After a few years of swearing up and down, I finally made it to Thotcon. It was definitely an experience with good and bad.
I found out about Thotcon a few years ago, but it always seemed to either conflict with my schedule, or I couldn’t get time off work for it. This year was different, so I bought myself a ticket and went. What I came into was an interesting mix of talks and socializing. Let’s start off though with the not so good aspects of it.
The whole idea of having to walk outside to get between tracks was one of the worst things about this convention, if only because you could not bring your booze outside. Yes the booze that you paid for, you had to chug or leave it behind when you went into the alley to get to the Turbo Talks in Track 2. Speaking f the Turbo Talks, I really felt that some of them that I saw, such as the one on the CFAA, and the one about Going Kinetic on Cyber-crime, should have been in Track 1 and some of the talks in Track 1 should have been limited down. I was disappointed in some of the Track 1 talks also, because they seemed to be more about trying to pimp the speaker, a “Hey, look at me, I am l33t,” and skipped around substance, or the speakers put in a lot of fluff to help stretch the time frame of the talk. Others probably will disagree with me, but I do know some other attendees felt the same way. Finally, the communication system inside the convention needed work. There were talks that were shifted between days or times near the last minute, which prevented people from seeing talks they had planned on. Day 2 they killed off the afternoon lunch break for Track 1an hour beforehand, moving all the talks up an hour. For myself this prevented me from seeing a talk in in Track 2 that I wanted to see because a talk in Track 1 was more important to me. Also, with no recordings of the talks, there was no way to catch up on missed ones.
While the venue itself was nice, the location was difficult. Being off the Brown Line meant the choices for public transportation were very limited, especially for those coming from the suburbs. This in itself stops some people from going to Thotcon, as the parking around the venue is difficult at best, and travel times there are tough to gauge.
Overall though, the convention was well organized. There was enough time between talks to not make one feel rushed, yet everything flowed. Registration on the first day was very smooth and problem free. Food in the venue was pretty good, and having a dedicated bar area upstairs of Track 1 and across the hall of Track 2 worked to keep noise down while the talks were going on. Also having video feeds in both bar areas was a nice way to allow people to keep track of what was going on. The awards presentations at the end of Day 2 went smooth and quick.
It was interesting to me that some of my favorite talks were non-technical in nature. The talks about the CFAA and how to get more active with the politicians were both amazing. The keynote by Jack Daniels was interesting, along with hearing the social engineering exploits of Jayson Street. The talk about taking down botnets and other cyber-crime operations was another favorite (pictured a the beginning of this article), as was the talk on the deep web. There were some talks I did walk out of, mostly because I found them either not what the abstract made them out to be, or just boring because they seemed to promote the speaker more than it being either a technical talk or call to arms talk.
Thotcon in general turned out to be a decent security (hacker) convention. Yes it has flaws, but the move to it being 2 days worked nicely. Don’t expect too much from it as far as deep technical talks (they decide dot not have workshops this year so they could have the main bar/socializing area), but instead figure you will get some tech, some policy and a nice overview of different topics. Definitely not a training convention as much as it is a call to arms for the infosec world convention.