The ultimate hidden test of whether users are important at a Data Center Conference, how good is the food?

I've attended many IT events and worked behind the scenes at many as well.  My wife also used to work on many events for Ziff-Davis, Seybold Publications, and IDG.  Whenever we entertain we spend lots of time planning the food we'll serve, and we both agree that good food is a must for a successful event.

I've been thinking of how I compare Uptime, 7x24 Exchange, DatacenterDynamics, Gartner Data Center Conference, and DataCenterWorld.

Sometimes what seems like a silly idea can be a test.  David Lee Roth had a story about not wanting brown M&Ms backstage.  What is explained behind the story is it was a test to see if the concert host read the complete contract and was prepared to support the multiple eighteen wheelers of gear that would arrive for a show which could create a logistics challenge for some.

Mac McKinley’s blog Boomer Opinion retells a story about the importance of reading and understanding contracts.

In his autobiography, David Lee Roth, wrote that their touring contract demanded that at each venue backstage there would be a bowl of M&Ms with all of the brown ones removed. To most that sounds like the demands of some quirky rock stars, right?

There was actually a very valid reason for this demand. At each venue, the band arrived with nine 18 wheelers full of gear. Stage setup was quite complicated and had to be done with the precision of a Swiss watch. The touring contract demanded very specific requirements of each venue. For example, one section stipulated, “There will be 15 amperage voltage sockets at 20-foot spaces, evenly, providing 19 amperes.”

According to David Lee Roth, that touring contract was voluminous and read “like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages”. Buried in the middle of the contract, Article 126 read, “There will be no brown M&Ms in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

When Roth arrived at a new venue, he would walk backstage and check out the M&Ms bowl. If he saw a brown M&M in the bowl, he’d demand a line check of the entire production. He knew from past experience that when the promoter did not read the contract fully, that other problems and technical errors would occur unless they fully vetted the production setup prior to the show.

So the brown M&Ms were just a warning signal or red flag that indicated bigger issues might arise that could threaten the successful completion of the concert at that venue. It was his way of ensuring that the management and stagehands at the new venue were indeed paying attention to every detail and had read the contract thoroughly.

After reading the story about brown M&Ms and food details, it gave me the idea to evaluate the data center events based on how good the food is.  A test that is not evident.

Gartner Data Center Conference is the typical large enterprise event for 3,000 people at a Las Vegas venue.  OK, not great.  Average.

AFCOM Data Center World is less quality than Gartner Data Center Conference.

DatacenterDynamics is a one day event that is better than the other two mentioned, but different given it is a one day event without dinner.

Uptime Institute Symposium is not any better than these, but one of the most expensive to attend.  Note: many Gartner data center conference attendees get passes because of their subscription to Gartner research.

What about 7x24 Exchange?  They have the benefit of having a smaller crowd which makes serving good food easier.  This last conference had 700 attendees, and being a non-profit they put the users at the core of what they do.  So how was the food?  Better than all the above.  When talking to the folks at 7x24 Exchange they said the food has been better at their other events, and Phoenix will be better than Orlando.

This may seem like something that doesn't seem like it is that important, but when people spend the extra time thinking and planning the food to be enjoyable then they probably have spent more time thinking about how to host an enjoyable event and provide useful content.

Do sometimes you feel like you are attending an event where the #1 priority are the event executives and their business model, the #2 priority are the vendors, and the users are third on  the list?

I do.