Over, as in my two weeks of conferences are now complete. Last time, I talked about my plans to attend both the SANS 2011 Digital Forensics and Incident Response Summit in Austin, Tx followed the next week by the 2nd Annual Sleuth Kit and Open Source Digital Forensics Conference in McLean, Va. Those two events are now history and I'm happy to say I enjoyed both very much. As seems to always happen, I looked so forward to them and then once it was time for them they just flew by. Ah well, perhaps I'll have the good fortune to attend one or both of them again next year.
One of the truly great things these conferences were good for, aside from the excellent presentations, were the tremendous opportunities to network with others in the field. I have been so happy to find that the "superstars" of this field are just like the rest of us, except way smarter ;-) Seriously, they're really good people and I was glad to meet and greet with them. Both conferences provided multiple opportunities to interact with the other attendees and speakers. Both were very well run and well attended as well, which is understandable given the quality of the speakers and the topics they were presenting.
Without a doubt, the best part of the two conferences for me was finally getting the chance to meet some of the people I've "known" online for several years but never met in person. Finally putting a face with the name for people I'd never even seen before was really cool. I talked with several of them over the two conferences about how we all have considered each other as friends, despite the lack of actually ever actually meeting in person. In most cases, we've managed to connect via Twitter and some of us have forged very close friendships with other "tweeps" who share our job interests and duties. There are many social media websites and services, but I would find it hard to believe any have a greater ability to unite people in the digital forensics and security fields than Twitter.
Each conference was great overall, with each only having one presentation I was a little disappointed in, though for different reasons. In fact, I wouldn't even say I was disappointed in the second one I'll talk about, but it was the one I got the least out of for reasons I'll explain.
I really enjoyed every speaker at SANS but one, even though some talked about subjects pretty far over my head. Unfortunately, one speaker seemed far more interested in promoting his product and showing his arrogance than conveying information. That seemed to be the general consensus of most everyone in the room from what I was able to tell and that's a shame, as the talk could have been very good. As he went on, it got better and more informative, but by that time he'd already lost most of the crowd. I read more than a few tweets by other attendees and heard many whispered comments complaining about this speaker while he was still talking.
At the open source conference, all speakers were likable and informative. Unfortunately, one spoke only very broken English, making it hard to really follow what he was talking about. He was aware of that and started off his talk by apologizing for his poor English. Just the same, he did his best and completed his talk. The information he provided was interesting and the slides he used were helpful, so I really hesitate to say I was "disappointed" exactly. The subject of his talk was something I was really interested in, but it was hard to come away with anything useful.
Overall, these two conferences where chock full of great information, both in the talks and in the informal meet-ups. I truly hope I can attend one or both next year, as they were both great learning experiences. Thanks to Rob Lee and Brian Carrier for all their hard work in getting these conferences up and running each year.