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HOPE = the “Anti-BlogHer”

July 24, 2008

While I was attending BlogHer this past weekend (“Really?  You were there, because I haven’t read all that much about it on your blog or anywhere else!”) my colleague David was attending what was billed as the Last HOPE conference.   We both had the time of our lives at our respective conferences, but as we chatted real time we realized we were having very different experiences.  While BlogHer can be pink, soft, fluffy and pretty-smelling, HOPE seemed to be filled with guys in black t-shirts who didn’t smell all that good.  Nothing wrong with that in my book.  But of course, I wasn’t there, so I asked David to do a little guest posting on the blog with his report, in an effort to appeal to the testosterone laden among my readership.  Truth be told, I would have gone here in a second.  It’s in my backyard.  It’s my people.  But BlogHer got me first.  So HOPE got David.

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The Last HOPE Conference ran last weekend in NYC, attracting three thousand hackers from around the world.  The conference title is an acronym for Hackers On Planet Earth, and this was the “Last” HOPE because the hotel it has been in since 1994 is being replaced by retail space.

HOPE is run by Wiley author Emmanuel Goldstein, who also is the founder and editor  of 2600, the Hacker Quarterly, and the host of the weekly radio program Off the Hook.  To these attendees, he is the boy that pulled the sword from the stone, the hobbit that can be trusted with The One Ring, and the Rebel Alliance’s only hope against the Sith Lords.  Wiley was fortunate enough to sign Emmanuel to write The Best of 2600, which shipped just two weeks prior to the show.

While I was at the show to launch the book, and hundreds of attendees gladly lined up to buy that book, there was so much more going on than book sales.  Sessions started at 10 am on Friday and ran around the clock until Sunday afternoon.   I’ll get to the sessions shortly, but first a bit more about the ‘distractions’.  There were exhibitors selling soldering kits, lockpick tools, t-shirts, and assorted swag.  There was a huge Lego area for lonely boys to build dinosaurs and robots and such.  The relax & recharge area featured over a dozen hammocks.  I was amazed that these were frequently full; who sleeps in a hammock that a strange hacker was just drooling in?  One of the most exciting areas was Lockpick Village.  In this corner of the hotel vendors and hobbyists mixed, selling lockpicking tools and how-to manuals, or refining their skills with an assortment of locks.  I watched in amusement as an eight year old boy received and totally absorbed a lockpicking lesson; that kid’s teachers don’t stand a chance.

I was running the Wiley table solo, so I couldn’t get to sessions.  I would have loved to have attended the Biohacking session, which promised exciting new follow-ups to questions raised in the 2006 session “Sex Hacking”.  There was a session that discussed all of the many data-filled portable devices carried by business travelers, and what fun a bored hacker might have with these devices hanging out at a restaurant or an airport.  Another session talked about how to get out of the Feds’ new high-tech handcuffs.  The description of that session was priceless, and included this line: “everybody knows how to get out of the cuffs that local law enforcement uses, but the Feds have started to use new high-tech restraints.  Stop by and learn all about the design strengths and vulnerabilities of these new cuffs…”

If somebody manages to pull together another HOPE Conference after the hotel turns into a Claire’s Boutique, here are some tips for future attendees:

·         Be anonymous.  The badges were tombstone-shaped and no badge had a name on it.  Which reminds me, here’s a shout-out to my new friends Bunny, Shogun, Phreak, and Ph00zball; keep it real, players.
·         Wear black.  T-shirts are the way to go, and be sure to hit the Think Geek t-shirt store before heading out.  Favorite phrases on t-shirts:  “I think that stripper really liked me”  and “Resistance is futile (if < 1 ohm)”
·         Bring Red Bull, beef jerky, and adult diapers.  You really don’t want to use the restroom there.

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Thanks David.  That was more than I “hoped” for, especially that last line.  But don’t despair, HOPE appears to be poised to be reborn from the ashes….the NEXT HOPE is scheduled for 2010.  Mark your calendars now!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2008 2:35 pm

    What? I smell fine.

  2. July 24, 2008 4:50 pm

    Ryan, it’s entirely possible your aura was pleasant. It was a harsh generalization of attendees, to be certain.

  3. July 25, 2008 1:00 am

    I am visualizing the “swag” fabrese in ball shapes, those metal clicking balls and an 8 ball with hacker future fortunes. Black depends. Rub on tatoos. (full sleeve version) Mood rings.
    My son would so hope to be there. It is new world folks.

  4. Megan Richardson permalink
    July 29, 2008 3:43 pm

    Such a pretty picture of Stephanie Klein. I must admit I’m a huge fan of her blog.

  5. August 6, 2008 5:52 pm

    As a girl who was at HOPE and can confirm that you are completely correct in your assumption that it was neither pink, nor fuzzy, I have to say that after I wrote about my impressions of women @ HOPE the response from the female community was huge (mostly discussed on the HOPE Forums). There were lots of girls there, even though the environment is still largely “male.” Come to “The Next HOPE,” for sure!

  6. August 7, 2008 10:12 am

    Amberella – I’m in for the next Hope, for sure. I’ll wear pink, but will have plenty of smudges and stains on my shirt (hey just like today!) to fit in with the boys.

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