Stop Whining and Go To Las Vegas

Have you seen the video of kids complaining about their Christmas presents? I won't go into much detail, because SlashGear's own Chris Burns covers this succinctly. But the gist is that it's a video of entitled kids complaining about the gifts they did not get. My favorites are the ones (plural) where kids complain "Sure, I got a car, but I also wanted an iPad." Then they curse at their parents, or their creator, or life in general. I agree with Burnsy. Take their gifts away.

On Sunday, I'm going to fly from Dallas to Las Vegas. I'm not going to have time to check into my hotel, because I have to go directly to my first meeting. I'll be sitting in meetings for at least 8 hours. The next four days, I'll wake up at 8AM and start working. I won't stop until late into the evening. On many nights, I won't get back to my hotel room until after midnight.

I'll be at the Consumer Electronics Show, of course. The Super Bowl of gadgets. Except it lasts for days and days, and there is no football, just commercials. It's so huge that it takes place not only at the Las Vegas Convention Center, but also the Hilton next door, and the Sands convention center connected to the Venetian hotel. A friend wore a pedometer at the show one year and discovered that she walked 4-6 miles a day, every day.

Sounds grueling, right? Hardly. Let me fill in the blanks.

My first meeting is with a good friend and drinking buddy. Every subsequent meeting I have will be with technology journalists, analysts, and other industry professionals. These are people who are interested in the exact same thing I'm interested in. We'll have plenty to talk about, on professional and personal levels. It's not like going to the office, it's more like hanging out in a college dorm, arguing politics over pizza until late in the night. But instead of pizza, it's all about gadgets.

My day job, and the sponsor of my trip, is with Samsung. My meetings will involve talking about Samsung products and showing off the coolest stuff we have. I'll be carrying around a bag full of awesome gadgets throughout the show. During the meetings, we'll play. There will be questions, photographs, hands-on videos. But mostly, we'll play.

At night, we'll head to corporate and PR sponsored events. These are usually nice meals, parties at night clubs, or mini trade shows with free alcohol and plenty of fried food. Since CES always happens after New Year's, usually we'll hear anecdotes from the club workers about how Britney Spears or Paris Hilton passed out in this VIP room, or threw up in that elevated bathtub. I'll go to the most exclusive clubs in Vegas, the places that wouldn't let me in wearing the same outfit a week later. There will be music, dancing, free pens and baseball caps, and more time hanging out with some of my favorite people in the world.

I love my job. I loved my job when I was a journalist. I love it now that I'm on the corporate side. If you're working at your cubicle, or from the cab of your truck, or from anywhere that does not send you on an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas once a year, I hope you see I'm not trying to brag. I appreciate my job and the opportunities it gives me. I work hard at it, and I worked hard to get here. I put in the hours. I will never complain about it. I know exactly how lucky I am.

I wish everyone in my business were so self aware. I've seen column after column on other technology Web sites complaining about having to make the trek to CES. Some folks even revel in the fact that they have never attended the show, all the while dismissing what's there, as if they have any idea.

[aquote]Is CES a dying animal? No way[/aquote]

Is CES a dying animal? No way. Microsoft is scaling back. Other companies have stopped exhibiting at trade shows, preferring their own, invariably more exclusive corporate events. There is certainly a time and a place for that strategy, but CES serves a definite purpose.

First, it's a mile marker for our industry. It's a way to stop after the holidays, look around, and try to figure out where this giant ship is sailing. It's a way to spot icebergs and jet streams.

The Consumer Electronics Association, the group that runs CES, exists to promote consumer electronics. No trade show in existence does a better job promoting its category than CES. Sure, you may have read about the adult entertainment show that used to run concurrently with CES. But have you heard of the pizza maker's trade show in Las Vegas? Have you seen coverage of the Construction Expo that happens once every 3 years? In fact, can you name any other major trade show convention that is covered by all major TV networks, all forms of print and online publications, and supports an entire category of bloggers and Web sites? Of course not. This isn't just a testimony to the popularity of technology. It's a testament to the hard work and sheer spectacle of CEA at CES.

Second, CES lets in the little guy. At some point during the show, all journalists run out of steam and decide to walk the floor. Everybody wants to find the little guy, the cool products hidden in the back of the convention center. I've played video games with my mind. I've watched movies that smell. I've watched body painting and drag racing and all sorts of fascinating pageantry.

The weirdest thing about technology journalists is that many of them think they have hard jobs. They think that CES is difficult. They complain about the walking, the long nights, the bad food (okay, too much fried, not enough fresh). If you follow tech journalists on Twitter, be prepared for a full week of complaining about flight delays, poorly designed airports, hotel errors, shuttle delays, blistered feet, missed meetings, and more.

Feel free to tell any and all of them where they can stick it.

I've never had a true manual labor job, but I have had jobs that were actually difficult. Tedious jobs that were repetitive and dull. Retail jobs over the holiday time. I worked 12 hour days as a teacher in inner-city schools. My students were awesome, and they were the reason I woke up every day. But there was endless paperwork, long hours, a complete lack of appreciation on every level, and heartbreak. Try grading 200 papers in a weekend and tell me how difficult CES can be. Try calling a single working parent to tell them their child would be expelled for a stupid rule infraction, then tell me how much you hate going to parties every single night.

Or don't. Enjoy it. Love it. Have a great time. If you're so jaded that you really hate the Consumer Electronics Show, you probably need a new career. But I warn you, you're going to be very disappointed with what you find. There are very few openings for people with expertise in playing with gadgets, drinking heavily, and hanging with friends.