DerbyCon 2.0 – Proof that Success Breeds More Success

By Michael Farnum ·

After DerbyCon 1.0 in 2011, I wrote a blog post about why I felt that first conference was a success: It had quality talks; it was affordable and accessible; it had great organizers; it supported the great Hackers for Charity organization; and the badges were really cool.

So, how did DerbyCon 2.0 stack up? To compare apples to apples, I rated the same areas as I did for the inaugural event. Below are my findings.

Quality – New Speakers Mix Well with Experienced Presenters

The speaker lineup at DerbyCon 1.0 was exceptional, and the 2.0 schedule was stellar as well. Though many information security professionals dislike being called “rock stars,” plenty of speakers at this year’s event would qualify for the term. And when they presented, they did not disappoint the attendees.

However, I would like to note something extra special about DerbyCon 2.0: The presence of many presenters who were completely new to the speaking circuit. When asked by DerbyCon founder Dave Kennedy in closing ceremonies how many people had presented at that event for the first time, several hands went up. When those same people were asked if this was the first time they had presented at anyconference, most of those hands remained up. It is fairly uncommon for people to try presenting for the first time at an event of this size and quality. Speaking at even a small event for the first time can be intimidating, which likely means that the DerbyCon organizers created a very welcoming process.

Getting Big – But Still Affordable and Accessible

DerbyCon was still affordable and accessible to individuals this year. However, passes sold out a couple of weeks before the event, which is a reflection of its popularity but also could mean it might be more difficult to acquire passes in the future. This would hopefully not happen, as there is a conference center next door, and the organizers mentioned that they would most likely need to expand the space next year.

Organizers – Epitome of Professionalism

DerbyCon is not a corporate conference, and the atmosphere of the event is very laid back. While there seemed to be more of an overt presence of sponsors at this year’s event, there was not a feeling of people trying to sell you something. In fact, most sponsors seemed to be more interested in reaching out to the deep talent pool in attendance to fill their technical ranks than trying to push a product or service.

I experienced no logistical issues at the conference, the physical security team members at DerbyCon were pleasant and happy to help, and the wait time at registration was negligible. Additionally, the organizers made regular updates to the website to keep it current, and videos of many of the presentations went up the same day they were given.

Badges – Still Full of Awesome Sauce

Once again, the badges were awe-inspiring. These things are really just works of art. You can see the badge below. ‘Nuff said.

Supporting a Good Cause – Hackers for Charity

Johnny Long, a renowned computer security expert, author, and public speaker in the United States, created Hackers for Charity (HFC) to help poor and disadvantaged people in Africa by building computer labs. Now, HFC helps charities all over the world.  Last year, DerbyCon 1.0 raised almost $14,000 for HFC. This year, that number was more than $30,000. The outpouring of the community was fantastic, and DerbyCon did a great job encouraging support for HFC.

Summary

DerbyCon rocks. You should go.