Chicago…its my kind of town!
I'm sure you heard that phrase more than once last week if you were actually there. 5 days of core sessions with pre-conference workshops for those that paid some extra cash. For me…the week went something like this:
Sat Evening – Virgin Hotels with the gang
Lidiya and I got in on Saturday afternoon, checked into the speaker hotel (which Microsoft was nice enough to pick up this time around so thanks Microsoft)! We checked in, headed over to the Virgin Hotel to meet the crew!
Of course, the crew are some of the coolest people on the planet! Just check out some of these awesome photos!
Once we have a couple of drinks, said hi and chatted a bit…we headed on over to the next event!
Sat Night #1 – Chicago Next Hackathon by @bitterac aka Andrew Clark
Mikael Svenson invited myself and Marc Anderson over to Norway earlier in the year to judge the Arctic SharePoint Challenge (@SPChallenge). It was an amazing event that I will blog about in another post (link to follow). Here's a sneak peak at the "Council":
Mikael had a heck of a time finding people to compete. He ended up asking me and I said "Hell Yeah!". And of course I then asked my good friend Shannon Bray and he totally went for it!
ChicagoNext is all about having local high schoolers compete with industry professionals on technology problems facing non-profits in the Chicago area. I had no idea what to expect from this event, venue or anything else! We ended up in a very random part of Chicago's suburbs. At least a mile away from the bustling of downtown Chicago. They gave us five problems to solve…everyone took the "Access Services" solution…we choose something just a bit more difficult…lol.
You can view some pics from the event here (yeah…I know about the t-shirt):
Of course we watched the "cat fight" that night too:
Sat Night #2 – Back at the Virgin Hotels
Once Mikael, Shannon and I formulated our plan, we headed back to the Virgin to check on the "crew". It was not pretty…we left all the girls will Bill and he did his best to manage, but alias…the girls got the best of him (don't ask me what ole boy is doing in the background (I cut him out)…lol):
Sunday – Chicago Next Hackathon
Back to the grind! We got back to the venue at 9am and started coding! Our solution ended up being a solution to problem #4. Shannon was our DBA and Azure Specialist…I guess. He helped build the sql tables to support our solution. Mikael built out our Web API layer to support the API calls from my Windows Phone Mobile App. Our solution would set up GeoFences around "event" locations to keep track if volunteers would enter or exit the geo fence. If you were inside, we counted your time towards helping with the event, if not, well…you didn't get any credits. We tested this by going around the corner to the local bar and amazingly…finding some Arrogant Bastard beer to drink. Even @JThake joined in the fun with a hot babe…later I realized, as we got closer to the corner…it was my lovely wifey! The goal was to provide a seamless solution to track volunteers so non-profits could tag tangible stats to grants and grant applications. We had the best technical solution by far…unfortunately…we bombed our presentation (we blame Shannon's demo god karma)…we did get off to a great start with my "Lettttsssss get ready to rummmbbbbleee" opening in Round 6….
Monday – Ignite Day #1
Can you say "long corridor"? I knew you could. That was crazy. It definitely showed in the attendance of sessions on one side versus the other. A lot of people stayed on one side or the other. I didn't quite make the keynote, I did watch it from Channel 9 and I have to say…it was oh so much better from the comfort of my room!
#SharePint at the Virgin Hotel. Holy cow…what a crazy party! Sooo many people showed up for the drinks and of course…the DJ!
The party would have kept going…but unfortunately someone tried to jack some bottles of vodka and they cut us off (single double fisted would have been fine)…guess that qualifies for EPIC party right?!? The evening continued on the Virgin's 2nd floor bar and well into the night! Good times, definitely something I won't forget!
Tuesday – Ignite Day #2
Can you say…"hangover"?…yeah…I knew you could. This is when it kicked in that the bus schedule was pretty much…let's say in the words of Mikael…"that's stupid". Buses didn't run all day? Yup…cutoff at 10:30ish everyday. That was just absurd. Next year they better run all day long. Olaf, et all, you really screwed the pooch on this one. The food is forgivable (if even that words needs mentioned)…those of you that complained about it…just try making food for 22K people. Yeah…that's what I thought. It wasn't the best…but it wasn't the worst either. Since we are on the topic…let's just bring up a couple of other things:
- Vendors (who spent several more thousands of dollars than attendees), didn't get food. Yeah, they would have loved to have that sub-standard food, but they didn't get any.
- Speakers didn't get any distributed materials. This is fair (being our flight and hotel was taken care of), but it was a surprise. I know I wasn't the only one to be surprised about this!
Vegas didn't play ball. Vegas has so many conferences…they just demand what they want. Microsoft was getting screwed over so bad having the conference in Vegas it just wasn't even funny. Chicago (which is on the verge of insolvency) was so accommodating to the conference. So much so…they won next year during the week. That being said, it makes sense that we can only hope that the entertainment will be better next year (this was the second year that I didn't attend the attendee party…wonder why).
Tuesday Night Parties!
There was only one for us. The AvePoint party setup by the amazing Julie (@JulieLiu). The rest, I heard, were good, but nothing ever compares to the AvePoint party. It was hosted at the lovely Chicago Station. This was the view from my seat:
And of course, a shout out to the awesome, amazing CEO of AvePoint…TJ…yes…I wore an @AvePoint_Inc shirt and red "hot chilli" pants:
Wednesday – Ignite Day #3
The big day! Battle of the Graph was at 5pm. I spent most of the day prepping in the speaker room where I met one of my security and identity idols…the one and only…@vibronet:
If you didn't see the pre-session promos…well…you totally missed out…check out this photo from one of Mikael's friends…just plain…awesome!
Thursday – Ignite Day #4
Today was another big day for me…the first time (and will not be the last) being recorded on Channel 9. Before hand, I did manage to walk the Expo hall. I found that SharePoint was not very well represented…but there was a HUGE area with a ton of VOIP people…how does that world make any money!?! None of us can figure that out right now! I did hang out at the Planet Technologies booth most of the week…I can honestly say…they are some of the best people you will ever meet in your entire life! So sorry I wasn't able to join them this year…they will always be my best of friends!
After browsing the Expo hall, I was able to chat with the awesome and long time friend of ours @JoeySnow. You can watch the awesome session here:
Before heading out…I ran into these crazies guys that have been good friends for a long time and are now rock stars!
And the one and only @StephenLRose:
Thursday Night – Dinner at the top of Chicago – Aon Microsoft Building
We did not attend the attendee party…for obvious reasons. Instead, we dined at the height of the 80th floor of the Microsoft building downtown Chicago.
Afterwards, we partied at yet another SharePint at "Howl At The Moon"…
Although the night didn't end up as happy as it started…its always to be expected as much fun as we have. In the end…its all love…and a few bites (right Fabian?).
Friday – Ignite Day #5
No conference center for us! We moved from the speaker hotel to the lovely and fun Virgin Hotel:
It was pretty much try to recover from Thursday evening and Friday morning! We did some Chicago sight seeing via the awesome ferry/boat rides…check out this hottie:
We had some amazing friends that we have not seen in ages that used to live next to us in San Diego that we had to meet up with…needless to say…they are pretty awesome, beautiful people…(yes…my t-shirt says…"I'm a Genius"…lol):
Of course, we all went out to the comedy club…and low and behold…who do we see in the front row…but @SharePointing and his lovely wife! You won't even believe what happened to Steve…but it was so freaking funny! "Who is that Steve Walker?!?"
The night concluded at a "Frat" party in north Chicago…we won't go there, but suffice to say…I'm not college age anymore…but I'm glad I had my Marine bodyguard with me!
Saturday – Ahh….
Saturday was all about relaxing before heading back home to sunny San Diego, CA. We did decide to increase our art IQ's just a bit by finding @JoelOlsen in as many paintings as we could find!
In the end…I found him in Midway airport on his way back to our lovely San Diego…
It's a small world…small community. We take care of each other. We love each other. I can never imagine living my life in a world without all of you. Your amazing, lovely, smart, crazy people…and you are just the types I want in mine and Lidiya's lives!
Sunday…soccer and my road to third place!
Last little bit…we made it back at 12:30am. I grabbed another guys bag…20 mins into our ride home on Uber…Delta calls…Mr Givens…you grabbed someone else's bag. No way…sure enough, I did. I tell them to let him take my bag, I'll switch with him. I drive 30 mins, meet him…his wife/girlfriend is Russian…I say "hi" and "goodbye" in Russian…give them some money for their first holiday drink…and go home to my bed (2am).
The next day (err…a few hours later at 8am)…we kick ass and we win our game 3-2 to play for 3rd place in my soccer league next sunday. Later that Sunday afternoon….we wonder where all our friends are…we miss you guys already…the withdraw starts to kick in…
Lidiya and I whole heartily agree. We have made some of the best friends from the past few conferences, life long ones…people that we will love and care about for the rest of our lives. Ignite was a place that just re-enforced how much we miss those that we equate to our equals in terms of knowledge, life and karma. We love you. More than we could ever express. You are some of the finest, most amazing people we will EVER meet. You are welcome in our house anytime.
As Randy Williams would air guitar…"To those of you…we salute you"
Live long and prosper!
Chris & Lidiya