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DEF CON 23 is OVER. What did you like or hate and how have DC 24 be better?

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  • DEF CON 23 is OVER. What did you like or hate and how have DC 24 be better?

    Hello! Welcome to the DEF CON forums. We want your input and feedback for DEF CON 23:
    * Where did we succeed?
    * Where did we fail and how can we best avoid the failure your observed?
    * What can we do better next year?

    If you can offer *constructive* criticism about things that happened about DEF CON 23, I will try my best to welcome your thoughts and ideas.

    It is my plan to gather all of your input and report this to department heads within DEF CON in an executive format with a summary of your thoughts and ideas. It is perfectly fine for you to repeat the ideas of others in this thread and violate the normal "me too" rule we have on the forums -- for this thread, the count of complaints and suggestions that match may help improve scoring for an item and how to fix it when composing the report.

    Please let us know your thoughts.


    Last edited by TheCotMan; August 11, 2015, 16:48.

  • #2
    Here's my idea's from last year some of which still apply:

    20 minute, and demo-only tracks are high on my list to cut the pontification talks. Multiple registration stations, or registration on check in would be great.

    I participated in demo lab this year which is a great idea, but was very poorly executed:
    - When my cfp was accepted I asked if we got badges. I was told no and paid for mine, others doing demo lab got free badges. Seems like the least that could be done for folks volunteering their time. At the very least, be consistent.
    - Showed up and almost no goon had even heard of demo labs, much less knew where it was.
    - No tables were set up, no monitors were available so I spent the first half hour of my time shouting and gesturing about my project until a kind audience member braved the goons to social engineer a monitor for me to use so we didn't have to gather around my laptop screen.
    - Spent at least an hour after the presentation trying to convince various goons to take responsibility for the monitor that we procured so we didn't have to steal it from the next presenter.

    So if you do demo labs again next year (and you should), do it more like arsenal at blackhat and have dedicated folks who are on site and willing to facilitate the setup and flow from one project to the next. We pour our heart into these projects and it would be nice to focus on the project and not the logistics of doing 2hrs of demos.

    The new venues are great for options in housing, eating, transportation etc. The narrow walkway between talks and villages is not ideal since it's designed to slow walking traffic, but I don't think there is anything you can do unless there are secret passages between paris/ballys (which would be epic).

    All in all, much better this year! Congrats.


    • #3
      In reply to the workshops? I too must admit failure in not knowing much about them until I was at con. How would you suggest we get the word out about workshops at DEF CON before con? Most solutions we get are those from community members as goons, humans and volunteers. your ideas help us make DEF CON better.

      Few people new to DEF CON knew that primary talks (Track 1-4 and 101) were available in rooms (most of the time) for people staying in Bally's or Paris hotel & casino.

      How can we better get this information out to people?

      I presented a human badge most of con, and asked many people their thoughts about the con. I asked, "how would you feel about a return to old methods of emptying out rooms between talks so people in-line could get in to talks?" Of 50 people asked this question, everyone asked this question agreed that emptying rooms was a bad idea. What are your thoughts on this? Would you rather see rooms emptied between talks, or remain the way they are, with people that have seats from previous talk remaining in the room between each talk? How do you feel about "overflow rooms" with video of talks? Do you have better solutions to this problem of limited seating for popular talks?

      I had conversations with about 100 people at DEF CON, asking various questions about the con. I'll include their answers, thoughts and ideas in the report.


      • #4
        The elevator situation definitely needs attention. From huge lines to people having to be put in the freight elevators, it seemed like something needed to be done. I'm not sure how this one could have been improved, but maybe next year we could be allowed access to the stair cases or something. (I know that someone had covered the lock on the 16th Floor's staircase door with a sticker so it would no longer lock, giving anyone access to the never-busy 1-16th floor elevators.)


        • #5
          This was my first con. I've followed defcon for as long as I can remember, but it was always a seriously expensive trip for me to come. This year, I happen to be living in the US, and my employer covered my expenses. So happy.

          * The chillout room needed power strips on every table. The walls were definitely an awesome place to meet people but it got uncomfortable.
          * Printed receipts for those that need them. It's just a convenience thing. I don't have a CD drive. I assume the receipts on one of the CDs. But just a peice of paper with a receipt in the bag makes it easier for me to claim on expenses. Yeah I know, its not the common case.
          * Because you had all the tracks in Paris and then the Contest/Workshops/Chillout in Ballys, the trek back and forth between the two areas was just a pain. I know you guys moved 101 which helped with some of the crush, but I think maybe if you have half the tracks at one side, and half at the other, a smaller chillout room at both sides (yes, two chillout rooms! with maybe a video screen to link them both), and split the workshops and villages across both sides too, it would make it kind of less of a hike? I dunno. Can you mine the wifi data to determine where people were usually going to/from and work out a more optimal distribution?

          Hats off to everyone that organised this, the noc guys, the goons, everyone was awesome, really helpful, and stuff went so smoothly even though there were what, 20k people wandering around? Nice job :-)

          Loved the con, will be back next year. Hopefully next year I won't wake up in the hospital at 5am friday morning ...


          • #6
            First off, fantastic year. DEF CON belongs on the strip.

            Things new this year I loved:

            1.) More space.
            2.) The strip. So much more convenient, so much better dining and lodging options. Lots of fun watching the regular Vegas folks be puzzled by DC stuff. I do feel that the experience outside of the convention areas was a bit more diluted though, as there were a lot of non-con folk staying in and hanging around the con hotels.
            3.) DCTV. PEOPLE AND SLIDES!!! Awesome. A long time coming. However there were still audio issues, one of the channels had a lot of crackle/hum, and the volume levels were super low so you had to crank the TVs way up.

            I saw a lot of complaints on the tweeterwebs this year. I think some of it is fair, some is not. Most people who don't have a long DC history or have short memories don't remember that the issues that crop up always seem to crop up the first year of a new venue. Sometimes, the only way to figure this stuff out is to "do it live", especially when your warm body count is a complete mystery until the con actually starts.

            First off, A QUESTION: Are firearms NOT allowed in Ballys rooms? My schedule did not allow for going to the shoot this year, but I'd like to go next year. However, kinda hard to do so if the hotels are going to be unamerican and not allow us to bring firearms. I saw some tweets about this and was slightly miffed. Never been a problem in the past?

            Not so loved:

            1.) Schedule Problems: Things do change. However a lot of us were relying on the HackerTracker app, and the apparent issues with getting the dev the proper info feed so she could keep the app properly up to date really made it difficult to stay on top of things. And then, when the paper schedule and the HT/Infobooth feed seemed to conflict, it was difficult to determine which was the "correct" time. The Infobooth folks need to be one of the first groups updated on any schedule changes so they can disseminate this information quickly.

            2.) Tracks/Traffic: I think we know all about this one. 101 moving to Bally's was a great idea. I think one thing that could be SUPER USEFUL is to give the traffic goons some tall poles with big, easy to read signs on top that say "TRACK (X) END OF LINE" and have a goon stand at the end of the line so people know where to go. The verbal instructions are not very helpful, i.e. "track 4 line is over there (points in a general direction)" It ends up with just a lot of confused people wandering and furthering the traffic problems.

            3.) DC101 is more like 202 - this has been a constant thing I've brought up every year. DC101 is not a 101 track. It almost seems like "Track 5". There are a LOT of noobs at DC, and 101 really needs to serve them a lot better if its intent is to be a 101-level track. This is evidenced every year by the number of people buying Pineapples and turning them on with default settings. Yes, I know some of the villages have some noob talks but they are not always the most accessible. There are a lot of people there who have never touched metasploit, never captured a wifi packet, have no basis in understanding of radio frequencies, and have no idea what tools they should be out there and using. I believe 101 could serve these people very well if it was at that level. Can we have 101 stick to the real 101 paradigm?

            4.) Vaping - I was unclear if this was OK or NOT OK to do in the convention area. Clouds of vape coming up from people in the talks is distracting, but also impolite to people sitting around the vaper. Can we have clarification on this, and if vaping is deemed NOT COOL, please make signage reflecting that? I really have no problems with people vaping in the casino, but when you're all crammed into a small area, it kinda sucks to be forced to inhale that.

            5. Food prices - Yeah, I get it, it's Vegas, but $5 for a 20oz Gatorade is shitty. Especially when the machines right outside the guest rooms sell them for $3. $3 seems more reasonable.

            6. Water - the coolers were not able to keep up with demand and the water was always sorta warm and gross. Don't know if it's possible to switch to big containers of water and ice like other conventions?


            • #7
              - The elevators were a disaster. I was staying on the 18th floor of Bally’s, which meant that every time I wanted to come and go from my room then I had to deal with the packed elevators of people going to/from Skytalks and parties. I felt sorry for normal (non-con) people just staying at the hotel as I heard some of them complaining about having to wait for 5 elevators just to find one that they could get on. I will not be staying in Bally’s next year just because of the elevator situation.
              I think the idea of having Skytalks and parties on the 26th floor was good and sounded cool, but the reality is that it just didn’t work out. Because of the elevator situation, only low traffic events should be up there. The one tower had it good with just rootz and workshops. Maybe just put Press and 1o57 rooms in the other tower?

              - DCTV worked out really well this year, which is good because the elevator situation would trap me in my room. I was really happy to see both slides and speaker on screen, instead of the previous setup with only the speaker. The audio did go crazy occasionally, but it was usually fixed within a few minutes. It would have been nice to have the channel listing printed in the program.


              • #8
                + Chillout space was awesome, but I'll echo matjam's request for power strips.
                + Contrary to popular opinion, I actually liked the separation of villages and tracks since there was no flood of humans through the village area between talks.
                - Open the stairwells for use. Good exercise and helps with elevator congestion
                - DCTV audio levels too low, weird echoing problem (have a video example if needed)
                - Lack of coordination for transportation to the unofficial shoot. I tried multiple times before the event to organize something but never got a reply from anyone.
                + An official IRC would be cool, whether it's on the LAN or something we can access year round
                + Nice job by the goons yelling at people to stay to the right side of the hallway.


                • #9
                  Agree with a lot here.

                  Honestly, I did miss the closeness and slightly more intimate feel from the Rio, but the location, bigger space and awesome addition of more Workshops, Demos and Villages more than made for an awesome new venue.

                  - One obvious one = SEvillage definitely needs bigger space. Couldn't get in, my fault, just every time I went by, it was closed door, full. I should have been more persistent.
                  - Agree that a lot of workshops, I didn't know of until I arrived.
                  ? Also, not a complaint, but just an observation, I thought the vendor area would be slightly bigger (maybe it was & I just couldn't tell), but didn't seem so. EX. Every year I see Unix Surp. inundated with traffic. They were swamped again. But I don't know if this is how they choose their booth position or not.
                  + Loved the addition of more Goons, and they did an awesome job as they always do.
                  + Network & media server was great this year.
                  - Missed attendance stats at closing, just something I always find interesting. Always like to see how many are 1st time and how the Con grows.
                  -/? Would be cool to see a DC Groups booth/something, for coordination/questions, etc. 3 years later, I'm still trying to figure out what happened to my chapter. Surely defunct.

                  Agree with the stairs option, as well. Skytalks is a personal favorite, and the elevators were a bit of a hinderance.

                  All in all, nothing major, which I think says a lot of just how well this year was coordinated and executed. Fantastic :-) Really looking forward to 24. Thanks for another great DEFCON!


                  • #10
                    I also agree with a lot here. The new venue and the con overall was great! Bigger areas in the trathcks made for a much less stressful attendance. My thing has to do with the scheduling for the parties. Please try and include set times for the artists playing. I really wanted to catch diesel boy this year but missed him because I didn't know the order/time in which the artists were playing. It may seem minor but it goes a long way for some of us who are trying to maximize their good time here. also... BRING BACK THE POOL PARTY!!!


                    • #11
                      Elevators elevators elevators.

                      Originally posted by tk306 View Post
                      Please try and include set times for the artists playing.
                      Definitely a sour moment when I missed mc chris.


                      • #12
                        +Goons => Did an awesome job at traffic flow.
                        +Registration => Felt a lot smoother than in the past and quicker.
                        - The Program => Can we get the talks for the day in alphabetical order? I have never figured out the rhyme or reason for the listing of the talks in the program.
                        - Need more room for the SE Village!!!
                        - Need more room and a quieter space for the Wall of Sheep.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by autobahn View Post
                          First off, A QUESTION: Are firearms NOT allowed in Ballys rooms? My schedule did not allow for going to the shoot this year, but I'd like to go next year. However, kinda hard to do so if the hotels are going to be unamerican and not allow us to bring firearms. I saw some tweets about this and was slightly miffed. Never been a problem in the past?
                          Usually you can get away with it if you don't have a pelican that screams "I have guns". But realize if they end up missing you have no recourse. I covered the legal aspects here

                          This year I checked in my guns with paris security. It was a little more annoying than the rio which had a single security desk, since I ended up walking between paris lost and found and their security when they forgot which room they put it in. But it wasn't too much of a problem, and they will check it in for you.


                          • #14
                            Well after the first day I finally had a grasp on where everything was, this could have been due to the fact that alcohol and edibles may or may not have been present in my system at that point in time as well as staying up all night after the drive in.

                            The setup with the ~3 conference areas is really cool and I found myself spending the LEAST amount of time in the actual tracks due to #LineCon being too strong.

                            I think that if we had some sort of a high pressure system that was built for people in order to make sure that silly heads didn't end up walking the wrong way and causing traffic jams, this would make linecon more tolerable. The Registration was a BREEZE! Thanks to everyone who made that possible as it was the most enjoyable one in the 4 years I have been coming to Defcon.

                            I am excited about the hopefully electronic badges next year.

                            Shouts out to the Goons for holding everything together, couldn't do it without them.

                            We should Expand the villages that were hit heavy by traffic into areas that were not fully utilized.
                            r00t for the home team


                            • #15
                              Also, movie night is a great idea. How about a popcorn popper in the movie room? Perhaps issues with the hotel and food service, but that would be a lot of fun.


                              • The Dark Tangent
                                The Dark Tangent commented
                                Editing a comment
                                I really wanted to do popcorn this year, but autobahn called it: Hotel popcorn was just too expensive to do.