A friend who went to San Francisco Macworld several years ago claimed that it was so crowded that you could only walk in the direction the crowd was flowing. It wasn't that bad this year, but I spent a full day exploring both Moscone and Brooks Hall, and then another day checking out all the things I'd missed at Moscone.
Giveaways -- In past years, companies went all out on the giveaways. Well, we have met the recession and it is us. I collected only about twenty buttons (which we promptly doctored with magnetic tape and stuck on our refrigerator), and only three demo disks. The most common marketing concept was to give a prize to a random person spotted wearing a specific button, so Mass Microsystems, for instance, would give a prize to someone they saw wearing their button. In theory it cut down on the prizes and increased the button exposure, but I don't know how well it worked - I certainly didn't wear all twenty of my buttons every day or I would have been bullet-proof. Had I stayed in a worse neighborhood in Oakland, that might have been a feature. Anyway, the moral of the story is that the computer industry is looking for ways to cut costs and increase real exposure, and trade show giveaways were early on the chopping block. Even still, the award for the best giveaway goes to CE Software for their specially-printed packets of Earth Software, better known as wildflower seeds.
Demos -- I must admit that I have a low tolerance for demos. Usually I can learn more from fifteen minutes with a program on my own than by sitting through an hour long demo. My tolerance goes down even further when I have to stand for the demo and peer over other people. That said, the demo that impressed me the most was Adobe Premiere, a QuickTime movie-making application that looked fun. Diva's VideoShop, a similar application was also popular, so much so that I never had the patience to elbow my way to the front of the crowd so that I could get a glimpse. NewTek showed their VideoToaster in a corner, and packs of people swarmed around the booth, making it so you couldn't get within twenty feet. The worst demos were those with a theme. Shiva had baseball bleachers up and an announcer dressed like Babe Ruth, and Farallon had a pair of actors who performed several different skits, all of which involved Farallon products at some point, although I couldn't stand them long enough to tell for sure.
Parties -- I never went to parties at previous shows, so I mainly stuck to press receptions (or "How to eat cheap in San Francisco") and the netter's dinner. The dinner was a blast, with 120 people from nets attending, many of them the programmers of much of the excellent shareware and freeware out there. I know I promised to send some of you various things, but I also assured you I would forget, so please remind me via email. I enjoyed the Hunan food, although I expected it to be hotter based on Jon Pugh's statement: "They can make it cooler, but we frown on that sort of behavior." There could have been a bit more food, but my stomach may have been biased from the meager fruit and croissants I'd given it that morning. My vote goes to a few more courses in the next revision, Jon.
I did go to the Software Ventures party, at which I mainly talked to people from BMUG and various programmers. I enjoyed myself thoroughly, and they even invited me to MacHack, which is 96 hours of no sleep and serious programming (or in my case, serious kibitzing) in June. I'd love to go and will try to make it and report back on the cool stuff created there. My downfall at being a serious party animal (which was otherwise aided by my barracuda tie) was due in part to the fact that the train to Oakland, where I was staying with a friend, turned into a pumpkin around midnight and I didn't feel like traveling from downtown San Francisco to somewhere in Oakland on my own. Ah well, maybe I'll be rich and famous enough next year to stay in San Francisco itself so I don't have to make like Cinderella when it starts to get late.