I saw that Jason Mauss wrote about his experience at the San Fransisco 2005 Launch Party, so I thought I'd share my experience at the Detroit venue. Because it wasn't the "real" Launch Party, we didn't have anything fancy like a speech from Steve Balmer, songs performed by AC/DC, or appearances by the guys from Orange County Choppers. But it was still a good time. Please bare with my lack of actual photographs, as I did not have the foresight to bring a camera.
Although the "doors" to the event opened at 7:30AM, the insatiable desire for inexpensive liquor required a stop at the duty-free shop first. I loaded up on Courvoisier, Chambord Royale, and many other fine spirits, saving easily $80 - $100. The US Customs agent even waived the "required" $2.85 duty per liter. He was surprisingly much nicer than the Canadian Customs agent, who demanded a birth certificate, a certificate certifying the birth certificate, the presence of my parents to certify the certified birth certificate, and a certificate certifying my parents are really my parents. Either that or a passport.
The event was at the Renaissance Center, located in the heart of downtown. Despite being the tallest building in 100-square miles, it was surprisngly difficult to find, especially if you're unfamiliar Detroitonese, the language of the locals. They call it the "Ren Cen" and I'm surprised that any out-of-towner would find it.
The Ren Cen
Arriving there at 8:30, it was a bit disappointing to have to shell out $12.00 for parking. But such a high price does offer us protection from the Linux Crashers, who have a hard enough time getting a car to go downtown, let alone money to pay for parking. You know who I'm talking about, right? Those basement-dwelling fanboys who go to Microsoft conferences armed with Ubuntoo discs and try to dissuade people from attending because the carpet is not open source. They actually used to protest the building being "closed source," until someone pointed them to the city planning department for architectural diagrams.
Coming in so late offered one other large disadvantage: missing out on many of the cooler freebies given out by the vendors. Here's a quick classification/rarity guide on the Detroit Launch Event vendor free stuff:
- Laser Pen (Rare) - Offered by Berbee, this was by far the coolest give-away. Only a few lucky attendies scored this combination pen/laser pointer. Surprisingly, no one abused these devices during the sessions.
- Blinking Yo-yo (Rare) - I somehow managed to get one of these. It was really cool until I realized it was not a "sleeper" yo-yo, so I gave it away to a colleague.
- Blinking HP Necklace (Uncommon) - About a third of the attendees had these, leading to two simultaneous yet conflicting feelings: "those are incredibly tacky" and "I wish I had one."
- Quest Software Weeble (Uncommon) - I don't know what these were called actually, but it was just a yellow cotton ball with paper feet and plastic eyes glued on. Despite having an uncommon rarity, no one really wanted these.
- Intel Mints (Uncommon) - These were in a neat, small metal container. They are borderline rare, mostly because you had to actually talk to the rep to get one. They were not just lying out like everything else.
- Pens (Common) - A handful of vendors were giving these away, giving to a good variety of pens. All however were cheap and plastic.
- Post-It Pads (Common) - Surprisingly, only one vendor was giving these away. Probably a good thing, just one less thing to end up in the landfill after the event.
Fortunately, there was plenty of free continental breakfast food. A good variety of bagels, danishes, and other pastries. The most notable thing from breakfast (and possibly even the day) was the itsy-bitsy jars of honey. They are about half the size of the mini-jars of jelly, and a fourth the size of baby-food containers. I was left speechless at the absolute adorableness of these mini-jars. I think I ended up with 12 of these.
Too cute to eat
After breakfast, there was the keynote speech and then a technical session. Not quite sure if there's anything more I can say about those.
Lunch time was absolutely incredible. There were tables and tables *stacked* with boxed lunches. I felt bad that they ordered so many more lunches than attendees, so I took three. My colleague was a bit less generous and had two. We also snapped up a highly-treasured premium: seats at a table. That's right, we were actually sitting down for lunch. I probably would have considering trading the seat for a blinking pendant and two pens, though. The boxed lunches were pretty good, too. I was only able to eat one, the others went in my already-overstuffed bags of goodies.
After lunch, they had another technical session.
I was "wowed" yet again after the second technical session. The community area was filled with lots of snacks: peanuts, pretzels, white-cheddar popcorn, etc. They even had this awful-tasting energy drink called Rockstar. Tried as I might, I was only able to down half of it. I was really hoping I'd like it, too, because there were a whole lot of them available. I did consider taking home a few, but I just couldn't imagine ever getting desperate enough to drink one of those again.
Gives you the energy to throw it away
My colleague and I decided to turn in the evaluation forms early and get the T-Shirt and SQL-Server/VS.NET/BizTalk software before there was a rush. And wow, let me tell you, that was quite a moment. It's one thing to experience Visual Studio 2005 through your buddy's work's MSDN subscription, but you really feel alive having your own, fully-licensed copy of the software. I'm still buzzing from that.
Things went a bit down hill from there. I was a bit disappointed at the next break between sessions three and four. It was very bleak. There were hordes of developers, all hungry and thirsty, scavenging through the remaining pop, water, and Rockstar drinks from the previous breaks. I felt bad for them; some were so desperate that they had to buy drinks the vending machines. Thankfully, I had about a weeks-worth of snacks and beverages saved up from the other breaks, so I was good to go.
All in all, it was a fun event. If you weren't able to make it, make sure to catch the "Best Of" tour starting next month. There probably won't be any vendors set up, and I doubt you'll see much free food, but you'll get the software. It's so worth it for that. If anyone is planning on attending the Brooklyn, Ohio "best of" event, I'll see you there!