Yesterday evening I stumbled across a Tweet originating from the @vmworld Twitter account that gave me pause. It referred to reserved seating versus a waitlist for breakout sessions at VMworld 2009.
@HPStorageGuy Five minutes before the start of each session, any available seats will be offered on a first come, first served basis. (http://twitter.com/vmworld/status/3290986535)
This seemed to be in conflict with what we were told by John Troyer, Senior Manager of VMware Communities and one of the most active VMware voices on the various social networks.
A few weeks back and prior to session registration opening, he let the community know that all breakout sessions were going to be seated on a first-come first-served basis, meaning that the VMworld session builder tool was for personal scheduling and for VMware to gauge the general popularity of each session to determine room size, not to provide assigned seating.
@AndrewSharrock Don’t worry about sessions:will be first come/first served this year. Do worry about the labs, but often can wait list Thurs http://twitter.com/jtroyer/statuses/3111587378
@theronconrey Sessions aren’t guaranteed this year, but more people reserving now = move to a bigger room. http://twitter.com/jtroyer/statuses/3107739147
@s1xth Sessions are NOT guaranteed this year; just labs. But schedule your sessions in the tool so we can make rooms big enough! http://twitter.com/jtroyer/statuses/3107635221
When I saw those tweets I asked both @vmworld and @jtroyer for clarification and John immediately said he’d look into it. A little while later he got back to me saying that the event team had changed their minds and unfortunately hadn’t informed him.
I usually don’t rely on social networking alone for that kind of information, so prior to these tweets, and prior to sending out scheduling information to my clients attending VMworld, I confirmed that sessions were first-come first-serve on the VMworld Daily Schedule page.
A few weeks ago, under the heading “Breakout/Panel and Birds of a Feather Sessions” this is what it read:
Adding a Breakout/Panel or a Birds of a Feather to your schedule does not guarantee your spot in the session. The sessions will be first come first serve at VMworld. We still recommend you use the scheduling tool as this will help us determine the popularity of the sessions and we can make sure they are placed in appropriate sized rooms.
Today, however, less than two weeks later, the text is completely different. But there is no indication that the policy has changed. Now it reads:
Registration is required for these sessions. During VMworld, any empty seats will be filled on a first come first serve basis. Waiting lists will not guarantee a spot in the session. If you have not been moved out of the waitlist by August 28, you will not be admitted into the session. Waiting lists will be cleared before VMworld begins.
As an indepedent consultant, I advise my clients on a lot of different things — one of which is how to sign up for VMworld sessions. I had told them to focus on signing up for the hands-on labs, since I was under the impression that sessions were going to be seated on a first-come first-serve basis. Now I have to apologize to my clients and tell them to sign up for sessions, while my clients who didn’t register for sessions have to try to find slots in the sessions that aren’t booked (which, by now, will likely be the least popular). Needless to say, not a pleasant position to be in — especially when an independent consultant’s entire business revolves around his or her word and reputation.
Hopefully the VMworld event team comes up with a way to fix this for everyone who has been misled by its last-minute policy change, or VMworld is going to end up with a number of people disappointed to learn that they’re on the waitlists for all the sessions they really cared about attending.
Oh — and if perchance you’re looking for me at VMworld this year, I’ll be the guy with the protest signs picketing all the really good breakout sessions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrew Storrs has been an IT consultant and contractor for ten years He is based in Vanouver, Canada and has worked with clients ranging from the smallest organizations to multi-national conglomerates with over 65,000 employees. His areas of expertise include IT infrastructure design, server virtualization, application delivery, storage, high availability and disaster recovery. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/astorrs.