I wasn’t going to write this post for a couple of reasons. The first is something I learned in another life as a sports reporter: Never complain about the conditions in the press box, because most of your readers would be happy to switch places. The second is that writing about something that wasn’t a problem feels a little petty and boring. Then Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols of Computerworld posted an op-ed about the security theater farce at CES. He got it mostly right, except that I saw some security dogs and a few extra guards around the Las Vegas Convention Center but he didn’t.
What happened was that a couple of weeks before the show, the CES folks warned that they were going to start searching bags and generally implementing stricter security at the show. As Vaughan-Nichols put it, “Many of us wondered how these new security measures would accommodate our usual trade show behavior. Was there any hope of making appointments on time?” You should read his report, but the short answer was that bag checks, particularly for press, were perfunctory at best. My photo of the back of Sands Hall, where (presumably) some exhibitor had placed a heavy wooden wedge to keep the emergency exits open, should suggest the true security level there.
And you know what happened? Nothing! Same as the year before and the years before that, when CES (or the International CES, or the Consumer Electronic Show, or whatever they were calling it at the time) was just as interesting a target for bad guys. In all the years I’ve attended CES, I’ve always felt perfectly safe at its venues. It’s a sad fact that if some moron wants to go on a spree, there’s not too much we can do about it before the fact. But it’s also true that statistically, I’m more likely to be hurt during the drive to the airport or slipping in the shower when I get home.
I’m a cynical guy, so I wonder about possible hidden motives. My theory is that the primary goal was to restrict bag size, especially those annoying rolling bags, to keep the exhibit floor area less crowded for the same number of attendees. That would also match the kind of response that Vaughan-Nichols experienced. If so, the plan worked very well, and I’m all in favor of it. I expect more of the same, including its labeling as “Security” to better convince Joe Rolling Steamer Trunk that they’re doing this for his protection.