The Right Way To Do A Hacker Conference

DEFCON is huge. Last year attendance tipped at about 16k, and we’d wager this year will be even bigger. [Brian] and I will both be among those attending (more on that below) but I wanted to take this time to show you the right way to do a Hacker Conference.

Build Your Own Badge

We met a ton of people at DEFCON 22 last year, but the Whiskey Pirates made a lasting impression. I first ran across two of their crew walking the hallways of the con with this awesome badge. How can you not stop and strike up a conversation about that? Turns out this group of friends have been meeting up here for years. This year they went all out, designing one badge to rule them all. And like any good hacker project, they weren’t able to finish it before getting to the hotel.

Set Up Your Electronics Lab

So, you didn’t stuff your boards before leaving home? For the Whiskey Pirates this is not even remotely a problem. They just brought the electronics lab to their suite in the Rio Hotel.

On the bathroom vanity you find the binocular microscope which was good for troubleshooting an LED swap on the official conference badge. An entire cart with hot-air, multiple solder stations, oscilloscopes, and more was on hand. I populated the surface mount LEDs on the badge the crew gave to me. When I was having trouble seeing my work they called the front desk for an additional lamp. You should have seen the look on the bellhop’s face when he walked in!

A bit of marathon assembly and everyone from the Whiskey Pirates (plus me) had a working badge, demonstrated in the video below. But this isn’t where the fun stops.

Build a Crew

A badge and lab equipment don’t necessarily make a party. The Whiskey Pirates have that covered too. The workstations can be pushed to the side as the party gets going. They open their room at 3pm every day (assuming one of them is on hand), but the party really gets started after hours. There are extra televisions, a coin-op cabinet, and even a phone booth. When I stopped by again at party time the place was crawling with people. Some had even brought their own projects and were showing them off. Once notable hack was a Raspberry Pi driven generative music machine. It used sensors every few feet along the hallway as inputs. Every time people walked by the music changed. The room doesn’t go unused either — at some point they kick everyone out and get some sleep but I was never up late enough to see that happen.

Party at Night, Brunch with Hackaday

We’re definitely going to stop and party with these guys again this year. The room number has not yet been published but check out the seizure-inducing website for updates.

[Brian] and I will also be hosting a Hackaday breakfast meetup. Join us Sunday at 10:00am for some joe and conversation. We haven’t pinpointed the location yet so keep an eye on our events page.

14 thoughts on “The Right Way To Do A Hacker Conference

      1. Oh, I wish I could do that, but I’m currently living in across the world in Kuala Lumpur/Bangkok and a trip to US is unfortunately not on my immediate schedule :-) But I hope you guys (and occasional gal) have a blast at the conference….

    1. Something else I forgot to mention: this badge was meant as a hand soldering training tool for rCON, with mostly 0805 on board, a 32TQFP, a 64 TQFP and some really tiny SOT363. Seems the skull and SMT solder training go together.

      1. That’s right, I am a Vegas local. But just to clarify this isn’t cheating. I guess you aren’t familiar with the DEF CON rule on rules? That being, if it isn’t explicitly defined or disallowed, it’s fair game. :)

  1. Guys, you know I won’t be the last to ask this… HOW DO WE GET OUR GRUBBY LITTLE HANDS ONE ONE OF THESE FREAK’n AMAZING BADGES AT THE CON???? Who do we bribe?? Where do we steal one?? How nice a bottle of whiskey do I need to bring you to get one????? WHERES THE TEASURE MAP????


    1. Well you met up with us and figured it out – just be cool. Hope to see a car or plane or something out of our badge next year.

      Make sure to come on IRC sometime; we are discussing cool things tomorrow.

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