An Update to this post on 10/18/2023: Immediately after Luc's original tweet went out, I was in contact with Amazon. A few hours later, AWS provided this statement: > AWS has confirmed that they later clarified with these two community developers to remove session capacity information from their session guides. They confirmed they did this because the room capacities will change as they make final room decisions based on session demand. In my personal opinion, while I appreciate the public statement and the private apologies I've heard they've given to Luc and Rafael, this could have been entirely avoided by simply asking for what they wanted (session capacity information removed) rather than what they asked for (taking down the entire site). This mistake on Amazon's part has caused a lot of harm that can't be fixed by an apology, unfortunately. As of October 17, 2023, Rafael's session tracker is back up, however Luc's is permanently gone, as he deleted the database and backups out an abundance of caution combined with the very understandable panicked reaction when a trillion dollar company scares the bejeezus out of you. I still believe timing of the takedown notice is suspicious (leading to the trackers being taken offline just in time for the initial rush of registrations). And the untold damage AWS has done to its own community relations, with the inherent chilling effect that this boneheaded foray into "threatening your most passionate community members" is doubtless going to have. As of this writing, the public catalog API returns session capacity information, which is specifically what AWS incorrectly claimed was only available via credentialed access–and what started this whole fiasco in the first place.
The AWS re:Invent session tracker leaves much to be desired, a point that many in the community have lamented for years. Its glaring shortcomings range from the absence of a calendar view to a lackluster search function and the inability to share links to individual sessions. Frustrated attendees have long been in need of a better solution, and several community members rose to the challenge. Notable contributors include AWS Serverless Hero Luc van Donkersgoed and Raphael Manke, who have developed alternative session viewers to enhance the conference experience. These third-party solutions were thriving until AWS abruptly pulled the plug this morning with a barrage of Cease & Desist emails.
Here’s the text of one such email:
We were made aware of the version of the re:Invent schedule you made available at https://github.com/donkersgoed/reinvent-2023-session-fetcher. Per our AWS Site Terms, this is not an authorized use of AWS site content. We gate information that you made available here for registered attendees only, and would like to request that you remove the content.
Thank you, AWS events customer support
(Yes, that’s a cease & desist email; there’s no standard form, and the threat of lawyers ruining your year need not be explicit. AWS isn’t really “requesting” here.)
This move is bewildering on multiple fronts, displaying not just a failure in customer service and a complete turnabout on the Leadership Principle of “Customer Obsession,” but also raising serious questions about AWS’s priorities and understanding of its own systems and community dynamics.
Firstly, let’s address the fact that one of the recipients of these letters, Luc, is an AWS Serverless Hero. This title signifies an individual’s leadership within the AWS community, yet AWS’s approach here is impersonal and intimidating. Instead of discussing the matter privately, they issue a generic legal warning. This type of interaction undoubtedly makes other Community Heroes reconsider whether their volunteer efforts for a trillion-dollar enterprise are well-placed.
Next, AWS’s assertion that the information is “gated” seems off the mark. The APIs used by these alternative trackers are publicly accessible, contradicting the claim that the data is restricted to registered attendees. This blunder highlights failures not only in customer communication but also in basic security protocols.
Finally, it’s worth scrutinizing AWS’s lack of progress on their official session scheduler, which has seen no significant improvement in nearly a decade. If part-time hobbyists can outperform a trillion-dollar company in delivering a superior customer experience, it brings AWS’s commitment into question. One would assume that helping conference attendees effectively plan their experience would be a priority. AWS appears unbothered by its own shortcomings but takes issue with third parties filling the gaps. This action doesn’t just display a lack of customer obsession; it also raises the question: what harm, exactly, is AWS suffering here?
By shutting down these community-driven solutions, AWS is not just shooting itself in the foot, it’s disheartening its most engaged and active users. A reconsideration of this decision would serve not just AWS’s reputation, but also the community that supports it.