Chicago

Chicago; about 70 local software developers turned out. Chicago is a great city for architecture. Much better than New York. Here they build skyscrapers just because they love them.

Can I talk about hotels for a minute? There are about a million different ways to rate hotels. That makes user review sites, like TripAdvisor, somewhat hit-or-miss. One person’s hovel may be another person’s palace.

I’m sad to say that the Congress Plaza Hotel where we did the event at this morning does not qualify as anyone’s palace. The usual nice words you might use to describe such a hotel would be “threadbare” or “shabby.” Other words (“maccabre,” “Barton Fink,” and “scuzzy”) come to mind. This was entirely my fault; I set a target budget for hotels in each city and didn’t do the research to make sure the hotels would be entirely nice.

I’ll bet you can tell almost everything you need to know about the quality of a hotel based on how often they replace the sheets and towels. Another good indicator, for some bizarre reason, is plasma TVs. The nice chains, inexplicably, have old fashioned big-ass tube TVs. The ancient rotting edifices have 32” plasmas. I don’t know why this is. Maybe they think that having a plasma TV they can advertise on their web site will make them seem fancy.

Anyway, the Congress Plaza Hotel is the kind of 850 room monstrosity that Lot Polish Airlines would fill up with a 777 full of passengers, on their way to Warsaw, if the plane was stuck in Chicago overnight due to mechanical failure.

Oh. And the staff was actually on strike. So people coming to the demo had to cross a picket line. I’m sorry about that. I never thought to ask if there was a strike at the time we booked. I guess shabby hotels just treat their employees shabbily. Apparently Chicago considered passing a law requiring hotels to tell people about these strikes when they booked rooms and meetings. It didn’t pass.

The lesson from Chicago is that using cheap hotels is not a good idea for business meetings. Psychologically, I think that people tend to associate the environment they’re in with the presentation. When a demo is in a modern, new, shiny business hotel, it’s like a little one hour vacation in luxuryland. You go to the bathroom and it’s marble everywhere and individual cloth hand towels. And you think nice things about the demo. But when you go to a demo at the Congress Plaza and the rug is stained and there are fluorescent lights everywhere and the bathroom looks like LaGuardia airport, some of that general depressing aura of shabbiness will rub off on the product being presented.

After the demo was over I walked two blocks south to the Hilton where the Inc. 500 Conference was in progress. There I spoke to a bunch of small companies about how we hire people at Fog Creek. A lot of the material I talked about is available on this site, as a series of articles I wrote about a year ago:

You can get the whole series plus one bonus chapter in book form, as well.

I’m flying back to New York now, on We’ve Pretty Much Just Given Up Airlines. On Monday morning, if you’re in the city, please join me and the FogBugz development team at 9:00am for the FogBugz 6.0 World Launch, at the New York Marriott East Side Hotel. It’s free, but you have to register to reserve a space.

About the author.

I'm Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Overflow. More about me.