Affiliate Summit West 2008 (part 1)

I got back less than 24 hours ago from the 2008 Affiliate Summit (West) in Las Vegas, NV, which I attended for the company I co-founded in 2001, TechwareLabs.com. Aside from being very tired every night after much more walking and standing than I’m used to, I was very pleased with the conference overall, and am optimistic about the upcoming months for my site. (I also happen to be pretty exhausted today, since my flight landed around 0030, which meant I got baggage around 0100, got home around 0140, got to bed around 0230, and then got up for my real job around 0730, since I decided to ‘sleep in’ an extra hour … but I want to try to get this down on paper the Internet while it’s still kind of fresh in my mind.)

Saturday

I left for Vegas on a completely full flight on Saturday. The flight was supposed to depart at 1930, but by 1935, they hadn’t even closed the door yet, since they were apparently waiting for a few stragglers. Eventually we took off; I passed on the option to buy a $5 snack box or miniature bottle of wine, and contented myself with a little cranberry juice before trying to sleep (with little success). The landing was slightly bumpy, but pretty tame compared to what it sounded like a few flights/landings were on Sunday. Due to the magic of flying west two time zones, the flight only took a bit more than an hour (that is, comparing local time to local time), so a stint in the crowded baggage claim and a $15 cab ride to the hotel later, and I was checked into The Flamingo. I proceeded to spend a couple hours trying to hack the hotel’s internet, rather than paying $12/day for it (after succeeding so effortlessly last spring on my trip to Los Angeles), only to eventually give up and use Sprint EVDO (‘cellular’ internet) through my phone.

Sunday

I was able to sleep in a little on Sunday, much to my delight, and after showering and spending a kind of ridiculous amount of time deliberating about what to wear (I packed roughly 2x as many clothes as I needed), I indulged myself in a classy breakfast [wrap] at Subway in an adjacent hotel/casino. I was able to find my way to Subway and back without much issue, but the journey to follow was something of a different story. After running back up to my room to grab my briefcase (that is, a Swiss Army nylon shoulder laptop bag), I proceeded to walk around the Flamingo ground floor for about 10 minutes, attempting without success to locate the shuttle to the Rio about which I had read here. Eventually I was able to talk to the concierge, who informed me that the shuttle did not in fact pick up from the Flamingo, but was just one hotel down (Bally’s). While this may not sound like anything of consequence (it didn’t to me at the time), neighboring hotels in Vegas are not actually very close to one another. Furthermore, once I got to Bally’s (probably a six minute walk?), I was greeted by three hotel employees that didn’t know where the shuttle pick-up was. Great. I wandered around for a bit, and eventually found a sign directing me to one of the entrances. I made my way to this entrance, only to find a new sign indicating that I’d missed the shuttle pickup at this location by about a week; starting February 18, the shuttle to the Rio would pick up from the Paris hotel/casino. Arrgh! I followed some signs toward Paris (again, just one hotel away), and halfway there met a fork in the road. Two more hotel employees at an information desk at this juncture again lacked information about this shuttle, but made a guess as to where I should try to catch it, and pointed me on my way. I wove my way through yet another sea of slot machines and poker tables to yet another hotel entrance, and at long last, was immensely pleased to find signs for the shuttle I wanted! I still had to wait about ten minutes for the shuttle to actually arrive, but I was on my way!

A comparatively short (and relaxing) while later, I arrived at the entrance to the Rio hotel/casino, probably a little bit after 1100, but unfortunately, my sense of hope that I had arrived at my destination would soon prove to be premature. Although there were signs nice enough to direct me to the convention center almost starting from the entrance, these signs would continue to guide me for about a ten minute walk through a wide, winding corridor to they very opposite end of this apparently massive complex. Once there–finally–registration was painless, and I was handed a trendy neck lanyard/name badge and canvas bag with goodies like an XL t-shirt and squishable foam stress-ball-type sponsor-branded toy. I wasn’t thrilled to have to carry around a second bag all day, but I dealt with it. Although I had actually arrived later than I had in mind the day before, it turns out that was just fine, since the expo hall was still being set up, and no event had really started. As such, I took the opportunity to camp out on the floor by an outlet and break out my new Lenovo Thinkpad T61 (specs). Needless to say, after my failed attempts to hack the hotel internet the night before, I was immensely pleased to find a plethora of open WiFi access points set up for the conference (hey, I guess that $1500+ registration fee needs to pay for something, right?). Although it wasn’t the most comfortable seat, it served its purpose for almost an hour until the meet market officially opened and the expo hall started to fill up.

Meet Market

Now, depending on how well you know me (if at all), it may or may not surprise you to learn that I don’t consider myself the most naturally outgoing guy on the block. As such, a room full of several hundred people with whom I’m supposed to network, and kind of ‘sell’ myself to, is somewhat daunting, but considering this was half of why I was here, I forged ahead. One of my first stops was a myvu/RealNetworks stand with a demo of the personal media viewer glasses featured on their web site. While a demo of a technology product at an expo is something that TechwareLabs (TWL) is very familiar with, it was really the only such booth at the Affiliate Summit … and was mainly being shown as it related to some RealNetwork/myvu affiliate program. Regardless of that last fact, I explained what TWL did, discussed the possibility of performing a review of the product on our site, performed the exchange of business cards that would become very familiar over the next couple days, and continued on my way.

Although I performed the business card shuffle a number of times that afternoon, I unfortunately only have a specific memory of three other booths. The first of these was RingCentral, a company whose primary product (as far as I recall) is a virtual PBX (service?). This may have stuck out in my mind because it was again technology-related, but also likely because it reminded me of the service Numbra (second to last paragraph) that was produced by my former employer. I know it’s not supposed to be amazingly difficult to set up something like Asterisk for little to no cost, but I definitely still feel there’s a place for [what my understanding of] products like RingCentral. Even personally, I’m getting to a point in my life where I’m less likely to tinker and spend a weekend playing with free solutions that require only a commitment of time, and instead pay for a product or service to do it for me, assuming such a thing exists for a reasonable fee and high degree of convenience (sad, I know).

The second of the remaining booths I remember was dgm-au. Although this wasn’t a terribly remarkable company of its own merits in my opinion (sorry, no offense), Australians have notable accents. I gave my increasingly rehearsed speech about what TWL does, and Dominic talked a little bit about what dgm-au does. He discussed the possibility of geo-targeted content for .au readers, which admittedly strikes me as an interesting idea, but probably a little too much work for what we’ve got on our plate right now. And last but not least, there was affSpy. I hate to admit it, but I was initially reeled in by one of the booth babes (p.s. the chick on the far right was wearing a ridiculously short skirt), who was able to repeat an obviously rehearsed introductory sentence or two about affSpy, but referred me to any of the guys once I asked a question about the service. Essentially, affSpy is like froogle (google product search) for affiliate marketing offers. It’s a neat idea, but from the results I saw, it’s probably not terribly well suited for use on TWL in its current state (at least, as long as we can avoid turning into a click portal for a freeipods.com / freecomputer.com type sites :P).

After weaving my way through most of the tables, I decided to take a seat at the back of the conference hall at one of the tables that were set up for general use and log a little bit more time on the open WiFi. Since I didn’t want to be totally antisocial, I propped up my big nametag and a business card against the back of my laptop, which apparently worked (a little). One lady, probably in her mid 40’s, approached me timidly, and after the customary exchange of cards and information, explained that she was currently a one-woman business, and was looking for a good way to find a developer to help her with some of the technical aspects of her plans. Since my company name contains the word Tech and ends in .com, I suppose I was as good of a candidate as anyone to ask such a question; unfortunately for her, we’ve done all of our development in-house, by Paul Uranium-235 Linebarger and myself, so I didn’t have much advice to give. Later, Eduardo Fenili of Revenue Magazine dropped by to kinda just chat in general. He does ad sales for the magazine, and seemed like a likable guy all around, so it was nice to chat, though I don’t think our businesses can do too much for each other.

There was a cocktail party at 18:00, but I skipped that in order to go back to my hotel and drop off my bags before heading to a private party at the Palms hotel starting at 19:00. Unfortunately, I apparently missed a shuttle back to my hotel (er, sorta) by a few minutes, and they were only running every ~30 minutes at that point. In hindsight, I really should have taken the shuttle to Caesar’s that was waiting right when I got outside, but instead I waited … and waited … and waited. When the shuttle finally did arrive, the driver said his shift had just ended, so we had to wait just a couple minutes for the next driver to arrive. As you might imagine, that actually took nearly ten minutes. I jogged from the shuttle to the hotel and back, to try to catch the next shuttle, but reached the pick-up right as it was pulling away. I was facing a potential ~30-minute wait, when a woman (Vidhu Sharma, as I later learned) came up to the stop and asked if I was waiting for the shuttle. She explained that she was supposed to be meeting people over at the Rio (i.e. the shuttle’s destination) in about ten minutes, so I proposed that we split cab fare over there. As we spoke on the ride over, I learned that she was here for the Affiliate Summit as well, and she worked for TrialPay, which is apparently and emphatically not like freeipods.com … except in the sense that you complete an offer to get something for free for which you would normally have to pay. But seriously, aside from getting really defensive about my freeipods comment to her, Vidhu was really nice, and I genuinely do like the idea of what her company does. The example she gave was that users can legally purchase WinZip by completing a single offer (not several offers, and no referrals, like freeipods requires); also unlike freeipods, the TrialPay customers are theoretically a bit more legitimate, genuine, and specifically targetable, so there’s probably a better chance of the users finding an offer in which they’re legitimately interested than users of freeipods, who are probably likely to cancel every single offer they complete (not like I did that, or anything).

The ShareASale Party

After reaching the Rio, I walked my way over to the Palms about a block and a half away, and gave John Chow (yeah, like he needs any more traffic :-p) a call, since I was meeting him at the party. He let me know what the deal was, and I checked in, got my wristband, and made my way up to the 32nd floor in a crowded elevator. I declined a complimentary photograph in front of a ShareASale sign, and made my way through the crowd to find John on the second floor of this penthouse suite. (As an aside, I always thought a penthouse suite had to be on the absolute top floor of the building, but Dictionary.com says it can be any specially designed apartment on an upper floor, esp. the top floor, of a building, and the suite was labeled as such, so I’ll concede.) Yes, I did say second floor, and yes, the suite had its own private glass elevator to reach the second floor, in case you were too lazy to take the stairs.

Before I continue to talk about the party, I need to stop for a minute to talk about this suite some more. And damn, was it sweet. As noted above, I went up to the second floor of the suite, where the two bedrooms resided, along with a dedicated massage room and exercise room. The first bedroom featured a fireplace, a pop-up plasma TV, a rotating bed, and was separated from its bathroom by a fancy-looking stainless steel bead curtain adjacent to the whirlpool bathtub. Admittedly this wasn’t really an entrance to the bathroom, but looked pretty snazzy, and I have to imagine could be pretty romantic with a bubble bath, or rose petals, candles, etc … if you’re into that kind of thing (and have a net worth well into the millions). (And don’t worry, there was still a separate door to grant some privacy for using the toilet.) This was only half of the bathroom, though. The second bathroom-room featured a glass-encircled shower stall with a massive shower head in the dead center of the ceiling, and then six more shower or steam heads protruding from about chest to knee height on opposite walls of the shower. Oh, and did I mention that even the bathrooms had amazing views? Moving over to the other side of the suite, the second bedroom was a little more conservative; it featured a traditional bed, fireplace, foot-board pop-up plasma TV, another truly amazing view, walk-in closets, and obviously its own private bathroom. This bathroom had a whirlpool tub, but when you turned on the faucet, a hole located in the ceiling above the tub dispenses the requisite stream of water to fill the tub–pretty neat.

Heading back downstairs, you can go to one wing containing a floor-to-ceiling rack of A/V equipment, three plasma TVs, massive wrap-around leather couches, and the chef preparing custom cheesecake concoctions for guests. Heading back out, the center of the room featured water pouring down the slate walls and underfoot, protected by a clear plastic/poly-something-or-other raised floor. A grand piano sat in the middle of the room, near the entrance to the balcony–which featured a hot tub jutting ~15′ out from the building and one of the two open bars in the suite. On the other side of the ‘main floor’ sat a couple more couches, another plasma TV on the wall, a massive [open] wet bar, and a sushi chef. John said that he had looked up the price of the suite, and found it cost around $20k per night, not counting the open bars, and various chefs … so I’ll just conclude by saying it was a pretty nice place.

Edit! I apologize for not having taken any pictures, but John Chow edited together a little video of some footage he took on his digital camera at the party, so you can check it out here on his site. If you look really closely, you can even see me at about 5:24 wearing a maroon shirt, holding a cup, and making some gestures with most of my upper body in what was an ongoing fight to communicate in the rather loud environment.

As for the party itself, it was good, albeit loud. I met a number of people, such as Chris Bloczynski (I think I may have taken that photo of him with John Chow), Christopher Rauschnot of All In Energy Drink, Ian Fernando, and probably the highlight of the evening, John Hasson. John was kind enough to approach me out of the blue as I was wandering around by myself and strike up a conversation; we both have software engineering backgrounds, and he’s super friendly, so we talked for a while before parting ways. By that point, my voice was starting to die from carrying on conversations at nearly a yelling volume, and I’m not used to being on my feet for 12+ hours a day, not to mention the two-hour time difference I was still feeling, so I decided to call it a night, and headed back to my hotel. A shuttle pulled up right as I was getting back to the Rio, so a short ride and walk later, I was at long last able to lay down and collapse for the night.

 

Check back for more news of Monday and Tuesday!

3 Responses to “Affiliate Summit West 2008 (part 1)”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Please did you take pics of the party? Please?

  2. John Says:

    Hey David, I found your blog :)

  3. p14nd4 Says:

    Sarah: One of my constant regrets is not being proactive in taking pictures. They always say that a picture is worth a thousand words … and since I’ve already written a thousand words, aren’t you glad there aren’t a thousand more-worth by having a picture? :-P I did track down a video that John Chow took, which you can check out over at his site. Keep your eye out for me at 5:24!

    John: Good to hear from you. I see you came around and got WordPress installed (I made the same transition a couple years ago), which is somehow clever enough to detect incoming links. I guess I’ll have to keep linking to you and you might keep dropping by :-).

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