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Tweeting Las Vegas: Interop in 140 characters

Mobile access is spotty. Booths are pretty empty, except where there’s beer or boxing. People are talking about NAC, IT management, and cloud computing. They’re cautiously optimistic about the economy. Vendors show off nifty devices and hawk T-shirts. Bottled water costs $3. And the booth babes are nearly naked.

No, I’m not in Vegas for Interop this week. I’m sitting at my computer in Massachusetts, where — thanks to social networking — I feel like I’m almost not missing out on the conference.

Journalists from my own team and rival publications have posted more content than I can read in one day. With the addition of Twitter, real-time updates with an off-the-cuff candor help create the same kind of ordered chaos, the hubbub and camaraderie, that exists at a real world trade show.

Meanwhile, voyeuristic Interop Webcams offer a live view of the show floor (yesterday, I watched a man wandering between booths while typing on his Blackberry).

Among their more serious (and frequent) tweets reporting on the sessions, IDC analyst Abner Germanow posted an amusing Twitpic of women boxing, while Network World editor Denise Dubie discussed the aforementioned scantily clad booth babes.

Information sharing, with a high dose of frivolity: Behold the power of Twitter. Analysts, journalists, vendors, and a few actual IT guys posted pictures, shared stories, and hashed out everything from beer to the businsess case for IT. In fact, just by chatting and “retweeting”posts with the “#Interop” tag on them, I unintentionally created the illusion that I was actually in Vegas! (Sorry to disappoint, but our other editors, Shamus, Rivka, Tim and Sue, are there.)

I am missing out on the vendor swag, though, and those experiences that only happen at a conference, especially in Vegas: Poolside vendor briefings, or chatting about open source routers until 2am on some roof deck. (Sigh.) So I am missing out, a little.

I’m also missing out on the whopping travel expense.

As fate would have it, yesterday I received an invitation to Cisco’s upcoming Cisco Live (formerly Networkers) conference:

We would like to invite you to join us virtually for Cisco Live 2009 from June 30 to July 1.

Press and analysts will participate in an exciting and interactive virtual environment where they will have the opportunity to hear John Chambers, Padmasree Warrior and other senior executives outline Cisco’s vision for the IT industry and the actions Cisco is taking to help our customers innovate.

Wait a second … Does that mean that press and analysts aren’t invited to the “live” part of Cisco Live? I’m not sure how I feel about that. Padmasree Warrior has been touting Twitter as a collaboration tool — and my Interop experience this week has certainly proven that there’s a lot to gain from a conference experienced virtually. We’ve held some very successful virtual conferences at TechTarget, as well. But I’ve also found that it’s hard to immerse yourself in a virtual conference. You keep multitasking, getting pulled back to your “real” work. Or you spend half the day updating your version of Flash and just trying to get the darned thing to play on your computer!

Also, even in this economic climate, even with all I’ve said above, that doesn’t mean that the virtual experience can ever compare with the real, live, one. Because at the end of the day, I’m missing out on really meeting the conference attendees, the network pros who read our site and are our reason for being. They’re a little shyer on Twitter than press and analysts (and a lot shyer than vendor PR folks!) for some reason.

So if you’re out there, in Vegas or cyberspace, send me a tweet and let me know your thoughts on Interop and our Interop coverage. I look forward to virtually meeting you.

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