, much like their idea in the first place, has absolutely nothing to do with us. Which was the heart of the problem all along…
Our story begins in late 2010, as we were debating (like we do frequently), “what’s next?”
The Pink Slip Parties we’d started the year before had continued to grow and mature. We were up over 100 people that had found jobs through our events.
Our casual networking events had gotten a nice bump from the success of those Pink Slip Parties, and so the network of the group was growing and expanding.
We’d helped push a ton of people through training classes to get certifications and find new careers.
All in all, things were going pretty well.
Which of course meant that we had to find a new way to introduce stress into our lives.
So we decided that something that was really missing here in the area was a vendor and technology agnostic tech conference. Nothing on the scale of COMDEX or anything…we weren’t quite that insane…but just something to start getting the various tech companies and vendors together for a decent showcase that would provide some real value to the members of our group and others.
We knew we couldn’t call it “Detroitnet.org” or “the Detroitnet.org show” or anything that egotistical, and so after countless beers, a glass or two (or three) of Jameson, a whole lot of arguing over which name was dumber sounding than the others and who had the worst idea in the history of ideas…
…we landed on “IT in the D”. Bob was convinced the url would look stupid (and he’s not entirely wrong…that’s why we always throw in the capitalization so that it shows like ITintheD or ITinTheD), but after much debate, we all came to the consensus that it was a solid name that had the right “catch” to it that would let people know what we were doing, and actually sounded like it meant something.
Surprisingly enough, we still thought so when we were sobered up the next day.
And so plans began to be hatched.
Through 2011, we started talking with a few technology companies both here and across the nation to see who might be interested.
Somewhere in there, we got stupid. We’re still not exactly sure where or when it happened…but it did.
In late 2011, we started pulling together other groups, other people, other organizations and getting them up to speed on what we were trying to do and getting their input on how things should flow, who should be involved, and where and when such an event could/should take place.
See, that’s where we got dumb.
Because we forgot that being too open with people can lead to getting screwed down the road. We laid everything out like an open book…because that’s how we do things, and how we wanted this to be run. No hidden agendas, no secrets, no nonsense. Just like everything else we were doing…just a little bigger. It was already starting to get political…which was the last thing we wanted, but we knew it was inevitable. People that were doing their own (very good, very solid, and very focused) conferences got all pissed off that we were trying to do anything at all on “their” turf…which, for crying out loud, we weren’t looking to do what they were doing, but once people’s egos get the slightest scuff mark on them, the fireworks aren’t far away.
2012 was when plans really started coming together. We targeted 3/13/13 for the date. It was happening in downtown Detroit, and so what better day to do it on than the palindromic 3/13/13? We expanded the core group a little further.
And then…something weird happened.
We started hearing about another “IT in the D” out there.
We had no idea who they were, what they were about, what they were doing…but starting in mid to late 2012, we started getting a lot of questions about our “partnership” with a group of five companies downtown.
Which sort of caught us completely off guard because, ummm, what partnership?
We started asking around, and sure enough…some of the very companies from which we’d had people in our discussions were now running some training program out of a building downtown.
Using our damned name!
The three of us tried to figure out how we were going to handle this development.
After all, the companies involved showed up at our events. We liked the people that we knew from those companies. They’d hired people from our events. We didn’t want to be jerks (I know, we were surprised too) about it for the sake of the ongoing relationship and the benefit that the people looking for work found by having them there.
But as late 2012 turned into early 2013, it was readily apparent that there was going to be a problem.
Too many people were asking us about their initiatives, their training program, and those companies.
People from companies other than those companies started asking us nervously if this new “partnership” we were in was going to result in them being, and I quote one of them, “frozen out of future events to give them preferential treatment”.
Concerned about the mass confusion and other chaos that was ensuing, at the end of February 2013 we slammed on the brakes regarding our conference. We stopped our work on rebranding the entire group, website, and everything we were and did to “IT in the D” because we didn’t know what was going to happen.
I mean it really, really sucked.
We were letting down the people who were planning on coming. We were letting down the companies who had queued up to sponsor the event.
And we were letting ourselves down.
Now, as you all know…we went into mad scramble mode and made the best of it. That debacle turned into our best Pink Slip Party and best event in the history of the group at St Andrews Hall. Some sponsors backed away from the concept, but the few that hung with us have our eternal gratitude and support for keeping us from going completely insane.
But the problem still lingered…and it needed to come to a head.
And so the decision was made that we were going to still take the high road…but we weren’t going to back down, either.
The show would launch as planned on June 3rd, 2013.
And it would be named “IT in the D”. If they had a problem with it, let them come to us.
It didn’t take long for that to happen, either. We’d started talking about it, but the show hadn’t even launched before we got a request from someone we knew to get together with some folks from an organization we weren’t familiar with at all. We did a little digging, and we knew exactly what the meeting was about…even if nobody wanted to be up front and just say it.
But we went. And over coffee in the cafe in the Guardian Building with someone from that group and a representative from the other “IT in the D” group, we talked about the weather, the scene in Detroit, how everyone’s week was going…
…you know, everything except for the reason that we all knew we were there to discuss.
So, at about the twenty minute mark, Bob finally took the proverbial bull by the horns and asked “So when are we going to talk about IT in the D?”
Some nervous laughter ensued, but at least the discussion started. It wasn’t a completely friendly discussion – there were veiled threats about coming after us with a lawsuit if we didn’t back away, and that’s when I got serious and started rattling off dates, times, locations and those involved. Legal discussions were put aside, and they started to talk about how we could all work together.
Of course we wanted to work together. Why wouldn’t some sort of a partnership with some of the larger companies in town be a good idea?
We sat around and chatted for another hour or so, much more friendly in nature, and agreed to meet again in the coming days and weeks to see what we could work out.
What we didn’t realize was that we were embarking on a journey for the next six months of our lives that would wind up being a total waste of time, not to mention infuriating. Oh sure, the signs were there…we were just stupid and ignored them.
With each passing meeting over the next few months, it became clear that they really wanted nothing to do with us. They didn’t want to partner with us, they didn’t want to share anything with us, they really just wanted us to give up our name and walk away.
What was good was that we managed to nail down a complete timeline of how this had all come to pass. This timeline has been seen and discussed among the various involved parties, and is beyond dispute:
- We register and begin using the IT in The D domains and naming convention in late 2010
- We begin bringing external people and companies into the fold with regards to our planned IT in The D conference in mid-2011
- That organization behind that other group comes into existence in late 2011
- This merits a specific call out. The organization that ultimately tried to take this all away from us didn’t even exist for another year after we were already up and running.
- Our (very public) plans for IT in The D are broadcast out throughout 2011 and 2012
- Through a meeting that we had with all involved parties at one of those participating companies, it was established that the branding session for their initiative took place in 2012.
- In March of 2012, some domains similar to ours are registered by the marketing company involved as a result of that branding session where they “liked” the name “IT in the D”
- But they couldn’t register those domains…because we’d already been up and running with them for quite some time.
- Clearly, they had gone to register ITinTheD.com and found them unavailable for registration.
- From a personal commentary standpoint, we find it hard to believe that a marketing and branding company didn’t stop at that point and indicate a potential issue to the organization and all of the involved companies. The ITintheD.com/net/org URLs were all up, live and functional. It’s not like we were hiding anything…we didn’t know we had anything to hide, after all.
- In March of 2012, some domains similar to ours are registered by the marketing company involved as a result of that branding session where they “liked” the name “IT in the D”
- Our plans (and site usage) of IT in The D continued to grow and expand through 2012 and into 2013.
- We are reached out to for a first conversation over this issue on May 30th of 2013, several weeks after our press release announcing the next step, our IT in The D internet radio show and podcast.
- A number of meetings take place over the course of the next few months.
- I cannot possibly stress to you how much good faith, earnest effort, and good will we poured into those meetings. We wanted to find a way for this to work. We wanted this partnership to happen, because we thought it would be good for the group as a whole. We sat in meetings for hours on end talking about structure and governance and what the various parties brought to the table. At all times, we operated in good faith, with an open mind and with a completely up-front nature.
- The final straw came when a “Memorandum of Understanding” was sent over for our review, and the ultimate goal was finally in plain sight – we sign everything over to them and let them do whatever they want with it, with a fun little side effect of us being completely swept by the wayside after a short period of time.
And so we walked away from it in October of 2013.
There was just no point in any further discussion. We knew what they wanted – they wanted our name, and they wanted us gone, and they didn’t want to do anything other than expect that we would just roll over and give it to them. Even beyond this latest discussion, that was clear from the internal conversation that filtered back to us where a certain CIO from one of the companies involved asked “Why don’t we just sue them?”
That’s where the real fun began. Because once you basically let us know that your real end game here is to screw us over, that’s when we dig our heels in even harder.
Plans immediately shifted into high gear for renaming and rebranding the entire group from Detroitnet.org to IT in the D. You don’t like that we’re using the name we came up with? Watch as we start using it more and see how that feels.
As we parted ways, our initial request was simple – the name’s ours, we’re obviously not coming to an agreement here, you’ve already talked yourselves into admitting you knew we were up and running before you ever even thought about it, and so just move on. Their efforts weren’t that far along, and there was no reason for there to be any continuing confusion between our two organizations.
They agreed that they would do so for the same reasons – no need for confusion.
And yet months went by, and they were still out there running under the name “IT in the D”.
Their attorney said they were working on it, but no real timeline was set in stone…and, honestly, even at this point, we were trying to be reasonable about things. We really felt no need to go to war with anyone any more. We’d won. They were moving on.
That was a few months ago now…and this brings us to present day.
Because this week we started getting questions about why we were going through a name change again when we’d just done so earlier in the year.
We had no idea what the hell they were talking about.
And then two links showed up talking about how IT in the D is rebranding and changing names…
So, here’s a good analogy for you.
If you go to PGA.com, you find a lot of information about Tiger Woods and golf in general, right? It wasn’t always that way.
See, back in the day, a little group named the Potato Growers Association owned PGA.com, and the Professional Golf Association wasn’t amused about it. They negotiated, they threatened, and they basically tried to steal what this perfectly valid group of individuals had built up in a perfectly valid manner for their perfectly valid organization.
In the end, the golfers caved and purchased the domain from the potato growers…and now you have a portal to go to for all of the golf information you could possibly hope to find.
What’s my point? My point is that they tried to strongarm it away, and that didn’t work. They tried to be sneaky, and that didn’t work either.
And no, for the record, we were never asked to sell ITintheD.com/net/org at any point in time during our conversations. Would we have done so? Hard to say. We’re hard-headed, but we’re also pragmatic.
But months after the negotiations for the PGA website were through, neither party went and issued press releases for what can only be assumed is a final, bitter flip of the middle finger and an attempt to cause confusion between our two organizations yet again.
So look folks…end of the day? We’re not going anywhere.
We’re not rebranding. We’re not going away. We don’t want you to “experience” anything other than our events, our weekly show, and our blog.
So that’s our experience over the course of the past two years. Now you know. Now you know why so much chaos that you asked us about but we wouldn’t discuss took place. Now you know why we had to put the brakes on things without giving really full and solid explanations. Now you know why we have some bitter cynicism when it comes to certain companies in the downtown community.
And now you know why we are IT in the D…and nobody else is.
After the articles came out that sparked this whole ball of fire earlier in the week, Bob ran into one of the more above-board people involved in these shenanigans a day later, and with a laugh, that person said “As soon as I saw that article, I said to myself that those guys are gonna be pissed…” And yes, we were. Why wouldn’t we be?
And we get it – nobody likes to tell the truth when it makes them look bad. Everyone wants to put a positive spin on things so that the situation looks better than it actually is. Nobody likes to have their ugly dark side exposed with a floodlight of reality…but sometimes you still have to flip the switch to “on”. And as I’ve noted before, it doesn’t do us any good to be anything less than completely above board and truthful. You want emails? We’ve got emails. You want dates, times and locations of meetings along with who was there and what happened each time? Got those, too.
We have our theories on why things went sideways, and we’ve even had a number of conversations with those involved throughout the process for some off the record conversations about who was pushing what and where the driving forces were. So yeah, we know. And yeah, we could have gone ahead and put that all in here too…but to what end?
After all, we’ve really busted our asses trying to make sure we’ve always taken the high road here. We’ve always tried to play nice, and we’ve always tried to be above board.
However, now we think it’s getting a little ridiculous and we think our good nature and good intentions are being taken advantage of…and if you know anything about us, you know that’s not exactly what one would call a “best practice”.
And so this is out here, such as it is. Classic “Don’t Be That Guy” style – we’re not naming names, we’re not adding in all of the specifics that we have at our disposal, and we’re not publishing the overwhelming archive of documentation that we have…
…but don’t think we didn’t have some heated discussions about doing exactly that over the past couple of days. But again…”high road”.
Peace out, folks. Go read something else, assuming your eyeballs are still in your head from reading this novel.
Oh, and one last note in closing. In the spirit of Casey Kasem, recently lost to us, let’s call this our long distance dedication to that one that might have been good, but turned out to be oh so bad…