Camping Out for MacWorld

On January 8th, 2007, a group of young product managers from Google camped out on the sidewalk in San Francisco to ensure their spots in the main room for Steve Jobs’s keynote at MacWorld 2007.

What follows is a transcript of the night’s events, with photographic evidence.

December 7, 2006 (3:30 PM) – At a monthly meeting of Associate Product Managers and former Associate Product Managers (now Product Managers) a debate rages about whether anyone in their right mind would actually camp out for MacWorld. Jeff Bartelma, a PM on Google Book Search, has already committed to spending the night. Clay Bavor, PM on Google Base, and Avichal Garg, PM on Ads Quality, follow suit. Nick Baum (PM on Google Reader), Clay Bavor, Diana Ly (PM for the Associates program), and Avichal Garg become unofficial organizers of the camp out event.

Early January – Rose Yao, PM on Google’s Mac Initiatives, convinces her engineering team to join in the camp out.

Google Mac Team

(The Google Mac Products Team)

January 8, 2007 (3:00 PM) – The day of the campout! Rose Yao IMs Avichal Garg asking if we should bring tents and asks if we need a permit to sleep out on the sidewalk. Avichal Garg responds, “huh? permit?” and claims ignorance when it is suggested he should be organizing this camp out event.

January 8, 2007 (5:00 PM) – Avichal Garg goes home to pack a night’s worth of belongings. Realizing he has no need for anything beyond his laptop, he takes a nap.

January 8, 2007 (6:30 PM) – Frances Haughen, PM on AdWords, Avichal, and Aneto Okonkwo, PM on Google’s logging infrastructure, discuss how arriving in San Francisco by 8PM is a must to pick up badges that night; otherwise they may lose their spots in line the next morning.

January 8, 2007 (7:00 PM) – Frances describes how clutches can fail in manual transmission cars and the symptoms of such a failure. She mentions her car has been exhibiting some of these symptoms for several weeks and that she is planning to take it in for a checkup tomorrow.

January 8, 2007 (7:30 PM) – The clutch goes out.

January 8, 2007 (7:40 PM) – Aneto and Frances debate whether or not it is in fact the clutch or if France’s car ran out of gas. Aneto explains the detailed workings of an internal combustion engine while Frances provides irrefutable emperical evidence that her car still has gas by turning it on. The car does turn on but does not move forward. Avichal ignores them both and thanks God he brought his Edge card so he can have Internet access on his laptop.

January 8, 2007 (7:43 PM) – Dan Siroker, a PM on AdWords, drives past a stranded car on Highway 101 and wonders if they might need help. He considers pulling over to help them, but recently having seen “Signs” by M. Night Shyamalan is afraid. Instead, he curses at them for slowing down traffic and potentially preventing him from getting to San Francisco by 8PM.

January 8, 2007 (7:45 PM) – Frances calls AAA and they “will send someone immediately” because she is on an extremely dangerous shoulder on 101. At approximately the same time, Clay calls Avichal asking where he is. Avichal says, “On 101, just hanging out.” Clay laughes but doesn’t get the joke until Avichal explains.

January 8, 2007 (7:51 PM) – Clay devises a plan to get Frances, Aneto, and Avichal their entry passes for MacWorld before registration closes at 8PM. He will have other Googlers impersonate them: Clay will be “Avi-hkhaahl” – a Hebrew interpretation of his Hindi name, Ben Lewis will be Aneto, and Rose will be Frances. Avichal is skeptical that 2 White men and an Asian woman will pass for a Nigerian (Aneto), an Indian (Avichal), and a 6′ tall Sweedish woman (Frances), but trusts Clay and co. will be successful. It turns out that MacWorld registration involves neither security nor ID checking, as badges for all 3 stranded PMs are secured easily.

January 8, 2007 (8:00 PM) – A California State Highway Police Officer shows up and sees if we need help. Frances turns on the car and it lurches forward 20 feet before dying again. The CHP is kind enough to stay with them until a tow truck arrives.

January 8, 2007 (8:10 PM) – The group of PMs and Engineers who now have their badges debate whether or not to start camping out and be first in line for the keynote. They decide that no one will really start camping out that early and instead opt to get food and drinks at a nearby pub.

January 8, 2007 (9:40 PM) – All PMs and Engineers meet up at Moscone Center West to start the campout to find that 3 crazy Apple fans are now first in line. They are simultaneously annoyed, amused, and grateful they won’t have to deal with bloggers interviewing them all night and asking why they are motivated enough to be first in line. Enrique Munoz Torres, a PM on Book Search, drives up on a motorcycle shortly thereafter, does not say a word, drops off a case of beer, and rides away.

Our Campsite

(The Google Campsite Outside MacWorld)

January 8, 2007 (10:00 PM) – 2 really attractive women walk by the campsite and ask what is going on. Nick and Avichal claim they thought this line was for Justin Timberlake tickets. The women laugh and walk away; Nick and Avichal debate whether the women were laughing with them or at them.

January 8, 2007 (11:00 PM) – The world’s most hardcore Apple fan comes by for a photo-op. No, seriously. Notice his tatoo. He had an LED belt that flashed “Thank you Steve!”

Uber Apple Fan

(The World’s Most Hardcore Apple Fanatic)

January 9, 2007 (midnight – 2AM) – Numerous “reporters” and amateur film makers stop by to interview the people first in line. The first-in-liners bask in their new found fame while the second-in-liners enjoy some beer.

January 9, 2007 (2:30 AM) – Shirin Oskooi, PM on Google Calendar, and Avichal go to Denny’s so Avichal can charge his laptop. Shirin is convinced that Azekial, a homeless man she and Avichal once hung out with in San Francisco, is eating at this very Denny’s.

January 9, 2007 (2:30 AM – 5:30AM) – Almost everyone sleeps. Nick and Avichal continue their debate about whether the women were laughing at them or with them.

Mac Team Sleeping

(Googlers Sleep in a Giant Clown Car-esque Tent)

January 9, 2007 (5:30 AM) – TV reporters start to wake up the campers with their annoyingly bright lights and “Live Local News at 5:30 before anyone in their right mind should be up!” interviews of the first-in-liners.

Outside MacWorld (in the morning)

(Campers Are to the Far Left)

January 9, 2007 (6:00 AM) – The campers commemorate the occassion with a group picture.

Group Photo

January 9 (8:00 AM) – All attendees are herded like animals into a giant holding pen. The campers are convinced that their commitment will result in a great seat in the main room. They are disappointed to learn that anyone with a premium pass (all 1000+ of them) will be seated before them and thus they will not have a good seat afterall. In fact, the room this year is much larger and likely there will not be an overflow room at all.

Inside the waiting room for MacWorld

(The Holding Pen)

January 9 (8:30 AM) – In a sleepy haze, Avichal finds the conference organizers and suggests they use a quality based model analogous to the Google advertising auction that takes into account not only the amount paid per seat but the amount of time invested as a proxy for user loyalty. He claims such a system would result in a more fair distribution of attendees in the main room and would generate both short term revenue while generating long term loyalty in the Apple user base, and compelling more users to camp out for even longer, thereby generating even more buzz and press around MacWorld.

January 9 (8:45 AM) – MacWorld organizers tell Avichal to get back in line before they throw him out. He gets them to agree to consider his ideas for next year’s MacWorld.

January 9 (9:00 AM) – Steve Jobs unveils the iPhone, one of the best designed products of the last decade. He is in his element. As one executive at Google put it, “Being invited to go on stage with Steve is like the kiss of death.” All you can hope is that you walk on, get off the stage as quickly as possible, and pray no one remembers you were there. If people remember you were there you know you royally screwed up.

January 9 (Noon) – PMs and Engineers return to Google in Mountain View for meetings and work, exhausted but satisfied they saw Steve in person this year.

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