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  • What's the point of defcon?

    Why does defcon exist? Why do we keep going?

    The #1 reason that I go to defcon is for the people. The talks are interesting to some, I'm sure, but honestly most are too boring for my tastes.

    So how do you meet and talk to new people? Parties and socializing. Many groups are more than happy to donate their time and money to get parties going so that their friends can have a good time.

    These parties are getting harder and harder to either locate or get into, especially since more and more are being moved off site. If you don't know the right people, you can't even get in. I remember my first defcon, I hardly knew anyone, I certainly didn't know anyone well enough to get invites to all the cool parties. Fortunately, it was at the AP and most parties didn't HAVE invites, they just opened their doors to everyone. Even as a complete defcon n00b I felt welcome into the group.

    Unfortunately, that just doesn't happen any more. And there's no easy way to fix it.

    So DT, I know you read some of these posts. When negotiating and setting up Defcon 18, could you please also help out the unofficial parties? We've wanted to, say, have Monaco tower be defcon only for years, maybe we have enough sway now to make that happen? Plus the "no outside alcohol" is a ridiculous policy. Defconers just aren't the kind of crowd that will be happy buying overpriced rum and cokes from a slow-as-fuck hotel bartender!

    Thanks!

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

  • #2
    Re: What's the point of defcon?

    Kallahar,

    I have to agree, and it's always been the founding tenants of the Penthouse party. It's really simple.

    Here's the deal. I'm thinking the penthouse should go off-site next year. The ninjas have proven they can do it and I think so can we.

    Here's the deal though. So if the ninjas go off site, why does the Riv care? They really shouldn't that much. They're exclusive and this means that there's a limited audience that will be leaving.

    We run 2 days. We're non exclusive.

    This means if we go off-site, defcon becomes a ghost town. Really.

    Why you might ask? Well suppose your a BH sponsored DC attendee and the ninjas are running. This means your left with black and white ball or the skybox parties as an option. At these parties you'll be charged $6 for a beer. For a little more than $6, you could buy a 6-pack at the ABC store and that same 6-pack is even less at AM/PM...


    OR....

    You can get your ass on a shuttle and head over to the Aristocrats party and be welcomed in with open arms (as long as you have ID and are 21 or over) But you'll be handed a free midshelf drink or beer.

    So the question is for the n00b. Should I stay in my room and sleep, Gamble in an empty hotel, Try to get into a party where I might get turned away and even if I do manage to gain entry, I'll still have to pay $6 for drinks. --OR, I could head out and drink for free with open arms, and the love that is the Aristocrats Penthouse Party.

    It seems to me, SERIOUSLY DT, you need to talk with them about this. As more and more people head off site, the money that the Riv is depending attendees bring in for hotel services for attendees is going to decrease. This means they're going to be less likely to renew, or worse for DC charge a shit ton more to cover it.

    I've said before I'm more than willing to pay for booze or a corkage fee if it's reasonable. 85/quart isn't reasonable, especially considering the fine is $500 per night. The $12k corkage the Riv wanted from the ninjas wasn't reasonable as well. For gods sake, I thought LV was supposed to be home of the penthouse party.

    If they play ball we'd be willing to stay on site but honestly I'm really starting to resent the thug policies that our party faces every year.

    We are the largest free party that is wide open and I think some future issues are coming on the horizon for DC/Riv as everyone is sick of dealing with these thugs and starts to go elsewhere.

    I can tell you, while I thought the AP could be dicks sometimes (for instance, closing the pool and having a security guard point and tell me to 'GO TO YOUR ROOM!' as if I was an insolent child when all I was trying to do was find out why the pool was closed.) Though, I've never felt that I was dealing with thugs.

    That's the best word I can come up with for the Riv staff save a few, Thugs (Kim, Tim, and Mark from the Bellstand, and the maid staff on the Monoco tower P level come to mind as exceptions)

    And I for one am starting to get sick of it as well.

    So as Kallahar says, what's defcon for? REALLY: What distinguishes it from BH? The talks are the same more or less. The parties have become a fucking nightmare to organize. Dealing with the hotel just sucks. The quality of the experience as both a planner and an attendee has gone right down the shitter.
    Last edited by icetre; August 7, 2009, 14:11. Reason: shitty proofreading, oops

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    • #3
      Re: What's the point of defcon?

      Icetre, I love you man, I had a great time hanging out with you and the aristocrats this year. BUT, you have got to be kidding me! Moving more and more parties off-site is what is killing
      defcon already, and should be regarded as a last resort (IMO).

      As Kallahar said, part of defcon is being able to wander around on-site and just thrust yourself into things. Ninja having an off-site party works, if that's the only party you really want to spend any time at. Imagine if those with wandering spirits wanted to go to the penthouse party and ninja and handfuls of room parties. It's just a bad idea.

      Does that mean I have a better idea at this point? no. :(

      But, I fully support the idea of the Monaco tower as the defcon tower as an attempt at trying to fix whats being broken.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: What's the point of defcon?

        The quality of the experience as both a planner and an attendee has gone right down the shitter.
        As someone that works in the WasteWater Industry, please do not insult us this way. The shitter isn't nearly as bad as what I've been reading about in regards to the Riv.
        A third party security audit is the IT equivalent of a colonoscopy. It's long, intrusive, very uncomfortable, and when it's done, you'll have seen things you really didn't want to see, and you'll never forget that you've had one.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: What's the point of defcon?

          I was really surprised by the off-site parties this year. One of my favorite things about Defcon was just being able to wander around and find some random party to poke your head in on, or if you were lucky enough to catch an invite; be able to decide "Hey, Ninja Ball sounds fun." or "Hacker Pimps seems like a good time, yay!". This year, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off!

          Everything was horribly spread out, parties were getting shut down before they kicked off, the place was overcrowded ... I know a big group of us wound up in a hotel room for most of the con just hanging out in a small group, or giving up and going off-site to the Peppermill or something to have a good time.

          I'll throw my 2 cents in and say I support the Monaco idea as well. Maybe it will help. Icetre makes a VERY good point about the hotel's reaction to more people going off-site. They will very likely be less eager to renew or they'll knock the price up by a substantial amount.

          Unfortunately, I don't have any better ideas myself. I just know the overwhelming frustration from the rudeness of staff, the overcrowding, etc, etc, etc, <insert things I've already complained about way too much here> really sort of made Defcon suck for me this year. I'm certainly willing to offer help in any way I can to make next year better.
          -Vy

          I've never been to prison in the US. Could be fun...

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: What's the point of defcon?

            Originally posted by CP99 View Post
            Imagine if those with wandering spirits wanted to go to the penthouse party and ninja and handfuls of room parties. It's just a bad idea.
            It becomes a logistical nightmare. Being a bit of a drifter, all the off-site activities (while totally kickass) did change the feel of my Saturday night compared to past cons.

            That being said, the offsite parties were worth the peace of mind. Any time I was in a room party there was a constant fear of hotel security busting in. In the end, while it changes the overall vibe of the con dramatically, I prefer offsite parties. If Riviera security was more lax than that would change.

            As far as drink service in the Sky boxes goes, I was very satisfied with the bar tenders! They did a hell of a job keeping people supplied given the demand.

            We can all bitch on here all we want, but ultimately the Riviera holds the final sway. Write them and kindly voice your concerns. If people elegantly stated their opinions they may just change their minds. (not directed at anyone in particular)
            The dude abides.

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            • #7
              Re: What's the point of defcon?

              Originally posted by icetre View Post
              At these parties you'll be charged $6 for a beer.
              Actually, we were only looking at $2 this year (at least, that was the price every time I bought a beer).

              Mixed drinks were considerably more and soda, at $3.50, was just insane.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: What's the point of defcon?

                To answer your question, I think DEFCON is about community and friends.

                Now, for the rest of it, addressing the party situation:

                I'm sorry you guys got shut down again this year.

                I'm going to post about the Ninja party and badges in general once we get our shit together over here, but I wanted to jump in here with a couple brief things.

                Before I start bashing the Riv, I do want to say that taking the whole conference into account, the Riv is a rather logical venue for DEFCON to be held at, and I understand why we're there. Generally speaking, there are more upsides than there are downsides, it's just easier to pick out the downsides. The venue's willingness and ability to host and support private parties (Ninja, Penthouse, whatever) takes a back seat to the core DEFCON requirements, obviously. It's not that parties aren't important, I think they're a part of DEFCON tradition and I wouldn't even go otherwise. But, there's got to be priorities.

                Firstly, I think it's important to note that DT did try to fix the unofficial party situation, both by bringing costs down and also by just getting the hotel in line so that private events would be even considered, and trying to set things up in a way that the Riv would have its bases covered both legally and financially. We had extensive conversations about this over the past 2 years, both leading up to last year's canceled ninja event, and this year's offsite event.

                But even taking that into account, the reason the Ninjas went offsite is that we don't trust that the Riv will honor an agreement with us. It's really that simple. I don't care what their prices are or what they say they'll do when we get there, they screwed us big time before, and that is the only time we are going to put ourselves in that situation. That's it. We don't consider the Riv as an option anymore. We wouldn't plan to throw the event there if they offered to do it for free. Period.

                The Riviera does not feel like a partner in throwing private events. They feel like an adversary. All of their actions say "go away."

                Throwing an offsite event is, in my mind, the only way we can throw the event we want to throw. We had more than 750 people leave the Riv to come to the Ninja Party this year. That was about 3 times more than I expected. It was a massive success by any measure, and an interesting experiment in offsite events at con. I'm sure this also took at least a noticeable, albeit not truly substantial, chunk of cash out of the Riviera's bar tills, as that's 750 less people drinking at the hotel.

                But like Icetre said, this does remove a lot of people from the property on Saturday night. Unfortunately, I think that's the reality we all need to deal with until our run at the Riviera ends. Some stuff just isn't feasible at the Riv.

                Then there's the issue about DEFCON newcomers who want to get out and go to some parties.

                I'm pretty sensitive about the situation surrounding the invite-only status of the Ninja Party, and the related idea that "DEFCON Noobs" more often than not get left out because they didn't socialize with the right person. Although it does seem that way on the outside, that's not the reason we make it invite only, and certainly we had a ton of DEFCON first-timers at the event this year.

                Being a "DEFCON Noob" obviously has no bearing on anyone's personal qualities, skill level, or anything else, and I think we can all agree that it's a shitty way to discriminate. For what it's worth, this year, I handed out at least fifty, maybe a hundred invites to DEFCON newcomers who just came up and introduced themselves and talked to me about the Ninja Badge and what was going on. However, for us it always comes back to capacity.

                Overall, our cost per guest is anywhere from $20 to $50 dollars depending on badge cost and how much they drink, along with other overhead, and we simply can't bring the entire con to the party. So, we just need a system that keeps the capacity reasonable while making sure we get good, positive-attitude, non-troublemaking people to come out. The system isn't perfect, but it's getting better every year, and we had a massive amount of totally new people this year.

                I'll elaborate later in another thread, but that's the very short version of the story.

                Between Ninja, IOActive, B&W Ball, and the Penthouse, we've got a good balance going and it covers pretty much the whole con. Everybody should have something to do on Saturday and plenty of people to mingle with. I think there's something for everyone. I hope you guys continue to throw the event.

                In my personal opinion, if your goals are altruistic, and the most important thing to you is to have the event occur on-property even if it's not entirely on your terms, then the most logical decision is to let the Riviera host the event on their terms 100%. Get a signed contract and hope they honor it, and figure out how to pay for it. I would say that this would offer the best chance of the event occurring without being arbitrarily shut down, but I still wouldn't bet the farm on it. :)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: What's the point of defcon?

                  Originally posted by barkode View Post
                  Before I start bashing the Riv, I do want to say that taking the whole conference into account, the Riv is a rather logical venue for DEFCON to be held at, and I understand why we're there. Generally speaking, there are more upsides than there are downsides, it's just easier to pick out the downsides.
                  Ignoring the fact that it is often easier to identify the negative simply due to the nature of perception when things go smoothly, I believe that a lot of the complaints stem from the fact that the negatives are so arbitrary and difficult to understand.

                  Why does the pool close? It's a freakin' great place to hang out and talk at night, and I miss that interaction from the Alexis Park. Does their insurance policy require a lifeguard? Can't we just pay for a lifeguard or find a CPR-certified volunteer?

                  Why do they shut down room parties? Can't they just crank up the damage fees (and announce them in the hilarious manner of the AP) and deal with potential guest complaints?

                  What was up with the penthouse situation? Their choice is not making money from alcohol because the hosts donated, or not making money from alcohol or the party-hosting fee.

                  What has been the situation with Defcon TV? Is there simply a total lack of infrastructure that would allow us to broadcast the talks to the rooms, or does the hotel believe that the talks are too frightening for the general public?

                  I will admit that IOActive, in some way or another, has really stepped up to the plate for giving general access to a kick-ass party. While the vibe is different in a crowd of that size, congratulations are in order for throwing a fantastically popular party that the Riviera hasn't shut down.

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                  • #10
                    Re: What's the point of defcon?

                    pushing things off-site may be the most effective way to hit the Riv in the wallet, but it is killing DEFCON for me and most people whom i know.

                    the "wandering" nature of the evenings is what i like the best. My Friday night was the best one at DEFCON this year... i started out with a dinner on-site, seeing friends casually and discussing who wanted to stop by where. i went to the Karaoke room early-on, enjoyed a few people's songs, but decided my name wasn't going to scoot along the list quite fast enough so i told the folk i'd stop by later on. I went up to see SkyDog, Dallas, LadyM, and the Pimps setting up and getting going. I had fun there for a while. I left after txt-ing Sereyna since her little sister (how many of you met her and Doodle this year? nine kinds of awesome, no?) couldn't go to 21+ events... so we crossed paths out in a public area. Mixed in with this somehow was the 10,000 Cent Pyramid. I enjoyed being a part of that. I know i wound up back in the Skyboxes for a while again, then ultimately was back at Karaoke some more where Bascule and his crew were pleased to see me return and helped me get in the song queue again.

                    I'm not 100% sure when or where the evening down-shifted back to the room for me, but i was confident in my ability to get to my own bed if and when i wanted to... and i was able to do this and hit all of the events i've just mentioned because i didn't leave the hotel.

                    Saturday night we (the TF2 theme dress up Shmoo posse) tried to mix in an off-site venture and it blew a massive hole in my evening the way that only an off-site voyage can. Not saying it was a bad event out there, just saying i won't likely be doing that again.
                    "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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                    • #11
                      Re: What's the point of defcon?

                      Originally posted by Voltage Spike View Post
                      Actually, we were only looking at $2 this year (at least, that was the price every time I bought a beer).

                      Mixed drinks were considerably more and soda, at $3.50, was just insane.
                      I don't know where you went, and I was under the impression that was going to be the pricing which is why I brought a whole pocket full of $5's, but every time I used a bar the pricing was $6.75 for a rum and coke and things got $1 worse for selecting high quality booze. The 'special' martini was $4 and literally a shot of vodka in a martini shaped plastic shot glass.

                      So yeah, I was planning to get shit faced and leave $1.50 for a tip, which is a pretty good tip in my opinion, Simple formula cheap drink = good tip.

                      On the other hand, I also understand there is a substantial fee for just having the bartender present, $1600 each is a figure I heard from last year. Whats that work out to, $300-$400 an hour depending on the party? With rates like this I don't understand why a tip jar is even necessary. I'm not trying to be a prick, and I'm generally a nice guy, but I also don't like to be taken advantage of just because the Rivera can get away with adding DEFCON Tax.

                      And then there was the line considerations... At the EFF party I saw the line and just said screw it and went down to the ABC stores. Got a speed bottle of rum and a 6 pack of coke for about the price of 2 drinks + tip, and I was zooming!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: What's the point of defcon?

                        This was my 3rd Defcon and my best. I use to come out for the talks, now I come out to meet & hang out with some of the coolest people on the planet, support causes I believe in, and some I don't, but the people running them are worth supporting.

                        Hackers and social skills are not items you usually see in the same sentence. I think invite only parties, and off-site ones force people to socialize. People do me a favor when they challenge me in technology as well as other very important areas in life.

                        I made it to a lot of parties and events this year, some I was invited to, some I wasn't. For me being a hacker of life that's half of the fun. Some might think well that's wrong, but I think that's part of being a hacker. As long as you aren't there to cause trouble and are willing to contribute to the festivities more power to you in my book. Folks at Defcon aren't excluding you, only you exclude you by not taking a chance and participating in the events. I understand this is harder if you are in a large groups of friends. It's much easier when you are by yourself.

                        As for n00bs, I was one once. I knew no one, I started out on the Netstumber & Defcon forums and took the chance and shared my brain with folks. Sometimes I made an ass out of myself other times not. I know a lot of people now, and hope to know even more. You don't have to volunteer or be a goon to participate. You can share your room, you can offer rides, there is so much you can do to get to know people if you are a n00b. There are many people here I think are worth the effort to get to know.

                        As far as the whole off-site verses on-site; if it wasn't for the shoot I would have never seen the incredible landscape that surrounds Las Vegas(religious experience). If I never fired a shot it would have been well worth it. I got to ride out to the shoot with some new and very cool people I've never met before and it got me outside, and got me some sun. I got some shooting tips from a real life sniper, dudes how cool is that.

                        I got to go over the Hilton for a party and also meet some very cool folks as well as have a great meal(thanks Dakahuna). IMHO you are doing yourself a dis-service and totally missing out on the Defcon "experience" if you don't leave the hotel.

                        I haven't tried to plan an event there so I can't imagine what folks must be up against but I thought I would offer my perspective. I had a wonder time, perhaps the best ever this year. Despite the strippers/credit card incident.

                        Just my 2 cents.

                        xor
                        Last edited by xor; August 7, 2009, 19:39.
                        Just because you can doesn't mean you should. This applies to making babies, hacking, and youtube videos.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: What's the point of defcon?

                          Originally posted by Deviant Ollam View Post
                          pushing things off-site may be the most effective way to hit the Riv in the wallet, but it is killing DEFCON for me and most people whom i know.
                          With all due respect, I think that's a little dramatic, and an exaggeration.

                          Most conferences worldwide include events that take place away from the primary venue. DEFCON has had many offsite events for years - the shoot, the toxic BBQ, etc. I think it's a natural progression to start having offsite parties as well. There's just practical limitations on what's possible in a single venue.

                          I mean I remember seeing you in Amsterdam at BlackHat, then we all walked from the Moevenpick to the central station in ass-cold weather, and rode into southern Amsterdam for a TOOOL meeting. Sure it wasn't an official part of BlackHat, but it was an awesome event occurring pari passu BlackHat, and was worth leaving the hotel over.

                          There's still plenty of "wanderability" at DEFCON. But as it gets bigger and more complex, and as the events grow, I think we're going to see more off-site events. When I first came to DEFCON it was 200 dudes in one room. Now we take over an entire hotel. I think we need to accept the idea that growth and scope creep is going to push some things offsite, and cope with it as you would at any other event, by deciding where to go and what to see.

                          Also, this isn't about hitting the Riv in the wallet, it's about the difference between events occurring and not occurring.

                          I mean let's be frank here - one would spend more time waiting in line for a popular talk than they would traveling to the a nearby offsite party. It's not the same as wandering from skybox to skybox, but that's the tradeoff for higher-quality events and activities. I mean, you can't do the Toxic BBQ in a skybox, or the DEFCON Shoot in a skybox. Sometimes you just gotta leave the property.

                          So, instead of fighting the inevitable, I think we should focus on how to make sure off-site events are easily and quickly accessible, and that con attendees are not spread too thin. Honestly, I think right now between Ninja, IOActive, B&W, and Penthouse, we have things balanced out nicely. I don't know what impact the Facebook party had, I heard little about it other than it was at Studio 54 (which is a rad venue). I think if we continue as we are, things should be OK, even if Penthouse moves offsite/nearby.

                          I mean, to sum it up: a lot of these events are square pegs and the Riviera is a round hole. You either have to throw out the pegs, or you find a new hole.

                          So don't let your DEFCON experience, or your Vegas experience, be limited by the walls of the Riviera or the psychological barriers of going out the front door. I mean, if we did that, nobody would have experienced Quarks, a DEFCON tradition!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: What's the point of defcon?

                            IMHO, the "wandering" part of Defcon is the most enjoyable. Being able to catch Hacker Jepoardy, Queercon, 10,000 Cent pyramid, the Penthouse party, Movie night (Ghost in the shell rocks), the Black and White Ball and all the other neat stuff at night is what Defcon is about for me.

                            Trying to party hop even if there is a shuttle provided is a huge pain in the arse and a major buzz kill. You can't just swing by the door and see if it is lame or awesome, or if there is anyone you know there or not. Yes the Riv can be a crap hole, but you need to keep as much stuff in one place or Defcon fragments and dies.

                            Rhenium

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: What's the point of defcon?

                              just going point by point, i'll address some of my feelings on the matter in response to the opinions that you are offering here. this is all in the spirit of open discussion, of course... i dig you and respect you a lot but (for obvious reasons) we seem to have differing perspectives on the issue of off-site parties.

                              Originally posted by barkode View Post
                              Most conferences worldwide include events that take place away from the primary venue.
                              aye, but most conferences are not DEFCON... the whole nature of what makes DEFCON amazing (at least in my view) is the vast multiplicity of what is going on all the time once the weekend is in full swing.

                              Originally posted by barkode View Post
                              DEFCON has had many offsite events for years - the shoot, the toxic BBQ, etc. I think it's a natural progression to start having offsite parties as well.
                              all of the other events are pre-con (or post con on rare occasion)

                              Originally posted by barkode View Post
                              I mean I remember seeing you in Amsterdam at BlackHat, then we all walked from the Moevenpick to the central station
                              indeed... but the offerings of anything happening at the hotel were basically nil, especially compared to being down in the city.

                              Originally posted by barkode View Post
                              push some things offsite, and cope with it as you would at any other event, by deciding where to go and what to see.
                              it is that need to make decisions and be unable to easily shift that make offsite events difficulty for me.

                              Originally posted by barkode View Post
                              we should focus on how to make sure off-site events are easily and quickly accessible
                              unless things can literally be 3 to 5 minutes of a trip, i can't imagine liking them a whole lot... there's just that painfully difficult text "hey, we're in [whatever room] and it's great, you should stop by if you can!" that makes me go "urgh" if i'm off site.

                              Originally posted by Rhenium View Post
                              IMHO, the "wandering" part of Defcon is the most enjoyable.
                              spot-on, i agree with you there.

                              Originally posted by Rhenium View Post
                              Being able to catch Hacker Jepoardy, Queercon, 10,000 Cent pyramid, the Penthouse party, Movie night (Ghost in the shell rocks), the Black and White Ball and all the other neat stuff at night is what Defcon is about for me.
                              i feel exactly the same way.

                              Originally posted by Rhenium View Post
                              Trying to party hop even if there is a shuttle provided is a huge pain in the arse and a major buzz kill. You can't just swing by the door and see if it is lame or awesome, or if there is anyone you know there or not.
                              yeah, it's all about the flexibility for me. i'd prefer to keep brainstorming on ways to dump the Riv's rules, regs, and interference when it comes to parties.
                              "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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