Marcus Young

Software. Microcontrollers. Beer.

re:Invent 2017 (Never Again)

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This was my worst overall conference experience to date.

Along with many others, I had my share of complaints, but this one takes the cake.

This conference had an estimated 43,000 people. It was yuge. And it was actually well-run. Everything “ran” smoothly overall, but the experiences varied wildly from person to person. I’ll sum mine up:

  1. I registered for talks only 2-3 days after it opened. I was “confirmed” for 3. All others for 6 days were walk up only.
  2. We were told to get to walk ups at least 30min early. The rooms were guaranteed 80% reserved with 20% for walk ups. I was at multiple over an hour early at 3 and sat outside and worked, no big deal. I was in the 20% buffer each time, confirmed by the person counting the line. At all 3 I was turned away within 15 people of the door for “fire code”. So the math: An hour sitting, turned away. The next talk is in 30 min, so that’s a no go. So waste 30 minutes or and spend an hour waiting at next one to get in. Turned away there as well, with nothing to do for the next 30min. That’s 3 hours of sitting.
  3. Each full room has ‘overflow’. One was great, it was a big auditorium with bluetooth headsets and limited capacity, which I was able to get into. The others were a big shared room using a special WiFi hotspot to listen in on an app you download to your phone. It was oversaturated by all of the overflow so it kept cutting out. That happened twice.
  4. The main talks were spread across 3-4 hotels, the main ones being MGM Grand and the Venetian, which are not near each other. So you walk or take the provided buses. The buses are great, but they didnt travel the strip and took about 20 minutes to make the 1.5 mile distance. Next: all of the buses load and unload at the same spot. So you end up waiting an extra 15-20min in a busline waiting for the other multiple buses to unload then fully (or partially) load back. So ~45minutes for a 1.5mile ride.

So after 6 days I got to see 3 talks. I asked for a refund and was given the approval, but was told that “a few thousand people are having similar complaints. management is already looking at how to improve the 2018 version based on feedback.”

Notable annoyances on the trip not related to amazon but added to the overall experience:

  1. The MGM grand was full and I obviously got the ‘under construction’ room. There was no placard (number) so it was hard to find (especially if drinking). The entertainment center was completely busted with wood that fell when I tried to use it. The wall safe was closed/locked and management could not get it to open, so I couldn’t use it for my cash. My keycards didnt work, and it’s on the other side of the hotel from the lobby (~10min walk). When it’s late: walk 10 min to the room. Cards dont work. Walk 10 min to lobby to get new one. Walk 10 min back to get into room. This happened 4 times to the point where they waived all of my fees and changed the lock on day 4 to an upgraded RFID version (so kudos there).
  2. American airlines keeps changing my name to Marcus AMERICANAIRLINES Young. TSA precheck checks against your full name so I have to get it printed at counter (waiting in that line negates the bonus of having TSA precheck). They couldnt get it to go through even after confirming my KTN and said “all they can do is keep printing my ticket to see if it gets TSA”. So after spending an hour to not get that to work I just go through the normal line (why did I pay for TSA precheck?)

I used up my entire conference budget for re:Invent. Never again.