For the person not familiar with DEFCON, it can be an overwhelming experience. DEFCON is unlike any typical convention that you might go to. It's also a huge success. It was started thirteen years ago by Jeff Moss who goes by the handle "Dark Tangent" and has grown to a massive event with dozens of speakers and an audience of over five thousand people.
The activities include many contests and lectures, as well as many open discussions throughout the convention grounds. Both formal and informal discussion is aided by the DEFCON hotel (the Alexis Park Hotel in Las Vegas) being completely rented out by DEFCON attendees for the three days of the conference.
Because of this, it's easy to talk to people and get involved in discussions as a community. All the talks were held in two of the large ballrooms and a tent the DEFCON staff setup in the parking lot with air conditioning. And if you ever got tired of going from lecture to lecture, you could watch the talks on DEFCON TV from the comfort of your own hotel room.
When I first learned about this convention a couple years ago, I wondered what it must be like. Seeing pictures and hearing stories, it sounded like a free-for-all with hackers running loose and terrorizing Las Vegas. Before arriving, I was still a little concerned about what I would be experiencing. Hackers and computer geeks have a reputation for not being the most sociable people and I didn't expect to be let in that easily.
There was also the matter of the hacking. I thought that with this many experienced, knowledgeable people spending all their time trying to take down websites and cause terror on the Internet, there would be a lot of trouble at the event. I wouldn't have been surprised if they shut down all electronic devices in the area, broke into casino computer systems, stole bank information, and then ran off to further exploit their powers!
In short, I felt that DEFCON had the potential to become a huge quagmire with nothing but destruction on its agenda. But what I learned after the three days of the convention was much different than my imagined story of terror.