Friday, April 24, 2015


I've had an unexpectedly fantastic week. I know, I know, most people would be jealous that I got sent to Vegas for a work convention, but I originally was only slightly excited. I was mostly thinking about missing Hunter, and a bit upset about not being in town for yet another weekend. Wasn't going to be traveling with anyone I knew, and was planning on spending any of my out-of-class downtime in my room veging on video games as per usual.

My flight got into Vegas super late (around 10pm) on Saturday, and I managed to get checked-in, up to my room, and in bed around midnight. Just in time to get about 7 hours of much-needed sleep before my pre-conference training began. After breakfast, I was making my way to my training room when I stopped to ask one of the ServiceNow reps a question. At that same time, a guy stopped to ask a question as well, and on his badge it said he was from Regal Entertainment Group. So, I asked him if he was from Knoxville, which he was, and I asked if he knew Michelle. Turns out, she's a part of his team… small world! He introduced himself as Scott, and unbeknownst to me, he would attempt to stalk me the next couple of days of the conference.

Training the first day was relatively unexciting, unfortunately. It was reporting stuff I'd already taught myself. After class, I received a message from Max's best friend, Bryan, who I had been told would be at the conference, but beyond "awkward" I had been given no additional descriptive information by Max. We decided to meet up, and that was the best decision either of us made all weekend. That day, we mostly just wandered about between the various hotels, people watched, and talked, and talked, and talked. By the time we went to eat (at an unfortunately disappointing steampunk wanna-be restaurant), it was like we were friends hanging out who'd known each other forever.

From our table, Bryan had a pretty good view of the kitchen on the first floor, and he had been attempting to figure out what type of restaurant it was. At one point, he was staring intently through my phone's camera zoom, when one of the waitresses for our restaurant walked by and looked right up at him. She had this confused, then shocked, then disgusted look on her face as she continued into the back room. The rest of our time there, any time she would come out from the back, she would glare at Bryan in disappointment. It was quite hilarious, and we both got a kick out of it XD

T&A wall we passed by every day!

Dargons just eat your money. Bryan brought with him a mere 10$, and it lasted about 6 button presses.

 This picture is full of lies about Las Vegas.

Very strange gift items... although I saw tons of people using selfie sticks throughout.

Intruder in my room!!

Monday was the second day of my pre-conference training, and it was much more useful than day one. Learned about performance analytics, but it still left me going "well, I can do pretty much anything, but someone's still gotta tell me what they want." After classes, Bryan and I met up again for the expo kick-off. He was the smart one and brought a backpack, which by the end of the night was filled with phat lewts.

Dessert trays!

Tiny grilled cheeses!!! Some had apricot jam :D

My mini drone!

Tuesday I have 2 classes on my schedule, which Bryan ended up tagging along to as well (apparently, all the classes I selected were ones he should have… I make good choices!) I was super nervous about this day's afternoon, because my boss had highly recommended that I participate in the Hack-a-thon: a team-based competition where groups create an app/module from scratch for the ServiceNow platform in a mere 8 hours. Teams could be comprised of up to 5 team members, but I had no idea going into it what I was going to do. I was thankful that I convinced Bryan to come with me, and we were initially planning on dicking about for a couple of hours, and then going to the aquarium instead. Neither of us had any clue what we could do, and didn't expect to gain any additional team members.

That was until Butch showed up. An Intel employee, he didn't have anyone to team up with, so we happily gained a new party member. Shortly before the competition started, a duo (Van and Dan) asked to join as well. We gained a full party! The first hour and a half we spent kicking ideas about, not really sure what we wanted to do… until I suggested a Social Media Manager module, which everyone thought would be super useful (and something we could accomplish within the time limit.) Quickly got to work- Bryan, Butch, and myself working on the code, while Van and Dan set up tables, front-end interface items, and a new workflow.

Unfortunately as we quickly found out, the Twitter API integration that someone had created for ServiceNow didn't work. The guy who originally coded it was there at the competition, and quickly disappeared after we mentioned we were using it, since he knew it didn't work -_-;; It wasn't until the 7th hour that Bryan managed to get our application to tweet to Twitter, but that was all we really needed! When the judges finally came by to check us out and determine if we were finalists, we were prepared… and enough so to be declared finalists!! :D

Because of this, we were allowed to continue working until we needed to begin promoting our creation inside of the expo at noon. We opted to work until 4am Wednesday (Bryan continued well beyond this, right up until the noon deadline.) From noon until 430pm, we told everyone we possibly could what our module did, and asked that people vote for us. Basically, what we ended up with was a Twitter integration, where the credentials for Twitter were stored within ServiceNow, so companies wouldn't have to give the password out anymore, and all tweets would go through a small approval workflow, so no stupid or inappropriate tweets would make it out onto the Internet without the supervisor approving it. Tweets could be posted directly through ServiceNow, so no more logging into Twitter, and it also monitored mentions and retweets for the company's account, and pulled them into ServiceNow for review and response (if needed.) With more time, this could be extended to other social media platforms.

Everyone who came by loved it, and felt like it addressed a real, current issue. Several people were social media managers or marketers, and were avidly excited about our app. You could even interact with our module directly- by mentioning us in a tweet of your own, and we walked many people through a demo on the spot.

The other teams weren't bad, but theirs weren't interactive, or nearly as overarchingly useful as our creation. One team had a remote controlled car that would move forward a foot, and then do a little shimmy when they hit a button on ServiceNow. Another (just one guy) made a food request QR code-based app that movie theaters could use. The other 5-man team made a FEMA thing that was exclusively useful only for them when handling incidents. And the last group created 2 buttons for on-call people that they could click to say they were sleeping or driving, thus diverting calls from the primary on-call person to the secondary.

Our team had a great feeling- and really expected to win after all the praise and interest we received. Unfortunately, we had to wait until Thursday afternoon to hear the results.

Bryan and I went to the aquarium, hit up a noodle shop for dinner, and then hung out before going to the end of the expo beach party. Was pretty crowded and crazy, and we both agreed that if either of us had gone alone, we wouldn't have stayed more than a minute or two. It was fun to do more people watching, and we even did a little white people dancing XD

Thursday I slept-in as much as possible before the last class I had in the morning. Bryan joined me for the last class, had some lunch after, and then went to the speech that during which they would be announcing the winner(s) of the Hack-a-thon. We felt good- there was no way we wouldn't be the winners, right?

… wrong :(

It was the FEMA team that ended up winning and stealing our prizes: quadcopter drones. It was sad times, and I quickly stated I was ready to head out, so Bryan and I left. I think it ended up coming down to how many people from outside the conference voted. They probably had FEMA on their side. It wasn't really fair that they allowed people who weren't at the conference to vote, but what can you do.

Bryan mentioned that he wanted to pick up at least one geocache since he'd never been to Nevada before, so we headed out on the hunt! Once we found the first one outside in an Excalibur parking lot, I was hooked, and ended up downloading the app to my phone as well :) We wandered about, all the way down to the Bellagio and back (got all our walking exercise in), and ended up picking up 5 before beginning to starve to death. Ate at a much better restaurant this time- an Irish Pub. Hung out until I had to check-out around 1130pm to catch my 1am flight.

It was an unexpected, fantastic time, and I owe it all to Bryan. Without us having become fast friends, I would've been a mopey mess, spending most of my time alone in my hotel room wishing I were home. Looking forward to a continuing friendship, even if it is across state lines (go go Internets!)

Ready for a nice, relaxing weekend, and some PFS on Sunday :)
I'm a rough 'n tough.