Random Thoughts about Microsoft Ignite

While I have a few specific posts I plan to write about Ignite, I have several thoughts about the conference I want to share now that I’m home.

Overall Impression – Mostly Positive, with Caveats

I was satisfied with the conference overall. I learned a lot, met some interesting people, and ate some great food in Chicago after the conference ended each evening. Sure, there are things to complain about, and others have done a great job of that, and I’ll add my own comments, but if you were to ask me, “was Ignite worth the time investment?” I’d say yes. I’d say yes even though every normal session from Ignite was recorded and is available for free on Channel 9. I wish other vendors would go as far as Microsoft does and record all their sessions, because I can’t attend many conferences every year, but I would spend hours watching videos of sessions that interest me. Still, I’d recommend attending Ignite, or any conference that many be appropriate for you, even if all the sessions are recorded for one reason – personal connections.

Personal Connections

For me, this is a constant, no matter the conference or vendor. I’m an extrovert, an ENFP to be “exact” – with 100% E in that mix. Meeting and talking to people fuels me in a way that some of understand and some of you (like my wife) can’t. Whether it’s other attendees, members of various Microsoft product teams, vendors in the Expo, or even folks working at the hotel or in the restaurants, this was a solid week of extrovert fun for me.

It wasn’t just fun, though. I had amazing discussions about technology we’ve currently deployed, are thinking of deploying, and technology that I’d never considered deploying until this week. One of those personal connections, with a member of the SharePoint product team, hugely impacted how I feel about our future plans for both SharePoint and OneDrive for Business.

Hanging out with Colleagues from UTC

I got to have dinner a few times and attend the Attendee Celebration with a few guys from UT Chattanooga. They’ve helped me get started on my SCCM project and I look forward to working with them more in the future.

Content

Very good. The Pre-Conference session on SCCM was outstanding. Many of the regular sessions I attended on OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, Office 365, and Azure were very good as well. And I just have to mention again that, with the exception of the Pre-Conference sessions (for which MS charged an extra $500) and the many shorter community sessions in the Expo Hall, every single session from Ignite is available on Channel 9.

There was so much good content at Ignite that I had to choose between two, three, or more sessions in almost every slot. I’m glad I can watch the ones I missed at my leisure now.

Chicago – The City

Wow. I’ve been to Chicago before, but only for a couple days and it was almost 20 years ago. I’ve been to Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco, but similarly only for fairly short periods of time and in very regimented capacities with other people. While colleagues of mine from other campuses at the University of Tennessee attended Ignite in Chicago, I was there by myself, so I had quite a bit of time on my own in the evenings to explore this enormous city. I’ll be posting a couple of restaurant reviews to my food blog, but I could almost write an entire post on how impressed and delighted I was by the mass transit options available in Chicago. I hate to drive, and this is the first place I’ve been where I felt like I could live without a car, or at least without driving one very often.

Now for the Bad – The Venue, The Food, Getting Screamed At

As much as I liked Chicago the city, I didn’t care for McCormick Place for several reasons:

  • Location – all the hotels were very far away, with crazy traffic to deal with.
  • Location – no restaurants nearby, which made escaping the mediocre (at best) conference food impossible.
  • Conference food – it was bad. I’d say plenty of the complaining on Twitter & Yammer was over the top, but I don’t expect conference food to be good, just not terrible. Some of what I ate (or didn’t) was terrible, while most of it just stunk. I think lunch one day was pretty OK.
  • People Moving Logistics – I’m not a conference planner and I can’t imagine how difficult this sort of thing must be, but on more than one occasion I encountered points at which far too many people had to move through far too small a space. One time it took me 10-15 minutes to be funneled along with hundreds (thousands?) of attendees over the space of about 30 feet and up an escalator.
  • Attendee Celebration – In my experience these are hit or miss, so I don’t blame Microsoft for the band (Fall Out Boy) being not to my liking. I do, however, fault whoever is responsible for the idea of bringing in a bunch of street vendors to serve 23,000 people. Waiting in line for a half hour to get a few pieces of sushi, then 45 minutes for a couple hot dogs just plain sucked. A bunch of buffet lines would’ve worked much better.
  • Event Staff (not Microsoft employees) – while many of these young folks were delightfully cheery and friendly in a job that I wouldn’t want, quite a few of them were some of the rudest people I’ve ever dealt with. I’m not a professional conference attendee, but I’ve been to many, and I’ve never been screamed at once, let alone multiple times. I gave up on breakfast at Ignite after one event staff member barked at me for daring to try to walk into the “special meals” section to snag a banana. The screaming occured for the first couple of days but seemed to stop after that, perhaps due to all the complaints on Twitter & Yammer, but it made an encore appearance the night of the Attendee Celebration. I don’t know what else to say besides commenting that at no other conference have I been screamed, so I don’t believe screaming was necessary here.
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