Judge Spotlight: Joe Grand


We’ve been fascinated by [Joe Grand] for years. His early talks at DEFCON, and extensive work designing badges for it, helped to put the conference on our radar. We’ve seen many pieces of hardware come from his company Grand Idea Studio over the years, and of course there was the television show Prototype This! which must have been way too awesome for some TV exec to allow it to continue.

We asked [Joe], who is a judge for The Hackaday Prize, a few a questions. He sent back the video response embedded below. He talks about what he’s doing these days, the hacker community in Boston, shows off some hardware he uses when teaching about security, and much more.

  1. 0:56 – Tell us what you’re doing in your professional life these days.
    1. He mentions his Laser Rangefinder, Speech Synthesis, RFID Reader/Writer
  2. 4:10 – You were a member of the early L0pht hacking group. What was that, and are you still in touch with people from that community?
  3. 7:30 – You teach people how to reverse engineer hardware at Blackhat and DEFCON. What is that process like?
  4. 10:44 – Your background with fast hacking (Prototype This!, conferences, etc.) make you perfect as a judge for The Hackaday Prize. What advice do you have to help contestants pull it together under deadline?
  5. 12:44 – We might go as far as calling you the grand master of conference badge designs. What is your process for developing a new badge?
  6. 18:10 – What’s your take on Open Design?
  7. 19:54 – How has the hardware scene in the Bay Area grown and changed since you’ve been living there?
  8. 23:03 – We love your JTAGulator (especially the name). Tell us why it’s the perfect tool for The Hackaday Prize?
  9. 25:00 – What can people do with their Hackaday Prize entries to impress you?

10 thoughts on “Judge Spotlight: Joe Grand

  1. I know hacking judges are probably hard to come by, but what does HaD always pick the same people, and the most polarizing folks possible, nothing against Mr. Grand… But there are A LOT of people that are not so fond…

    Also, that show was terrible. I mean, maybe the way it was produced or edited made those guys seem dumb as rocks for the excitement factor or whatever, but damn… Thats the only reason I watched, like once, was to see the fails that anyone who is actually technically minded would have seen from 500 miles away.

    Mythbusters, while it has the same problems with tit-headedness and trite half-science, at least it’s entertaining. But then came 500 rip-offs like that stupid “smash-lab” or whatever.

    I think a big problem is the real hackers and actual smart people of the world could give two shits if their stuff gets noticed, or blogged about or impresses anyone, but then you get these pseudo-celebrities with a fraction of technical know how who want to capitalize on the scene and they become the mouthpiece. The rest of the basement dwellers who could give a rats ass about being known to the world at large just keep doing what they do, only to cringe when these types spout off.

    I think HaD embodies more the “street team” – “hey, do you like the sex pistols and black flag!? then you’ll love blink-182!!!”


    1. I agree with you that the show was terrible. But I pin most of the blame on its producers. Joe and Zoz gave a good talk (two actually) about their experiences making it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySdvpzWgc9Q). I do not fault them for the “TV magic” that made it so unpleasant / frustrating to watch. I do fault him and Zoz for going through with the project in the first place – being willing to go through with producing something so far from the values of the work that they were creating. But I think that happened mostly because they are too accommodating, due to being really nice guys. And they had high hopes for the impact that it would have on kids by encouraging science and engineering. That hope probably made them not want to see the reality of what they were helping to make.

    2. Disagree. I enjoyed the show. For someone who doesn’t live and breathe Hackaday, the show is actually very technical. Like Mythbusters, a lot of the details are cut to reach a broader audience. The goal (and hardest part) is to inspire, not deliver a 200 page thesis on every technical detail encountered. Once the spark is there, the person will be well on their way to learning about topic X.

    1. Because Mudge works for the man as _the man_at darpa projects :)
      There is a terrible talk by Mudge somewhere on the intertubes where he is OH SO PROUD of luring hackers to work for the army, because CIA/NSA needs you!

  2. Love that Joe Grand is part of the judging committee! I have yet to meet anyone yet who has met Joe in person and thought ill of him – in either his personality or technical know-how.

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