I found one of my biggest misconceptions about DEFCON was about the people. When someone talks about hackers or computer geeks, they usually never give a very positive description. Hackers are typically viewed as social outcasts who spend more time in front of a computer screen than out with friends.
This is dead wrong. Almost everyone I met was immediately friendly and opened up without any probing. The presenters, organizers, and contestants were all inviting and open to any discussion. The openness also proved how productive open discussion can be. There were many questions at every talk and when something was left unanswered, people would provide helpful input. This open discussion is why the computing community has grown to what it is. Newcomers like me can come into this existing community and learn just from being around these great people.
Figure 6: Jeff Moss, organizer of DEFCON, after being dunked with water during the closing ceremonies
I can't describe how much fun I had at DEFCON and how much I learned. It was a completely new experience and I was able to immerse myself in something I knew very little about. The people were friendly, the talks were informative, and the contests mixed everything together. The organizers of this event did a great job producing an event that many people would think of as impossible.
The community is continually growing and DEFCON smoothly handled even the largest crowds. I left with new friends and a new sense of how security over the Internet works - which is really what this was all about. It wasn't just about hacking, but a lesson in how we can all benefit from greater security and finding new ways to achieve it.