DEFCON is a Social Networking Event DEFCON makes all of the audio and video content available (for a price) afterwards, meaning you can watch all of the presentations as if you were there anyway. What you can’t do is mill about and catching up with your with your friends and colleagues from all over the country (or make new friends and colleagues). That’s invaluable, and it should be the main reason for attending these types of events.
You Can Tell a Lot About a Person by the Shirt They Wear Most people wear regular shirts — polos, t-shirts, etc. — that have no writing on them. Those don’t count. What I’m speaking of is those who are trying to make a statement by calling attention to themselves with text or images on their shirts. Among those you can tell who is most skilled by the shirt they choose. Simple rule: if the shirt they choose represents an old meme that died a long time ago, they’re most likely followers with very little creative power. If the shirt they’re wearing is something really obscure, they’re likely leaders.
Examples: There were many guys walking around with the binary shirt — the one that starts with “There are only 10 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.” This was a cool shirt. In fact it still is a cool shirt. But the only reason to wear writing on a shirt at a con is to have others read it. In other words you’re calling attention to yourself on purpose. And in the case of a hacker convention, the goal is to impress.
If your method of impressing a convention full of hackers is to support a joke that was old a few years ago, you’re not a thought leader. These people are likely to be followers who simply mimic others and do very little on their own. Not because they wear a shirt with an old joke on it, which is fine in other settings, but because they thought it would impress the DEFCON crowd three years later.
Now, contrast that to people like Dan Kaminsky and H.D. Moore. They both wore shirts that had cryptic icons or text on them. Unknown icons or text. In fact, there are likely to be very few people at the whole con who knew what those shirts meant — and that’s the way they like it. They’re trying to make a statement just like the guys with the binary shirt, but the difference is that they are actually succeeding by wearing something obscure and interesting. You would never catch any of these thought-leaders promoting a tired meme at a con.
In other words, the elite group create and promote new memes, while the followers are attracted to the well-established and therefore stale ones.
It’s like in the writing world. Good writers find new ways to say things while poor writers use cliches. The thing is, cliches are still good writing. The only reason they are bad choices is because they’ve been overused — just like the binary shirt meme.