GrrCON 2017, the seventh year and my third time attending. I volunteered again this year because it is a lot more involved than being a regular attendee. I’ve been to other conferences where volunteering burns you out. GrrCON is the only con where I could be in the middle of one job and ask “What more can I do to help?”.
The 2017 Difference
GrrCON hasn’t changed much since I have started coming to it. There are great speakers, supportive vendors, free beer, and even a tattoo artist. The organizers and volunteer staff do a great job putting on such a quality conference every year. If you haven’t been before, I strongly recommend going next year.
One big difference this year was the overwhelming amount of registrations. Apparently there were so many vendors and attendees signing up, registration had to be capped before we exceeded the amount of swag that was preordered. Attendees that got in later in the day had to use badges from previous years because we ran out.
Vendors were also placed in the hall outside of the tracks for speakers because the vendors area wasn’t big enough. While it was cool to see charities, local community groups, and school programs in a high traffic area, it still separated them from the vendors area.
All of the talks were recorded by IronGeek. He does a great job recording everyone that wants to be recorded and gets the videos posted online quickly. You need to go and checkout the list of videos from this conference, each of the speakers have good talks. The number of talks that I want to see are already in the dozens.
Volunteers arrived a day early to get everything set up and swag bags ready for registration. It was a long day of preparing badges and unloading boxes but it flew by. There was a ton of people to help and it was great to catch up and see what people have been doing since last year. I forgot how fun it was to mess with Jen and the rest of the GrrCON family.
Wednesday night was the speaker dinner. People were always moving around to say hi or get another drink. I saw a lot of old friends that I haven’t seen in a while. It’s been said for a while that GrrCON is more of a family reunion than a security conference and this dinner made me truly believe that. I also picked up a set of Hak4Kidz badges that night. It’s a great group and I wanted to show my support.
One cool story I’ll share is that I was sitting with the guys from the IoT hacking village. They told me about the bluetooth badges, a pi zero that did half of a handshake with nearby devices. The badge tracked the overall number of bluetooth devices it could interact with. After a certain number of devices were identified, it also started playing with wifi networks. I wasn’t told more because it was a challenge for the village, but I was really interested in the project.
Thursday morning started at 6 am. I was one of the first volunteers to show up and help set up registration. We carried all the swag bags to the front table and added a few gifts to some of the bags. My jobs for the rest of the day were to float around the vendor area in the morning and to help with the mi-go track in the afternoon.
Thursday night we partied at Z’s, I met up with some of #misec‘s finest and had a great time. The bar was doing karaoke and Lintile sang a tribute to #TrevorForget. After Z’s we got a drink at Founders before crashing for another early morning the next day.
Friday’s job was to help with the large speaker track and then play bouncer for the VIP area. While working the VIP area, I was able to have another volunteer tag in so I could go watch a friend give her first talk.
The day went by even faster than Thursday and it seemed like we were tearing down parts of the conference before the talks were even finished. After the con, I had a quick dinner with a few friends, said my goodbyes and left for home.
What is Next?
Next year’s GrrCON will be September 6 & 7! CFP and tickets will open in March. I believe that GrrCON ’18 will be in a larger part of DeVos place in order to accommodate the spike in attendance.
Hopefully I’ll get a speaker badge as well as a volunteer badge next year. It’s just an idea right now. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but we’ll find out in March!
The bluetooth badge also gave me an idea, however I have no clue where to start with it. I think it would be cool to get a scrolling LED strip on a hat to display messages like “Hello <bluetooth_device/wifi SSID/etc>!”. I’ll have to reach out to friends and see if that’s an easy project and if it’s actually do-able. Do you think it would be cool to walk around the conference with this?