This was my 7th Tech-Ed. I attended the developers version in 2008 and every year since.
Registration was fast and easy. Hotels were an issue. When I sent my proposal to be approved there were several Galleria hotels available, they were sold out by the time I got approval. This did work out in my favor as my work paid the higher rate and I got into one of the closer conference hotels. It was frustrating to have the better rates sold out. This has never been an issue before.
Day Before Conference:
On-site registration was fast and easy. No lines. This was never bad in previous years but has gotten significantly easier with the self-check-in. Had a chance to wander the center and get a lay of the center. No issues that day.
Best since Atlanta. Lots of seating and lots of plugs. It was crowded at times still but there are a lot of alumni.
It was fairly clean and nice. I was worried at first when I read that some sessions would be in Hilton. This was actually nice as it was very close, closer than many connected hotels are, very clean, and less crowded. Moving around main center was a mess. The place is poorly designed. There are no stairs which always help alleviate traffic. They had 4 escalators between the 1st and 2nd floors but only 2 between the 2nd and 3rd. One morning well after sessions had started I tried to go back down. The staff had all of the escalators going up. I luckily found an elevator. Traffic on the first floor was poorly flowed as well. Usually very few doors open and directed the longest way possible to get somewhere. The flow between food area, expo, labs, and stores was usually good if it wasn't to get into a food line. This was one of the best set ups with maybe only Orlando being better. This was probably the best year for power plugs-ins outside of sessions. I never tried in the sessions this year as I brought a backup battery pack for my USB devices. The WI-FI was mixed this year. The food and expo area had terrible coverage for both WI-FI and cell. I had no slowdowns with WI-FI where I did have coverage.
Food, even with expectations for a conference such as this, was poor. Lunches were the worst of any years I have been. Breakfasts were ok, the eggs were so bad the first day I didn't try them the rest of the week. The best food at the conference was the night of the meet and geek/ask the experts.
They were great. Several were very full but I was never turned away. I still wonder why they don't convert the keynote space into session space for the very large sessions, thinking Marcus Murray and Mark Russinovich. This was as good as previous years. I did miss the architect track sessions for developers like UI design, innovation, design etc. It's hard to compare these otherwise to previous years as my focus changes slightly every year. I do miss certain speakers like David Platt, Billy Hollis, and John Durant. I was very glad I attended 3 sessions with Marcus Murray, entertaining and knowledgeable. Jeff Fritz was my favorite new speaker, very good speaker with great content.
This was a waste of time. Very little developer coverage. The opening act was terrible. Really bad songs with mediocre instruments over them. I went with a friend who was attending his first Tech Ed. We left early because he was bored. I was ready to go long before that. I was hoping there would some announcement of significance. I was wrong. The last few years I've watched online from my hotel. I will do this again in the future.
This is the first year I attended alone as I recently switched employers. In past years I have wandered the city to local restaurants and maybe took a cab ride to something farther away. There were several I wanted to try but the cost to those areas was prohibitive. I was very happy with the restaurants near the House of Blues. Otherwise the city was deserted at night. It wasn't scary just odd. I walked a lot between the center, my hotel, and the parties I attended. I only ran into 2 homeless people that bothered me. Luckily I had those parties as I might have been disappointed in this emptiness if I didn't have things to do.
MMS Alumni Party/Aquarium:
This was a great party. Very glad I got an invite. This was the party highlight of the week. Great venue and lots of fun.
Windows IT Pro Community Party:
This was also a great party. The only time the whole week I used a shuttle. It went to a fun bar with great food. I had a lot of chance to network at this party. I enjoyed the night very much.
This was way better than last year. Food was very good with the drawback being I wished I had time to try more. The lines were terrible. The traffic in the concourse was horrible and made worse by the decision to put the bull riding and punching arcade game in the main path. Moving those would have helped a lot. Hanging with The Krewe made this a very fun night. Otherwise I might have been more disappointed. I left earlier than I wanted as I had a very early flight the next morning, that made more sense when I booked.
I'm glad I took time to meet many of them this year. I met a lot of cool people and got into some great parties. I joined before 2013 but was too introverted to talk to anyone, and I had co-workers to hang out with.
There are some negatives every year. This convention center probably ends up second to worst since I've been attending with only LA being worse. The city was one of the worst, at least the part we were in. The actual conference was great though. I could have dealt with less cloud being pushed but this didn't affect my sessions. I definitely hope Houston isn't in the future plans for Tech Ed. I know some don't like Orlando but it has a great convention center and lots to do locally. The hotels are closer too. New Orleans was ok in 2010 but much better in 2013. Atlanta had a mixed convention center but the downtown had some decent highlights. I'd prefer LA be avoided as well.
Almost every review I have read here agrees that Houston was a bust as far as location for the conference. The rumor that this is the last TechEd seems to be picking up steam but it would be a shame for it to go out like that. I enjoyed the content at the conference and would really like to continue going however if it's in Houston again I would probably spend my training allowance elsewhere and choose a different conference. It would be nice if they considered some west coast sites. San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas are just a few west coast cities that have great facilities for the conference and plenty to do where you wouldn't need to travel far to find something to do after hours.
Well this is sad. I certainly hope they read these forums to resolve these issue. I would hate to see such a great resource just disappear. Sad!!
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