Holy cow, Microsoft Ignite was a big deal. The conference officially ran from May 4 through May 8 in Chicago, though some folks squeezed in an extra day.

Microsoft took all of the conferences they did before, big or otherwise — TechEd and the SharePoint Conference and the Exchange Conference and all those IT pro-type conferences and they put them all together in one gigantic conference called Microsoft Ignite.

I saw varying attendance estimates. The numbers I heard repeated most often and I think I read on the Internet, which automatically makes them true, is that the show sold out at more than 15,000 attendees.

Once you add the attendees and the speakers and the vendors and the Microsoft staff and a couple of stray cats, the total was probably north of 23,000 people.

How Big Was It?

It was ginormous. It was huge. And it had everything. I can’t say enough about how big it was. It was super, super-duper big. And this was the inaugural Ignite and that’s important because there were some rough edges. We're not going to linger on the rough edges but, again, it’s important to know that while some things weren’t perfect, this was the first year.

This was the first year this group put on a conference this large and it went pretty well considering all of that but, as you can imagine, the logistics of moving everybody around was amazing. Microsoft had deals with 70 hotels in downtown Chicago -- 70. That's a lot of hotels.

The conference center is four or five miles south of the main downtown area, so you couldn’t really walk back and forth from the event to your room. I mean, you could: It’d take a lot of time and it was kind of chilly and rainy a couple of days but all the hotels were a significant jaunt north of the conference center.

Because of that, transportation was rough. In earlier years, when conferences like this were held at Mandalay Bay or the Venetian in Las Vegas or at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, you could stay close enough to walk.

And I really like that, especially as a speaker because I forget things. You know, if I want to give books away I have to remember those or if I wore long pants or my socks didn’t match — any number of reasons that I’ve needed to walk back to my room — that’s been an option.

Parties Everywhere

This year it was not an option because of a couple of things. No, one, just a long bus ride, a solid 15, 20 minutes each way. Not only was the convention center a long way from the hotel but so were the parties, so you couldn’t really walk to many of the parties – a few of them but not a lot of them.

And every night had four or five parties. One night I went to four parties and could have gone to more but just went home. And the thing to keep in mind about that is those were just SharePoint parties. So not only were the SharePoint people there in force but the Windows folks and the Exchange folks and all that kind of stuff.

So there were just parties everywhere all over Chicago. It was crazy stuff but overall, again, it was the inaugural Ignite. And I think things went pretty well.

Microsoft has already announced that the big conference next year will also be Ignite, and I’m positive that they will do things better. So I’m looking forward to that already.

Overall, I had a great time and met a bunch of new people. Every time I get ready to go to a conference I'll mention it on my podcast and invite people to come up and introduce themselves if they run into me there. And about 20 people did that at Ignite. It was awesome.

Every time somebody I’ve never met before comes up and says, “Hey, I listen to your podcast; it’s really helped me out; thanks for doing it,” it means the world to me. I’m glad I can help you guys.

Heads and Tails

There was one interesting person I want to bring up — actually one of the best stories I’ve ever heard. Five years ago at TechEd New Orleans I was doing a session. One of the ways we bribed the crowd to get them excited is we play heads or tails and then we give something away. Usually it’s a book, or something like that.

And, you know, the idea is we’ve got a coin and we have everybody in the audience who wants a book put their hand on their head or their tail and then we flip the coin; if we flip a head, everybody with their hands on their heads keep standing. And then we whittle it down to one or two people and we give away the whatever.

We’ve been doing this forever, 10 years probably. So five years ago in New Orleans we did it and, you know, we’re telling the thing I just told you, “If you want to win the book stand up,” you know, whatever; and somebody in the back raised her hand and says, “I’m in a wheelchair. I can’t stand up.”

We had never encountered that before. And in true Todd fashion I just started having fun with her — I told her she couldn’t win a book but gave her a little SharePoint 911 cow, one of those little foam cows. We gave her one of those to keep from calling HR on us and getting us all kicked out. That was five years ago.

Okay. So now fast forward to Ignite last Wednesday. I'm doing the same giveaway at an Upgrade session on SharePoint. And the room is packed. I mean, there’s just people everywhere, not an empty seat in the house.

Eventually we get down to guy, who we assume is the winner. And then some woman holds up her hand and she’s like, “I’m still here." She’s short. We missed her. So we decide to give them both a book.

You Won't Believe This


So she comes up afterwards to get her book, and I realize it’s the same woman, the woman who’d been in the wheelchair five years ago. She had some operation, something. I don’t know what it was, but she wasn’t in a wheelchair this time.

And then she brings out the cow. She still has the cow. She has the cow with her. She has the cow that we gave her five years ago in her hand.

It’s got some beads on it. And she proceeds to tell us this fantastic story about how she named it Pat – Pat the SharePoint Cow – and has been taking Pat all over the world for the last five years and taking pictures of Pat everywhere she went.

Pat has been to Paris, Aruba, Ireland, Italy. Pat’s going to Greece in a couple of months. Pat’s been in New Orleans again. Pat has been all over the world. And Pat has a Facebook page.

So if you go out to Facebook and add Pat as a friend, you can see all the places this woman has taken this cow that we gave her five years ago because she couldn’t stand up for heads or tails.

So go out and make friends with Pat — last name, TheSharePointCow — on Facebook. I highly recommend it. Pat’s got a very exciting life. You could do worse than following Pat around the world.

There are so many things to talk about from Ignite. So this week, we're going to do this in two parts. Take a look at the podcast now to hear about some of the things you missed, like the PowerShell booth, all the free stuff, Raspberry Pi and, yes, the parties.

And then come back again on Monday. I'll tell you more about the sessions I conducted and a whole bunch of stuff about SharePoint.