Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The general Rob Glenn petition post.

Hello, wooters. I would like to ask you all to band together in solidarity for something which I feel is incredibly important to the integrity of this entire site. It appears that a certain derby entrant and past winner will be very likely taking a third trophy this week. Generally, this should be a great cause for celebration... multiple derby winners are proven to have a finger on the pulse of the site, and likely have the perseverance to withstand the pressures of the derby, the creativity to come back week after week, and the patience to accept their many failures. In this case, however, I feel that the potential winner is a disgrace to the shirt designing world, and woot should not allow his continued entrance. This thread is to lay out why.

We first met Mr. RobGlenn in the Cryptozoology derby. He submit a handful of simple designs, resonating with his perplexingly popular Tortle. Little was thought of the simplicity of the design at the design. He had similar success the next week with Midnight Poker, again with nothing really suspicious going on. So generally innocuous was he that when a debate sparked over his Dodo Appreciation shirt during the Time Travel Souvenir derby, most wooters sided with him that the engraving he used, while not his own, was fair game as the copyright was certainly up. He continued to submit shirts which were unremarkable save for their reasonable popularity and generally clean executions.

In time, however, he won a derby. Aaarrrgyle soon became one of woot's top selling shirts, with its pirate motif, something wooters seem unable to get enough of. However, while many people were turned off to the shirt for it's cliché content, others noticed it was even more derivative... Uneetee was selling a shirt of almost identical name (minus 2 "a"s) and, needless to say, identical concept. Woot was informed, but decided to print it anyway. Shortly after, he got a second printing, placing second in the "Make Up Your Own Holiday" derby with Hidden Message Day. Again, many maligned this idea as a case of not knowing when to give up (it was rejected twice before a version was allowed to stay in the race), but others were quizzical because this shirt relied on folding, like the back of a MAD magazine. It was a kitschy move to start with, but made all the more curious as the fold-in shirt, unique as it sounded, was far less unique at second glance. Not weeks prior to the derby, a threadless submission cropped up using a bunch of whimsical creatures who, when folded, created the word "WOW". Two wins in quick succession, both with unsettling similarities to work already submitted elsewhere, began opening up the floodgates.

The dodo shirt seemed less of an anomaly all of a sudden, and the first few simple successes felt more like clip-art than simply clean design. Looking back at past entries, his Tetris-block skull seemed more calculated. A number of designs featuring live-traces of photos seemed more intentional. By this point, woot had rejected at least one design for being too close to an existing copyright, with potential infringements on pac-man going ignored, and other rejections, while axed for derby-relevence, encrouching on likely copyrights from Microsoft and fisher price. Also, between wins, Mr. Glenn made the following comment over at shirtderbystats as regarded another, more blatant design thief: "It doesn't matter if you think it deserves to win or not... that's what the voters are for... and they're usually right, just look at the sell out times for the winners versus the second and third place shirts." There would have been enough there alone to make one question him.

By this point, many designers and shirt fans were onto him. His Forcible Peace got rejected after a lengthy discussion thread found any number of similar shirts, as well as proved the guns used were stock images. It's a very enlightening read, as it's not only one of the first prolonged discussions of Rob's tendency to rip off content, it also introduces the world to his "henchmen". Mr. Glenn, you see, has friends at woot who do his insulting and badgering for him, all the while maintaining a more gracious, taciturn, and innocent profile for himself. This was the general tone for most RobGlenn work until Trompe L'Oeil, which saw one shirt rejected for being too similar to existing shirts, while another was allowed to stay in the competition despite being incredibly similar to yet another threadless shirt. Most recently, he submitted this seahorse, similar to yet another threadless submission. The submission dates are identical, and it leads one to wonder if the idea really occured to two different people independently on the same day.

The same derby, however, spawned a debate regarding another of his major themes: clipart. His squid entry culled the main design from an old woodcut, seen here. We have yet to find Rob's clip-art stash, but whatever clipart he has purchased has likely given us the major bits of entries like Quit Hoping - Love is Dead, Get Lucky (ironically submit in a derby requiring all designs be clip-art free), and most everything he entered from the Lyrics Illustrated derby, where he seemed to slap a piece of clipart down, found a song title it could represent, and clicked the ol' submit button. It's mostly speculation as to his clip-art usage, as no one has yet ascertained what packages he owns and uses, but it's likely that if someone were to find out, we could easily use the files to trace all the way back to Tortle.

So this is the "designer" who is in the fog this week, with his Canadian Periodic Table. It should come as no surprise to you at this point that there is a Periodic Table shirt available on Threadless made up of food items. It should, however, come as a surprise that with so many questionable "inspirations", this one designer has managed to be able to continue to submit to the site after so many questionable entries. It is my hope that this petition will help expose him to more wooters, either leading to a strong blow to his voting base, or pressuring woot to do away with him for good. Allowing such a designer to continue to profit, or attempt to profit, at a place where he is well known for plagiarism is like keeping an employee known to steal from the company accounts, and we shouldn't allow it... there are too many talented designers on woot to allow a thief to profit. If you agree, please pledge your support here.