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How big should defcon be?

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  • How big should defcon be?

    Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't want everyone and their brother showing up at "that hacker conference", what do you think the "correct" attendance should be?

    Obviously this is personal opinions, and this poll won't affect any decisions, I'm just curious what the people here think...

    Also, please ignore line problems, crowding, etc. assume we always get a hotel big enough to easily handle whatever the attendance is.
    Everyone, comdex size
    Defcon 18 was just right
    Defcon 18 was too many people
    Half of 18 (appx 4,000 people)
    Ninjas party size only.
    --- The fuck? Have you ever BEEN to Defcon?

  • #2
    Re: How big should defcon be?

    I'm all for expansion, and community growth and all that good stuff. But to tell the truth, there were a friggin ton of people at 18. And without taking overcrowding into account with the poll question, it was a major problem in my eyes during DC18. About 75% of the talks I wanted to see, I couldn't because of crowds, I was even given shit for trying to re-enter a talk I did manage to get into after getting up to hit the restroom. As far as should just anyone show up at DEFCON, I'll say yes, but only if that person has a genuine interest in the community and learning all they can. Those who show up just to say they went to "teh leet haxor con" and don't have that genuine interest and thirst for knowledge should probably save their money and stay home.
    "You have cubed asscheeks?"... "Do you not?"


    • #3
      Re: How big should defcon be?

      I thought it was too big at Defcon VI. There were stupid fox news camera men, and the place just crawled with people I'd never seen before. Defcon XVII was an effin' ZOO. I cannot imagine what this past year was like, and do not want to. I'm still ambivalent about attending next year.

      It is far too late to put the genie back in the lamp. There are many groups of people that think of it as *their* conference du jour. Remember, the people who speak up, and are active, here on the Forums, is a vanishingly small percentage of the people who actually attend. Plenty of those never ever look at the forums.

      I also believe you do a disservice (and I'm sure it's unintentional) to the many groups of people who come to defcon. Not everyone is there for the parties, and many of the people that go there are simply there to listen and learn, or to present new information, or to see people that they only see a few times a year.

      I may struggle with the idea of making Shmoocon, but on the other hand, I like staying home, too.

      It is what it is.


      • #4
        Re: How big should defcon be?

        I declined to go this year because it seems that attendance is a massive booze party rather than sitting around soldering stuff together and talkin' smack about the latest security back door. I'm choosing to just go to a couple smaller conferences on either coast (toorcon, shmoocon..) because I'm really not social enough to go party for a few days with strangers..


        • #5
          Re: How big should defcon be?

          Defcon 9 was perfect.


          • #6
            Re: How big should defcon be?

            Originally posted by astcell View Post
            Defcon 9 was perfect.
            I hope you mean attendance numbers wise only. DC 9 was hands down my least favorite DEF CON. It was pretty much a nightmare.
            perl -e 'print pack(c5, (41*2), sqrt(7056), (unpack(c,H)-2), oct(115), 10)'


            • #7
              Re: How big should defcon be?

              Originally posted by shrdlu View Post
              Cloud computing? Please. I remember mainframes.
              OMFG, that's the quote of the year....

              DC18 was a zoo, but a well ordered, overattended zoo. Too many asshats, but we wrangled 'em effectively.

              Best ever was the year after 9/11. The script kiddies moms wouldn't put them on the planes, so only the hard cores showed up. Nice, small con around the pools at the AP..... and DC TV meant you could sit in your room and watch a talk even if you couldn't get in the room.



              • #8
                Re: How big should defcon be?

                Some of my favorite cons are smaller, Layerone, outerz0ne, phreaknic, and yes even notacon. Most if not all attendees eat sleep and breathe the same things I do and have the same lust for knowledge as I. Like shrdlu said, it's simply too late for things to go back to the way they where for defcon, but that doesn't stop those few of us from putting into defcon what we want out of it, a good environment and a hell of a family reunion.


                • #9
                  Re: How big should defcon be?

                  I liked it when there was just one track for presentations, but there are some things I did not like about parts of Defcon back then:
                  * The smoke from smokers in the presentation room grew from the high ceiling down towards the crowd as the progressed, and people were not just smoking tobacco. Some people were smoking lung-bleeders, and unfiltered cigarettes and perhaps other stuff. During these years, I'd cough up gray and brown phlegm for several days after I returned from Defcon. (I'm not a smoker. I don't blame the smokers. I'm an adult. I made a decision to stay in the room anyway. However, my lungs are happier with less smoke, now.)
                  * I didn't know anyone back then, except the people I arrived with to Defcon, but the few "parties" I attended were a bit geeky, fun, and not exclusive. One year, I just walked down the halls of the hotel after presentations were over and found a sign that read something like, "Defcon people welcome. Jerks are not." I knocked on the door, they looked at me and let me in. It was a room with people sitting around and talking. Some were talking about technical topics, but other people brought logic games and puzzles. One was like this "simon" game that had to be spun, or rotated with buttons to be pressed in the right order, growing more and more complex with each new addition. We also played the "ABC drug game" but only managed to get through the alphabet about 1.5 times before someone repeated a previously stated drug. Even then, the hotel cracked down on room parties, kicking people out because of maximum occupancy issues, even if they were quiet.

                  Other things were more entertaining and fun...
                  * Antics and pranks were more common in these early years. Crazy pranks were pulled and events happened with information relayed by radio sets, then filtered down as gossip. (I did not have a radio set.) One year, a member of was rumored to having been arrested, and a whole story unfolded about that. However, when an "alert" was sent out about the arrest, a small group of about 6 people suddenly left a crowded room yelling things to each other and took off, apparently hearing something about law enforcement and this other member. The story behind it was even more amusing, but if the parties want to talk about it, they can provide the details. These kinds of things were, however, more common in those years.
                  * The audience was more interactive in those days, with hecklers, and commentary provided by various members of the audience, while now, most of the audience sit "well behaved" providing as little interference or resistance as possible. Even over at the AP (Alexis Park) when John Q. Newman (Author of several Identity theft books, new identities, etc) provided a presentation on how our rights were be eroded, "for the children." After repeating this line, "for the children," someone in the audience yelled out, "FUCK THE CHILDREN," and there was laughter from the audience. In that same presentation, John Q. Newman cited cases for freedom of speech not being absolute and stated one example is, "we cannot yell 'FIRE!' in a crowded theater," at which point, someone from the audience yelled in a tone as bored as possible, "*fire*," which provided more laughter from the audience.
                  * There was more contest hacking, where the rules were attacked and exploited. Consider attempts to win on Hacker Jeopardy by abusing the beer-points bonus and mostly drinking beer. These kinds of rule exploits were especially common in the Scavenger Hunt.
                  * The Wall of sheep actually included FULL USERNAMES and FULL PASSWORDS printed, and one year, they were printed on paper plates and attached to the wall.
                  * In short, Defcon was less predictable, and something unexpected or exciting seemed to happen more often.

                  Things I don't miss about the early years (For me, around Defcon 5):
                  * Coughing up phlegm
                  * Long lines to get badges, which did not arrive on-time, and only had one person accepting cash payments. The first or second year they hired the retired women at the AP to sell badges was probably one of the best for getting badges quickly. Introduction of the electronic badges has (?temporarily?) caused a return to this problem of long lines, and inaccurate information on when the badges will arrive, or running out of badges much sooner. I heard it was better this year, though. I don't blame the people selling the badges, as they can't sell what they don't have, and they do move through thousands of people very quickly once they do have the badges to sell.
                  * Re-scheduling of presentations pretty much sucked in the early years. Things would get moved, and sometimes an easel board was updated with new schedules, but it was also subject to DoS attacks, or disinformation campaigns by regular attendees. Later, the schedule went up on the main web site, and was updated. In these years, having a laptop with dialup access was great, as I could visit the website during the day, and get the latest updates on what moved to when, or where. In the last few years, Nikita has done a pretty good job at not moving things around after the program is printed, and much better than wayyyy back when. The only things that seem to cause problems with scheduling are out of our control, like issues with the fire marshal, or water leaks or the hotel.
                  * Not knowing anyone outside of the group that I came with to Las Vegas -- this was my fault in not getting involved sooner.

                  Things that I was happy to see added:
                  * First introduced at the AP: Defcon channels, first with odd content, then movie channel and finally talks broadcast to rooms. This meant fewer people in the rooms with presentations for presentations I wanted to visit in person (to ask questions) and the opportunity to sit in the room and change channels if a presentations sucked. Sucky presentations were an increased risk with more tracks. Some were sucky because the presenter was not prepared, other because they did not show up, some because their content was way too old, and others, for other reasons.
                  * More contests or events: this meant fewer people in the presentations rooms and sometimes meant watching an interesting contest unfold.
                  * Unofficial, pre-con events (like the Toxic BBQ, the return of Defcon Shoot, SushiCon, and more.)

                  How big should it be? That really depends on the venue, and if the hallways are wide enough for mass egress every hour from one presentation room to another and no need for lines or clearing rooms after any presentation.

                  When Defcon was one track, there was no mass exit and entry between presentations. People would leave for the bathroom, and room population tended to get smaller as the days progressed (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) but you could pack a bag with food and drinks, plop down in a chair, and just stay there all day if you wanted. As a result, you didn't have to walk through a stink of hallways bumping into sweaty people, pressed against others moving a few inches every few seconds. You also did not have to leave the presentation room every time a presentation ended, and get in line to see another presentation. However, those days are gone, and we won't be back there anytime soon.

                  I've read reports about wider hallways at the new venue, that is a big plus, so long as people are not congregating in the hallways to chat. That creates bottlenecks, and means increased risk of bumping into sweaty people. A return of presentations to room televisions is also a big plus as it means fewer people in hallways. It would be good to see a dedicated pool for Defcon people that is open 24 hours a day, so we might see something similar to what the AP offered. It won't be the same, since none of the pools are in any direct path from hotel room to presentation/contest/event space, but it would provide an opportunity for parties like the AP pools offered.

                  If the venue is big enough and has enough resources, I'm fine with Defcon growing to an even larger size since returning to one track is just not going to happen.

                  * Big enough and has enough resources: no lines, no bumping into people clogging hallways, room to get to where I want to go, walking full stride quickly, without having to slow down for anything.
                  Last edited by TheCotMan; September 19, 2010, 09:04.


                  • #10
                    Re: How big should defcon be?

                    I'm OK with unlimited size *providing there is enough space*, which is not remotely the case now. My sense of it is that the Riv had about 1/2 the needed space for the last few cons. I'm distressed to read that the Rio has only marginally more space. We need double the space right now, and future growth will drive ever more need.

                    One good thing about the current format is that having 5 tracks means that when 3 of them suck you can still find 2 good ones, and those are occasionally sparsely enough attended that you can get in. Having a bigger con with even more tracks raises the odds of not striking out. Normally that's not even a consideration for me, but this year it seems that the number of sucky tracks was vastly higher than in past years. Still enough backups to be OK though.

                    If it were up to me I would have quit attending about 3 years ago due to the crowding. But my wife is totally hooked. She's not a geek, but she loves the non-technical tracks. So she drags me there every year.

                    I'm fine with just watching the videos and slides online, avoiding anything to do with the nightmare ghetto that Vegas has become since the economic crash. I also don't need to burn most of a day each way plus > $1,000 in total travel costs. I guess I just don't value the in-person, physical aspect of the con enough to outweigh the downsides.

                    DT - We had a thread going about 1-2 years ago about doing some kind of pay-per-view TV feed of the conference. I'm still happy to help drive that if you are interested. I work for a big US cable TV company in a technical position. I don't know anything about the business side of something like a Defcon PPV deal but I can find out who the right people are and put you in touch with them if you like.
                    "Men entrusted with power, even those aware of its dangers, tend, particularly when pressured, to slight liberty." - , The Church Committee, April 26 (legislative day, April 14), 1976


                    • #11
                      Re: How big should defcon be?

                      Well I've been attending since DC9.. I agree that alot of things have gone downhill mostly due to crowding and attendance by people there to party and do nothing else constructive. For me each year something has effected how I viewed the con.

                      From Best To Worst.. (Seems its hit or miss)
                      Defcon 12 - Alexis
                      Defcon 11 - Alexis
                      Defcon 17 - Riviera
                      Defcon 16 - Riviera
                      Defcon 13 - Alexis
                      Defcon 14 - Riviera
                      Defcon 09 - Alexis
                      Defcon 10 - Alexis
                      Defcon 18 - Riviera
                      Defcon 15 - Riviera


                      • #12
                        Re: How big should defcon be?

                        Edit: I'm an idiot and didn't read the first post. I'll leave this here to showcase my not reading, but feel free to flog me.

                        I'm relatively new to the con, but this year seemed extremely intense. Perhaps it was the climate leading up to the conference, or the high visibility talks that were being given, but it seemed like there was a ton of dead weight. I mean that in the fondest way I can, but there were a lot of people inside the talks just yammering and clicking away on their netbooks instead of taking in the information. I had to move a few times during the Call to Action panel just to hear what was going on, and seeing how much effort it took to get in, that was frustrating.

                        The numbers could have been managed better if we had the space, I think. The goons did the best they could with the stampede, and managed to organize people into queues. That was incredible, considering the sheer amount of people trying to get from point A to point B. I think the major issue was just physical space.

                        How big should Defcon be? As big as we can accommodate, and as small as can remain relevant. If that makes sense.


                        • #13
                          Re: How big should defcon be?

                          Success does have it's problems.

                          Unfortunately, as one who only started attending at DC17, I don't feel qualified to comment on this per se. However, regardless of how big DC grows, it will always kick ass on the more "mainstream" conference down the road for value and true knowledge sharing.


                          • #14
                            Re: How big should defcon be?

                            Originally posted by Chris View Post
                            I hope you mean attendance numbers wise only. DC 9 was hands down my least favorite DEF CON. It was pretty much a nightmare.
                            Yes, size-wise. It worked at the AP, it was the perfect storm. The entire time at Riviera was very odd, like waking up naked with your sister.