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What was good or bad at DEF CON 25 . Make DEF CON 26 better

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  • What was good or bad at DEF CON 25 . Make DEF CON 26 better

    The yearly thread is now open. Your feedback is desired.

    What did you really like at DEF CON 25 and want to see return at DEF CON 26? How would you improve them?

    What was absolutely terrible and should never return to DEF CON 26, and why? Is there anything that could be done to fix this and have it return?

    What did you see that could use improvement, and how would YOU improve it?

    Now is your time to pretend you are Dark Tangent and you are planning DEF CON 26: what would you do differently and why? What is your goal? How would you accomplish it?


    Feedback is how DEF CON improves. Feedback with constructive criticism is more likely to be used than complaints without explanation or suggested fix.

    UPDATE: Your ideas posted here will be included in a report to DEF CON Department Heads to help plan for DEF CON 26. The DEADLINE for getting your ideas into this report is August 15, 2017 at noon, pacific time. You can continue to post your ideas and thoughts after that, but the chances of being used for DEF CON 26 decreases after August 15, 2017 at noon, pacific time, and decreases even more as DEF CON 26 approaches.
    Last edited by TheCotMan; August 5, 2017, 15:23.

  • #2
    - Create a dedicated VOC - Video Operations Center, make video a priority

    * Provide LIVE video streams for all talks - or at least all the major tracks. Like with the two available streams right now: Accessible also from outside the defcon network.
    * Talks are available for download on media.defcon _immediately_ after the talk
    * Drop DefconTV hotel channels

    - Choose a conference location where there can be more life besides the talks:
    Open desks / tables (with ethernet) where people can hang out / hack / work in groups / collaborate - open 24/7
    OR for instance watch the live streams of the talk they want to see when the talks are too crowded

    - "Linecon" / "Hallcon" are not compliments. Work on removing them.

    - Do less, but do the things you do more consistent / focus on better quality

    - Limit the number of attendees by pre-registration / pre-sale
    Last edited by cntdstryr; July 30, 2017, 14:31.


    • #3
      Bring back 1o57


      • #4
        The video feeds sucked OUT LOUD. After sitting through the pre-closing ceremony slide show, literally right after "Okay let's get started" the screen went to the blank weather page. What the fucking fuck?!
        Every video I watched crashed, froze, or went blank midway through.


        • #5
          Wow I thought this thread would be flooded by now. Are people bitching somewhere else?

          Anyway, here are things I liked this year:

          Venue. I've been coming since AP and this was my favorite venue yet. (Aside from fond/drunk memories) Very spacious and tons of water around. Linecon even felt tolerable for the most part. I never felt like I wasnt going to get into a talk.

          Variety of the talks. It just seemed like there was something for everyone.

          Amount and helpfulness of goons. It seemed like there was one around every corner and while I didn't have a lot of questions, when I did, they were either able to help me or point me towards a close-by goon that knew the answer.

          Chillout areas. Similar to the venue, just felt very spacious and comfortable. May be improved by having a monitor with the talk schedule in each of these areas.

          A/V. I mostly come to defcon for the track talks. I would say that 90% of them had some type of A/V issue. Most of these issues either caused the talk to be off schedule or caused an interruption during the talk, which causes it to either run long or causes the speaker to rush, which doesnt help anyone. Either the presentation wasn't showing, or it flickered, or the audio was going in/out or having volume issues. I kept thinking that having the AV booth and techs at the back of a giant room was probably a bad idea and thought it would have made much more sense to have them up front near the podium or make a small backstage area and keep them back there.

          Possible fixes: Expand the AV team staff. Try to the get the staff and booths closer to the podium. Instead of allowing the presenters to provide their own laptop, create a standard pc that can be placed at each podium and fully tested for AV. Let the speakers know what the standard is and instruct them to prepare their presentation to work on this standard. Setup one of these speaker pc's in the speaker prep room to test before going into the talk. The speakers should be able to walk up, put a usb stick in, and go.

          For the audio side, I think a lavalier on the speaker should be required. Again, standardization would greatly reduce the amount of issues.

          Queue and traffic organization. This always seems like an afterthought and I don't know why it has to be. Figure out traffic and queue lanes before the con starts and set up stanchion posts and belts to direct people on where to walk and/or queue. Once you get this setup, you can design signs and other visual aids to tell people what to do at each area. I dont remember having a problem understanding what the purpose of a room was once I got there, the door signs were done well, but getting there, especially at a first time venue, was very difficult.

          Swag. I thought the product selections were pretty cool this year, good mix of black and shiny, but a couple of things could have been done better. I really do not like the whiteboard inventory tracking system. I’m not sure what the fix is for this, but there has to be a better way of tracking what is in stock, and displaying it in real time. May be it would even be possible to display this outside of the swag room as well? Also, it would be great if they accepted Bitcoin. I would have spent a lot more money if that were an option.

          Free swag. I know defcon isn’t a typical “conference” but it would be nice to get a few things thrown into the registration bag each year. Pens, pins, flash drives, stress balls, etc.. Maybe even a free tshirt. The basic DefCon shirt in the swag store looked like a free shirt that should have been thrown in. Maybe instead of giving it away at registration, give out a voucher that can be redeemed at the swag store? I would think it would be possible to get some type of sponsors to provide this kind of thing.

          Overall, I was happy with the con and love to see that is has improved over the years without losing too much of the “fun”. These were just some ideas I had over the last few days. I will definitely be back next year.
          Last edited by sb702; July 31, 2017, 14:11.


          • #6
            I have to start off by saying that I was surprised how well things went this year, especially considering it was the first year at a new place. I have a list of a few things that can be improved, but in no way does that mean that the con wasn’t ran great this year.
            • Every year the hallways are a disaster on the first day then on the second day “lane dividers” are put up. How about we start day 1 with lane dividers?
            • For the second year, the badge line efficiency was amazing. Maybe some of these optimizations can be put into the swag booth?
            • Swag: less black cotton t-shirts and more non-black tri-blend t-shirts. Seriously, did the vendors and swag booth all get together and decide black cotton shirts is all they should ever sale?
            • The amount of unofficial electronic badges available at the con demonstrates that there are many talented badge designers in our community. Maybe it is time to pick one of them to do the official badge?
            • It was great to see DCTV streaming two channels over the internet. Can we get all channels next year?
            • Dual Core and YTCracker’s performances are often the highlight of my trip. Keep having those guys back. In fact, I would love it if their performances were a little longer than 30 min each.
            • Track 2 seemed to always be half empty while Track 3 was always almost full. I understand it is probably very difficult to guess the popularity of each talk ahead of time, but it seems like the talks from well known people should have been in the bigger rooms.
            • No Starch’s booth was a madhouse this year. How about giving them a bit more room or different layout next year?
            • I was a little disappointed to not see Hacker Stickers back in the vendor area this year. They usually have a good variety of things for sale.
            • Hopefully Ceasars has all of their escalators running next year.

            Alright, I think that is it. Good job and thanks for all your hard work!


            • #7
              For the money, I have never had better value out of a conference. Ever. We got 4 days of some of the most intelligent talks, demos, workshops I have *ever* seen at a conference, with real work being done and new exploits being found. Incredible. We also got free pool parties, free entrance to one of the biggest clubs in Vegas (TWICE!), Reel Big Fish, discounted hotels at a top 5 hotel in Vegas. I mean, truly incredible value. That could have been a 2,000 ticket and still be an easy sell to our CFO.

              Network was on point. Wifi was solid and secure. Messaging on how to connect securely was good.

              Caesar's Palace (venue) and Conference communication seemed good - the only obvious fail was the escalators. Not sure how Venue allowed for that. At the very least, they should have left the escalators intact in "stairs mode."

              On that note, main escalators were a major safety hazard. You are lucky there wasn't a crush event. Two solutions:

              1. (bad) Up-hill escalator traffic must go right and disperse into wide area, avoiding cross-traffic and blocks.

              2. (better) Escalators are disabled, staff/signs enforce which are up/down. People walk and get a bit of exercise. Signage points to elevators for those that need it.

              Regarding lines, main track rooms had about 30 doors each that were totally under utilized. On entrance, people forced into one door near front, on exit, 3-5 doors in back. Smart to enforce clockwise flow of traffic, stupid to force it through one door. It is possible to count entry at more than one door. Given that room capacity must be tracked against entry, I offer solutions:

              1. Multiple doors on a single side (corresponding to where line is) are opened seconds after talk ends. Staff are posted at each door counting entry. Communicate via radio to single staff member tracking total entry counts. Doors close at 95% capacity, people at front of line then let in slowly until 100%. All back doors used for exit (same as before). Problems: back door exits cause cross-traffic to line for entry, which will be moving much more quickly. People will sneak into exits. Impossible to enforce capacity as people sneak into exits (already a problem before)

              2. Staff man as many doors as possible, evenly dispersed around Track Room. At end of talk, "exit" doors are opened, no entry allowed. Rope or staff used to clear space in lines for exiting attendees, with those wishing to enter gathered near soon-to-be-opened "enter" doors. Front couple doors opened when most exiting people are gone to reward those waiting longest with best seats, under 1 minute later all other "entry" doors opened allowing general mass-infiltration. People will generally self-manage finding the most convenient seat rather than fight a crowd. Problems: potential cross-traffic if entry doors opened too soon (before enough people have exited). Potential cross-traffic problems if people at front of line try to go sit in back of the room, and people in back of line try to sit in front of the room.

              Regarding locked up hallways, a solution was already discovered and partially implemented: *alls* means of egress should be clearly marked and left open, *including* legally available fire stairways. There was one stairway I saw open on saturday that led to the pool level. While mildly inconvenient, it was much better than being crushed. There were also escalators that went almost completely unused, as noted by /r/defcon. Furthermore, make greater note of elevators. Do this by giving means of egress larger messaging on maps (the maps provided were quite confusing with where escalators/elevators were and to where they led) (on that note, black on black map is hard to read. Black on white would have been better, though not within the design specs of the conference)

              Better communication of conference perks would have been great. Very few people knew that our badges got us into omnia for free, and allowed us to skip a line. Nobody knew that the VR thing was handing out wristbands for omnia, which allowed people to bring +1 (themselves, and someone using their badge) to omnia. Many missed opportunities there!

              Reel Big Fish loved us and commented on Reddit that they felt like we made them a part of our community, despite the fact that they aren't hackers. Top staff of conference should reach out and see if they'd be interested in being involved somehow - hacking their A/V equipment or something, I don't know, just know that they really liked playing the conference.

              Should have taken advantage of that fantastic pool. We may be pale un-sun-kissed nerdy vampires, but it was a nice pool, and some motivation to get vitamin D would have been great.

              Finally, better training for Goons. I won't pretend to know the inner-working of the conference, but it was clear that there was little leadership/communication, as often conflicting information was being shouted across the hallways by Goons. It's a nerd conference, staffed by engineers/hackers/nerds, so each are strong-headed and trying to solve problems on their own. Some sort of hierarchy / command with escalation problems would solve that. General tips - Staff is Authority at a convention, and should act that way. Shouting is not authoritative, Signage and voice amplification is. Running and desperately pushing through crowds while shouting "make a hole!" constantly reduces urgency for such actions when they occur during actual emergencies - shouting, running, and "make a hole!" maneuvers should be saved for such emergencies. They always told us when I was running conferences "never run unless there's blood involved." As authoritative entity, Goons/Staff can use superior communication, uniforms, control of environment, and Light/Sound amplification to manage the attendees, who only have strength in numbers... just like the cops, when managing civs. Use walkietalkies and strategically placed staff to control crowds, instead of one Goon running back and forth and barking like a sheepdog. As always, preparation is god - signs and pylons+ropes control a crowd better than anything else.

              Thanks all for the great hard work. The good of this conference fantastically outweighed for bad, but like my boss always says, if you ask customers for feedback, they'll pull it out of their ass if they have to to give it.


              • #8
                Originally posted by MrMonopoly View Post
                [*]The amount of unofficial electronic badges available at the con demonstrates that there are many talented badge designers in our community. Maybe it is time to pick one of them to do the official badge?
                Good point about the badges. It seems like it would be possible to hedge your bets and have multiple people design badges and then see which one is the easiest to fulfill in time. Or may be turn it into a official contest at each con for the following year? "America's Got Badges"


                • #9
                  Instead of just bitching about it, I offer myself to assist whoever in making it better next year.
                  The chill out lounges were terrible. People need a place to chill, for physical and mental health reasons. To get out of the hallways, to sit and relax, to breath, to chat with like minded individuals, to network, to not be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of meatbags shuffling around in 3/4 time. I DID like the introduction of arcade game cabinets, that was an unexpected pleasure, and the music and were awesome as usual! But overall, the lounges this year were non-existent on Thursday, and terribly insufficient the rest of the con.
                  • There was extremely limited table space.
                  • There was zero comfy couch or chair space.
                  • I saw beanbags on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, but they were MIA by 9am Thursday.
                  • There was sufficient floor space, but who wants to sit on the hard floor and have everyone else tripping over you and kicking your shit?
                  • The cafes were barely adequate, and I heard many remarks and complaints of fears of food poisoning, or actual "vomitrrhea" from eating there.
                  • I assisted Zebbler where I could, but I noticed he was constantly trying to keep his stuff working and on the spot, getting the ceasars staff up and down ladders to keep it running.
                  The chillout space is important to me and to my continued enjoyment of DefCon. I am pretty sure I spent most of my Defcon 20 and 21 in there. I want to help make it as good as it was at the Rio.
                  I realize you are at the mercy of the conference center for some of these above points, but we need to hold them responsible for their end of the contract.
                  I would also suggest spacing them out. Perhaps one near the escalators on lvl 2, and one of the opposite end of lvl 3?

                  If you want the help, PM me @Corpsman801, or have @grifter801 get a hold of me.


                  • #10
                    +Temperature was comfortable throughout, even while walking around and with large crowds (mostly)
                    +I was able to get into nearly every talk I wanted to, it helped when goons 'defragged' the room making it easier for more people to get in. If anything I would want to see 4-8 goons in the room monitoring how many seats are still available and communicating with the door goon to wave in more people. This did happen at times, but at other times I saw dozens of open seats on the far side of the room and noticed there was still a line outside the door
                    +no goons tried to dump rooms that I saw

                    +/- elevators weren't too bad like last year. Some parties were popular at night that caused a little bit of a wait. It looked like 2/6 of the elevators in forum were dedicated to the penthouse but they never moved. Is there a way at least one of those could start being utilized?
                    +/- bathrooms didn't have too long of a line, the first day towels were gone in one bathroom by noon but later days seems to have more janitorial resources

                    -Dumping track 3/4 into the same small hallway that people are using to get to for the next track 3 talk. This ended up creating wall to wall people. I get why you don't want every door to be used without a goon monitor (so people don't sneak in). But you are forcing many track 4 people that want to get to the escalator right near t4 entrance to walk all the way around, creating more wall-to-wall traffic for not much benefit. Plus there were two sets of stairs on that side that could've handled more people.
                    -Skytalks always had a massive line, and based on the size of their room it looked like many people weren't able to attend their talks, but I'm just guessing there. The line kept me away
                    -Navigational signage for talks was weak. I think I saw some 8.5x11 sheets in areas that helped people navigate, and goons yelling helped, but give them a sign at forks in the hallway and at stairs and escalators to help save their voice. Also goon's holding a "track X line ends here" sign would help especially the first day or two (between days I think the t4 line switched sides of the hall around the corner which wasn't immediately clear)
                    -A/V, similar/worse than last year, provide a laptop or two in each room. And when you have presenters asking for a vga/hdmi/DP adapter you know something's wrong. Each speaker goon should have those on them
                    -hotel food court had like 2 of their 7-8 restaurants open for breakfast. And for lunch/dinner, lines were everywhere and not organized. Its better than one burger king, but there's a lot of room to improve here if the hotel would dedicate a few resources and staff up.
                    -hacker jeopardy starting 45+ min late, and not being let in until 15min after planned start time. I guess this was for room reconfiguration? How were rooms able to be reconfigured faster in previous years with 10k cent pyramid starting before HJ?
                    -some/most villages were very cramped and hard to get into
                    -It would've been nice if "whose slide is it anyway" didn't directly overlap with hacker jeopardy. Can you throw them in the 6-8 slot which I think 10k cent pyramid used to have?
                    -Friday morning line throughout the casino, I think I saw the escalators running, were goons just holding people up because they were told to? It would've made more sense to let people up the escalator and hold them up outside tracks since escalators were usually the choke point
                    -chillout lounge was packed, I was able to find a table at 11:30pm once...


                    • #11
                      Better floor map, looking at the floor map was often confusing as to how you got from one section to another. Eventually I learned the shorter path. However I did like that there were plenty of info booths, so I think this helped with people getting lost initially.

                      Hardware Hacking Village needs more light. A _lot_ more light.

                      Defcon always greatly underestimates the number of badges required. The current method of looking at Blackhat sales is not an accurate indicator. Also the past few years where goon badges ran out, is just stupid. I know numbers change, but it shouldn't be that great. And given paper badges are so trivial to copy, perhaps the goon badges shouldn't ever be paper.

                      Lack of a pool at night is bad.

                      More room for contest, less room for CTF. Contest was crowded, but CTF was empty. Though I only heard about this from someone else and I didn't even realize CTF was next to contest.

                      perl -e 's==UBER?=+y[:-o]}(;->\n{q-yp-y+k}?print:??;-p#)'


                      • #12
                        Overall I had a good experience at DEF CON, as always.

                        The good:
                        + There was enough room in every speaking track every time. This hasn't happened in years. Even Skytalks had enough room for the great majority of talks.
                        + Vendor area was the right size, it was easy to get to everything and didn't feel chokingly packed.
                        + Registration was lightning-fast; the best ever. A couple more years like this and people will finally stop lining up the day before.
                        + Traffic control was very good. Sure, there was crowding in hallways, etc., but not as bad as at Paris/Bally's or even the Rio. While the front entrance was a problem, that was almost entirely due to 3 of the 8 escalators being not just broken but walled off, and that's on the hotel, not DEF CON. As usual, traffic was worst on Friday and got much better as the goons responded to problems.
                        + Hacker Jeopardy was on point. Obviously there's been controversy around the event, with some finding it sexist and offensive and others finding it a critical part of DEF CON culture, etc. Two years ago it was "cleaned up" to the point of being unfunny and stilted, last year it swung back the other direction of just pretending it was 10 years ago, but this year they made it irreverent, profane, and fun without the stripping and overt sexual content. I'm a bit sad to see it's no longer a Black Badge event. The only problem with it was that it started really late.
                        + Packet Hacking Village had a great environment, lots going on and easy to move around, but dark and close and filled with music to feel like a DEF CON of old.
                        + This year's art & theming were very well done. You should have sold poster prints, I think people would have bought a lot of them.

                        The bad but fixable:
                        - A/V issues in almost every talk. I figure this is largely due to it being the first year at a new venue and hope it'll be better next year. Likewise, DCTV was very unreliable, probably for the same reason, though the fact that I could get into every talk make this less of an issue.
                        - The catered food in the contest/chillout areas was WTF awful. The $11 burrito was literally a dry, crunchy flour tortilla filled with white rice. It was $5 for a tiny 10oz. bottle of filtered water. There was better food at the Riv, Caesar's Palace should be fucking embarrassed. On the bright side, the restaurants & food court at Caesar's are good, though I feel like they need to be told to overstaff the food court restaurants during DEF CON. We put much more of a premium on speed than most casino guests and thus during DEF CON the sit-down restaurants were underutilized and the food court oversubscribed.
                        - Unlike talks, villages had inadequate space. It was often difficult to get in at all, let alone for a talk. Contest area was also pretty jammed.
                        - HHV was dark. Now, I really like DEF CON being dark -- I thought the evening light levels were way more appropriate than the daytime ones -- but not when I'm trying to solder. Perhaps the contest area is not the right place for HHV.
                        - Chillout lounges were too small, but being out in the open weren't really "chill" enough, other than the small area on the Promenade level that was dark & had the table centerpieces (which were cool, by the way.) We need more space like that, and less that just feels like being out in the casino hallway.
                        - I love Caesar's Palace, but I don't really like it for DEF CON. It's too nice. The convention area is brightly-lit, clean, open, and glitzy. I just feel like DEF CON should be... grungier. Of course this is mostly nostalgia, but I feel like more effort into managing light levels and hanging up more decoration to make it a bit more, well, hackery would be nice. I also recognize that's expensive and artists can't be conjured out of thin air, but it kind of seems like we'll be at Caesar's for a while, simply due to the fact that there's not many other places in Vegas we'll fit.
                        - Badges. Yeah, the rubber badges were kind of disappointing for DEF CON 25, as was the lack of a badge challenge, but it's clear that nobody wanted it to be that way, it was beyond your control, and frankly the rubber badges were pretty nice given the incredibly short time you had to produce badges for 20,000+ people.

                        Stuff that was bad but which there's really nothing to be done about:
                        - Too many civilians all over the hotel. At every previous DEF CON since the early days, during the con practically everyone at the hotel was there for DEF CON. You could strike up a conversation with anybody. This year, it felt like we were only about 25% of the hotel/casino's population outside of the convention center. I also really missed the pool parties, but I'm guessing that we couldn't reserve the pool decks this year because we were only about 25% of the hotel/casino's population and they didn't want to blast the normies with outdoor music. While this might have been my least favorite thing about this year, I also don't think there's much to be done about it, it's just a consequence of how large the con has grown.


                        • #13
                          Hi everyone

                          First of all Id like to thank all the Goons and the community that makes DEF CON an amazing experience for all of us. I took more than 24 hrs home to vegas and orther 24 vegas back home (Brazil) and I feel it worth for the 4 days that I spent with our community.

                          All the feedbacks above are very good so I just want to highlight some of the important things that I've noticed on DEF CON 25:

                          The GOOD
                          + Registration is running fast
                          + Content and Speakers are outstanding and we can clearly see they did the homework to pass right content to all of us
                          + Vendors area is getting better every year
                          + Goons are extremely helpful and and did a great job setting directions and guiding us to the rooms
                          + For a very first event at Caesar the result is very positive
                          + Social Engnieering Village is well organized and interactive - one of the best villages
                          + Defcon Wifi 100ˆ% available

                          THE OPPORTUNITY TO IMPROVE
                          + Standardize the equipements for the presentation to avoid the waste of time with TV/Cable connections (I left a few sessions after waiting for more than 10 mins to get started)
                          + The contest area seem to be disconnected to the main area of the event and people sometimes got lost trying to get there
                          + The app is useful , but it wasnt updated with all the DEF CON content (Skytalks, Social Eng Village...). I will connect the app team to offer support and make it better for the next year. I saw a significant number of people trying to get more information from the app.
                          + The SWAGs can be more attractive and people will certainly buy it, some of them could be sold at the registration (as an additional package)

                          Anyway , the overall experience is outstanding and we can join efforts to make it even better next year.



                          • #14
                            Thank you very much to the whole DC team for all of your hard work. Clearly, the there is a lot of work that must go into each of these, and I appreciate that it's not easy. Well done.

                            This was my third year attending. While I don't have the same history as others, it does give me some ability to contrast previous experiences for what's new and what has remained consistent.

                            Here's what I liked:

                            - The overall spirit of the event: The overall community vibe, catching up with friends, learning and learning new skills/interests, and just watching how the whole scene comes together are quite cool and what I enjoy most.

                            - The venue this year was vastly improved compared to the previous years in terms of capacity and layout. That was much appreciated.

                            What's not working for me:

                            - Crowd flow and signage: Not being able to forecast the number attendees, I'm sure, makes this tricky, but I also don't see a reason why some pre-planning could put some lanes in place to avoid the line collisions and ease the flow of traffic. Even when the lanes are set up, they aren't always optimal. Signage would go a long way and is more efficient than the goons constantly having to yell instructions. And that leads me to my next point.

                            - Aggro Goons: I recognize that the vast majority of Goons are cool and helpful, and I appreciate that they volunteer their time for our benefit, but there are a handful of Goons that who just have no place trying to manage crowds. Many of us have traveled long distances, spend a lot of money on hotels and food to be there, and to be treated as if we're in a prison chow line just sucks. This is the number one reason I'm on the fence as to whether I'll return next year. "Please" and "Thank you" go a long way. Consider this: Defcon is a hacker conference. In other words, the vast majority of attendees don't care for rules and will short cut any system they see as inefficient, so if you have inefficient crowd flow, lack of signage, and a handful of power-tripping Goons, tensions will escalate and it kills the whole community feel.

                            Thanks for giving the chance to provide some input.


                            • #15

                              Wide hallways, Goons forcing "keep right" traffic flow, content & people in general


                              Workshops lacked power cabling