Based on your experience and knowledge, what would you say is the BEST Information Security event to attend and why?
AA: THE best event to attend was Defcon 9 in 2001. It had everything; fancy new badges never before seen (funky badges have since become a feature at some cons), technical content I understood, female attendees (not so common before that), new friends and lots of alcohol. Plus I recall the pound being fairly strong against the dollar at the time so that helped too.
JM: Yeah, I could list the usual suspects and say if you want a view on all the latest technology then something like RSA is the place to be, if you want the latest exploits Defcon / blackhat are great venues – and if you just want to ‘keep it real’ like the NWA and chill with the do-ers and practitioners in the hood, I’ll take a local Bsides event over anything else each and every time.
TL: Any conference that allows you to get a complimentary cup of tea throughout the day. Too many conferences (I’m looking at you RSA) define when I am in need of the elixir of life leaving me dehydrated and close to the edge. It sounds small, but when you take advantage of the hallway track as much as me only having tea available during formal breaks is no use.
Unfortunately, based on that criteria that leaves the list quite short, so I have had to resort to attending under the guise of the Press to get access to a lounge, or tough it out for a few years until I get access to the VIP lounge. Still, at least it got me participating.
JM: Wow Thom, way to set the bar – your enjoyment of a conference is directly proportional to the amount of free caffeine they provide. Nice, then people wonder why the quality of conference attendees is so poor – it’s freeloaders like you who give the rest of us a bad name! I mean, don’t worry about things like – you know, actual content or networking with talented peers.
AA: Don’t “tea’s” him Javvad, I actually agree with Thom for the most part (don’t mocca me)! I don’t know if the quality of conference attendees is getting poorer or if that is just some unsubstantiated statement which others continue sharing. Very few conferences have a continuous schedule that holds the interest of everyone. Attendees will go with the intention of seeing a select few talks (or speakers) and then whatever else looks interesting to them. A lot of the time that “whatever else” is the hallway track, either one-to-one or with a small group.
If an attendee wants a drink, let them have it! It’s actually law that a British citizen should never be denied a cup of tea when requested. It’s our equivalent of the First Amendment in the US [someone should check this fact before we go to print]. Let attendees decide when they’re ready to sit and concentrate and when they need a different type of interaction – we don’t all learn from presentations. Most conference venues are in easy to reach, metro locations. People will walk out to a local cafe to enjoy the ambience of the “cafe track” in favour of the hallway track if you don’t give them what they need and those are networking opportunities the thirsty people who remained behind will miss out on. If the affordable and reasonably priced conferences can do it, the bigger commercial ones should be able to as well.
So have we talked enough without actually specifying a single, current, upcoming conference which we recommend as the best? Or shall we just hide behind our love for community driven events like BSides, SteelCon, et al and those we know supply a healthy selection of beverages with great content like RANTcon and 44con?
TL: Yes, the best conferences are the ones that give you a great environment to chat with your peers, colleagues and friends, as well do a bit of career networking too. Different conferences are better for different people depending upon the subject matter and your areas of interest, so it is going to be the mandatory tea that makes the difference.
That said, I really like 44CON; I can’t understand a word of most of the presentations (pretty sure they are given in Japanese or maybe even Greek) but the people you meet are fascinating and well educated and I always learn something. The mandatory tea, beer and gin o’clock obviously help too.
To find out more about our panel members visit the biographies page.