Back from the MVP Summit, Grand Hyatt Internet Access Sucks

I arrived back in Calgary Thursday night, just before midnight, and man does it feel great to be back home! The MVP Summit was a lot of fun – and I definitely learned a few new things – but it’s always exhausting. This time around Microsoft paid for our hotel room, but we paid for our flights. That’s a change from the past 10 years of MVP Summits, where the Windows Mobile team would cover the travel costs of their MVPs. It’s a sacrifice to take time off work – vacation time for most – to come to the MVP Summit, so eliminating the financial burden was always appreciated by the MVPs. It seems though that the MVPs from other product groups who didn’t get their flights covered whined brought the issue up and the MVP leadership decided to make things “fair” for everyone and banned the product teams from subsidizing any MVP travel expenses. A flight for me to Seattle is pretty cheap – under $400 – but it’s still $400 that I’d rather spend on something else if I had the choice.


Flights for MVPs from outside North America are much more expensive – one MVP from Australia I know didn’t attend the Summit because his flight would have cost around $3000 AUD ($2300 USD). That’s a lot of cash – the kind you’d spend going on a real vacation, not flying up to a Microsoft event. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of MVPs from Europe and Asia that did attend, but I know in speaking with some of them they were wondering if spending the money was really worth it. I predict the 2008 MVP Summit (already announced as happening in April 2008) will have less of an international presence, which is unfortunate because product teams only receiving input from North American MVPs are missing out greatly on the wealth of knowledge that international MVPs have.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing of the whole Summit was the horrible Internet access at the Grand Hyatt Seattle, the hotel many of the MVPs were staying at. The hotel itself was beautiful – I’d stay there again in a heartbeat – but they simply didn’t have the infrastructure to handle the number of people who wanted to go online. It’s a classic scenario that is mirrored in the way your local ISP (cable or DSL) works: when they’re rolling out their networking hardware, and laying digital pipe, ISPs adopt a model where they only put in enough hardware to handle what they estimate to be the average percentage of users in the neighbourhood that will be online at any one time. Hotels are the same way: if there are 500 rooms in a hotel, they build their network (DNS server, DHCP server, authentication server, total bandwidth pipe) to handle perhaps 20% of that number (100 people) – meaning that when person #101 tries to get online, the system can’t handle them. That’s exactly what happened for the three days I was staying at the Grand Hyatt.


The first night I got connected after about 30 minutes of trying (mostly fighting to get authenticated, their server kept timing out) and when I finally did get on, Outlook 2007 could not send email. I hadn’t changed any of my SMTP settings, so it should have worked, but it did not. I ended up having to use a public-facing IP address, outside their hardware firewall, before I could send email. Even pulling RSS feeds failed. Strangely enough, the Windows Mail client could send email, just not Outlook 2007. The next night was another 60 minute struggle to get online, and another tech support call, and the third night was the worst of all: it took me two hours to get online, with yet another tech support call, and I had no choice because I needed to check my flight times.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that I was paying $50 per 1 MB of roaming data (auggh!) on my phone so using my Pocket PC wasn’t much of an option.