NANOG 90 Attendance?

I haven’t been to a NANOG meeting in a while. While going through the attendee list for NANOG 90 to try to book meetings with people, I noticed a lack of (or extremely minimal) attendance by several organizations that have traditionally had several employees attend. I’ve also noticed that some organizations I had an interest in were only sending sales people, not technical people.

How long has this been a thing? I remember when I attended years ago that there simply wasn’t enough time to meet with technical people from all of the organizations I wanted to meet with. Now the calendar is looking a bit dry.


The numbers have not bounced back to pre-pandemic levels, and it doesn’t help that NANOG 90 has had some hotel issues.


Yup. Post pandemic, the unfortunate hotel situation, and a non-zero number of companies still have tight travel budgets.

It’s been slowly creeping back though.

I guess I’m not aware of the hotel situation. I saw one was booked, the other was not.

There have been a few changes - part of this is driven by post-pandemic decreased travel budget in many organizations, part by industry changes and consolidation, but also a fair bit seems to be because the tone of NANOG has changed and become much more of a polished, sales-y feeling event than it used to be….

Here is the current NANOG agenda:

Here is the agenda from 20 years ago:

This time I’ve received at least 6 phone calls along this line of “Hi, I’m [person] from [company]. We are a NANOG sponsor and we’d like to personally invite you to a very special [breakfast/lunch/dinner] with our [CEO/CTO]. They’d love to explain how we can solve your [security/inventory/DDoS/automation/documentation] needs…”

There would alway be business stuff done at NANOG, but it used to be more along the lines of “Hey, we have too much traffic in [location]. I saw you have a cage in [location] too… If I hand you an Ethernet, can we peer there? Great…” or “So, I have a Foozle-1205 with the Turbo-forwarding(R) option, but when I configure hyperspace-bypass mode, fire comes out…. I know you also use Turbo-forwarding(R), but it looks like you still have your eyebrows. Any hints? Oh… cool, I didn’t know that you could use wormholes to avoid the hyperspace issue. Ta.”


Except we aren't really "post-pandemic" despite the claims that we are.

As long as COVID exists and we don't reach eradication there are going to
be a number of people who might have otherwise participated in these
types of events that will opt not to if they have the choice. Unfortunately
I don't see us eradicating COVID as long as governments succeed at
convincing people that it's not a problem anymore because that's easier
than taking on the people that throw a fit if pandemic control measures
inconvenience them.

Info on what a problem COVID still is from some of the few people that
still write about it:

Now I know I can't tell people what to do but I can share what I know
if it might help some people. This pandemic has been one failure after
another with the virus being underestimated at every turn. I have
thoughts on what I think should be done to get us to eradication
but that gets political and probably too off topic for NANOG.

So back to the topic, because of this situation there will always be some
people opting out of gatherings wherever possible as long as this drags
on and we won't ever be fully back to "normal" as much as many
people try to fake normal. (I think Jessica at okdoomer had it nailed
when she used the term "cosplaying 2019".) It may be a little less
obvious as most of the people opting out aren't really being vocal
about why, they just aren't showing up.

As for why the sales people are still showing up...
...detachment from reality has long been a big part of "sales culture".
(Whereas it's not an inherent into "techy culture".)

Except we aren’t really “post-pandemic” despite the claims that we are.

“post-pandemic” the way that I used it was to mean “after the COVID lockdowns, with close to normal travel gatherings”.

It certainly wasn’t intended to be commentary on the current state of COVID, if it’s referred to as ‘pandemic’ or ‘endemic’ , etc. Nor does that sort of convo really belong anywhere near this list.

Understood that you may have not meant it as commentary.
Just knowing about how words shape people’s thoughts
there are those who hear that phrase as an “all clear” even
if it wasn’t meant to be in your case. Some who use the
phrase do mean it that way, and the parroting of it re-enforces
the agenda of those who do. (Even if that wasn’t your intent.)
Words have meaning, sometimes beyond the initially obvious.

It’s a bit like I find it annoying that the Firewall/NAT boxes sold
for home use to share an IP address get called “routers”. Yes,
they do technically route packets but the fact that they are
called routers means that when you search (your favorite
search engine here) for “router” because you want something
that will announce your IP block to the internet (or even a static
route to an upstream) the search gets polluted with a bazillion
of the NAT/firewall boxes that won’t do what you want to get
done. There is a reason I make a point of calling them
“NAT/Firewall” devices to avoid confusion, unfortunately
this still leaves no unambiguous way to refer to “routers that
aren’t NAT/Firewall only devices” that a search engine can
understand. (This has since been alleviated for me now that
MikroTik has become my “go to” brand but it makes things
tricky for new people who are looking all over for something
that will get the job done while still stretching the budget.)

The intent of my post was simply to bring some insight into
why some people aren’t showing up to events from the
“COVID aware” perspective. Even if it’s not visible who is
missing, there are people missing for this reason. If COVID
really was truly over all these people would be back, it’s
not just inertia keeping people from coming back, it’s the
continuing problem that’s keeping them from coming back.

How long this will be the case depends on what happens
in society at large.

My post wasn’t meant to target you in particular, I was
meaning to reply before that but it seemed like the best
spot to reply to encompass what had been said so far.

This seems more ideological and not overly appropriate for NANOG.

This seems more ideological and not overly appropriate for

No, covid protocols are something that every conference that is serious
about inclusion should be *very* concerned with.

Saying that NANOG doesn't care about this says that NANOG can't be
bothered to make an effort to make the conference safe for more folks.

There's a reason I'm not there in person, even though I've attended for
years, spoken there, and volunteered for multiple rounds on committees.

None of the conversation was about COVID protocols.

Lowered in person attendance because of individual concerns about health risks was mentioned. The conversation then went sideways into public health policy and definitions, which absolutely doesn’t belong on the list.

I’m jumping on an earlier part of the thread.

Based on what I heard at the Members Meeting and several follow up hallway conversations, I think:

  • NANOG needs a focus group on attendees. A survey won’t do it, we need a deep dive into roles, interests, career level, and why they attend.
  • Somebody or somebodies should be specifically tasked with following up with every one of the 120 newcomer attendees to ask what it would take to get them to come back. Our conversion rate to repeat attendee is a key performance indicator. There’s a great Newcomer Orientation just before conference opening; let’s have a Newcomer Lessons Learned at the end.
  • Poll attendees on relative importance of location, registration fee, programming, side meeting space. Iterate based on comments (location = airport? Hotel? Nearby amenities? Proximity to home?)
  • Survey sponsors. I give feedback to staff and occasional board members, but there’s no clear way to gather information.
  • These should be sent to the Members in advance of a Members Meeting to discuss. Needs more than 20 minutes of a 45 minute meeting before main programming.
  • Consider empaneling a Mission Committee to review NANOG’s mission and how to fulfill it.

Other thoughts, which I couldn’t submit in a survey or find another way to send to the board or staff:

  • I suggested in San Diego and now bring to the list: the last item on the agenda should be 15-30 minutes of “What are you taking home from this NANOG?”
  • Helps remind people what value they got
  • Lets us know what people found most valuable (Specific sessions? deals done? Trends in hallway topics?)
  • Solidifies for people what they can offer their boss as the value of sending them to NANOG- We should look into cooperating with other network organizations for meetings. WISPAmerica, NRECA, NTCA, Fiber Connect, SCTE, IETF
  • ARIN has a help desk in the main hall. Allow other sponsors to put up a Help Desk. Put up a sign showing which company will be there for which half-day increment. I think a lot of attendees would find value in the ability to sit down with a senior sales engineer at their favorite router, optical, or intelligence vendor to say, “Here’s my problem,” even if many of those conversations resulted in “Let’s schedule time to discuss in more depth.”
  • Price it like BnG—you’re getting ½ day of visibility, less distraction than meal/break sponsors
  • Require swag to be incidentals like pens and stickers—if you’re getting a mad rush of people, you’re missing the point

This can’t all be done in time for Kansas City, but maybe some of it can be. Given that hotel contracts are negotiated two years in advance, I figure we have about two years to get this right before it’s too late to steer the ship away from the rocks.

Let me close with: I think we have an excellent board, all of whom love this community and have spent years thinking about this. The lack of a CEO is a problem soon to be resolved, and that will help support the already excellent staff. There are themes we’ve been hearing for several meetings in a row, and I know the board is giving them a lot of thought, and I’m just trying to support those efforts from outside the board.

Maybe this should have gone to the members mailing list, but I couldn’t find one.


Maybe this should have gone to the members mailing list, but I couldn’t find one.

This message is from an EXTERNAL SENDER - be CAUTIOUS, particularly with links and attachments.

Maybe this should have gone to the members mailing list, but I couldn’t find one.<>

Thank you, Tom. I was unable to find that piece of information to find by:

  * Searching “Member list” on the NANOG web page
  * Browsing the options under “Members” on the site
  * Reading the list of mailing lists at
  * Googling “NANOG members mailing list”


We actually had an IETF “Help Desk” at NANOG 63 (San Antonio, 2015) and NANOG 64 or 65 —


We hoped to answer questions such as:

“Why should I participate in the IETF?”

“How do I get involved in the IETF?”

“What is the difference between an Internet-Draft and an RFC?”

“How do I submit an idea to the IETF?”

“What is the IETF working on in space?”

“How do I comment on an existing IETF document?”

This was (IMO) quite successful, and I personally thought that it benefited both the IETF and NANOG.

We had hoped to continue this series, but NANOG moved to wanting to charge the IETF for a sponsor table[0], and, lacking funds, we stopped.


We actually had an IETF "Help Desk" at NANOG 63 (San Antonio, 2015) and
NANOG 64 or 65 —
Chris Grundemann @ NANOG 63 talking BCOP, IETF, and more! - Internet Society
Operators and the IETF: Update from IETF 91 - Internet Society

We hoped to answer questions such as:
“Why should I participate in the IETF?”
“How do I get involved in the IETF?”
“What is the difference between an Internet-Draft and an RFC?”
“How do I submit an idea to the IETF?”
“What is the IETF working on in <foo> space?”
“How do I comment on an existing IETF document?”
<your question here>

perhaps the internet would benefit more from the inverse, a help desk at
the ietf for "what is internet operation and how does it actually work?"


Yup. This was all actually an attempt to try and get operator feedback into the IETF to provide that information to IETFers. Chris Grundemann’s survey ( ) showed that lots of operators didn’t know how to participate (~58%), many didn’t know that much IETF work happens on lists (31% and 40% didn’t know how to join a list), and many (~50%) didn’t know how to participate in a meeting.

Much more concerning (to me at least) is that 43% of operators surveyed didn’t feel that their input would be welcomed. The helpdesk was sold as an attempt to help operators understand the IETF if they wanted to participate, but much more of my interest was to try and get feedback along the lines of “This thing you are working on… it won’t work / isn’t useful in the real world / cannot be deployed, because xxx…”.

We (Benoit Claise, Spencer Dawkins, Alvaro Retana, Lee Howard, Jeff Tantsura and myself) presented at NANOG 72 on work which we hoped might elicit feedback ( , and asking specifically for feedback on"

Specific drafts you have concerns about or issues with

Other introductions with the authors or IETF participants

Something like a BoF / Track at NANOG 73 in Denver

Anything else related to the IETF

and "We need your help to build what you need.

Come tell us what that is!"

We also presented at a later NANOG, and at two RIPEs. We’d planned to present at an APRICOT, but COVID happened.

This was somewhat successful - we did get a few more operator folk showing up, but it’s clearly far far from enough — if anyone on the list has any feedback on any of the IETF work, please let me know (off-list). I’m more than happy to help people participate, or, failing that, simply proxy information back (note the the latter is much less compelling — “Someone on a mailing list said that this protocol sucks” is less useful than having people actually engage and explain how and why the protocol sucks…)