PhreakNIC is an annual gathering in Nashville, TN, for hackers, makers, security professionals, and general technology enthusiasts. Hours upon hours of both informative and entertaining presentations are given by volunteers and many areas are set up with the intent of encouraging socialization. In our 11th year, we are now the longest running non-commercial hacker convention in the United States.* PhreakNIC is organized by the Nashville 2600 Organization, which is a 501(c)(3) tax deductible charity. However, it takes many resources to organize, and help is given to PhreakNIC by other 2600 groups in the South East United States, as well as the Nashville Linux Users Group. Our thanks go out to all who contribute.
Phreaknic is this weekend in Nashville. If you have never been to Phreaknic before, or a hacking conference, or are getting burned out on some of the other security conferences I encourage you to make the drive to Nashville and come see the show. I've gone for the last 5 years and it is, without a doubt, my favorite small conference. I love going to Phreaknic because:
Its a hacker conference
Let face it, when you are eating freshly sliced roast beef and drinking at a open bar on Microsoft's tab, you are not at a hacker conference. There is a certain air of authenticity about a conference room full of ugly gray towers covered in peeling stickers with CRT monitors lighting the faces of a group of people huddled around it, typing excitedly on a keyboard. I sure love me my big east and big west cost cons, but most of them replaced this feeling long ago with sponsor tables and free bottled water. And there is something a little sad about that.
This is good for many reason. First, you can easily meet up with people which is the big reason I go to cons. The speaker rooms aren't all over the place. Lunch trains don't end up being 20+ people. I'm not standing on a stage in front of 400 people with a good 30 feet between be and the front row. I don't have blinding lights in my eyes. I can see the crowd. I can talk with them, not at them.
I haven't paid to attend a hacker conference, in, well, I can't think of a time. However I do remember being a poor college student saving money so I could fly to NYC for Hope or to San Diego for Toorcon. I remember Tom or Mike or Matt giving me a place to crash on floors and couches and flea bag motels. I remember being poor and getting poorer to go to a conference. Phreaknic's price doesn't prohibit the smart (but poor) from attending and expanding their horizons and they should be saluted for that.
There is one track
I don't have to sacrifice one talk to see another. And if I happen to miss a talk, I can always find the speaker and chat with them. Plus, all the talks are broadcast live over the hotel's TV system into every room.
Don't get me wrong, conferences like Black Hat and Shmoocon treat you very, very (very) well. But remember, Phreaknic is small and non-profit and still Scott always treats his speakers so well. The speaker swag is always top quality such as monogrammed button-down shirts, embroidered backpacks, and more. People who know me know that I'd talk at a conference regardless of how the conference organizers show their love. (in fact, getting me to shut up is normally a problem). However it very touching and appreciated that Scott takes time to thank his speakers the way he does.
Sometimes you just don't care about super 1337 topics like attacks on uninitialized variables. I want to here about people hacking their cars, building voice activated photo booths, rants about infosec. I want to mix with newbies. I want to talk with them about what interests and drives them and how they got into it all. People says nerds are socially inept, but they just aren't engaging them the correct way.
I'm not going to Toorcon this year. I want to but I'm not. H1kari and Geo and Tim are awesome dudes and I enjoy speaking in sunny San Diego. But I feel for Phreaknic in a way I can't feel for some of the other conferences. I support what Phreaknic is trying to do and supporting them means passing up an all-HP-expensed trip to a larger conference. Supporting them means I'll speak at Phreaknic, under a handle and unexpensed, on the topics I want to talk about, be them "evil" or "corporately irresponsible" until there aren't any more Phreaknics.
Hope to see you all there.