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  • A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

    Greetings,

    I've been a computer nerd for as long as I can remember and have visited these forums on and off since I was a young lad. Last year I finally turned 21, and thus I naturally have started considering going to Defcon. I checked the FAQ and didn't find answers to these questions, so I decided to pose them here. I'd be grateful to anyone who could answer any of them:

    1. How much can one expect to spend in total to have an enjoyable time at Defcon? As in, do you have to spend to fully experience the con, or can I use my thrifty cheap college student skills to still get a rich experience and save money?

    2. Is it recommended for first-time con-goers to submit a paper to talk about? I've been working at a datamining lab for four years and have a couple of papers floating around in the academic peer review system. I think I might have some interesting things to say, but it's mainly my work and perspectives from academia (aka fantasy) land. I'm also scared I might end up making my first time less enjoyable in case I get selected to talk.

    3. Is it easy to make new friends at Defcon? If I were to go, I might have to go alone.

    4. Any behaviors in particular that are widely looked down upon?

    Thanks much.

  • #2
    Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

    Originally posted by Sapience View Post
    Greetings,

    I've been a computer nerd for as long as I can remember and have visited these forums on and off since I was a young lad. Last year I finally turned 21, and thus I naturally have started considering going to Defcon. I checked the FAQ and didn't find answers to these questions, so I decided to pose them here. I'd be grateful to anyone who could answer any of them:

    1. How much can one expect to spend in total to have an enjoyable time at Defcon? As in, do you have to spend to fully experience the con, or can I use my thrifty cheap college student skills to still get a rich experience and save money?
    I THINK this is addressed in the unofficial FAQ but either way no one can answer this question but you. You can easily get by on the cost of admission plus food and lodging. If you like to drink a lot you'll need money for that. If you like to gamble, you'll need money for that. It depends on what you think is fun. I think your best bet is to determine what you think a good budget for each day is, bring that and then stick to it.

    Originally posted by Sapience View Post
    2. Is it recommended for first-time con-goers to submit a paper to talk about? I've been working at a datamining lab for four years and have a couple of papers floating around in the academic peer review system. I think I might have some interesting things to say, but it's mainly my work and perspectives from academia (aka fantasy) land. I'm also scared I might end up making my first time less enjoyable in case I get selected to talk.
    Again, this is your call. If you think the talk adds value, I'd submit it. Being a speaker definitely exposes you to more attendees as people that come to your talk will possibly want to discuss it with you before/after, buy you beers, etc. It's an hour (ish) of your time. I have spoken at many DEF CONs and always thought it enhanced the overall experience far more than it detracted from it.

    Originally posted by Sapience View Post
    3. Is it easy to make new friends at Defcon? If I were to go, I might have to go alone.
    It's what you put in to it. Honestly, it used to be easier to meet new people when we were at the Alexis Park. The Riv made that much more difficult in my opinion. This year we're at a new hotel so it's hard to say. It may move back toward the direction of the AP, it may be even more difficult than the Riv. I can tell you that the first time I came to DEF CON I knew exactly one person and he was a "go to bed at 9" type so I spent most of my time essentially on my own and I didn't have any problems meeting/talking to people. A lot of that will depend on your personality. If you're a dick, you probably won't be very successful at making friends. If you aren't a dick, you'll probably do ok.

    Originally posted by Sapience View Post
    4. Any behaviors in particular that are widely looked down upon?
    See my previous answer. Being a dick is looked down upon. If you are the kind of person that can't listen and has to talk/one up every comment in every conversation, you'll probably be shunned pretty quickly. If you contribute appropriately and aren't a cockbag you'll probably do fine.
    Originally posted by Sapience View Post
    Thanks much.
    perl -e 'print pack(c5, (41*2), sqrt(7056), (unpack(c,H)-2), oct(115), 10)'

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

      Originally posted by Sapience View Post
      1. How much can one expect to spend in total to have an enjoyable time at Defcon? As in, do you have to spend to fully experience the con, or can I use my thrifty cheap college student skills to still get a rich experience and save money?
      That really depends on how you like to live and what you can tolerate.

      People that claim to attend Defcon for $200 tend to have friends at Defcon, have rides to Las Vegas with other paid for, or split for short driving distances like Orange County, and their room and badge paid for by others. In my opinion, this is way too cheap for most people, especially people new to Defcon.

      If you are staying at the Rio, pre-tax room rates at $99/Sun-Thur, and $112/Fri-Sat. These rates are for 1 or 2 people per "standard" room at the Defcon rate. If you TRUST someone, you could split a room, with one person and halve your room costs. (See the FAQ for risks with sharing rooms.)

      Next is the Defcon Badge. According to the official FAQ the cost for a badge is $150. If you are a speaker, I think you get a "speaker" badge and the choice of a small amount of cash (like $100 or so) or an extra "human" badge. It would be best to plan as though you won't get selected as a speaker, and as a result, won't get a free badge.

      Travel costs can be high. Are you flying into Las Vegas? Did you plan to use a cheaper shuttle service and find the one that will take you to your hotel and back to the airport? Maybe you want to use a Rental car, which is even more expense especially for people under 23 or 24 years old. Are you driving to Defcon? Have you computed the costs of hotels along the way, gas, possible break-down of the vehicle? Taxis can also be expensive. If you have never been to Las Vegas, don't look at the map with google maps and think short distances won't take long by Taxi, especially on the strip. Walking has its hazards (as mentioned in the FAQ with heat.) Walking the strip is easier at night, when it is cooler. There is a bus called the "Deuce" that runs the strip, too. Look it up online, but I seem to recall it being about $3.00 for one ride, or something like $8 for all-day use. However, it only runs the strip.

      Food: if you have your own car, you can drive to a grocery store and save big on food.If you know other people that have a car, and they are going to a grocery store, you can hook up with them grocery store food prices in Las Vegas are similar to grocery store food prices elsewhere in the US. Eating at restaurants can become increasingly more costly. The cheap, fast-food, is an option, but I don't have the latest on the food options at the Rio. When I was there last, they had some nice restaurants and the buffet. I didn not see or look for "cheap fast food" options. The Buffet was something like $14 for breakfast, $18 for Lunch, and $22 for dinner. Prices have probably changed since I was there several years ago. Restaurants were mostly more expensive than that for one meal including tax and assuming 15% tip.

      Booze: Are you going to be drinking at the in-hotel bars? Expect to pay premium prices for that booze. I don't drink, but $4+/beer, and maybe around $8+ for mixed drinks at the hotel bars seems reasonable. Night Clubs will probably be even more expensive, not counting cover charge. If you can get to a grocery store, you can bring booze back to your room with less expense than buying at the hotel or anywhere on the strip.

      Entertainment: What other fun do you plan to have while in Las Vegas? Many people show up one or more days early and pick up some shows like Penn and Teller. Some people have mentioned visiting a museum like the Pinball Hall of Fame, or The Atomic Testing Museum. Some like the night clubs, or gambling. Expect shows to cost from $30 to $200 depending on the show, and where you sit. There are/were these coffee-hut sized shacks on the strip in Las Vegas claiming to have cheap tickets. These are mostly for shows that are having trouble filling seats. If you are not too picky, and the online-pre-purchased prices for shows is too high, check these out for shows and prices.

      Swag/Vendor area stuff: there are tee shirts that run about $20/each on sale in the vendor area. Historically, they have also sold books, music (on CD), lockpicks, electronics, and much more. Average price for stuff seems to range around $20 to $50 for each item, while more expensive electronics that shoot far beyond that. How much you want to allocate for purchases like these, or souvenir from Las Vegas is up to you.

      Defcon-specific entertainment: If you plan to attend the Defcon Shoot, Deviant is entertaining the idea of charging fees for range-space. If you plan to attend the Toxic BBQ, are you bringing food, and do you know how you are going to cook it? You can't assume you will have grill space on someone else's grill. Plan ahead of time. Previous years, locals to Las Vegas have host a pre-con event called, "The Summit," which has a separate cost, and has been a fund-raiser. There are often other Defcon events or fund-raisers that accept cash for activities, too.

      After badge costs and air-transportation costs (if flying) are covered, what kind of, "living," you are willing to enjoy becomes the biggest factor. Sharing a room can save your cash, but if you don't trust the people, can cost you in "other ways." Sharing a car with other people can save money, just as sharing a taxi with other people can save money. Avoiding costly booze can save money. Skipping shows will save more. Getting cheap food at the grocery store and leaving it in your room can save big on food costs, but be careful with this; some socializing happens with other people at Defcon when you go out to eat, sometimes at a nice restaurants.

      Add all of those costs together to find your total, and divide across the days you will be there to find your average daily cost. Then, add on an extra $50 per day in cash for emergencies. If there are no emergencies, then you won't have to spend it.

      2. Is it recommended for first-time con-goers to submit a paper to talk about? I've been working at a datamining lab for four years and have a couple of papers floating around in the academic peer review system. I think I might have some interesting things to say, but it's mainly my work and perspectives from academia (aka fantasy) land. I'm also scared I might end up making my first time less enjoyable in case I get selected to talk.
      Sure. Try it out. If you are selected as a speaker, then you can get a speaker badge. It is a way to advertise to people that you are a speaker and can make it easier for you to meet people. People may choose to come to you if they see you are a speaker, and find out what you know. I would not rely on it alone for your socialization, but it can help.
      As a speaker, I think you can get a cash award, or choose to get an extra "human" (regular attendee) badge. Barter with that badge for other stuff from other people had advantages, too.


      3. Is it easy to make new friends at Defcon? If I were to go, I might have to go alone.
      Tricky. At early Defcon, it seemed to be the case that Defcon was primarily for people that knew each other online, but seldom, or never met in-person. As a result, many people "knew" other people already, and hung out with each other, or rekindled old relationships.

      Lately, the number of people that are new to Defcon, or don't really know other people at Defcon, has increased. As a result, there is an increasing chance that you will meet people like yourself that have not been to Defcon before, or have been to only one.

      This stated, how easy it will be for you to make friends depends on you and your personality. Looks can help, but only to make you more approachable. The content of your character, and how you treat other people, get along with other people, and what you do will determine if they stay. Your chances at making friends at Defcon is better now than it once was, because there are greater number of people attending now than before, and greater number of people that are also willing to make more friends.

      You can also increase your chances at meeting future friends by volunteering at contests or events that interest you. If you plan on spending a lot of time in the Wireless Village, Lockpicking Village, or Hardware Hacking Village (assuming they will all be at Defcon) then maybe you can help the organizers, or show people your knowledge or techniques, and share ideas with other people. By doing something with other people, any awkward silence is filled with working on something, and dialog can happen naturally as a byproduct of need as questions and answers come up about the the thing everyone is doing.

      Will you actually make new friends? That is up to you.

      4. Any behaviors in particular that are widely looked down upon?
      Covered in the FAQ through general descriptions, like, "don't be a dick, jerk, douche, asshole, 'tard." One of the security goons can answer this one better with specifics. Maybe someone else can take this one.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

        Holy crap, thank you for the the quality responses!

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

          Originally posted by Sapience View Post
          Holy crap, thank you for the the quality responses!
          Thanks for reading FAQ, and conducting your own research before asking your questions. (People tend to be more willing to help other people that help themselves, first.)

          If you do go, please follow-up this thread or a new one with your experience at Defcon, and contribute to what worked, and what can be made better.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

            I bring 10-20 college kids every year. We fly, stay in "nice" hotels like NYNY, MGM, Monte Carlo, and eat fast food and buffets. Students do all of this for about $1,000 total.

            $400 for airfare/hotel double occupancy
            $150 for badge
            $50 for swag/vendors
            $300 for food ($50 per day) WED-MON
            $100 for whatever else they want to do.

            I've had students spend as much as $2,500 ---> they like booze, parties, strippers, gambling, etc....

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

              A quick way to make friends is to buy them booze. Find the bar with a bunch of scruffy looking angry people at it and say "you guys look cool, let me buy you all beers" (EXACTLY those words).
              --- The fuck? Have you ever BEEN to Defcon?

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

                Here is my 2¢ to your questions:

                1. Not counting admission and travel, $20 for a shirt, $50 for food and drink. If you bring $100 you will seriously lose out on lots. I'd say bring $200 to $500. You can always go home with change but many things will not be seen again after Defcon is over.

                2. My opinion is to go once to see what it is like. Unless of course you have spoken before and are very comfortable with it. Defcon is an experience, it happens just as much at 3am as at 3pm.

                3. I made lots of friends two years ago. I'd walk by the pool, look over at a group just hanging out and one of them shouted "Hey want a beer?" So I went over and yes it was that easy. This year I may give out Johnny Walker Green shots for a story. :> I normally go alone and if I have a roommate I barely see them. There is just too much to do.

                4. When we made the transition from The AP to the Riv it was tough, because hotels with casinos are a bit more serious about security. No meter maids at these places. But we got through that and now know what is expected of us. Don't shine a laser at airplanes or cops, don't see if your DB9 cable will attach to a slot machine, don't drop names of people you have never met. And don't lie. If your skills max out at installing AOL chat then so be it we will get you some help. I knew a person who bragged that they were friends with an author. Until they found themselves telling the author that story. And if you want to get falling down drunk, write your room number on your arm so you have half a chance of getting home.

                This is supposed to be fun, and it IS fun. For good luck, rub Priest's head.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

                  No one has mentioned it so I will. On Thursday before "official" con opening is an event called "DC 101" (thread available on these forums) and it will be of immense help to you on the subjects of how to get around con, how to have fun, how to have friends, what behavior is acceptable or not, and let you know of other "newbie" meet and greet events to make friends at.

                  There is the forum "meet up" every year (thread available on these forums) as well and the unofficial, offsite event, the Toxic BBQ (thread available on these forums) which is simply food cooked by volunteers and sharing of food and drinks by all who attend. Purely social, excellent for "gettin ta know ya" experiences.

                  Don't stress too much about having fun and getting to know people, if you are relaxed and interested in having conversations that do not revolve around how much better you are, or how much more you know, than anyone else on the webbernets you will be fine.

                  If you need to watch expenses and don't mind rooming with "new friends you have never met before" there are ride and room share threads on these forums.
                  "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

                    Originally posted by astcell View Post
                    For good luck, rub Priest's head.
                    Got it.

                    As a fellow newbie, thank you for the excellent responses everyone.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

                      Originally posted by kallahar View Post
                      A quick way to make friends is to buy them booze. Find the bar with a bunch of scruffy looking angry people at it and say "you guys look cool, let me buy you all beers" (EXACTLY those words).
                      Handing a Goon squad member a bottle of whiskey works too...
                      'jazz

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

                        In my own expierences, I find that $2,000 for the complete trip is around the sweet spot.

                        Plane ticket is usually around $500
                        Room is usually around $600
                        I allocate $70 a day for food $420-490 (I am doing Tuesday to Tuesday) and this allows for nicer social resturant meals
                        booze is about $100 per day $600-700 (i generally buy rounds and bottles to be "social")
                        Incidental Travel (shuttle/taxi) $100

                        This has been my con expierence in the past. Some don't drink as much and save a ton there. I also donate money directly to the EFF through theSummit (entry fee plus donations)

                        For social events I try to hit the following

                        Thursday:

                        Defcon Shoot
                        TBBQ (I try but have never made it, I will this year)
                        I recommend DC101 to any new person
                        theSummit on Thursday is a great way to meet people.. it is a fundraiser and as such expect to spend 50-100
                        DefCon After Parities (generally invite only)

                        Friday:

                        Talks during the days (some attend some don't)
                        Join a contest of some type or go to Hardware Hacking Village or Lockpick Village
                        Friday Night I know there is usually the Penhouse Party hosted by IOActive and I think one of the DefCon Balls are on this evening
                        Vegas 2.0 is discussing doing their after party again so this is another strictly social event

                        At this point you should have met hundreds if not thousands of people and probably been pretty drunk and have forgotten all the ones who didn't make an impression.


                        Saturday:

                        Talks again or recovers for some
                        There are various parties on this night, I'm pretty sure the DefCon B/W ball is the only one that is open (not invite only)
                        Vegas 2.0 After party as well
                        Most contests end on this day/night for their results to be posted on Sunday

                        Sunday:

                        End of official con. There are tons of people packing up this day and leaving but there are still hundreds left at the end of the day. A lot of room/pool/improvised parties on this night.


                        Other social events that I have either attended or know about

                        You have
                        QueerCon - open I believe
                        HackerPimps - invite only
                        ForumMeet - open to forum people and open to anyone interested in the forums
                        Ninja Party - invite only
                        The aristocrats throw a party too, but I am not sure if they are anymore
                        hundreds of room/suite/pool parties over every single day of con. usually invite only but if you roam the halls or walk past a suite with a party you will probably get pulled in.

                        If you are a decent human being, listen to the goons, and DON'T LIE you will receive respect from almost everyone at con.

                        If you are also looking to meet some new people, join a group doing a contest.. hang around a contest booth that you want to do I guarantee there will be people looking for an odd man.

                        If you still want to make friends and are clueless but have money to burn throw a party or buy a round for a group of people. You will most likely be included into what ever conversation is going on.

                        as for me, hook me up with a double rum and coke and i'll be your best friend.

                        Welcome to the con, its an experience not easily explained.
                        Originally posted by Ellen
                        Do I wish we could all be like hexjunkie? Heck yes I do. :) That would rock.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

                          Everything posted above is terrific info, however I just wanted to make it clear to any newbie's that may read these posts that Defcon has every possible type of person attending that you can imagine.

                          As the posts above accurately explain if you are a drinker or partier you have many opportunities to make friends and have a blast, But if you're not of drinking age or it's just not your thing , have no worries. Many friendships have been made just sitting and talking to people around them before a specific presentation was to begin. Stop by the Wall of Sheep and capture some packets, everyone there is friendly and willing to help you learn. As others have said, the villages are a great place to meet people as well as the many contest locations.

                          My point is if you just show up, you will automatically make some friends, if you put a bit of effort in and join in an activity you are guaranteed an incredible time.

                          One of the things I have heard stressed at each DC101 (newbie Talk) since it was started, is get involved, you get out of Defcon what you put in.
                          I believe that is the greatest (most accurate and valuable) tip that I have heard given at the con.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

                            Last year was my first year and I got lucky being that I had missed DC17 due to deployment. DC18 was definitely a great experience and what made it better was having friends that were goons.

                            While you may not be able to do what I did the first year, ie go into the goon lounge to chill and drink, get free beer FROM the goons, etc. it is definitely worth it to try everything, except for being a tool and pissing off said goons.

                            Also, if someone says "do X to become a goon" it's worth a shot but it's up to you when you reap the consequences. Hell for that matter if someone says "do X for Y result" that is up to you also and VERY likely it's a dumb idea, but can be quite entertaining and possibly make you very good friends.

                            I was able to get by with roughly 200-250 dollars for beer and food since I didn't get any schwag last year other than my defcon shoot shirt. Make sure you hit up everything YOU want to hit up be it the toxic bbq, the defcon shoot, specific talks, specific parties. All in all, make it YOUR experience. That's what I did and I had a great time!
                            Saving the world one computer at a time...

                            or possibly destroying, I haven't figured that out yet.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: A few questions about Defcon; I've never been to it before

                              Originally posted by kallahar View Post
                              Find the bar with a bunch of scruffy looking angry people at it and say "you guys look cool, let me buy you all beers" (EXACTLY those words).
                              you know how people who participate in elections get a spiffy little oval "I Voted" sticker to wear the rest of the day? Imagine if Goons had something like that... "I Bought A Beer" stickers.
                              "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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