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noticing that the Cisco Live social pass that has been available for at least the past 8 years, probably longer, had been replaced by a “party pass” costing nearly the same amount they were understandably upset.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.