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  • what are people's opinions?

    tonight on Twitter there was a pretty decent discussion between myself, thePrez, Legion from 303, Jeff Jarmoc, and others regarding the DEFCON Workshops.

    a great deal of differing opinion is out there, and i'd love to see how people here on the forums, the core DEFCON community, feels about these sessions.

    i, personally, have come down on one side of the fence but i'm going to do my best to keep an open mind about the matter until we actually complete DC19 and the feedback can be heard from all sides. overall, however, i have always loved the fact that DEFCON had been a "pay at the door then the world is your oyster" type of event. there weren't (to my knowledge) any other costs for any of the contests, mini-events, parties, etc etc etc.

    i don't especially like seeing a change in this paradigm. this is because something very meaningful went hand-in-hand with the "one badge gets you everything" policy. it meant that every new and fun thing to come along simply had to be free-of-charge. when i brought the TOOOL Lockpick Village here, we decided right then that all of the content (the hardware, the supplies, the lessons, the availability of staff for Q&A) would be freely available to all. (yes, we sell lockpick kits and such, but all of the same items are also scattered around the Village for people to use. sales are just in case people want a pristine, nice version to take home themselves.)

    under the newly-emerging paradigm, it's almost as if something like the Lockpick Village would be handled by us dumping a bunch of hardware on tables for people to "play with" and then saying "so, if you want lessons on how this stuff works, the big names on the TOOOL staff will be in this separate room, elsewhere, where you can come to learn all day long (missing out on much of DEFCON in the process) and be sure to bring your wallet because there are additional costs.

    i realize i'm over-simplifying... but there is a change in the air, and it's not one that i'm 100% comfortable with. i do hope that people get to enjoy a lot of new material, of course, and i hope that the workshops go well (many of the listed trainers are friends of mine and i wish them well... those who attend will surely be learning from some of the best. it's a pity that it means more costs and cutting a whole big chunk of your DEFCON time)
    "I'll admit I had an OiNK account and frequented it quite often… What made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store… iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc... OiNK it existed because it filled a void of what people want."
    - Trent Reznor

  • #2
    Re: what are people's opinions?

    btw, i really do invite people to call total B.S. on me for posting this comment while at the same time running the DEFCON Shoot event which is also charging an admission fee for the first time. one can make the case that $20 is not the same as $200... but still, i realize i'm in a precarious position to be speaking in the way that i am.

    i welcome all discussion in this thread, both about the pros and cons of the Workshops as well as whether or not i am a jackass.
    "I'll admit I had an OiNK account and frequented it quite often… What made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store… iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc... OiNK it existed because it filled a void of what people want."
    - Trent Reznor

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    • #3
      Re: what are people's opinions?

      Originally posted by Deviant Ollam View Post
      ... i have always loved the fact that DEFCON had been a "pay at the door then the world is your oyster" type of event. there weren't (to my knowledge) any other costs for any of the contests, mini-events, parties, etc etc etc.
      Please permit me to play Devil's Advocate (supporter of something I do not necessarily believe in, for the sake of exposing thoughts and ideas that may not have been considered.)

      ...

      This has been the trend, lately. Contests with people running it pass on their costs to the people participating in them. Events that require a donation for Entry have been going on for years. Some events provide a service per-person at the cost of a donation, and another, and another and plenty more if you look back. You have mentioned, you have switched to asking people for money for lanes for the first time this year, so you can cover costs in bringing more equipment to the site, and better equip your RSO. (I saw you mentioned this in a post below, before I posted this.) There has been a trend of people wanting to use the forums to sell their latest things which may or may not be strongly related to Defcon. (This is NOT a dig into the thread started by eris calling for donations of blood for barkode. I am talking about purely commercial & "not-for-profit" not charities and their donations.)

      There was even a contest with a poll, where the person running it asked about an entry fee to play. (Kudos for being direct and actually ASKING players what they thought before doing it. :-)

      (Apologies to the people that run the events and contests that I have provided links to visit, from my content above. My intent is to illustrate a history that goes back several years, and I am not implying your requests for cash were bad or good, only that they happened.)

      With this as a history, and a thought that "Defcon is what you make of it," and applying that line of thinking to not just attendees, but organizers, can Defcon be what corporate-types want it to be by offering cost-based services, for profit, or if non-profit break-even or donation? What if a company brought full-sized construction equipment to the Parking lot for people to pay to operate heavy machinery?

      Wouldn't it also be up to the attendee to choose if they want to pay more for something else, or not, and then let the free market eliminate those things that are not profitable by those trying to make money? (I am trying to avoid politics, and hope that mentioning economics does not lead to any kind of political rants.)

      Looking over these workshops, it seems most are *all-day-events* on Saturdays, meaning attendees would have to skip out on all competing contests, events, and other speaker tracks taking place at the same time.

      Next, the argument could then be made, "Does letting these workshops happen harm your Defcon fun, in any way?" In some ways, it may improve your Defcon fun, by removing even more people from the hallways, speaking tracks, and contest areas.

      I'll try to keep up this role as "Devil's Advocate" in this discussion as long as I can tolerate it, if anyone wants to argue, and nobody else is willing to take this side.


      Now for what I actually feel:

      I do miss certain aspects of, "the good old days," where there was a great deal of giving by members of the community for contests, events, and pranks. (I'm not talking about charity events getting donations, as I am comfortable with that.) People gave a great deal of their life, time, money, and resources to put things together. Consider all of the hard-working goons that *still* donate their lives before Defcon getting ready, at Defcon working with little sleep, and then after defcon cleaning up, packing up, and sorting through the mess that follows. Consider Lost[boy] and his Lost @ Con Mystery Contests, and how much time, effort and money he put into building the puzzles that everyone used, and sometimes destroyed in playing his game, and offering to the community. People doing what they do because they love something, and sacrificing as they do for the passion they have for a thing is a great thing to see, but ultimately, it is unsustainable when the LARGER percent of new people attending see no reason to give or get involved as others before them have given, and contributed.

      A belief that the cost of admission includes fees that pays for these services and food attendees get from providers/volunteers/donations, continues to persist even though it is not true. Another example? I wonder how many people attend the ToxicBBQ, and bring absolutely nothing with them as contribution in food or supplies, for themselves, or ever to include sharing it with others, and the few (beyond the organizers) that bring things? Do they only bring it for themselves, and sometimes just a few close friends the rode to Defcon with, or to share with people they don't even know? Compare your last Toxic BBQ with the first, or even second, or third, then play them back, in order and look at how things have changed as attendees to it change.

      I did not see paid workshops coming, but in retrospect, looking back at how things have been changing, and continue to change, they were inevitable. When the volunteers, and givers are burned-out, and taken for granted, they will be replaced or they won't. If they are replaced, will the replacements also be volunteers? (More on this later)

      Ages ago, probably late 1990s, there was an Interview by some online news group with DT, and they asked him, "how long do you see yourself coming back to run Defcon?" and back then, he replied with something like, "as long as people want to keep coming back to volunteer to help me run it." (Not exact quotes... this is from memory, and almost 15 years.) Things can change over time. What happens when some of the volunteers stop giving so much? Some will pass on, some will have new priorities, such as a family, or kids, and want what best for them. Some may seek out things like KidCon to try to share a love they once enjoyed with their kids. Some may choose to stop, slow down, and take in the fun, instead of working all the time. Some may find new interests, or become absorbed into their professional life. The question is not the loss of volunteers, as that will happen no matter how Defcon changes, or doesn't, but the question of who will replace them? (More on this later)

      I worry that new attendee's perception will continue to believe their one fee for a badge pays for everything they do and see at con and this could lead to a lack of recognition for those that pay for the parties, ToxicBBQ, and contests and events, and this in turn lead to burn-out among those that sacrifice and donate, and then when they stop giving. Without other volunteers to step-up, will commercialization and non-profit, or even for-profit be the new replacements?

      If that happens, will people accept it, so long as the events or contests keep happening, even if they have to pay?

      (It is now later.)
      When volunteers stop, who will replace them? If more people volunteer, then we have the possibility to continue with a community-supported system, but will there be enough volunteers? What if there are not enough, or no more volunteers willing AND able to step up and get the job done? Then what they offered will stop, or be done by someone that is NOT a volunteer. (Without change, if you model this system, can you see where this is heading?)

      I have many concerns about the impact of changes made by many people, and how these changes will result in Defcon taking a new direction, and that direction being something that some people don't like. The cost of nearly *any* change is the introduction of a break between those that WANT the new change, and those that do NOT.

      Change can polarize people into 2 groups for each decision to change, and fracture an existing base, but without change: stagnation, shrinkage and death with a whimper. Is this really a false choice? I really hope it is. If it is, what is the alternative?

      Wow. You actually read all that? Good for you! How much time did you just waste? ;-)
      Last edited by TheCotMan; 07-01-2011, 01:03 AM.
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      • #4
        Re: what are people's opinions?

        I think they should be on Thursday. You can pay extra to go to them, but not miss out on anything in the normal program.

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        • #5
          Re: what are people's opinions?

          I was weighing this in my mind all day. Glad I'm not the only one this seems to rub the wrong way.

          First I'd like to ask DT, or any of the other


          Charity fundraisers, I have no issue with (EFF, HFC, etc).

          Events where there is a charge for materials cost or a kit but the knowledge is free (HHV, some contests) makes sense.

          Offsite or non-official events where there is a charge towards costs are logical as well and frankly a different thign entirely since they are non-official.

          For as long as I can remember, with the exception of the vendor area, everything has been free to attend or a cost recovery basis. This new catagory is "for-profit" for an officially sponsored event which is bugging me alot.

          It was never implicite that the badge fee got you 'everything', but the whole things was about sharing knowledge and community. Having seen this con grow and mature every year since DC7 and participated in a huge number of events and even run a few, this is the first time I think we may jump the shark

          I just want to point out that I have nothing against the instructors or thier classes. It's the idea as a whole that bugs me

          First issue: Several of the classes appear to be the same as Blackhat offerings. Am I not alone in thinking that offering the same training at 1/5th the price reason for Blackhat attendees to be pissed? Also, how many of those people are going to cancel thier seat at Blackhat and come to DC to save money? In essence, Blackhat's value has been cheapened.

          Second issue: Several of these classes either provide no materials, or any other excuse for a cost recovery claim. One can claim that the knowledge is the material provided, I'm of the camp that if I'm being charged, I want a damn book widget, or something to show for it.

          Third issue: This spits in the face of those of us who have put on training classes at the various villages (LPV, HHV, Wireless Village), taught in a corner to small groups (who has'nt done this?), run a contest with our own money and time (L0stboy especially). The inclusion of paid, for profit training flys right in the face of all these people who share thier knowledge freely.

          On the flip side, how are some of the trainers going to react to people learning thier topics from others for free? Would Vivek Ramachandran appreciate if I taught a competing wireless class for free in the wireless village? I was already considering this. There may not be any official thing against competing classes in the villages, but someone will make an issue out of it and now we have drama that cheapens us all.

          Fourth issue: While I can appreciate charging for 'exclusive' access to an instructor in a limited class setting, charging for this priviledge creates a split of haves and have-nots.

          I dont have the cash nor the time to blow a whole saturday on a class I may want to take. If I want to save my saturday to attend talks, etc, I am left with the option of going to Blackhat and paying for the class there on a dedicated day (except this year where they are running training concurrently. What's up with that?). I cant afford the prices at Blackhat, so I'm screwed. Those with the means to pay, that's always what Blackhat was for. Defcon was about the free exchange of knowledge and thats why things have always been free.

          We are risking the inclusive environment of people doing it because they love it and turning it into an exclusive environment of those who can pay to take a class and not contribute back to the community afterwards. Is'nt the restriction of information what we are supposed to be against?

          Fifth issue: This is in response to TheCotMan's comment about "Defcon is what you make of it" and the orginizers trying to make something for the corporate types. Is'nt that redundant, is'nt that what Blackhat was supposed to be from the beginning?

          I may be rusty on my history and details, but did'nt Jeff start Blackhat in reponse to the complaints that they wanted Defcon's content without the Defcon stank on thier clean suits? (ok, it was that corporations have an easier time accepting the value of and paying for a $1500 conference rather than a $150 one that has the same content)

          In a nutshell, this has me worried. I'm not afraid of change, but I think there will be some unintended consiquences and culture shift as a result. For better or worse, we shall see where this goes.

          I go to Defcon for the people. I want to be around people who do what they do because they love it. Adding for-profit content sets a dangerous precident of bringing in people who do it for profit. That, I think, will alienate alot of people and hasten Defcon's demise from what it once was.

          Now, I'm not all rapture about this, I'm not yelling that the sky is falling, but after this year, I would highly recommend Jeff and the other orginizers poll the membership here about this and apply it going forward. I'm all for trying new things, but be aware that this may not be the best direction.

          Wow, I get long winded late at night.
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          • #6
            Re: what are people's opinions?

            This is going to be brief (maybe; I'm not usually the soul of brevity), but I'd like to point out that, without exception, I find it disheartening that people who might want to attend these sessions (and I'm absolutely NOT one of them) will have to miss a full day of the actual conference. Now, I realize that many people already do that, because they're doing a contest, or partying all night and then sleeping all day, or any number of other reasons, but really, the person in these workshops may be having to choose between that workshop, or a specific presentation they'd like to see.

            In addition, I don't really see most of the workshops being presented by people where I can EASILY see credentials. Yeah, yeah, I saw web sites and links and such, but those all mean *I* have to go searching for credentials. Not going to happen, but then, I'm not going to take any of those workshops, either.

            I've been to a couple of work shops at a couple of conferences similar in nature to this. I'd rather spend that money on shoes, or more computers, or decent wine, or any number of things I can think of on the spur of the moment. I could buy a pound of Jamaican Blue Mountain for that kind of money (and have, just in case you think I'm blowing smoke).

            I'm wondering how much complaining we'll see here on the forums, and in the halls of the Rio, once people have taken some of these classes.

            Sorry, Cot, just being devil's advocate to your devil's advocate (and confessing right up front that I didn't really read through it).

            I lied about this being brief. Lucky for you all I have 40 pounds of Chelan and Rainier cherries that need to go into jars, today.

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            • #7
              Re: what are people's opinions?

              I slept on this one because (for obvious reasons) I'm **involved**.

              This is going to be pretty scattershot, so feel free to stick with it or skip it entirely. Note that for contractual reasons, I cannot discuss Blackhat (There are significant changes to the BH Speaker Agreement for 2011) but I am a Speaker who receives flight, hotel, admittance and remuneration for the work I do there.

              I've been a fan of defcon since the beginning. I've been too busy or too poor to get involved until the second decade -- not a new-comer, but not as much of an old hand as many. My first defcon experience was simultaneously epic and a complete fucking disaster. Since then, I chose to get involved rather than slinking away and pouting.

              I put a lot into defcon. I've usually got the one talk that is funded by BH, and then I do extra talks, panels, contests and as much extra as I can fit in. I will never be a contributor on the level of The Right Honorable Minister of Offense Ollam, nor The Tireless Moderator of Asshattery TheCotMan, not the Esteemed Renderman (fellow token Canadian and fan boy ish hero of mine) but I'm not a scenewhore or corporate douchebag who comes to defcon for Friday only because he wants to eyeball the scenewhores.


              This year, I made the decision to be an instructor for a workshop.

              Here's the sad part folks. I made the decision to be an instructor for the money.

              I didn't realize that there was going to be a pass-along cost -- I wasn't aware of that until yesterday. But I am painfully aware that despite having flight and admission covered, going to defcon costs me a good chunk of change every year. Hacker Pyramid costs me (and a small group of very dedicated mules, assistants and volunteers) between $500-$750 depending on prizes -- there is no funding from defcon other than providing space to do it. I do HP and talks and panels and all of it... With a real job that isn't very glamourous, 2 little kids who need a dad, one bigger kids who doesn't need me much but does need someone available to listen and a wonderful wife who is putting herself through university at the same time as her oldest daughter is also attending university. I don't have the spare $$ to dump on defcon -- it's something I do because I think that my contribution helps make defcon better for everyone and because I owe defcon for what it has given me over the past two decades. I appreciate that and I'm paying it forward, but I really don't want to be taken advantage of, and there are a lot of takers at defcon. This is true of so much of defcon, the contributors (arguably 500-600 of the ~10k attendees) give a lot and usually take quite the shit talking for not doing enough or providing enough or being enough. And selfishly, having the chance to get paid for some of what I do at defcon while being able to reach an audience that was committed to learning was a pretty good offer.

              The defcon staff worked harder than they should have in order to schedule around everything I wanted to do at defcon. Much harder. And I'm very grateful.

              I have no idea if I'm going to get even one sign up for my workshop. Selfishly I hope to, because it would lift a bunch of the financial burden of being at defcon. Selfishly I hope to, because it would give me a self-esteem boost that people think I'm worth listening to -- and I am that insecure... Sadly. Unselfishly I hope to, because I think that what I've got to say is something that lots of people could use for their real lives -- a direct path to making more money, being more successful and being happier. I've given a lot of that away for free over the years... And I'm continuing to give a lot away for free.

              Am I shitting on all that is defcon? I really don't think so. I would argue that as much as defcon belongs to all of us, it's still DTs thing - and he likes the workshop idea and when I've asked for his support, he's been there for me -so I'm there for him -- it's karma bitches.

              My teenage / early 20s fantasies of being perceived as "good enough" / "'leet enough" are coming true 20 years later... People I've respected/admired/idolized for half my life know who I am... And give a shit when I say things. I am that much of an insecure spaz that I really care how others think of me.

              So, if defcon workshops never happen again, I'll be part of that failure -- but I tried. If defcon workshops do happen again (as part of the inevitable maturation of defcon) then I'll be part of that success. Either way - I tried. For reasons both good and bad. And that puts me in the shrinking minority of attendees.

              As Blackhat continues to change, so does Defcon and so do the attendees of both. There is lots of room for new blood, maybe even for Defcon TNG, but only if people step up, expose themselves to risk and ridicule and fucking *DO* something. (Seriously, the next fucking scenewhore that publicly dumps on me or pulls shit like happened at another recent con during my talk -- who refuses to contribute themselves -- is going to get my boot print on their ass.)

              Maybe that's the basis for my whole argument. Contribute. Whether you manage to make money, break even or lose your shirt... Contribute.

              I do.

              Do you?

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              • #8
                Re: what are people's opinions?

                I find myself coming down on the same side as Dev, Render, others.

                I like the idea of workshops that are cheaper and shorter than those at Black Hat. But IMO they should be at Black Hat (or Thursday, pre-DEFCON), and not DEFCON-proper.

                Everyone has their own idea about what DEFCON is, but to me is that its open. I can go to, and participate in pretty much any talk, event, contest or whatever and no one is going to tell me "no". This is very similar in my mind to what Deviant called the "one badge gets you everything" policy. Now we're segregating off a part of the conference. I just don't like that.

                For the presenter, we've all been there--we need money to live and that's a way to do it. I can't fault someone for wanting to make money. I just think it belongs at BH and not DEFCON.

                For the attendee, you pay $$ to get into the conference, then you miss a full day to pay $200 more. I'm not sure I understand why someone who is probably already strapped would make that financial decision.
                Last edited by theprez98; 07-01-2011, 08:55 AM.
                "*x74*x68*x65*x70*x72*x65*x7a*x39*x38";

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                • #9
                  Re: what are people's opinions?

                  Coming from someone who has to fly out from somewhere else to get there, and isn't exactly in the greatest of jobs (I didn't say I couldn't afford it, just that it's expensive to me! XDD) - 200$ is a lot of freaking money. That being said, you can't always expect someone to do something out of good graces. People with ordinary jobs (IE non Bill Gates / Steve Jobs people) typically just don't have the money to provide things for free. However, I like how they decided to do the DC Shoot: Everyone pays a smaller fee to add up to roughly the cost. I saw a link awhile back to the different workshops, and they do seem extremely interesting. I can understand a fee for thoroughly teaching some of those things, but I'm a little iffy about the amount...

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                  • #10
                    Re: what are people's opinions?

                    What rubs me the wrong way is that it feels like defcon has been nickel and diming us for the last few years. Long ago you paid once for your badge, that cash allowed DT to rent the hotel, pay the insurance, cover any problems, and maybe even pay for a few key speakers to present. EVERYONE else volunteered their time and money to make defcon happen, and it takes dozens of people.

                    Now it seems like a few people at defcon are attempting to make more money off of us. In my mind, pay-for workshops just say "we want more profit". Who gets that profit? Let me tell you, it's not the volunteers. Security goons work for two shirts and 3 days in a hotel room. We don't even get free food. When I ran the robot contest I put thousands of my own dollars into it with no expectation of a return.

                    Those of us that volunteer are the key to defcon's success. If some people start getting paid while others don't, that's going to cause a rift which will tear defcon apart.

                    Kallahar
                    --- The fuck? Have you ever BEEN to Defcon?

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                    • #11
                      Re: what are people's opinions?

                      See, for me, i am in disagreement with a number of my friends about $200 being a high cost. i don't think it is.

                      I am not rolling in dough, i'm just trying to keep a proper perspective on what is being offered and what is being paid. And $200 for a full day with any of those heavy-hitter speaker/trainers is well below what one would normally pay. (and i say this as a speaker, trainer, and workshop organizer who has performed those duties probably at more conferences than some folk even know exist, heh)

                      I have built sets of trainings that my company offers at Black Hat. I am super proud to be there, as i make great contacts and send loads of students away very happy and educated (our feedback scores are off the charts, muthafukkaz! hah) and it funds my company and my life for at least the next couple months. The pricing model is pretty spot-on for Black Hat, and other events around the world who seek to offer sessions lasting one or two full days have to match it or not be taken seriously (both by trainers and by students)

                      The whole "workshop" model has been a difficult one to execute at many events because, quite often, this is the most misunderstood category of conference offering...
                      Talk / Presentation / Briefing - People can wrap their head around these terms. No matter what word is being used, it is understood that a briefing is something that typically takes one hour (but sometimes can be as short as a half hour or as long as a two-hour double slot) and can be attended by anyone with a con badge, assuming room size doesn't become an issue.

                      People attend with the expectation of mostly one-way communication, maybe some Q&A at the end, and little attention being focused on individual audience members by a speaker who spends 99% of the time on the stage.

                      Any materials or tools that are relevant might be present, shown to the crowd, and used in a live demo... but they belong to the speaker and stay on stage.

                      The presenter, for their part, expects to be admitted to the con for free and (depending on the price and budget of the event) may expect to have room and/or travel covered or to receive an honorarium.

                      This is all just industry standard, no matter what con you attend.

                      Training - This, too, is well-understood and accepted by all parties. Trainings are at least a full day long, but far more typically they are two-day sessions, although some last a full work week, but i think that gets crazy. Participants in a training pay a separate fee to be there, and the sweet spot tends to be about $1,000 USD per 8-hour day of your butt in a chair, drinking from a firehose.

                      The cost is acceptable, because that hose is being wielded by notable folk in the security scene who aren't just good at what they do, but also good at making you do what they do. That's what a lot of people don't understand about trainings until they've sat in a good one... it's not just about the knowledge, it's about the delivery. A really great trainer (i.e. - Joe McCray, Moxie Marlinspike, Major Malfunction and Zac Franken, etc) delivers material in such a way that people can go from zero to hero in a ridiculously short window.

                      Students expect, and receive, dedicated instruction from someone walking around the room, seeing that each person is on the same page, and pacing the course accordingly. Often, each and every attendee will have a copy of the software in use, or an ISO image, or a toolkit, or other kickass goodies (look at our "Tampering with Security Seals" training... we're giving people all sorts of solvents, hypodermics, heat elements, etc etc etc. Pray that we don't have Medics called to our room!) and much of these materials are kept by the students when they leave.

                      Prices often fluctuate up or down depending on early- or late-reg, but you're not seeing numbers below four figures without someone raising an eyebrow and saying "this isn't worth my time" in one way or another.

                      Trainers are usually paid a percentage of the admission proceeds, or some pre-negotiated per-head-fee. The big variable (and if you get into this field, ask about this up front with all new events!) is whether those numbers start getting calculated BEFORE or AFTER costs are factored in. (more on this in a separate post, perhaps) Still, trainers go in with the expectation of making money per-student and that this money is coming directly from the students.

                      Whether trainer travel and lodging is covered by the event varies a great deal. The fact that it often isn't is why so many trainers are keen to also be speakers at cons, since that covers their airfare and often some of their room costs.

                      Workshops - aaaah... now we come to the oddball term. Everyone has a different opinion of what a "workshop" is at a conference. Most people can agree that a "workshop" is "somewhere in between a talk and a training" but then things get hairy.

                      For me, a workshop is typically held in a separate area of a conference, and room size can typically limit attendance. I think a max of 30 to 50 people is where a "workshop" becomes unfeasible. This is because unlike talks, where all communication is one-way, there is a more intimate feel to a workshop and a real back-and-forth with the speaker and audience. The speaker might leave the stage for as much as a third of the time, to mingle and get up close with the participants.

                      Often, with workshops, there are hands-on materials or other supplies... but it's quite common for there to not be enough for everyone. Sometimes people share among a single table or down a row. Other specialty items might only be present in a quantity of one or two, but will be passed around the room, etc.

                      Workshops are rarely less than two hours long. Three is a more relevant figure for the low end. A half-day is more common. A whole day is definitely not the norm, but is still possible. I have never in my life heard of a "workshop" that is more than a single day.
                      The REAL place where the "workshop" definition gets gray is where money comes into play.

                      I have run workshops where i was paid a flat, pre-negotiated fee. I have run workshops where i was paid according to how many butts were in seats. I have run workshops where i wasn't paid at all.

                      I have run workshops where people could simply sign-up if they were attendees of the hosting conference (but space was limited and sign-ups happen on-site as often as they happen pre-con via the web)

                      I have run workshops where there was a sign-up fee. Sometimes i saw a piece of that, sometimes i didn't.

                      Currently, when a new event approaches me asking about a "workshop" i try to steer them towards a system where i am paid a flat, pre-negotiated fee for my additional time, preparation, and materials. I recommend that they model their affair in a way that badge-wearing attendees do not have to pay to sit in on the workshop, although this almost always means capping attendance at a hard limit of 25 to 30 people, and making a sign-up or lottery system of sorts.


                      It seems like this year, DEFCON was simply caught in the swirl of information and ideas that happens whenever a new concept is tried. Not everyone is on the same page, not everyone will be happy with the results, and not everyone understood what they were getting into.

                      It's particularly difficult for some of the presenters, i think. As Myrcurial stated... he didn't even know that attendees to his session were going to be charged, per se.

                      I think if this is successful, maybe we'll see the process revised in the future. I think that charging people to attend may vanish, as we become more integrated with the Rio and have a better feel for our space.

                      I think that attendee charges may also drop or cease when people realize that a full-day session is bloody insane and is going to burn up the speakers and alienate/disconnect the participants from the rest of DEFCON. I predict half-day sessions will become the norm, and that they may even be Thursday as opposed to during DEFCON.

                      That's assuming the idea continues at all... maybe after DC19 people will not respond well or things will change more overall.

                      We'll just have to wait and see... but i harbor no ill will to anyone who was behind the idea, anyone who stands at the front of those rooms, or anyone who sits in the seats. As long as i have a crowd of jubilant people playing Gringo Warrior on Saturday and watching the madness, then i'm happy. If everyone is in Rodrigo and Chema and Myrcurial and Irongeek's workshops... then i'll think it was a poor notion.
                      Last edited by Deviant Ollam; 07-01-2011, 11:03 AM.
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                      • #12
                        Re: what are people's opinions?

                        Some quotes from DT:

                        "Black Hat is like college and Defcon is the fraternity party."

                        "First three years everybody at the show was there cause they cared. You know, you couldn't get a job in security. You did this cause you loved it. Then all of a sudden you could start getting jobs. Then all of a sudden money entered the equation. And then feel the underground rapidly changed around Defcon 4 to 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, until the bubble burst."

                        "And you know instead of talking about the routers and their packets, and their firewall rule sets, they started talking about stock options and, you know, and setup options and how much they're getting in salary and benefits. ... And pretty soon they are getting paid a lot of money and -- and the culture gets kind of infected by money."

                        For me, defcon is not about training and it's not about going to talks, it's not about getting certified in anything or traveling down the corporate career path. It's about the people. The people who do this stuff all year long, and we all travel to vegas to hang out together for a week. By adding explicit training and focusing on the talks too much I feel like people aren't coming for the social aspect.

                        So in summary, everyone gets something different out of defcon, and there's something for everyone :) Having pay workshops doesn't harm me directly, but it seems like it will attract more corporate drones than "hackers".

                        Kallahar
                        --- The fuck? Have you ever BEEN to Defcon?

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                        • #13
                          Re: what are people's opinions?

                          Firewall ACL's are fighting me editing my previous post:

                          One question for DT or anyone in the know is 'What was the need or motivation for the workshops'? There may be something we're missing in this debate and I'd rather hear it from the proverbial horses mouth. Perhaps some problem that needed solving that we are not aware of.
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                          • #14
                            Re: what are people's opinions?

                            Also there seems to be more workshops than rooms... The map shows 7 workshop rooms, but the schedule says:

                            Friday: Embedded System Design, Car Hacking, SQL, Engineering, FOCA, Mobile, Presentation, MITM, sexism (9)
                            Saturday: Embedded System Design, Engineering, Mobile, Wifi, I2P, Binary, MITM, sexism (8)

                            So are there partial talks, or are the times wrong, or the map wrong? Are they really nine hours long?

                            Kallahar
                            --- The fuck? Have you ever BEEN to Defcon?

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                            • #15
                              Re: what are people's opinions?

                              Originally posted by kallahar View Post
                              So are there partial talks, or are the times wrong, or the map wrong? Are they really nine hours long?
                              8 hours long with a 1 hour break for "lunch".

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