back to article Leaving Las Vegas... for good? IT industry conference circuit won't look the same on other side of COVID-19 pandemic

You've been there, done that and you quite literally have the T-shirt. Love them or loathe them, IT conferences are a feature of industry life. My first was CA World in New Orleans in 1998. In front of an audience of thousands, then Computer Associates CEO Charles Wang wandered across the stage pontificating as a chorus of …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Call me old fashioned, but these events were useful for meeting other people and networking. I used to talk to others to get opinions, attend technical conferences, prod and poke at 'stuff', and pose questions to presenters. You could usually get a 'feel' for something by doing this. You don't get the same experience when doing this online. You don't get to ask the awkward questions and watch for reactions (a dead give-away when people are bluffing). And no, I didn't go just to get freebies, and I didn't go just to get off of work. I only ever went to conferences where there would be something of interest that would help me with performing my job.

    Personally, I think the industry will be a poorer place if events just stopped.

    1. Oh Matron! Silver badge

      There's absolutely NO reason for these junkets to be held physically bar the one reason that you mention above. The amount of insight I've gained just by talking to people so far removed from my rhomboid of influence is immeasurable.

      However, I have recently become very aware of the impact of them (and Vegas is a s**thole of outstanding proportions)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You dont need to look the salesdroid in the eye to know theyre bullshitting , the clues in their name.

        If you have any technical questions to ask , you can watch a recorded preszentation , emauil them in , and their technical people can answer them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          That depends.

          A lot of the conferences (though not all) I attended had *technical* people there, not just sales droids. There were times I gleaned little gems of information that made life a little easier.

          Recorded presentations don't always give you the names of the people you might *really* want to talk to. And its easier to start a conversation (email or otherwise) with someone you've met than to blindly email some random address.

          But hey, whatever works for you...

          1. Just An Engineer

            Back in the day there was the "EMC Technical Symposium" which was geared to the technologist. You could get hands on with the products get training and make contacts on the tech side. At some point around 2005, it became EMC World, which was that taken over by the Marketing Droids. Nothing useful ever came and I stopped attending.

            If you want the real story talk to the tech folks, you want B**L S**t talk to the marketing and sales droids.

        2. Isn't it obvious?

          Just don't talk to the 'droids

          Many - oh so many - years ago I was at a conference. All the developers from our company had to take turns at the booth answering actual technical questions from other developers, and in turn we took the opportunity to talk to their devs.

          I happened to strike up a conversation with a guy at the booth of a company we were trying to build some interoperability with. I was at that time struggling with exporting valid files for their software to consume, and I mentioned it. He told me to drop by the next day, whereupon he handed me a disk containing a complete debug build of their program!

          With that, our problems turned to be relatively trivial to fix; saved us weeks. More than justified the entire cost of flying me down there, and that's just one chance encounter.

          1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

            Re: Just don't talk to the 'droids

            I can see why you likd if, but how many random meetings (even if bounded) are required to justify the time, expense and carbon load? I could also point at similar online encounters in technical foums that have yielded very useful consequences/

      2. jake Silver badge

        "Vegas is a s**thole of outstanding proportions"

        I think you have vastly underestimated just how much of a shithole Lost Wages really is. It's not hard to find, just look past the completely useless glitter.

        CES (as an example) has been a complete waste of time since before 1995 ... unless you enjoy watching marketards masturbate each other whilst leering at porn stars, of course. In which case, enjoy! :-)

      3. LucreLout Silver badge

        There's absolutely NO reason for these junkets to be held physically bar the one reason that you mention above.

        And yet there are many others.

        Catching up with people you haven't worked with in decades does happen at conferences when you bump into each other and does produce opportunities and connections that would otherwise not exist.

        Making new connections with other attendees that you don't know over coffee that similarly wouldn't happen on a video conference.

        Learning opportunities abound at conferences, over and above the scheduled talks and workshops.

        That's before the free stuff, the socialising, the opportunity to strengthen weak working relationships, and the fact that people just enjoy attending.

        Vegas is a s**thole of outstanding proportions

        Vegas is what you make of it. Don't like the sleazy side or the gambling, fine, go see Hoover dam, the grand canyon, red rock canyon, the Vegas speedway, the various museums, etc, go shopping, hire a muscle car, eat an impressive variety of food and that's just the buffets, go clubbing, hit a bar, etc etc. Vegas is more or less whatever you want it to be.

      4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        I have to agree.

        Meeting people in the industry and learning new things: good.

        Las Vegas: ugh.

        I generally enjoy and profit from conferences, but I've avoided ever going to one in Vegas, and I'd like to keep it that way.

      5. Alan Brown Silver badge

        The main takehome is that there's no need for them to be at Vegas. The original reason for doing them there was that it was CHEAP. That went away a long time ago

        These things used to be trade shows and fairly staid affairs. Since the 1980s they've grown glitz way out of proportion to their actual importance.

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          The main takehome is that there's no need for them to be at Vegas.

          Life is about so much more than need though.

          There's no need to sleep with Claudia Schiffer when Sandra from the Dog & Duck is just as functional.

          There's no need to fly business class when its going the same place as economy.

          There's no need to drive a supercar when a Ford will do most of the same functional things.

          There's no need to see Pavarotti at La Scala, when the CD sounds the same or Dave does a good rendition of Nessun Dorma at the Dog & Duck karaoke night.

          There's no need to buy a Da Vinci or Van Gogh when the local art college can knock you up a nice painting.

          Needs are important, but so is quality of experience, and fun. Vegas is fun, and for so many reasons beyond the surface. I'd rather go there than a conference in Lubbock Texas, or Mönchengladbach.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not just massive conferences that are going to change. In my sector (HE) the question is: Why do we need a big campus anymore?

    The other question our place is asking: Why the heck did we buy loads of desktop PCs? They are now all sat in offices gathering dust whilst we scramble around to buy loads of laptops.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      It's not just massive conferences that are going to change

      Depending on how things go, we could see a few countries radically rethinking their systems of government. International trade is likely to change significantly as concerns about supply-chain stability increasingly outweigh bottom line costs.

      Until we all forget.

      1. jake Silver badge

        "Until we all forget."

        That'll be roughly a week after European and US citizens are released from pseudo confinement and the DOW rises back to somewhere North of 27,500 ... Call it the second week in April.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: "Until we all forget."

          My daughter just called in to note that I'm obviously going senile ... I meant second week in May, not April.

          1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

            Re: "Until we all forget."

            I notice you're hedging your bets by not specifying which year!

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: "Until we all forget."

              This year, of course. Shirley it was obvious from the context?

              1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

                Re: "Until we all forget."

                I don't think so (and stop calling me Shirley)

              2. KittenHuffer Silver badge

                Re: "Until we all forget."

                May? This Year?

                You are Donald Trump and I claim my £5!

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: "Until we all forget."

                  Despite my daughter's comment to the contrary, I can assure you I am not going senile. Therefore I cannot be the Idiot In Chief.

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: "Until we all forget."

              "I notice you're hedging your bets by not specifying which year!"

              Waffle 1.66 has always been due out on October 31... :)

              http://software.bbsdocumentary.com/IBM/DOS/WAFFLE/

    2. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: "Why the heck did we buy loads of desktop PCs"

      Some time ago I got a lot of downvotes for suggesting my company was doing the right thing by replacing desktops with laptops (while keeping the peripherals) so we'd be mobile if needed.

      Who's laughing now? (not me, I'm self isolating and that's not funny)

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: "Why the heck did we buy loads of desktop PCs"

        We just carried our desktops to our cars and took them home. A couple of people had to take their monitors as well but being programmers most of us already had everything else we needed. We don't even need to connect to the VPN very often because most of what we want is in the cloud.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: "Why the heck did we buy loads of desktop PCs"

        >Some time ago I got a lot of downvotes for suggesting my company was doing the right thing by replacing desktops with laptops (while keeping the peripherals) so we'd be mobile if needed.

        Depends on your meaning of mobile.

        Having a office full of laptops doesn't help when most people leave them on the desk overnight and a terrorist bomb goes off and staff are prevented from returning to the (unsafe) building to retrieve said laptops. This is just one business continuity scenario made real in the 1996 London Docklands bombing.. .

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Your company's IT director was asleep at the wheel

      Many companies started buying laptops for desktop use years ago. Give people a docking station so they can connect to a big monitor and proper keyboard/mouse on their desk if you view that as an issue, though many use them as is.

      Even if they don't work from home being able to bring their laptops to meetings or what not is an improvement over desktops. Unless your business is doing something like CAD or video where you need the beefiest hardware you can buy, there is zero reason to be buying desktops for employees doing typical office or development tasks.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Your company's IT director was asleep at the wheel

        Unless your business is doing something like CAD or video where you need the beefiest hardware you can buy, there is zero reason to be buying desktops for employees doing typical office or development tasks.

        I disagree, desktops are less likely to develop legs (disappearing to unknown locations).

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Your company's IT director was asleep at the wheel

          "desktops are less likely to develop legs"

          If your physical security allows laptops to go walkies without being noted, you have larger problems than the odd missing computer.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: Your company's IT director was asleep at the wheel

            Good staff is hard to find, good security even harder.

        2. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: Your company's IT director was asleep at the wheel

          desktops are less likely to develop legs

          My company laptop cost more than my car, and can be guaranteed not to develop legs lest I get sent a bill for replacement. Theft from me rather than by me, or drunken me leaving it on the Tube are covered by insurance. Easy really.

      2. Scene it all

        Re: Your company's IT director was asleep at the wheel

        Another plus for laptops is that they are already set up for two-way videoconferencing with the built in camera and microphone. Most laptop keyboards however are crap for extended typing and programming but you can always plug in a quality USB one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Your company's IT director was asleep at the wheel

          Another plus for laptops is that they are already set up for two-way videoconferencing with the built in camera and microphone.

          Unless you are my boss, who saw the dell quote for our first tranche of 300 laptops for desktop replacement and said Hmmph, see if they can knock another £30 off per unit and then didn't notice that the updated spec - which was £30 cheaper - did not include webcams.

          Oh, how we laughed...

        2. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: Your company's IT director was asleep at the wheel

          Most laptop keyboards however are crap for extended typing and programming but you can always plug in a quality USB one.

          Yep, along with a nice comfy office chair, a monitor way larger than anything work would buy me, and my home office is better equipped than my actual office. I'm guaranteed a window seat, there is no hot desking, no queue for the traps in the gents, and dogs are allowed, even encouraged.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: Your company's IT director was asleep at the wheel

        Desktop computers also typically eat much more electricity than a similar spec laptop. Biggest savings after replacing desktops with laptops? HVAC costs. Which add up. In a hurry.

    4. rcxb Silver badge

      Why the heck did we buy loads of desktop PCs? They are now all sat in offices gathering dust whilst we scramble around to buy loads of laptops.

      You'll find Laptop hardware has a great deal of extra cost both up-front and in maintenance. Compare replacing a damaged keyboard on each. Compare installing whole-drive encryption and tracking (CompTrace) onto laptops, which you don't need with desktops. Compare the cost of all new laptops for your whole company come upgrade time, versus desktops, where you can reuse old monitors and peripherals.

      If you need it, you spend the time and money on Laptops, of course. If you don't strictly need it, giving out Chromebooks and letting employees RDP into their desktops can be cheaper, more secure, and retain all the benefits of desktops (low cost, better security, better ergonomics, better performance, etc.)

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        If you need it, you spend the time and money on Laptops, of course. If you don't strictly need it, giving out Chromebooks and letting employees RDP into their desktops can be cheaper, more secure, and retain all the benefits of desktops (low cost, better security, better ergonomics, better performance, etc.)

        Respectfully, that is a load of old bollocks. Don't give people laptops, but give them chromebooks? What? Anyone not equipping office staff with laptop and docks is insane. Laptops + docks give all the niceties of a desktop - big screen, nice keyboard and mouse, expansion - but you can pick up your computer and take it to a meeting. You can work from home with it. You can swap desks on a whim to work with the right colleague. Office moves become simpler and easier to manage. You can (recent news) switch to fully working from home without too much bother. Disk encryption? Automated. Since your staff don't need t o be in the office all the time, they won't be and suddenly you don't need 15% of your in-office seats. Do you know how much office space costs in London, New York or SF? Its a lot more than a few laptops.

        The downsides of a laptop are cost (but laptops at the end of a cycle still have value, compare that with your landfill desktop), performance (but not so much anymore), upgrade ability (in 15 years, I can count on one hand the number of desktops that have been upgraded - if someone needs more, they get a new machine).

        I think you would have to work in a very specialized niche to require a desktop these days. Sales people don't need it, data entry don't need it, accounts don't need it, IT don't need it, marketing don't need it.

        My work laptop is currently plugged in to my home dock, I'm typing on a mechanical keyboard, I've got two 4k screens attached to it, i9 processor, 64 GB RAM, 1TB nvme. I don't do any ML work, but its got a CUDA capable GPU, and I could plug in a GPU enclosure for more CUDA cores if I needed it. Dell will spec this laptop with Xeon processors and up to 128GB ECC RAM. You've got to be a special kind of snowflake these days to say that a laptop won't cut it for your workload.

        Likes desktops for the ergonomics but thinks the best way to WFH is to RDP in to your desktop machine... so when the office is shut due to power problems, nae problem, everyone gets a day off?

        1. rcxb Silver badge

          Since your staff don't need t o be in the office all the time, they won't be and suddenly you don't need 15% of your in-office seats.

          Except you still need to have all that office space when everyone does show up once in a while, whatever the occasion.

          upgrade ability (in 15 years, I can count on one hand the number of desktops that have been upgraded - if someone needs more, they get a new machine).

          Do you throw out the desktops when a monitor stops working? Or a keyboard? How much time does it take your IT department to swap one of those, exactly?

          so when the office is shut due to power problems, nae problem, everyone gets a day off?

          I'm sure companies like Amazon will be very happy to hear all their warehouse workers can go home and get their work done on company laptops when one of their warehouses loses power.

    5. Roland6 Silver badge

      >In my sector (HE) the question is: Why do we need a big campus anymore?

      Because the management wanted a big campus (same-place same-time working) and dismissed same-time different place working (ie. working from home) as being too difficult, requiring too much management overhead etc..

      >The other question our place is asking: Why the heck did we buy loads of desktop PCs?

      Because they were cheaper than laptops and because as all your people worked on campus at desks, they didn't need laptops.

      Basically, this last month management has had to face the reality of what technology can actually do now.

      I wager, if you had asked the same management in January ie. before CoViD19 spread outside of China, they would have found many reasons why they should continue to require all staff to work on a big campus and thus have desktops; suggestions that events in Wuhan (never heard of it - they probably would have said) might have a massive impact in a few weeks on the business would have been dismissed as scaremongering...

    6. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "The other question our place is asking: Why the heck did we buy loads of desktop PCs?"

      In our case "because we do heavy lifting with them" - in a lot of other cases laptops and a docking station would be a better option apart from three issues - cost, fragility and susceptability to theft

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I disagree

    This pandemic is a temporary thing. We were globally all caught with our pants down, despite SARS and MERS, but that's because this COVID-19 is much more transmissible, and that much more dangerous.

    But we'll get a handle on this, and the vaccine will come, in time. Things will more or less go back to what they were, and life will resume. Conferences will resume, because they are way too useful to not have, for all sorts of reasons.

    People are not going to simply stop meeting face-to-face. It can be hoped, however, that people will have learned to properly wash their hands.

    The next time a pandemic rolls in, we'll be better prepared and know how to react. We'll switch to online conferencing seamlessly, and ride it out like we are doing now. And, when it's all over, we'll go back to living as before.

    1. Ju551e

      Re: I disagree

      I think we all need to consider that nothing will return to any sense of normality post this pandemic. Human emotions aside, the ongoing Economic effects from this global shutdown will take decades to dissipate. Bleak days ahead IMO :-( Would love to see evidence of any alternate economic scenario hopefully unfolding....

      1. ckm5

        Re: I disagree

        Last time we had a true global pandemic, this is what the result was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roaring_Twenties

      2. rcxb Silver badge

        Re: I disagree

        Human emotions aside, the ongoing Economic effects from this global shutdown will take decades to dissipate

        It's just as likely once we get to the end of this pandemic the pent-up consumer demand will lead to a huge upsurge in the economy, quickly recovering all value lost during the recession. It's possible consumer buying habits will change for the better for years to come after such a wake-up call.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: I disagree

          That assumes the consumers will have any money to spend. :-(

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: I disagree

            That assumes the consumers will have any money to spend

            Thanks to furloughing most employees will have money to spend. Not all, sadly, but this will be better than the great depression when most lost their income for a protracted period of time.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: I disagree

              But will all that freshly printed money have any value? It seems most developed countries are doing the same thing. I wonder if China, with it's vast reserves, purchased foreign government bonds and positive trade balance will end up with the only hard currency backed by actual assets.

              1. LucreLout Silver badge

                Re: I disagree

                But will all that freshly printed money have any value?

                That depends. There's only 3 ways out of the fiscal problem once COVID clears.

                1) Very high taxes. Well, we already have that. Taxes as a percentage of GDP are near all time highs now, and we're so far around the Laffer curve that the only way to raise additional tax revenue from here is to cut taxes.

                2) Public spending cuts. They'd have to be so deep the public sector would be stripped back to core purpose only. The only workable alternative will be to dump the sky high unearned gold plated pensions and to cap earnings at a much lower level save for few very specific roles.

                Both of those options lead to a lot of pain and work on a repayment basis..... which brings us to option number 3.

                3) Legislate to break the link between government obligations and inflation (public sector pensions and pay would no longer rise by inflationary amounts) and inflate your way out of the numbers gradually over a couple of decades.

                Option 3 is the one almost every nation will pursue, leading to something of an inflationary period.

                If I'm right it'll become a great time to be young - your mortgage will get eroded quickly, your salary will shoot up, your investments will moon. It'll make you the new boomers. What it won't be so great for will be the zombies (gen z) and the actual boomers as they'll be on what will become fixed pensions.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: I disagree

        "ongoing Economic effects from this global shutdown will take decades to dissipate"

        I seriously doubt it. I'll bet that the insanity will be behind us before fall ... by Solstice we'll have largely forgotten it ever happened. Unless you bought low and are getting ready to sell high, of course.

        (By "us" and "we" I mean the GreatUnwashed, and not necessarily current company.)

    2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: I disagree

      It can be hoped, however, that people will have learned to properly wash their hands.

      This flies in the face of your other observations, unfortunately. It's remarkably difficult to get the majority of people to do this, even at the risk of endangering themselves and everyone they come in contact with.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I disagree

        "It's remarkably difficult to get the majority of people to do this"

        A reliable fecal coliform+norovirus detector would go a long way towards improving public health.

        If these 10 minute Covid tests can be adapted, that would be a great leap forward...

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: I disagree

      Conferences will resume

      Perhaps. This looks to be an involuntary experiment to determine if conferences have any real utility in the 21st century. If they do, then presumably the conferences will start up again. Or not. Or maybe they'll end up taking a different form -- likely smaller, less stressful, with many more remote options.

      It doesn't help that modern air travel has degenerated into an experience about as pleasant as a weekend in prison and that the few venues capable of hosting a really large conference are not necessarily places one wants to endure more than maybe thrice in a lifetime.

      Time will tell.

      1. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Air Travel

        OK, especially economy class is pretty dire, but you must have only done time in a "white collar" prison.

      2. Scene it all

        Re: I disagree

        Not to mention the climate effects. Once people see that life continues under COVID lockdowns with considerably less airline and car travel, it will be all the easier to accept similar restrictions long term for reduced Carbon allowances..

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: I disagree

          Once people see that life continues under COVID lockdowns with considerably less airline and car travel, it will be all the easier to accept similar restrictions long term for reduced Carbon allowances.

          No it won't. Sorry, but for the next decade or two the socialist version of environmentalism (the mantra of less) is toast. People will want to fly on holidays - lots of them, they will want to treat themselves to a nicer car - and drive it, and people will absolutely have had enough of the state or anyone else telling them what they can and can't do.

          The days of school children hectoring the adults have passed. If you think otherwise you're going to be in for a rude awakening the other side of this pandemic.

          The capitalist environmentalism still has a chance - emissions trading, R&D to reduce harmful pollutants, innovation and technology etc etc. That version will still have legs. Tesla & other leccy cars will eventually replace large capacity V config engines, solar panels on roofs will reduce the need for coal or gas, nuclear technology will make carbon emissions slide, more efficient planes etc.

          Environmentalism will change due to Covid. It has to or its already dead.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: I disagree

            "R&D to reduce harmful pollutants"

            We already KNOW what the least polluting, least dangerous form of energy production is nuclear power.

            We also KNOW that there's a variant of this which doesn't come with the possiblilty of steam/hydrogen explosions, water leaks or fires spreading potentially tens of tons of short lived but nasty radionucleides over the surrounding countrysides AND which makes the production of nuclear weapons from the existing fuel production cycle a lot harder to justify AND is itself a hell of a lot more proliferation resistant than the existing disposal/fuelling cycles AND would be significantly cheaper than the existing infrastructure to build (possibly as low as 1% of current costs, not to mention fuel being $100/kg vs $50,000/kg) due to not needing multibillion dollar steam explosion containment vessels or waste storage ponds, etc.

            However that particular Nirvana was killed off by one Richard Milhous Nixon in 1972, all research ordered destroyed and US laws rewritten to not only stomp on the corpse, but to prevent it ever being tried again on American soil - whilst simultaneously kicking the guy who'd made that better mousetrap out of the industry - despite the fact that he was the guy who'd INVENTED the nuclear reactor as we know it.

            At some point in the future Alvin Weinberg will be on of the Technical Saints

            1. LucreLout Silver badge

              Re: I disagree

              all research ordered destroyed

              The destruction of knowledge is the worst part of that for me.

              Ok, you want your weapons program. Ok, you want your weapons program and you don't want to battle the peaceniks for it every year. Fine, pass your laws and make your choices. But to destroy the knowledge, to deliberately set back humanity from its achievements, and to deny the future any chance to reconsider your decisions made at a static point in time, is unforgivable.

              ETA: I've done a bit of Googling but don't know enough to figure out specifically which reactor type you're referring too. Any chance of some pointers for a nuclear noob please?

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: I disagree

                "ETA: I've done a bit of Googling but don't know enough to figure out specifically which reactor type you're referring too."

                The Oak Ridge Molten Salt Reactor Experiment - powered by Uranium (all MSRs are uranium burners, despite what some may say) but fuellable by thorium (the thorium is converted to Uranium on the fly) - and it was when Weinberg's group applied for funding to move to proving the thorium cycle that it was killed in favour of Nixons cronies' "fast breeder reactor" (which wasn't built and would have been cooled by liquid sodium - ask the folks at Monju how smart an idea that coolant turned out to be)

                Google: terms "Oak Ridge Experiment" "LFTR" and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyDbq5HRs0o - thankfully scientists given orders to destroy everything hid as much as they could instead.

                Because of the way they work, MSRs are also capable of burning up just about all kinds of "high level nuclear waste" from older reactors - nicely solving the disposal problem.

                The primary advantage is that they eliminate water in the nuclear loop and cycle (water or steam is core issue behind almost all civil nuclear accidents - whether that's corrosion/pressure/radioactive steam/dissolved "bits"/etc or people mixing things badly when reprocessing - mainly because they don't NEED to do that kind of reprocessing(*))

                (*) Lookup the horrible accident known as the Nuclear Ouchi (reprocessing), or what happened at SL-1 (steam). Chernobyl was a steam explosion that blew the roof off the reactor room and Fukushima's hydrogen explosions were a direct result of the water cooling systems used (ALL critical reactor water cooling systems generate hydrogen/oxygen even when not melting down - so there's always a risk of a hydrogen-oxygen explosion in a water-moderated reactor vessel as well as them being steam bombs). There have been a number of near misses due to cooling water nearly eating its way out of the pipework too. Very hot/pressurised water is _not benign (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_power_accidents_by_country)

                There's a lot not covered, but the short version is that despite lots and lots of safety systems layered on top of boiling water reactors, they're still a test rig design scaled up to Heath-Robinson sizes and fundamentally unsafe. MSRs are safer from the outset inasmuch as most of the failure modes of a water-moderated system simply can't happen, attempts to break the test reactor in the 1960s caused it to either shut down or limit its output at slightly above maximum - AND it can be run down to zero then back up to full power very quickly without the neutron poisoning issues that plague all other designs (the Oak Ridge system used to be shut off on Friday afternoon and run up on Monday morning because nobody wanted to mind it over the weekend - no other reactor design of the same size (8MW) in history has been able to do that)

      3. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: I disagree

        modern air travel has degenerated into an experience about as pleasant as a weekend in prison

        Headphones, hand sanitizer (even before Covid), tablet device, a good book, and some tasty snacks to bring on board, and I find air travel eminently manageable.

    4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: I disagree

      There are several lessons to be learned from this crisis. For many workers, there is little need for a cube in an office as they work from home just as easily. Trade shows have been in trouble for several years now as they are expensive to attend and for vendors often do not have a ROI that remotely justifies attending, this across numerous industries. Video conferencing is cheaper and will allow the interaction that is needed without spending money of travel.

      I would bearish mid to long term on the hospitality industry, airlines, and commercial real estate. The first to depend on people traveling away from home. As business travel drops there will be excess capacity in both. Leisure travel will not make up the deficit in both. Commercial real estate will get hit as more people work from either fully or partially who are now mostly nominally office bound. There will be less need for office space as many more would be in the office much less frequently or not at all.

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I disagree

      "We were globally all caught with our pants down, despite SARS and MERS, but that's because this COVID-19 is much more transmissible"

      Not at all. We were "globally caught with our pants down" because our "beloved leaders" repeatedly ignored the warnings that stuff needed to be prepared in advance for such things as "scaremongering"

      The primary reason this initially got away from China in the first place is because "China" isn't some monolithic "thing" but wildly fractured and the Wuhan local/regional (think "state" - each region is the size of a US state or EU country) authorities were frantically trying to cover everything up to the point of lieing to and obstructing to the Chinese national (equivalent of federal) medical investigators.

      Once the Chinese central plan kicked in, they managed to curb things pretty well, all things considered - and I'm betting that as they rules they had in place were the direct result of the mess after SARS, they'll be revising them to ensure local authorities don't have an opportunity to coverup next time (ie, national reporting hotlines and the kinds of penalties for officials who deliberately put public health in danger that will make not even _consider_ trying to sing the "Happy Happy Joy Joy" song instead of telling the truth.

      What's also crystal clear out of this and the SARS/MERS pandemics is that the survival of your populations depends on the quality of the day-to-day medical care available to the poorest and most vulnerable members of your society. Failure to look after your poor has a historic tendency to be a self-correcting factor (one example: Wages for labourers increased by a factor of five after the Black Death swept across Europe and they were pretty much able to name their own conditions)

  4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Pint

    Its not just

    the IT mob missing out.... it was my turn to goto a robot machinery conference/showcase* this year and its been cancelled.

    Just hope we're still in business next year so I can miss out again

    *Usual disclaimer : alledgedly to see/touch/get sold on new tech, but more likely find the stands that have'nt run out of a free beer and as for those companies not offerring free beer at their stands... guess they'll never know why they cant sell their products at these shows.....

    Beer icon because most of the demo sessions go like this

    Salesman : blah blah blah best tech ever blah blah, any questions?

    The mob : Wheres the beer?

  5. Julz Silver badge
    Pint

    Really!

    Or as another said: "Folks REALLY like Vegas."

    Back when Sun was a thing, I had the misfortune of spending 10 days in Vegas, occasionally busy but mainly bored in the endless Vegas twilight. Being cooped up in 24/7 gambling central is not my idea of a good time. Perhaps not being a gambler, a fan of US beer, or any of the other 'entertainments' on offer didn't help. Each to their own I guess.

    Beer, because I'm missing supporting my local pub.

    1. Streaker1506

      Re: Really!

      Been there done it.

      1983

      Arrives with Sales team 5 days before to build the stand, a 1500 piece aluminium Geodisic dome. Salesmen bugger off and leave me to it as I'm the engineer. Spend next 5 days dawn to dusk building the bloody thing and setting data links up back to UK. Being 7 hours in front meant a really early start. 4 days on stand dawn to dusk then 3 days dismantling and repacking stand dawn to dusk.

      All I saw in 2 weeks was the hotel, cabs and inside of the exhibition hall. Could've been anywhere.

      1985

      Different complicated stand, rectangular with a central tower. Exact same scenario.

      1. Julz Silver badge

        Re: Really!

        That sounds depressing and tiring. I was at least only giving technical talks at break out sessions so had more than enough time to be thoroughly bored.

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Really!

          The only benefit I found to Las Vegas was its proximity to Death Valley. It being January (and simply very hot rather than frying), I took a folding Roadbike (an Airnimal if anyone cares) - now those were several days of (well deserved) enjoyment.

      2. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Re: Really!

        Wow, Vegas must have very different unions than, say, Chicago or New Orleans, where so much as moving an extension cord can get you and your company embroiled in a prolonged and tense discussion with the venue management and shop stewards.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Really!

          No, Vegas is run by the Mob. Unions in their hospitality industry are as bad as in San Francisco, which is about as bad as Chicago or New York/New Jersey. I tried to move a table three feet once in Vegas (Winter '79). You'd think I had tried to kill the firstborn of the entire rank and file ... Just one more reason Lost Wages is a shithole.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really!

      I spent one day in Vegas while doing a road trip with a friend in 1997. Turns out it was the day Tyson bit Holyfields ear off. I had no idea what was going on as I have zero interest in boxing. I was just puzzled as to why I was seeing what appeared to be the worlds entire supply of stretch limos driving around town. I couldn't get out of the town fast enough.

      Got to a motel in Boulder City that evening, nipped across the road to a fuel station for some beer. Went outside a couple of hours later to see multiple police cars at the fuel station. It had just been held up in an armed robbery.

    3. jake Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Really!

      "Perhaps not being a gambler, a fan of US beer, or any of the other 'entertainments' on offer"

      There is plenty of good beer in the US, unfortunately you were in the wrong State and latitude. Next time, try the San Francisco Bay Area in California, and work your way up the coast into Canada.

      Agree on the gambling bit, though ... Gambling is a tax on people who can't do math(s).

      The other so-called "entertainments" are about as entertaining as getting a lower endoscopy sans lube. (If you're into that kind of thing, substitute repeatedly getting poked in the eye with a blunt stick. If you're into that, too, you're on your own ... but have a beer anyway!)

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Really!

        "Gambling is a tax on people who can't do math(s)."

        Math in gambling is simple:

        1: "whatever system you have, The house wins"

        2: If you think you have a way around this, refer to 1

  6. Steve 114
    Happy

    Junk-IT

    Beyond IT, US 'conferences' were often excuses for USians with minimal holidays ('vacations') to get paid time by a pool, while in 'Europe' they were junkets for elderly supervisory boards to ride around on coaches with their wives (while the poor saps back home got a chance to do real work without being countermanded). Those motivations may not change.

  7. big_D Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Junket alert!

    What are all the poor IT managers supposed to do now that their precious junkets are being cancelled left-right-and-centre?

    ---> Think of the IT mangers!

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Junket alert!

      Just think of their underlings.

  8. A.P. Veening Silver badge

    Leaving Las Vegas

    There is another advantage to leaving Las Vegas and having the conference somewhere else (outside the US): All non-US based attendants avoid the hell hole known as American immigration.

  9. Rainer

    And wasn't one of the main attraction points of CES...

    that it was at the same time and location as Adult Entertainment Expo?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: And wasn't one of the main attraction points of CES...

      Yes. For rather minuscule values of "attraction", except for a certain class of mouth-breathers, of course.

  10. Alan Penzotti

    It is the unplanned that makes the entire trip worthwhile

    My philosophy is that there will be at least one unexpected/unplanned encounter/person at that event that makes the entire trip worthwhile. Your goal is to seek out that unexpected opportunity.

    In these modern (pre COVID-19) times, I am seeing smaller regional events replace the bigger ones.

    1. Bitsminer

      Re: It is the unplanned that makes the entire trip worthwhile

      I was at SC conference (supercomputing, defined as the ones you can't afford) back in, oh, 2011 or so.

      We had a quote for a big piece of SGI iron, about $900k USD, intended for a customer, and we had authority to proceed but lots of time before issuing the order. So I went to the show.

      Wandering around the show floor, lo and behold, the same unit on sale on the convention floor for $300k USD. (That's 66% off for you millennials). That saving was going to pay for my next 100 conventions! Except the software buggers seriously underestimated their estimates and ran into bugs and...and...and spent the savings on their salaries.

      Can't do that on video (save $600k I mean, not underestimate your estimates).

  11. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Unhappy

    But what will happen to all the Booth Babes ?

    1. jake Silver badge

      They'll get gigs as back-up girls at the local drag strip, of course.

  12. Mattias Borell

    O'Reilly conventions will be missed

    I've been to a number of OSCONs over the years, and those weeks have been crammed with new knowledge, ideas and contacts. That mix of tutorials, speaker sessions and exhibitions (with quite a lot of real tech-people in the booths! :-) was always very inspirational. It's hard to imagine all of that translated into an online only world.

    Ah, well. I guess we'll see in a year or two. Many things will change, hopefully we'll find better solutions to many of our old bad habits.

  13. Steven Guenther

    Rewards for devs

    I have gotten to travel as a reward for shipping on time and under budget. Getting to watch a virtual tour is not the reward I would kill myself for.

    Getting to meet in meat space is much better than cyber relationships. There are fewer trolls in the real world. You never know when that dipsy blonde sales droid actually has a product that will be useful.

  14. AdamWill

    shocking

    "And that doesn't just mean enduring the keynote sound system booming the audience into an impersonation of enthusiasm at 8am as a CEO bounces onto the stage to declare a golden dawn in their computing dynasty. It's not about sleeping through the 4.15pm breakout session addressing the intricacies of data transformation in R."

    *ahem* I'll remind you that this is El Reg, and here we sleep through the *keynote* and make sure we're awake for the intricately detailed technical sessions, thank you very much!

    ...okay, okay, who'm I kidding, we drink our way through both.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: shocking

      "we drink our way through both."

      Some have been doing this at home for years, thus saving untold time and money :-)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Engi conference re-convened over video

    Well, I can't speak for IT conferences, but our annual shindig with EPRI in Charlotte was pulled and converted to a videoconference instead. This was just before the lockdown decisions started kicking off in anger. Considering the numbers of flights & hotel bookings that were pulled, the impact is pretty enormous - and that's just in my "little" sector.

    The meeting content itself was still useful; but missing out on the inevitable conversations in the bar with your equivalents from the rest of the world is probably the biggest loss. Hard to measure. There's always next year, of course.

  16. boltar Silver badge

    Been there done that? Err, nope.

    Perhaps it's more an American thing but here in the UK I only know one person whose visited an IT conference (other than ones organised by their own company). I've been in the programming business 30 years and never been, not interested and never needed one yet I'm still just as productive. Theres this skill called reading and learning , it comes in very handy.

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