Defcon 101: no show speakers, long lines, and total chaos.

DefCon has some great sessions, and I’m hoping the one I’m about to attend on hacking Google AdWords is one of them.

It is, however, an accepted fact that this is the worst run event in the history of events. Misprinted schedules, no-show speakers, first-time speakers, and general chaos is all part of the charm.

For some background: Defcon is only $80 to attend. You can only buy tickets at the door, and you gotta bring cash because they don’t take credit cards (and frankly you don’t want to bring your credit card to this event for obvious reasons). Due to the tickets at the door only policy the conference producers don’t seem to have any idea of how many people will attend.

Make no mistake, Defcon is sold out to the point of insanity. Every panel I’ve attended is standing room only, and many folks elect to stay in their hotel rooms and watch the panels on their TV. To deal with the fact that people will camp in the rooms where the sessions are held the room is “flushed” after each panel. I got a real chuckle watching ten security folks with all kinds of walkie talkie gear asking who’s got “eyes on Apollo” (the name of the room) and barking “flush the room! flush the room!” as if it were a matter of national security. Give people a walkie talkie and an $8 t-shirt with the word security on it and you’ve got an experiment that would make Milgram proud.

Anyway, the flushing requires that you exit through one set of doors and then get back in line for the next panel. This basically assures you’re never gonna see two panels in a row. You have to select alternating panels: the 10, 12, and 2for exampleskipping the 11AM and 1PM panels in order to wait in line. It really sucks since their is so much good content here.

In order to get into this Google AdWords panelthe one I most wanted to see at the eventI had to wait in line for 30 minutes (time I could have spent in another panel or just catching up on emailor blogging!). However, waiting on line wasn’t the dumbest part. Nope, it was the fact that the line is outside the hotel in the parking lot. Did I mention it’s over 100 degrees here in Vegas, turning Defcon into an urban Burning Man.

Now, the ironic party is that the exit doors go into the air conditioned lobby. So, they could have just had people exit to the 100-degree boiling hot asphalt and chill in the A/C. Of course, this event is as crowded as Live8 so you probably couldn’t fit the line into the lobby of the hotel. The lines here make the ones at Sundance look like a cake walk. Next up inside the hacking Google Adwords talk.

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