Defcon/Blackhat: Post-show musings

After a week in Vegas, it’s hard to put anything in perspective, but I’ll take a crack at some reflections on the shows. As we mentioned earlier, Black Hat is becoming the Comdex of the IT security industry. Success in this country equates to revenue, which means constantly broadening appeal, which means diluting the original sharp message and turning it into a “lifestyle statement” (see Harley-Davidson, Nike, Coors, Wolfgang Puck). Since the corporate takeover of Comd.., er, Black Hat, this is what is and will continue to happen. Bigger sponsors, bigger vendors, more participants, higher cost and probably a bigger venue, if growth continues as it has over the past couple of years. And, it’s not a bad thing, because we have DefCon, in its original, unaudulterated form to anchor the tradition. The funny thing is that I got at least as much information from one as the other. It’s just the form that’s different. Attending one or both is a good idea if you want to see the state of the art in the industry. On a personal note, could flying be any less fun? Let’s see, put all metal in a baggie. Put all liquids in a baggie. Take out your lapper. Take off your shoes. Take off your belt (where was this line when I was dating?). Now, repack, redress, walk a mile to gate c-166 on the Baghdad concourse, board by rows, “this is a full flight, so sitthef***down”, sit in a coach seat made up of an open large pizza box, no meal, gnaw on the 2 gram bag of peanuts, or the seatback of the a-hole in front of you who needs full recline, sit on the runway for 30-40 extra minutes, get bombarded by TV safety spots, previews of crap I never wanted to watch when it was on TV five years ago, commercials for the airline (probably not the best time to pitch me), get trapped into a soulful conversation with your new best friend in adjoining seat 62Q, nattily attired in tank top, running shorts and shower shoes, who’s a big (fill in the blank, Harry Potter, golf, macramé) fan, mix in a little turbulence, add a dash of dead lapper battery, realize you left the novel in the bag in the overhead…it’s cheap and it gets you there, but I don’t have to like it. Flying has evolved from a fairly elitist mode of travel into the 1970s, to a deregulated “fly Greyhound” way to economically move the greatest number of people. That’s the pervasive economic model today, virtually everything goes through the same pattern. Major league sports, movies, cars, PCs, Internet, cell phones, all evolve into a few, very similar offerings, backed by enormous financial resources. In my management seminars, I used to ask the question “What are the two things that made America great?” It was a trick question, the normal answers were patriotism, hard work, freedom, but the real answer (remember, it was MY seminar!) was “Replication and mediocrity”… it’s pretty good and there’s a lot of it! Look at the fast food, cars, air travel, motels, cell service, super markets, all of it is, well, pretty good. Not great, because it’s hard to duplicate great as many times as needed to make it economical, but, good enough. And, you can’t possibly deny that there’s a LOT of it! So, keep this model in mind the next time you wonder why things are not just like last year.

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