On Pretentiousness

At the 2015 Cisco Live Welcome Keynote, I was fortunate enough to tag along with some other Cisco Champions and Social Media folks who were provided advance seating to the event. This gave us an opportunity to see some of the behind-the-scenes last-minute preparation that goes into the presentation and experience the production from a different perspective than we would traditionally experience as members of the general audience.

During this time a number of us were using Twitter and Periscope to share the experience and provide sounds and images from within the room using the #CLUS hashtag. One such photo included a panoramic view of the stage from the perspective of our seating area, which gave a great view of the stage and the entire production area.

This photo received a response that began a very unfortunate exchange on Twitter:

“Is this what pretentiousness looks like?”

The exchange degraded into vulgar personal attacks and references to genitalia and the person who initiated with the comment above has since deleted their Twitter account. Not surprising, considering how far south this conversation went.

Some Clarity

For those who missed it, essentially we (those who had been granted advance access to the keynote) were accused of “showing off” to the rest of Twitter. This accusation came from a former member of the Cisco Champions team, and someone who I had personally been following very early on since joining Twitter, and who had been, at least until this incident, a respected member of the social media community.

I can’t speak to the motivation behind the comments made, but I can say with certainty that nothing we were sharing with the rest of the community was or has ever been meant as bragging, or showing off. As part of the Cisco Champions team, or any other Social Media group, the intent is to share and provide insight to the community as a whole. It serves to involve as many people as possible in an inclusive manner, not as an exclusive, pretentious group.

Evidence of this is clear in that the group of people gathering and socializing at the Twitter Lounge and Social Media Hub over the years has grown exponentially. And let’s face it, many of us in this industry are fairly introverted, and if there were some underlying sense of cliquishness or exclusivity, we wouldn’t be welcoming new faces to the events year after year.

Ultimately whether you are a member of Cisco Champions, VMware vExpert, Microsoft MVP, EMC Elect or any other similar group, the goal is engagement rather than exclusion. These ladies and gentlemen are purposed to participate and grow additional engagement with the community at large.

Now, this is a definite give and take relationship and there is some work involved – as a member of one of these groups you are going to spend some of your personal time engaged and involved in the community whether it is through blogging, webinars, podcasts, etc. and the reward or benefit from this is perhaps some exclusive access whether it’s VIP seating at an event, or a sneak-preview of a new product release or product updates.

Let’s call these what they are, perks. It’s a fair trade for the effort involved in creating content, but it is not there to cause any kind of divide in the community, but rather to highlight the benefits of becoming more involved.

Final Thoughts

If you can’t say something nice…

Electronic communication, whether it be email, text, Twitter, etc. all tend to distance the creator from their audience. It’s well-known on the Internet that many people have a strong sense of anonymity and thus the “keyboard warriors” are born, those who feel they can say whatever they want to whomever they want without fear of repercussion or reprisal.

Sometimes this feeling carries over to a medium in which you aren’t entirely anonymous, and whatever you say is going to be a part of your online resume or footprint, and could have lasting effects in the long-term.

I believe the source of these comments understands this, and this is at least part of the reason these comments were removed and ultimately their Twitter account was deleted.

It’s also evidence that they don’t have the integrity to stand by their comments.

For those of us who continue to participate in events like Cisco Live as members of the larger Social Media community, I believe we will continue to share and engage those around us by sharing content and insight. If you see something that makes you stop and say “I’d like to be part of that” then by all means, join us.

Cisco Live 2014 – San Fran-tastic!

My 5th Cisco Live is in the books and this was a fantastic week of reconnecting with friends, meeting new ones, and drinking from the technology fire hose.

This was my first visit to San Francisco and although I didn’t get to be a tourist very much, what I did see of the city was great. My hotel wasn’t in the greatest part of the downtown area, but even so the walk to and from Moscone never seemed too scary.

As I mentioned in my pre-show post my schedule this year was packed with sessions, meetings and events, much more than previous years. I arrived on Sunday and the whirl wind week of activity began immediately.

Registration and Arrival Tweetup

I managed to get to Moscone in time to register and pick up my badge and bag before the 5:00 pm closing on Sunday. After checking into my hotel and dropping off most of my gear, I went straight back to Moscone South for the Welcome Tweetup. This had grown exponentially over the last few years and the 2014 Tweetup was no exception. It’s always great to be face to face with the people you interact with all year on Twitter and other social media platforms, and this year was made that much more special with the #CiscoChampion program adding a number of new people to the mix.

Social Media Lounge 2014

Social Media Lounge 2014

The appearance of the SDNicorn marked the beginning of what was going to be a week filled with networking (in several terms), socializing and yes, even some shenanigans.


CLUS2014_02 CLUS2014_15

Sessions and Cisco Live Online

If you’ve ever attended Cisco Live or other events like it, you’ll know it’s near impossible to schedule in all the breakout sessions that you want to attend. There are simply too many of them. I’ve had a couple of years where I was focused on a particular technology, mostly because of a specific planned project at my day job, but when I can I prefer to have as much variety in my schedule as possible. Cisco has made this far less stressful because selecting one session over another doesn’t mean I have to miss the content for the one I didn’t attend in person, it simply means I can view it later on Cisco Live Online (formerly Cisco Live 365). This is a fantastic resource all year long, and I find myself going back to watch and re-watch content from the various Cisco Live events worldwide.

This year’s sessions included some Collaboration, UCS, Virtualization, and Nexus sessions. Also, thanks to Robert Novak (@gallifreyan) over at rsts11.com I was provided a complimentary 4-hour lab, and I chose to attend the Intelligent WAN (IWAN) Hands-On Lab. The IWAN lab was fun, given that I got to spend some time working with gear and software that I don’t normally get to play with, particularly UCS-Express (in the form of ISR-2911’s with UCSe blades), and Cisco Prime Infrastructure. A lot of this lab focused on Cisco Prime and seemed more of a DMVPN lab mixed with some WAAS and QoS, but it was still a great learning experience.


Throughout the week there were some fantastic opportunities facilitated via the Cisco Champions group. These included an excellent (and revealing at times) team building event, a live Cisco Champions Radio episode hosted by Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja) in which a large number of us piled into the smallest room possible to record a really entertaining podcast, a tour of the Cisco NERV truck, and a briefing on the upcoming Cisco Modeling Labs (CML) product.

For me, these activities were more about connecting with a group of people who I’ve “met” through the Cisco Champions program via Google+, Twitter, and podcasts, but hadn’t yet met in person. I was absolutely blown away by the diversity of this group and the opportunity to meet face to face and share some conversation, some knowledge, and a quite a few good laughs as well.

CLUS2014_07 CLUS2014_06 CLUS2014_08


The fine folks over at @CiscoDC along with infamous bacon advocate Amy Lewis hosted an awesome party at the Cable Car City Pub on Monday evening. This was a fun social event that gave everyone an opportunity to wind down after the first full day of sessions and enjoy meeting some more of the social media personalities, Cisco Champions, and Cisco staff. The evening included some bacon-related giveaways, including subscriptions to the bacon of the month club. There was even a food table replete with….bacon.

@CommsNinja tossing bacon to the huddled masses

@CommsNinja tossing bacon to the huddled masses

INE Rewired

INE once again hosted a customer appreciation event that included some excellent prizes (congrats to @bbaize on winning a Macbook Air!) and some more food and drinks. After mercilessly harassing Mark Snow (@highspeedsnow) and Brian McGahan (@brianmcgahan) I managed to procure one of the VIP tokens that provided access to an exclusive section of the Mezzanine Nightclub. They also used the evening to preview their upcoming revised and retooled training platform which promises to be a tremendous platform for studying and certification along your chosen Cisco track. The Rewired platform offers an interactive community approach to learning, including badges, achievements and looks to add a bit more “fun” to the task of studying for a Cisco exam. I’m really looking foward to the launch of this product, and attendees of the event were told they would have beta access sometime in the upcoming months.

Achievement Unlocked: VIP Coin

Achievement Unlocked: VIP Coin

Mezzanine Nightclub

Mezzanine Nightclub


Customer Appreciation Event

The annual CAE is always a great time, and this year was no exception. We invaded AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, and were treated to some awesome food, a few beverages, and live performances from Lenny Kravitz and Imagine Dragons. I would have loved to see Kravitz as the headliner, but then again I’m old. He played a fantastic show, playing many of his hits from the 90’s and 00’s. Imagine Dragons’ set got off to a rocky start when the power went out to their amplifiers, but after a brief “Please Standby” everything got back underway. The rocked out the remainder of the evening and the evening’s finale was a brilliant fireworks display launched from a ship in the San Francisco Bay beside the park.



Myself and @pidooma

Party Tweeps

Party Tweeps

#BaconIT lady @CommsNinja

#BaconIT lady @CommsNinja

Birthday Hats

Birthday Hats



@Lauren and @ColdStorageGuy photobomb

Final Tweetup and Farewell

The Thursday of Cisco Live is always bittersweet as the final sessions of the week wrap up, the last of the prizes are given away at the World of Solutions, and everyone heads to the airport to scatter across the world back to their homes. This year was no exception.

The farewell Tweetup was held at the Social Media Hub Routed Bridge (no idea, ask @amyengineer) and everyone had an opportunity to take a few more photos, play a few more hands of Cards Against Humanity #CLUS, and say their goodbyes. As is tradition the group photo at the Cisco Live sign marked the end of the week, and I bid farewell to my fellow Twitterers, Champions, and friends, and headed to the airport.

Sayonara at The Sign

Sayonara at The Sign

Cisco Live 2014 was for me, the best Cisco Live yet. They seem to get better every year and I’m not quite sure how that happens, but it’s true. From the moment I left San Francisco I started to look forward to next year, and Cisco Live 2015 in San Diego.

See you there!

Cisco Live 2014 – #CL5K Information

For those still waiting on official word about the when and where of this year’s Cisco Live 5K Fun Run – here it is.

The run will take place Wednesday morning at 7am at Rincon Park. It’s pretty much straight up Folsom street from Moscone Center to the bay, and the park has a huge red and yellow bow & arrow sculpture to identify it. We will be running along the San Francisco Bay Trail to Pier 39 and back.

A map of the run can be found here: https://goo.gl/maps/MDqKP

The Embarcadero

Come and walk, run, heckle, prod, or anything else you can think of in support of this year’s run. It won’t be as crazy as the Bay to Breakers but it’s always a fun run with a group of great people.

All Aboard for SFO – Cisco Live 2014

Cisco Live 2014 is only two days away and although I like to think I’ve planned everything out well in advance, I’ll likely be doing a lot of last minute panicked preparation early Sunday before my flight.

This will be my fifth Cisco Live, my first one being the 2010 event in Las Vegas. Things have changed for me significantly since that first conference, and every year it just seems to get better and better. To be honest it’s become the one networking/professional development event I absolutely cannot miss every year, such that I pay for the majority of the trip myself.

Budget Scarcity

Working as I do in the public sector, where budgets seemingly shrink every year, while costs and expenses rise, I do not have the benefit of a large professional development budget. Much of the training and certification I have done over the years has been self-paced, self-funded, and conducted in my home office and lab. This includes the costs incurred for Cisco Live. What budget I do get every year (usually between $1000-$1500 CAD) I put towards the conference registration costs. This does help put a dent in even the early-bird conference price of $1995 USD, and I appreciate the fact that I get anything at all towards my continued education.

Travel can be expensive but I’ve managed to get pretty thrifty over the years, and more often than not find pretty good deals on hotels that aren’t part of the Cisco Live “official hotel list” but are in close proximity to the conference location and other amenities.

In 2011 for example, I was able to stay The Excalibur in Las Vegas which is literally across the street from the Luxor, Mandalay Bay, and MGM Grand, which are all official Cisco Live hotels, for about 1/3 the price. The tram running along the strip provided fast transport over to the Mandalay Bay for the conference events.

This year was an even bigger challenge with hotel prices in San Francisco bordering on insane. There was no possible way I was going to be able to attend this year if I had to book one of the official hotels which ranged from $170 to $399 per night.

My schedule is so packed every year I actually don’t spend a lot of time in my hotel, so it’s basically a place to sleep for a few hours before beginning another day of social networking, learning, and fun. With that in mind I booked a room at a hostel-style hotel called The Winsor that’s a decent walking distance away from The Moscone Center. I’ll have a small room with pretty much just a bed and a sink, and a shared bathroom. The reviews on various travel sites said the neighborhood wasn’t great but the hotel was decent, even if it looks a bit shady.

Some examples:

“Decent hotel, but absolutely scary street/neighborhood!”

“The hotel is of course very basic, but definitely acceptable (including in terms of cleanliness) given the excellent price.”

The proximity of liquor, beer, and cigarettes will be convenient, at least.

The proximity of liquor, beer, and cigarettes will be convenient, at least.


The first year I attended Cisco Live in 2010 I was purely alone. I didn’t know anyone, I wasn’t very active on social media, and I had no idea what to expect from the conference. I focused on maximizing my time in breakout sessions with the intent of learning as much as possible in the week I was there. I lurked on Twitter and saw there seemed to be a community within a community here and quickly saw some of the same names interacting with each other, with mention of “tweetup” and “Tom’s Corner”.

In between 2010 and 2012 I spent a lot of time following some of the more active names from that first event. People like Tom Hollingsworth (@networkingnerd), Jeff Fry (@fryguy_pa), Amy Arnold (@amyengineer), Stephen Foskett (@sfoskett), Tony Mattke (@tonhe), Eric Peterson (@ucgod), and Jennifer Huber (@jenniferlucille) just to name a few.

I discovered the Packet Pushers podcast where a lot of these folks got together with Greg Ferro (@etherealmind) and Ethan Banks (@ecbanks) to discuss current topics and trends in networking, and started listening to the back catalog of recordings.

I learned about Tech Field Day and it’s delegate program and with it another list of names of people I started to follow and interact with on Twitter.

As I built both the group of people that I followed on Twitter as well as those who followed me, I began to feel a real sense of community within these groups and carried that forward into the next visits to Cisco Live.


By 2013 in Orlando the trip to Cisco Live felt less like attending a trade show and more like a reunion with a large group of friends. “Tom’s Corner” had evolved into the Social Media Lounge, and it was clear that Cisco was putting a lot of effort into social media and this large subculture of networkers who populated it. The welcome Tweetup was the largest it had ever been and once again it was a welcome opportunity to reconnect with old friends and meet new people as the social media crowd grew even larger.

2013 Orlando Social Media Lounge

I had been approached by Cisco’s Social Media Marketing Manager just before the Orlando show as a candidate for the Cisco Champions program. I welcomed this as an opportunity to continue to grow with social media as a platform to discuss, inform and debate current topics within the networking world. I’ve been able to participate in some great podcast, product briefings and even managed to have a few blog articles published:




Now in 2014, the #CiscoChampions group has grown quite a lot and there are several events scheduled for us in San Francisco. My schedule now is even more jam-packed between regular sessions, social media events, Cisco Champion events, Tech Field Day round-tables and somewhere in there, time to eat and sleep.

 Other Events

The Customer Appreciation Event is going to be excellent this year with Lenny Kravitz as the headliner, and Imagine Dragons in support. The #BaconIT meetup with Amy Lewis (@commsninja) should prove to be another great evening with friends and bacon (and maybe a beverage or two). And I’m also looking forward to running in another 5K with Colin McNamara (@colinmcnamara) in support of the Wounded Warriors Project. Rumor has it we might be running across the Golden Gate Bridge!

I’m truly looking forward to another great year, and can’t wait to see you there!

2013 Orlando Sign Photo

Cisco Live 2014 CAE – A Canuck Connection!

Pretty much every year, the Cisco Live Team post a poll on the Cisco Live web site to potential registrants asking which band they would like to see for the Customer Appreciation Event (CAE). I’m not sure if the polls are a short list of potential performers or if they are just gauging interest in a particular genre of entertainment, but the options all seem to cover a fairly wide range of tastes.

Before attending my first Cisco Live I can remember watching a few YouTube videos of some earlier CAEs, one of which featured none other than KISS. My I was stunned and excited by the opportunity to be relatively up close and personal with a private show by one of the world’s greatest entertainment groups.

The poll one year included Lenny Kravitz, who I voted for, and the results seemed to be largely in favor of him being the CAE performer. Alas that year Kravitz was not ultimately the chosen act, but another great CAE was enjoyed by all in attendance nonetheless. (I had heard rumor that Kravitz had been lined up that year, but a scheduling conflict forced him to back out and another band was selected)

This year I am very excited about the announcement of the entertainment for the CAE. As a proud Canadian, there is a very special link with the artist and my country, even though he resides in the United States. I also know that many of my fellow Cisco Live attendees, bloggers and #CiscoChampions have all been begging for him to be the CAE headliner.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this years Customer Appreciation Event headliner:    JUSTIN BIEBER!


I may have to turn comments *off* for this post.

Okay, it’s not The Biebs, although I know there are some of you who are disappointed. The actual CAE artist does have a Canadian connection however in that he recorded an excellent cover of The Guess Who’s “American Woman” in 2000.  The Guess Who, not to be confused with England’s “The Who”, are from my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and I list them among Canada’s greatest accomplishments along with poutine, Pamela Anderson Dan Ackroyd, and The Canadarm.

This year in San Francisco for the 25th Anniversary, the CAE headliner will in fact be Lenny Kravitz at AT&T Park – Home of the San Francisco Giants!

Kravitz is a pure entertainer and an extremely talented artist. Not only as a musician but more recently as an actor. Kravitz is multi-talented singing lead and backup vocals and in many cases recording guitar, bass and drums for his own albums. As a hack musician drummer myself for many years, it’s easy to truly appreciate the dedication to one’s art that this diversity of skill requires.

As networkers and IT professionals, we are all equally dedicated to our own “art” and in the constantly changing world of data networking, we too must continue to develop additional skills and ‘learn new instruments’ as it were, in order to continue to be the best in our fields.

This year at Cisco Live and at the CAE, we are provided not only an opportunity to connect, reconnect, and learn from each other, but to sit back, relax, and enjoy some down time with our peers and colleagues, while enjoying what will likely be an evening of epic entertainment that could easily rival all previous CAEs.

Not to be overlooked is this years special guest – Imagine Dragons! Their 2012 debut release “Night Visions” has had phenomenal success and afforded the band many accolades in 2013, including “Breakthrough Band of 2013” by Billboard and their hit “Radioactive” named “the biggest rock hit of the year” by Rolling Stone.

If you haven’t already, head over to the Cisco Live US page and get registered. Trust me when I say it’s an event you do not want to miss!

This announcement totally makes up for my accomodations!

Winsor Hotel

Note: This is not an official Cisco Live hotel, but I’m traveling on my own dime this year and the San Francisco hotels are pricey

I look forward to seeing you there!