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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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  • #16
    * Where did we succeed?

    - The larger spaces were great
    - The goons did an amazing job except for one power hungry goon that was reported.
    - The talk broadcast to the closed tv loop was amazing. I was turned away from a talk due to capacity issues and was able to run up to the room to view it.

    * Where did we fail and how can we best avoid the failure your observed?

    - Defcon fell far below expectations in distributing information about contests, village schedules, main track schedule changes and social events. In the future it would be suitable to have a centralized site or sponsored defcon mobile application that has all of this content in a single location.
    - The lines for talks were long and I missed talks because I either couldn't get in for the talk or had to leave early from a talk to line up for the next. I don't know the best solution for this, maybe someone else has some ideas. Additionally it would be amazing to have viewing or overflow rooms that broadcast the talk live instead of needing to run to a room.
    - Getting in between the track spaces and the villages / skytalks were painful because of the lingering tourist and rift raft crowding the walk way between. Possible setting up some traffic management (split halls) would encourage people to move along.
    - The elevators getting up and down from the 26th was a mess and I can only imagine how aggravating it was for the people staying on floors serviced by those elevators. Having one or two dedicated elevators that run from the casino to the 26th floor would possibly solve the problem.
    - All of the work shops were fully "sold out" before day 1 of defcon. I didn't know about the workshops before arriving and i'm sure most others didn't. Schedule sign ups for these events and make sure they are well published (example: sign ups for kali dojo will start at 2 pm on this day, first come first serve)

    * What can we do better next year?

    - I must agree with others in regards to the pricing, everything is more expensive in comparison to the rio. It would be cool if defcon could arrange a catered breakfast and lunch and sell low priced meal tickets.
    - Offer pre-registration so people can get out of waiting in long lines. I would gladly pay an extra fee to not wait in a line for a badge (guaranteed badge).
    - A hourly bus (like large tour size bus) that makes runs from the hotel to the airport.
    - Find a way to distribute information to all Defcon attendies.


    • #17
      Thursday seems to have had more traffic than expected - Track 4 (and I assume DC 101) were standing room only all day. If there aren't more events, tracks or whatever planned for Thursday next year, could we use the larger rooms, open airwalls or just run DC TV in all the spaces unused on Thursday?

      Directions to the Bally's South Tower were unclear and hard to describe - Could maps show the path across the Bally's Casino? A few standing signs along the path between the two convention centers would help reduce confusion in general.

      Food - Bally's and Paris have some great food. None of it was in the Chillout area. This probably falls under the "obvious" section, but the convention center food has been bad for years.

      Originally posted by Taggart View Post
      - 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.
      I think it is sorted by the speaker's last name.


      • #18
        It was impossible to get into talks Thursday. If there is only going to be 2 tracks then the rooms should be larger.

        When I went up to the skytalks it appeared there were only 4 elevators running. I know it's not an easy problem to solve and I know it would have been very annoying if I was staying in rooms serviced by those elevators. Perhaps 4 dedicated elevators that can only stop on the 1st floor and 26th floor, and then the other 4 service the other floors (for those staying in rooms there). Not sure if that's possible, but it would definitely smooth things out a bit. Also have some sort of elevator line so people aren't grouped waiting (and perhaps a goon to direct people into elevators)

        The "no-outside" food rule is annoying, I know it's a hotel rule - but food from the hotel shops should be allowed (have to show receipt or something).

        I forgot about the DCTV until a friend reminded me. One way to handle overflow could be to have DCTV w/FM audio for the various talks in rooms (eg Chillout lounge) or perhaps Multicast over the DefCon-Open wifi?

        Defcon Wireless worked well the majority of the time. It wasn't working very well for me in the Wireless village. I doubt the hotel would go for it, but some way to access the DefCon network from the hotel wifi would be awesome.

        Wish there was places to plug in gigabit ethernet for pulling things off the media server - also wish media server had more than just https (perhaps rsync?) as mirroring entire directories was almost impossible (sadly a 6tb drive was out of my budget this year)

        Having talks in the villages is cool - but it also means that having normal conversations is almost impossible as it feels rude to the person giving a talk.

        Villages in general were awesome! Enjoyed playing around a little in the ICS village and enjoyed the Hardware Hacking Village. The DCDarknet Guys did a great job with the badges and a guide - I felt that some of the other villages (ICS and Wireless) would have benefited with a bit of a guide as to what you can do/what to do. I felt lost when I went up to the wireless village to learn about SDR (plus I couldn't get wifi).

        I'm not sure if there was a map of the contest area, but if there wasn't it would be nice to have (i may have missed it) as I didn't know where open ctf was until halfway through Saturday and by then it was too late to sit down and play as I had to make sure to catch my flight home.

        Great job on the swag store this year! there was never a line which was awesome.

        Moving 101 Track and adding ropes/arrows for Paris was an excellent idea and definitely improved flow.


        • #19
          Originally posted by technick View Post
          - Defcon fell far below expectations in distributing information about contests, village schedules, main track schedule changes and social events. In the future it would be suitable to have a centralized site or sponsored defcon mobile application that has all of this content in a single location.
          There actually is an app called "Hacker Tracker" specifically for DEF CON schedule. The Android one has been around for a couple of years now and it was just ported to iOS for this year. The Android version worked pretty well but the iOS version had issues, largely because of the delay caused by publishing to the App Store. I guess they were both supposed to be updated directly from the info booth but that didn't work out for whatever reason.

          I've seen mixed reports about if these apps are official or not. It would be nice if they were truly made official and promoted/supported as they should be.


          • #20
            Originally posted by r3dey3 View Post
            The "no-outside" food rule is annoying, I know it's a hotel rule - but food from the hotel shops should be allowed (have to show receipt or something).
            This was profoundly obnoxious, imo. In the last 8 years I don't remember ever seeing anything like this actually being enforced before (and it seemed like they had largely given up on it by mid-Saturday), and the split conference area made it additionally obnoxious because "inside" drinks were magically transmuted into "outside" drinks just by moving from one area to the other.

            On a few occasions this resulted in a cluster of people just standing around right outside the con area, being entirely in the way (which you couldn't even really fault them for, given the circumstances) while they sipped their way through a welding-temperature cup of $6 drip coffee that was clearly purchased from the con/hotel.

            I get that you can't have DC Shot Guy running his own roving mini-bar throughout the entire convention center, but shutting out water/coffee/soft drinks in a split convention area was ridiculous. I am generally both fair-minded and far too lazy to lug my own beverage supply around, but paying a premium for "con booze" only to still be harangued about my beverage every time I went in and out meant that the most practical thing to do was just hack the Booze Rights Management with a backpack and a run to the liquor store.
            Last edited by Cupcakes; August 11, 2015, 21:35.


            • #21
              Background: This was my second defcon. First time was last year at the Rio. I had very high expectations and was not disappointed. Thank you to all who made it possible!

              + Loved the new location. On strip and more space! Growing pains are to be expected.
              + Registration line was relatively quick and painless. Adding reg stations seemed to help a lot. I was also happy that no one had to wait outside (the idea of this horrified me last year).
              + Goons did a very good job adapting to the various situations that cropped up due to new hotels and layout (crowd management, scheduling, etc). Also, all my interactions with goons were neutral or positive (not negative).
              + Fun pool party on Saturday night.
              + DCTV was well done for the most part.
              + Appreciated the food available in the chillout rooms.
              + Sizing of the women's t-shirts was great - I found one that actually fits.
              + It still felt like hacker summer camp. You are my people. <3 Everyone I talked to was so accepting and friendly in spite of my social awkwardness.
              + I will be booking for next year ASAP.

              Suggestions for improvement:
              - Assign one goon per line to stand at the end of the line with a sign on a tall pole that says "Track X - End of Line". Maybe it's a whiteboard taped to the end of a broom stick. Probably it's something more creative than that.
              - I would love to see SECTF moved to an even larger space.
              - There was some weirdness going on at times with DCTV - scratchy and inconsistent audio. Not sure what it was, nor do I have a suggestion on this one. :(
              - Could we get some mileage out of the previous recordings by having a room that plays the "101" level talks from youtube? No speaker commitment, but still a level of group experience by sitting together to watch.
              - What's the deal with the 'no outside food or drink' signs? I didn't see it being enforced, but still.
              - I would like to see more than one women's t-shirt option.
              - I would like to buy additional sticker sheets in the swag room. I hate the pressure of having only one sheet.


              • #22
                I think this may have been the smoothest run one so far that I've been to.

                Here's my observations:
                • Good stuff:
                • I really liked the village talks being recorded this year. Great idea.
                • Good call moving DC101 to the village side.
                • In general I liked the way stuff was split up. Even with the split, there still wasn't all that much of a walk between them. Ballys/paris is more spoke and hub unlike Rio that's all splayed out and that helps.
                • Hotel-provided cash bars at parties actually had reasonable beer prices, as far as hotel bar prices go. The casino bars were rape as usual though.
                • Not as good stuff:
                • The lack of an obvious "outdoor/smoking" con space was kind of a let down. The "smoking area" was always a place where I liked talking to new people. I wonder if it would be possible at all for the doors across from napoleon's to be unlocked next year? Probably a no-go for the hotel, but an idea to look into. They aren't technically emergency exits, there's no alarms on them or anything.
                • It wasn't really obvious how to get into the Buca restaurant near one of the con entrances. I didn't look all that hard or ask anyone though.
                • Turning napoleon's into a defcon only venue was kind of neat, but I did miss the duelling pianos. Not everyone is into thumping EDM all the time, might be nice to have the classic rock stuff they normally play, and pretty entertaining to see them try to play the stuff defcon people would request of them.



                • #23
                  Regarding elevators, there is a possibility of using a manual dispatcher system. They used one back in the old days when elevators had human operators, and now it's coming around full loop and some places have put in computers to do it.

                  Long story short, a ground floor dispatcher asks what floors everyone is going to, and then groups people to expedite the trips. This way people going to 26 can all get grouped into one elevator, and then when the dispatcher gets say 5 people going to 18 and 8 people going to 19 he could send them on another one that only has to make two stops.

                  It increases the throughput of an elevator system, while increasing the wait time for some people and decreasing it for others. The average passenger wait time is lowered, though most people spend more time on the floor and less time in the elevator.

                  I dont' know if it's feasible, but it's a proven option to consider.


                  • #24
                    This was my second year and the first time I was at a hotel close to the con which allowed me to enjoy much more of the con than last year.

                    What went well:

                    * Larger rooms. Last year I was able to sit at a table in the Chill Out Zone once, but this year I was able to spend time there regularly and meet people. Similarly, long talk lines did not necessarily mean I would miss a talk. I remember the Goons saying it was a 2 hour wait to get into a talk on Thursday but the whole line made it into the next talk.
                    * Splitting the Con floor generally worked well, though there were issues with that.
                    * I liked that the swag room was out of the way as opposed to last year.

                    What didn't go well:

                    * First something that I haven't seen mentioned - There was a communication issue between the goons after the DefCon101 move. I was waiting to be told we could go in and one guy I was hanging with before the go ahead asked if we could go in and was led to the line. When I followed him, the other goon at the door stopped me. This goon had clearly missed the memo and then missed it when the other goon gave him the thumbs up to let us in. Then when the other goon who was in charge made an announcement that it was ok, the goon at the door still didn't let us in. At this point the crowd trying to get in was getting bigger and every OK-signal led to someone trying to get in and the goon getting more agitated. This communication issue led to a number of frustrated attendees and an equally frustrated goon.
                    * The elevator situation by Saturday night was really bad. It dissuaded me from going to the parties that night.
                    * The fucking prices charged by the hotel and the "No Outside Food or Drinks" policy were both ridiculous. Especially since it was obvious they were gouging us when the price went up in the Def Con Lounge Thursday morning. When I got there right after getting my badge coffee was about $2 but it shortly thereafter became $4. It also didn't help that where to buy drinks in the talks area was entirely non-obvious and the coffee was so hot I didn't finish several cups outside the con area.
                    * The beer selection at the hotel. I know this isn't something Def Con really has any say over, but it would be nice if there were more craft beers ($8!) than an IPA and Sam Adams (and I think there was one other).

                    I generally had a good time, but those were the things that I noticed that I generally had consistent problems with.


                    • #25
                      I agree with most of the comments previously posted. Some additional thoughts:

                      * It seemed like DEFCON was unprepared for the number of people that showed up on Thursday. Huge lines for the two tracks that were operating, and it would have been better if they were in larger rooms. There wasn't a lot to do if you couldn't get into a talk.

                      * HackerTracker (iOS) didn't work very well. Talks appeared twice on the app, and if you tapped on the wrong instance the app crashed. I understand that the Apple App Store review process prevented the rollout of a replacement during the Con, so hopefully we'll do better next year. It would also be nice if the update host was on an externally-accessible network so we could retrieve updates from outside the DEFCON network.

                      * I'm completely confused about the policy on vaping vs. smoking. What I would like to see is No Smoking == No Vaping. I keep having to dodge the big clouds when someone vaping exhales. I have a friend who would have the time of his life at DEFCON, but he has respiratory problems and I can't recommend it to him (of course, there would be bigger Las Vegas smoking issues as well).

                      * I couldn't find anything to eat, even munchies like popcorn, in most of the parties. That would have been nice to buffer the alcohol consumption. :wink:

                      * The film noir theme was fun, but the program was practically unreadable in the low light of many of the rooms (like the chill out room). We need to balance the cool design aspect with practicality.

                      * Thanks to the goons who did an amazing job of adapting to a new venue. It wasn't flawless, but it was better than I expected in less familiar surroundings.


                      • #26

                        *Two of the Bally's elevators (the ones which had the DEF CON art on them) were suppose to be express elevators (lobby to 26 floor), but the hotel never got around to making that happen.

                        *The "no outside food or drinks" signs was being enforced by hotel convention service staff and Goons were instructed to not enforce it.
                        “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” - Dalai Lama (Seattle Times, 05-15-2001).


                        • #27
                          This was my 8th Defcon.

                          Things I didn't like:
                          * The badge. It was too huge to wear comfortably and was completely incompatible with a lanyard.
                          * Bally's elevator traffic. Would adding an express or two help? Given that this was also a huge problem for hotel guests, I feel like fixing it should be a priority.
                          * The paper program. I always find the program unwieldy. Maybe a small cheat card or pamphlet sized schedule to supplement the giant program? Even having villages' online schedule as a grid would have helped a lot (the giant list of paragraphs with scattered times on the villages site was hard to navigate on the go).
                          * Vaping in crowded areas. Many of these things make my eyes burn. It gets worse when it's hard to move away or there are many of them going in one space.
                          * The badge line is always horrible. Sell drinks or something.

                          Things I liked:
                          * I enjoyed Paris/Bally's as a venue. The layout worked well for the most part; there was a lot of space. Wireless village was the only thing I had a hard time with due to above-listed elevator situation.
                          * DCTV. slides and video! Although, I do miss the huge Rio rooms because you could gather and watch a talk as a small group.
                          * The dueling piano bar as a dedicated con lounge was nice.
                          * Official Swag in its own room. I was finally able buy an official shirt in my size!!!11!! (But that was Thursday, so I don't know how rapidly things sold out.) The line shape seemed to work well and move quickly.
                          * Goons were helpful when I couldn't figure out how to get into the badge line.

                          Additional musings:
                          Is there any kind of talk-by-talk feedback in existence or being planned? Seems potentially useful for both tracks and villages.
                          What about a dedicated Twitter account or a hashtag for updates, changes, and announcements? The main Twitter was very active, but that meant that announcements got lost.
                          Would a schedule app be unreasonable?


                          • #28
                            + High success rate getting into talks and villages on my wish list
                            + Quick response to obvious pain-points, like moving DC101 and opening the mini Chill Room
                            + Easy walking distance, even in Vegas heat, from an outside hotel
                            + Good eat options, not horribly expensive, especially compared to the Rio
                            + Movie night was amazing! Can't believe we saw BladeRunner on a big screen!
                            + Master schedule at worked great; very fast access on the phone. In between that and the PDF map, didn't need to look at the print program
                            + Closed Caption taking a stab at Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

                            - Light level too bright in many rooms
                            - Vaping emissions were hard to get away from...maybe designate areas?
                            - Hotel sales staff in hallways were way too aggressive, particularly with women
                            - Wish videos of the talks I couldn't make were accessible now. Kinda spoiled from IronGeek uploading same day...


                            • #29
                              My random, unsorted thoughts:
                              • DCTV was awesome this year - huge kudos to that team for getting live slides+speaker in the video. That was a massive improvement.
                              • I didn't have a single talk I couldn't get into thanks to the huge rooms, but it looked like DC101 was in constant overflow. I've been attending since DC11, but since we get so many noobs every year (I brought 2 with me), it probably makes sense to put DC101 in a bigger space.
                              • The existence of the "no outside food or drink" rule was annoying, but I can't fathom why so many people felt compelled to obey it at a hacker con, especially absent enforcement of any kind. I had no idea we had so many rule followers in our midst.
                              • The pathway between Paris and Bally's is definitely a bottleneck. I'm not sure what you do about that though, since as far as I know there aren't any secret tunnels between them.
                              • There were a couple of contests I didn't find out about until Sunday afternoon which I would likely have participated in had I known earlier. I understand at least one of those ended up with no entrants. It might be a good idea to dedicate one of the large screens to a contest schedule (my apologies if this was actually done and I missed it).
                              • This year felt like less of a community event to me, mostly because of the way we were spread out. There were lots of people I knew there, but I didn't run into any of them unless we coordinated a time/place to meet. Likewise, I met some new people but never saw them again after our initial conversations. I wish I knew how to fix that, but I don't.
                              • Hacker Jeopardy, especially Saturday night, was awesome this year. Now we just need to find some teams who know some hacker history, which brings me to...
                              • Why not have Drunken Hacker History right before HJ? I missed having Pyramid this year, but this would have been a good replacement. And it might actually help prep contestants so we don't run into teams who apparently don't know what the number 2600 means.
                              • We had too much time between talks. With the rooms so close together, that could probably shrink to 5-10 minutes instead of 15.


                              • #30
                                I'll avoid comments about lines, chokepoints, and such, as it's been done to death. However, I'd like to make a suggestion re: villages. I've been coming to DC on and off since the first year it was at the AP. I loved the idea of villages when they started, and enjoyed participating. I really enjoy the ability to sit down with a group of like-minded people and people with varying degrees of expertise in the topic(s) at hand, and get some quality hands-on and discussion with them. The lockpick village in particular exemplified this for me (somewhere around DC14-17, I think): the room was adequate to the task, it was no more crowded and no more loud than your typical restaurant. They ran sessions on a schedule, and gave group instruction followed by individual assistance. This was outstanding, and well worth the time.

                                DC23's villages were...where do I start? From the hallway-shaped rooms, to the commingling of talks, vendors, and hands-on areas all in one small, incredibly crowded space per village (I'm particularly thinking of the hardware hacking village right now), greatly diminished the utility and enjoyment of the villages for me. It was too loud to hold a protracted conversation about anything technical, it was too crowded to even locate the hands-on areas, let alone manage to snag a space at one. I do realize that people managed both, but it was quite the clusterfuck, and put me off the villages entirely this year.

                                Another village-related issue, not necessarily related directly to the DC organization, but to those running the villages: If you're going to sell badges, particularly badges that are necessary for contest participation, it would be nice if demand were estimated a bit better. I tried to obtain both a Crypto/Privacy badge and a DarkNet badge. The Crypto/Privacy badge was sold out within the first 30 minutes or so of the villages opening on Friday, and the DarkNet badge had sold out of all but the basic kit in the same time, more or less. I do understand that they managed to have more on Saturday, but those sold out equally quickly, and while I enjoy linecon as much as the next guy, between the con badge line, the line to get into talks, the line to get out of talks, the line to get from the track rooms to the villages, the lines for the elevators...honestly, I pretty much had my fill of lines this year, and didn't have it in me to deal with it all just to get into and find the table in the various villages selling the badges, and wait in THOSE lines as well.

                                So much so, that we spent most of our time, Fri-Sun, in our room watching the DCTV feed. Which meant we missed the Skytalks, the village talks, and much else (including a few talks in Track 1 and 4 on Sunday, since the DCTV feed for those didn't come up when talks started). It was entirely our choice; I fully acknowledge that. But it was a choice in large part informed by the seething, near-unnavigable mass of people on the first floor. (Okay, I said I wouldn't vent about lines and chokepoints, yet here we sit.)

                                As much as I enjoy Defcon and find it an enriching and stimulating trip whenever I've gone, this may well be the last DC for me. There's nothing wrong with DC per se, it's just gotten too large and unwieldly for my taste. Perhaps I need to start attending BH, or do more local BSides events, or DerbyCon instead.