Tips for VMworld US 2012 & San Francisco

As VMworld US 2012 approaches rapidly I’ve been thinking about the things I like to do in San Francisco, and the useful things I have learned over the years. If you have thoughts here about things that I’ve missed or are wrong about please add them in the comments!


  • From SFO I usually take the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, to the Powell St. station. It’s cheap at $8.25 a person and relatively fast, though you’ll have to hoof it from the station to your hotel then. If you have more than one person a cab might be okay, but expect the ride to cost $50-$60.
  • Shuttles are also a cost-effective way to travel, $17ish from SFO to the Union Square area on SuperShuttle.
  • Once in San Francisco I usually get a $27 week-long MUNI passport. Why? Because that way I can ride whatever the heck kind of MUNI transport I want all week, including the streetcars. If you’re going to the VMworld UNparty at the Toronado you can just ride the 71 bus there and back. The last one runs through there around 12:50 AM. Google Maps has all the schedules built in.
  • If you take the MUNI anything labeled “outbound” is westbound or heading away from downtown. “Inbound” is the opposite. Sometimes the late night lines are called “OWLs.”
  • I think I might try the Uber cab service more this trip, especially late-night when cabs start not picking people up regularly.
  • Heading out to SFO you might have the hotel call a town car, especially for more than one person, as it’ll be the same cost as a cab ride and a lot nicer. Again, Shuttles are cost effective, too, as is BART.

Food & Drink:

  • A lot of you tend not to leave the Union Square area. It’s really too bad, that area has some of the least interesting food in the city. Get out, go places. Some of my favorite places are Blowfish Sushi in the Mission District, Pho Phu Quoc in the Sunset District, The Stinking Rose in North Beach, and The Pork Store in the Haight (for breakfast). Oh, and In-n-Out Burger in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. I almost forgot that.
  • As far as drinking goes, try the Toronado Room in the Haight, Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery in the Haight, 21st Amendment in South Beach, and Rogue Ales in North Beach. I’ve also been known to ride the streetcars down to Jack’s Cannery Bar along the Wharf, because the ride is beautiful at night. Just don’t forget what time the last car leaves heading back.
  • If you go to the Toronado the bartenders are notoriously intolerant of beer n00bs. Do not, under any circumstances, mention Miller or Budweiser products unless you’re referring to the original, Budvar. If you don’t know what you’d like you should at least know what type of beer you’d be willing to have, like an amber, bock, porter, stout, lager, Belgian, etc. I’ve had great recommendations by politely and succinctly asking if they can recommend a local porter, or if they have a favorite Belgian.
  • If you’re going to parties like the VMunderground WUPaaS I suggest taking a bunch of dollar bills. Why? Because there will be hundreds of cheapskates around, and you’ll be the guy tipping. Which means you’ll always have a beer. Seriously. Last year in Las Vegas we were living large at the Nine Fine Irishmen during the WUPaaS because we tipped on every drink, and our waitress Stephanie came to find us every 20 minutes or so to restock us. Same goes for other parties and at bars where you’re planning to have more than two drinks. Tipping is an investment, people. For those of you that come from cultures where tipping isn’t the custom I’d suggest $1-$2 per drink, or 20% on a tab, depending on the level of service.

Clothing & Dress:

  • Good walking shoes are key. If you need new shoes do it today, and break them in as best you can in the next couple days. Get new insoles, too. If you’re doing this conference right you’ll be on your feet a lot.
  • Get some hiking socks. Not the crazy big wool ones, more like Smartwool. I always have moleskin, a needle, and a lighter for draining and tending to blisters because I am unwilling to let a blister mess with a good time. I also bring plenty of naproxen sodium, like Aleve.
  • San Francisco can get chilly. Expect 50° F (10° C) at night, mid-60s & 70s during the day. The Union Square area doesn’t get fogged in as readily as the Sunset, but it does get damp. Bring a light jacket.
  • You might want earplugs for Bon Jovi so you can be in the room while he’s giving love a bad name.
  • The goal is to be comfortable. I wear jeans and a dri-fit/golf polo most of the time. This year I’m only going to carry a light, non-VMworld backpack with my iPad, camera, and water bottle in it. I may bring a tripod, too.


  • VMware gives you a backpack and water bottle. Make sure you have room for it in your luggage, along with all the other swag you might acquire. Last year they had a donation bin if you didn’t want yours, so that’s an option, too. It probably won’t be convenient to go back to your hotel room during the day, so you might want to keep it and use it.
  • All the sessions are recorded, so I tend to prioritize those things that are one-of-a-kind and won’t be recorded. The #vBrownBag seminars and lightning talks in the Community Lounge, for example. The show floor & vendors. Talking to people. Labs. Seriously, do the labs, there is no better way to see the new software than those labs.
  • Conference WiFi always sucks. Hotel networking is always 10000000000% oversubscribed. Facts of life. Plan for it.
  • AT&T 3G service in the Bay Area is terrible. Plan for it.
  • Tell your coworkers you will be unavailable. Stop making changes to systems you support, so you reduce the chance things will break while you’re away next week. You’re at this event for training, you should focus on that. Every year I see people camped out trying to fix things or do work. VMworld is work. Serious work.
  • Sign up for sessions you’re interested in ahead of time, so you have a spot reserved. I don’t suggest being a complete ass and not going to things you’ve signed up for, but if you can’t make it they do open the room up to fill the empty spots after a few minutes so you can weigh your options if something more interesting comes up.
  • If you aren’t on Twitter get on it. Get it on your phone. Learn how to use it. Set up a search for #vmworld.
  • Talk to your vendor reps now, while you’re at home. See if they are throwing any parties or happy hours at VMworld, and get yourself invited to them.
  • Bring business cards. Lots of them.
  • Be careful who you let “scan” you on the show floor. They will be calling you for the next decade. Don’t let random booth attendants just scan you as you walk past.
  • Write your name on both sides of your VMworld badge, so that when it flips around people can still see who you are. While you’re at it, introduce yourself to me. Several times. Rate me at how bad I am with names. Last year I introduced myself to the same couple of guys three different times. McKayla would not be impressed.
  • Most of all, enjoy yourself. This should be the fun part of your virtualization work!

That’s all I can think of right now. What am I missing? Add it below!

7 thoughts on “Tips for VMworld US 2012 & San Francisco”

  1. These tips are super helpful. Especially the parts about not letting random people scan your badge and attending “one-of-a-kind sessions.”

  2. Great advice. I made the mistake of letting random “booth babes” scan my badge last year (my first VMworld) . I still get calls from time to time.

    • Yes, the only thing that makes booth babes even more offensive as a concept is that they get paid per scan, so they stand in the aisle and RFID-rape everybody that walks past.

  3. Minor note on uber – if you’re signing up, feel free to use my referral code

    If you do, both of us get $10

    I was going to suggest which did In-n-Out burger delivery anywhere in SFO for $10, but they stopped delivering In-N-out 🙁

  4. Bob, You rock as always. A lot of great tips. Along the lines of your comment about going to one of a kind sessions here is something that John Troyer posted on the vExpert forum in response to someone talking about the VMworld session content being less technical over the last few years. I thought he made some great suggestions and that it’s worth sharing:

    “my prediction is that the most of the sessions are still going to be too general for you (Keep in mind when John mentions this it is being directed towards the vExperts as a group). They’ve got to appeal to hundreds of people at the show. I always tell people who are techincally advanced/long-term veterans (most of you) that it is incumbent upon YOU to get the most out of the show by being proactive:

    – For the sessions you do attend, go for good speakers or smart people
    – Hit up the Expert Bar – it is stocked with big brains, not first level tech support
    – Hit up the Meet The Experts / Discussion Groups in Moscone West – again, these are big hitters
    – Go to presentations and grab the speaker afterwards for the real discussion
    – Come to the CTO Event – again, lots of Principal Engineers & PSO Architects there

    Otherwise, just come hang out at the Community Lounge in the Hang Space in Moscone North. The Tech Talks from #vBrownBags & the #NotSupported talks will all be interesting, and of course the company is good.”

    While I’m commenting in a post about what to do at VMworld, I can’t go with a VMUG plug. Be sure to stop by the VMUG Booth (#1817). Sign up if you’re not a member, update your profile if you are, check out VMUG Advantage, ask us about starting a VMUG in your area if there isn’t one and be sure to get your VMUGshot. More info here:

    Again, great stuff Bob. Looking forward to seeing you again in San Francisco.

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