Some Thoughts on Cisco Live Orlando, 2018

Read­ing Time: 4 min­utes

Edi­tor’s Note: This is a guest post by my won­der­ful wife, Jen­nifer Bryson

When peo­ple start­ed notic­ing that the Cis­co Live social pass that has been avail­able for at least the past 8 years, prob­a­bly longer, had been replaced by a “par­ty pass” cost­ing near­ly the same amount they were under­stand­ably upset. Not only do a lot of the “geeks” who pay for atten­dance out of their own pock­ets, as opposed to atten­dance being cov­ered as a work expense, choose the social pass, but spous­es attend­ing use them as well. In reply to inquiries on Twit­ter about this, @CiscoLive replied that the “par­ty pass” allow­ing entry only to the CAE was intend­ed for spous­es. Those of us wish­ing to be able to do all that we have been able to do in past years will have to pay about $700 this year. Don’t wor­ry though. That $700 includes gross boxed lunch­es that no one wants to eat, so it is total­ly worth it. As a spouse who has been accom­pa­ny­ing her geek to CLUS each year for near­ly a decade, it is a bit of a slap in the face to learn that Cis­co believes this one par­ty is the only rea­son spous­es attend. This is a very wrong assump­tion.

Peo­ple in the IT indus­try work nut­ty hours, and spend even more hours holed up in their home offices study­ing for var­i­ous things. They also fly around the coun­try, or in some cas­es to oth­er coun­tries, to attend tech con­fer­ences and class­es and such. To those of us mar­ried to these peo­ple, what they do and who they look up to and col­lab­o­rate with in the indus­try are often a com­plete mys­tery. Sure, they rat­tle off things like BRGP and V‑LAN and blah, blah (not even sure if those are cor­rect or if I just made them up, but you get the point), but that is mean­ing­less. Know­ing all of the twit­ter han­dles of peo­ple my hus­band liked and admired was equal­ly use­less as I had no bet­ter idea who they were. Then, one year, my hus­band sug­gest­ed I go to Cis­co Live with him.

That first year was okay. My hus­band had gone the year before, but still did not know very many peo­ple in per­son yet, and there were not real­ly any oth­er spous­es there with the peo­ple he did know. Still, it was good to sort of enter his world for a lit­tle bit and to see him excit­ed about what he was learn­ing and doing. I loved that he got a lit­tle star struck by authors of tech books, and the peo­ple he did know were all pret­ty cool. I decid­ed to go back the next year. There were a cou­ple more spous­es, and Teren knew a lot more peo­ple. That was the year Tom’s Cor­ner, the pre­cur­sor to the Social Media Lounge, was born, and it was real­ly great see­ing my hus­band get to col­lab­o­rate with all of the peo­ple there. Going through the WOS was awe­some. Most of the stuff was mean­ing­less to me, although there were some inter­est­ing things relat­ed to the health­care indus­try that I am a part of, but get­ting to hear about all of the new tech that got my hus­band and our CLUS friends excit­ed was real­ly awe­some. Hav­ing fel­low eye-rolling spous­es to hang out with who under­stand the joys and frus­tra­tions of liv­ing with some­one who lives and breathes tech stuff was also a lot of fun.

Over the years, these bril­liant and tal­ent­ed peo­ple have become our extend­ed fam­i­ly. While my hus­band sees some of them through­out the year, CLUS is the one time we are all usu­al­ly in the same place. More and more peo­ple have brought their spous­es too. Many of us spous­es also schmooze and min­gle with clients or cowork­ers of our geeks, and we net­work right along­side them. We may not attend ses­sions, but we do learn about things too. Yes, we do go to the CAE, but that is hard­ly all we do.

In response to my say­ing basi­cal­ly that on Twit­ter, @CiscoLive replied that restrict­ing the social pass to one par­ty will “improve the event expe­ri­ence for all atten­dees.” No, it won’t. It will not improve the expe­ri­ence for those who bought the pass because they pay for the con­fer­ence them­selves and can’t afford the full pass. It will not improve the expe­ri­ence for those who bring their spous­es, and it will not improve the expe­ri­ence for us spous­es who have been going for many years now. It is a mis­take.

Last year, one of the slo­gans CLUS used was “sum­mer camp for geeks.” It didn’t use to be that way. The first year or two I attend­ed it was like any oth­er indus­try con­fer­ence. Peo­ple just did their own thing, going to ses­sions, maybe meet­ing up with one or two acquain­tances in the evenings for din­ner or drinks. It was when the atten­dees start­ed hang­ing out togeth­er at Tom’s Cor­ner and Ri Ra in the Man­dalay Bay hotel, bring­ing their spous­es, and every­one start­ed becom­ing invest­ed in each other’s lives, that the every­one-thrilled-to-see-each-oth­er, start-of- sum­mer-camp vibes start­ed to form. Tak­ing away our abil­i­ty to par­tic­i­pate in things like the social media events (which, by the way, we were there at the start of) and not allow­ing us to be plus ones at oth­er events will great­ly decrease that “sum­mer camp” feel and return CLUS to just anoth­er indus­try con­fer­ence, no dif­fer­ent than any oth­er.

Am I going this year? Yes. But I don’t know how long I will con­tin­ue to go after this. A lot of the reg­u­lars, peo­ple I love dear­ly and look for­ward to see­ing every year, are skip­ping this year. If the cost keeps dou­bling every cou­ple of years we may not be able to afford it. I tru­ly hope we are all still going to CLUS in the future. If not, we may all have to find a dif­fer­ent sum­mer camp to geek out at each year.