MIX Day 1 Recap

Here is a timeline of events from my experience at MIX yesterday.  It’s kinda long but hopefully entertaining.

  1. I woke up at 3AM (actually I got out of bed at 3AM because I couldn’t sleep) on Monday and headed down to prepare for the Day 1 keynote at 6AM.
  2. Backstage, pre-keynote was tense as everyone scrambled to make last-minute checks and re-checks and more re-checks (no one wanted their demo to crash-and-burn and there were easily 25 differerent machines, including backups, for the demos)
  3. There was extra security on-hand due to Bill Gates’ presence and they had him isolated in the Green Room which was nothing more than four black walls with a ceiling constructed specifically for Bill backstage.  There were sheets of paper with “Green Room” printed on them and it was guarded by a full-time sentry a la Buckingham Palace so all us commoners knew it was off-limits.  I peeked inside and there was comfortable furniture, a TV monitor for watching the events on-stage, a printer and a lot of snacks and beverages.  I guess even Bill and his entourage get the munchies.
  4. Bill went on stage at 9AM and the conditioned air immediately became electrified as the folks-with-headsets began chattering in their unique language of numbers and alphas, bravos, charlies, echos, etc. and buzzing from one big bank of electronics to another toggling buttons, moving sliders and basically tending to the production.  The event was being broadcast live over the Internet and there were two stationary and one roaming cameras so, while not at the level of The Academy Awards, it was still quite a production and a sight to behold backstage.
  5. I, like the other “shadows,” sat nestled among several banks of computer workstations nervously waiting for our person’s slot in the keynote.  The job of the “shadow” is to literally shadow what is going on during a demo or technology walkthrough on-stage on a separate backup machine behind stage so, in the event something happens with the primary machine, the presenter on-stage can switch to the shadow’s backup and continue undisrupted and, oftentimes, without anyone noticing.  Basically, it’s like having the pressure of doing a keynote demo without being in front of the live audience.  A significant distinction, sure, but the pressure and intensity seems just as high since the shadow is the safety net and must follow their primary as closely as possible.  I was Scott’s shadow and his was the only demo that actually involved writing code.  I should mention Scott knows this stuff cold and types really fast.
  6. Scott took the stage with about 50 minutes remaining in the 90-minute Day 1 keynote.  That meant it was my turn in the shadow hotseat.  The adrenaline was pumping through my bloodstream making my hands shake which makes typing quickly and accurately extremely difficult.  Because of the quick transition between speakers and demos I did not have a lot of time to swap with the shadow ahead of me in the lineup.  As part of the switch I had to make sure each of the machines Scott would be using during his demo was in the correct state and ready to begin.  Scott’s demos inlcuded a Windows XP machine (with a backup) and a Mac Mini (no backup…yikes!)
  7. While Scott did his introduction and technology overview using Powerpoint slides on a separate machine, I quickly switched to the primary demo machine to make sure it was ready prior to it being displayed on two of the four jumbo projection displays bookending the stage.  I then switched to the backup machine to make sure it was in an identical state as the primary so I could start shadowing Scott from square one.  Next I switched to the Mac Mini to confirm it still had an active network connection and could access the Web server running on the primary PC since the Mini was being used to display the content Scott would be building on the primary PC to demonstrate how the technology, “Atlas,” works across different platforms (Macs) and browsers (Firefox).  It was good that I did that as the dang Mini had dropped its connection.  A couple refreshes, a reset, a check, a re-check and another re-check later and the Mini was ready for primetime again.  Everything above happened in a span of a few minutes.
  8. Scott switched to the primary demo machine on-stage and we were off.  If you happen to watch the webcast (if/when it is made available) you may be humored to know every keystroke and mouse click Scott did on-stage on the Windows XP machine was shadowed by me backstage on the backup machine.  He switched to the Mac Mini and opened Firefox to show the site he had just finished building running on a non-Microsoft platform in a non-Microsoft browser and I held my breath.  There was nothing I could do if things went awry at that point since we were running without a backup.  In a moment of spontaneity, Scott decided to liven things up for all of us with a round of adrenaline-induced keynote Russian roulette, by ad-libbing an extended version of the demo we never discussed before and weren’t really sure would work.  I was aghast as I watched him edit one of the task list entries and click the save button on the gadget he had just added to http://www.live.com/.  It worked!  The audience was amazed.  I was relieved.  The demo gods (that’s really close to demigods…he he) were kind and the entire presentation completed without a single hitch.
  9. To say I was elated following the Day 1 keynotes would be a severe understatement.  I was floating around on a cloud and began realizing just how cold it was backstage as the adrenaline-induced numbness began to subside.
  10. We had about an hour break and decided to grab a quick bite to eat before heading into an afternoon of press briefings.
  11. Brian and I tag-teamed a couple briefings then I had a 90-minute break to go check on the hands-on labs and put out any fires.  I also attended parts of a couple breakout sessions to check on attendance and gauge audience reaction and engagement.
  12. I then reported back to do another press briefing (this time with Scott) with none other than Mary Jo Foley and a couple of her Ziff-Davis colleagues.  I have to admit to being a little awestruck at the thought of sitting in a room telling Mary Jo what’s up with Microsoft and this whole “Atlas” thing.  She is such a giant in the industry and has a huge following having covered the industry, in general, and Microsoft, in particular, for so many years.   It was surreal meeting her in-person for the first time.  She is a really nice, somewhat soft-spoken person with a kind demeanor but can cut through the rhetoric unlike any other.  As a sidenote: Buschick and DBH would be proud to know Mary Jo does not own a car and takes the bus to work — she lives in NYC though which makes such a lifestyle almost a necessity.  More on Mary Jo later.
  13. Brian and I completed our final press briefing at 5:30 and I went back to my room briefly to get ready for the MIX Party at TAO (the hot nightclub at the Venetian).
  14. I arrived at TAO around 6:30 very hungry and very drained (my day started at 3AM).  It didn’t help that the club was using Ugly People LightingTM (i.e., the lights were so low you couldn’t tell whether someone was homely) which was good considering the audience. :eyeroll:
  15. The passed hors d’oeuvres were great but there were so many people crammed into the space and so few servers for that large group, many people just camped out in front of the kitchen door and attacked whatever was being carried out.  I did that too for a few minutes to curb my appetite then made my rounds throughout the club to meet up with a few people and, in the process, meet many others.  The male/female ratio was like 100:1 and there was no dancing so whoever thought it was a good idea to have a bunch of computer nerds go to a nightclub setting to socialize in the dark with music blaring should have their event planning credentials revoked.
  16. There were several food stations setup throughout the club but, with the predominantly male, predominantly nerd audience the lines were always way too long.  It was easy to get to the bar though so I went with Sierra Mists for energy rejuvenation.
  17. Brian and I met up with a bunch of our designer counterparts (we’re on the developer side) and their customers to head to an invitation-only party at the King Pin Suite at the Palms hotel that started at 8:30.  It took 3 limos to get all 20 members of our group there and they were expecting a total of 90 people to show up.
  18. The King Pin Suite is located on the 24th floor of the Palms hotel with a 270-degree view of the Las Vegas strip.  As its name suggests, it also has two full-size bowling lanes which were constantly put to use throughout the entire event.
  19. I met a lot of designers, graphic artists and other creative types at the event including Lynda of the famed lynda.com Web site which co-sponsored the event.  I also finally met King of the blogosphere, Robert Scoble.
  20. I was floored when I saw Mary Jo Foley over in the corner having casual conversation with a group of people.  I was beat but could not forgive myself if I got out-partied by Mary Jo so I toughed it out until about midnight when I finally had to throw in the towel.  Before conceding defeat, I went over to Mary Jo and tried to persuade her to leave so I could go back to my room with my dignity intact.  She laughed at my feeble attempt to cajole her and offered some pity by saying, “Oh, you don’t have to stick around because of me.”  I replied, “Uh, yes, I do.” knowing she would bring it up again in some future press briefing to put me to shame.  A few minutes later she finally decided it was time for her to leave so a group of us caught taxis back to our respective hotels.  I can now say I partied all night with Mary Jo Foley…barely.
  21. As I returned to the Venetian, TB called me on my mobile phone and I filled her in on the evening’s events.  A long, action-packed day had come to an end and I was unconscious as soon as my head hit the pillow.

 

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