Lotusphere Legends

[slideshare id=31518056&doc=lotusphere-140222120451-phpapp01]

Yes, its that time of year again when the Lotus communities prepares for its annual pilgrimage to Orlando. Sadly, this is likely to be the last time anything closely resembling “Lotusphere” will be held. It is my understanding that the only reason the event is taking place at all in 2015 was a $1.4 million contractual obligation remaining from IBM’s 10-year commitment announced at Lotusphere 1995. IBM have scaled back the event considerably. If it had gotten any smaller it might have even been possible to conduct the event entirely in Kimonos.

Prior to attending my first Lotusphere I launched a Web site called Lotus Legends where I tried to recognize the enormous contributions made to the Lotus community by people inside and outside of IBM. The site got lost somewhere after IBM launched its IBM Champions program. This year I would like to recognize a few of the many great people who have helped to make Lotusphere such a special event, especially over the past few years since I started attending.

Track Managers

Each year a group of dedicated people take the time and make the effort to select presenters for the technical tracks. The reward for their efforts includes a few flame emails or blog postings from people whose abstracts have not been accepted. I would like to single out Sussan Bullock and Wes Fellows for continually going above and beyond the call of duty. Not only have they helped select the presenters each year they have also put a lot of time and effort into helping people rise to that level, including their time as judges on Lotusphere Idol. And it doesn’t stop there… Last Year’s Game Show session hosted by Susan and Wes is without doubt the funnies Lotusphere session I ever attended.


The OGS has always been an important part of the conference setting the tone for the week that follows. For me recent OGSs have been a huge failure.  This started the year GBS invited 500 students. That year IBM responded to the attendance of the youngest audience they have had for a long time by offering an endless array of boring panel discussions. Over the past few years the only time Notes gets a mention is in reference to a game of Lotus Bingo. I fail to understand why I should pay $1,000+ to sit through what has become an IBM Marketing session about everything but Notes that has as much appeal to a Notes technologist as a sales pitch for timeshare. On the upside, this year’s OGS is likely to have some Domino content. IBM Verse, the new web client for Domino mail will definitely be the feature and I expect there will also be an announcement about Domino being offered as part of IBM Bluemix.

Lotusphere Guides

For many years Scott “The Turtle” Wenzel conducted an introductory session for first time Lotusphere attendees. Back in the era when blogging was more popular Andy Donaldson and a range of others produced great blog articles targeted at first time attendees and how to get the most out of the events. We have also seen awesome conributions from people such as Ben Langanrichs who for many years provided us with an unofficial sessions database. When Ben decided to call it quits my good friend Mat Newman stepped in and helped form a team of people to take over the tradition.


Each year many of us bring back a whole bunch of memorabilia, usually crammed inside the yellow Lotusphere backpack — which has gotten smaller over the years and is no longer yellow. One of the truly great giveaways that has gotten lost over time was the Certified Unoffocial Lotusphere T-shirt (CULT) organized by Lotus Legends Rocky Oliver, Henry Newberry, and Andrew Pollack (amongst others).

The Social Events

If there was one thing the Lotus community excelled at was the establishment of an awesome range of social events. This year it would be fair to say that these events will become more important to me (and perhaps a few others) than the official event being conducted by IBM. On Saturday we have the Bloggers And Lotus friends Dinner (BALD) followed by Turtle’s party at ESPN. On Sunday there is the traditional Welcome Reception poolside that is then followed by a “few drinks” at the Dolphin bar. By this stage the average attendee will have already exceeded their quota of alcohol for the year! And the official events haven’t even started yet.

On arrival at Lotusphere further sleep is almost always postponed until February. Post OGS we traditionally have a wide range of (social) break-out  sessions on offer at which various tribes congregate over food and a cold drink (or two) to recap the events of the day. Amongst the better known of these break-out sessions have been the Engineers Party (RIP), UK Night held at any venue with a large enough supply of beer to quench the thirst of the British (and those pretending to be British), and the Australia Day party at Jelly Rolls. In recent years Devin “Spanky” Olssen’s “Free as in Beer” event has offered a wide range of home-brews pool-side. And at the other end of the spectrum we have had Joe Litton and Bill Malchisky hosting Mai-Tai events.

And of course every evening there is a large crowd packed into Kimonos for some drinking, karoke, and some more drinking. And then there is Darren Duke… A one man social event known to turn up when you least expect it (sometimes accompanied by an inflatable kangaroo) offering  his unique sense of humor. Darren contributions are many, including elevating the Lotusphere Cookie to the centre of the culinary stage.

Traditionally the last social events on the Lotusphere calendar has been a game of mini-golf, that has now evolved into a beach soccer game. After this the truly dedicated that stay for one last (final) evening then close down Kimonos one last time. The unofficial non-existent Lotus flag is then folded away for the last time with the sound of taps playing in the background.

Bleeding Yellow

Nathan Freeman perhaps started the trend when he turned up to Lotushere 2008 with bright yellow hair. But in recent years Mat Newman and Mary Beth Raven have taken this to new levels with their Lotus-Yellow wardrobes.

Ed Brill

Ed deserves a category of his own. As Product Manager of the Lotus products for many of the Lotusphere years he has done a lot to make Lotusphere the event that it is. Before attending my first Lotusphere Ed gave me a unique chance to preview the content of the OGS (Project Vulcan). At the time I was not a high profile member of the community and I was honored to have the chance to be involved with something like this. ED has always been the one constant factor at Lotusphere getting out there and taking feedback from everybody about the event and then not just listening but doing something about it. Ed was a major influence behind the Lotusphere Idol events and also put the popular “Ask The Product Manager” session on the agenda. It is great to see that Ed will be back again as a presenter for this last Lotusphere.

And finally…

Whether you have attended just one or all of the Lotushere events held since 1993 it is likely you have also played an important role in defining LotusSphere. There are those that work tirelessly to prepare and then present technical sessions that help us all push the boundaries of the Notes/Domino platform. The even greater number of people always happy to share tips and advice with anyone that asks. There are those that dare to rise at 6am each morning to participate in BOFs. And there is never a shortage of people willing to share a drink to talk about the many ideas that have been generated during the day.

To every person who has contributed to this great event over the years I salute you and your efforts. You are all worthy of the title Lotusphere Legend.


This year Nathan Freeman and myself will be attending from Red Pill Development.  Nathan will be doing a speedgeeking session on Monday evening about Graph technology. I am only planning on attending the first few days, enough time to renew old acquaintances and enjoy some of those awesome social events one last time. I will leave it to many of you to officially close down Lotusphere for the last time in the early hours of Thursday morning. Because after that…. Lotusphere itself will become a legend.

Peter Presnell
Peter Presnell
CEO at Red Pill NOW. Strategist, technologist, blogger, presenter, and IBM Champion 2011/12. For years many companies have invested heavily in the Notes/Domino platform and I see my role as helping to find paths forward for that investment.


  1. Great post, Peter. Thanks for sharing. Sorry I’ll not get to meet you at this last event… Perhaps at an MWLUG in the future?

  2. Peter Presnell says:

    I look forward to the next MWLUG then Stuart. It is being held here in Atlanta so even at this very early stage I am pretty sure I will be able to attend.

  3. Thanks for the shout out! I WAS and will be this year – with bells on. I have my yellow stuff already packed.

  4. Lars Olufsen says:

    Great post, Peter.

    I actually have a Lotus Flag (or at least a very large Lotus Banner), but since I’m not going this year, it has already been folded away. 🙁

  5. Great post, Peter, thank you. C U @ Kimonos-

  6. Ed Brill says:

    Thought I left a comment last night….very touched by this blog, Peter. It’s been a great ride, and I am looking forward to seeing everyone in just a few days!

  7. Julian Woodward says:

    Nice post Peter – thanks. See you there.

  8. Peter, always fun to read non-techie stuff about this incredible community.
    Thank you. You’ve become a legend too! Cu in a few.

  9. Robert Lewis says:

    Great to see this Peter – I attended most if not all during the 90’s and into the early 2000’s. It was so huge in the mid 90’s that even the Orlando site struggled to find the space to host all the sessions and get everyone into the conference. We brought our families and made a conference / vacation out of it. Great speakers and exciting announcements on our beloved Notes / Domino product. It was a huge part of my life for many years and I am thankful for that …. looking at my Lotusphere 2004 coffee mug as we post !

  10. Darren Duke says:

    Honored to be mentioned. Alas the ‘roo is no more. Some she deflated due to a small prick….. That can be read a multitude of way, so I’m not entirely sure what “they” mean.

    Again, honored to be mentioned

  11. Mary Beth Raven says:

    This is a lovely post. Thanks for the mention. Although I’ve been gone from IBM for 3 years I still feel very much a part of the community and I am grateful!

  12. Sean Harris says:

    Great write-up Peter, with some very good mentions. As Ed said, “It’s been a great ride”, and I hope to see as many of you as possible for our last dance. Cheers!

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