What an amazing week at Derbycon 6.0 “Recharge”!

I wasn’t jet lagged. This was a first. I went from a thirty-hours plus travel time from Uganda, down to two hours from Arkansas! Trippy.

Recharge, indeed. But this Derby wasn’t just a recharge. I witnessed something I’d been waiting a long time for. I felt the formation of a real community. Don’t get me wrong. We’ve called it community for a long time, but this year, we lived up to the name.

It started on Tuesday with bag stuffing, and dozens of volunteers showed up to just help stuff con bags. I helped a little but more importantly I spent a lot of time hanging out with old friends and new.

Everyone was of course curious about my transition to the US. People really cared how we were doing. It was honestly heart warming to know that we hadn’t been forgotten after seven long years away.

On Friday, about ten hackers joined Sam and I on a community project to help Hotel Louisville.

Chaplain Mike at Hotel Louisville puts it best:

“Computer hackers have a cloak and dagger image—cyber spies, if you will, who steal identities and leak embarrassing emails to the general public.  In truth, computer hacking is also a legitimate occupation.  Banks, colleges, and the government employ computer hackers to enhance the overall security of those they serve and protect.  Our friends from Hackers for Charity have, once again, volunteered their time and resources by teaching our recovery women how to remain safe from stalkers, predators, and online thieves who lurk about the internet and social media for illegal purposes.  Hackers for Charity also donated some refurbished computers and educational tools to benefit the women and men in our care.  Yes, hackers can be really awesome people and we are indeed grateful to our friends from Hackers for Charity!”

That was a great time, and it struck me that all of these folks paid to come to conference, and missed half the first day trying to help others. Wow!

All through the conference, I witnessed similar acts of generosity.

My friend Eddie gave up his ENTIRE conference to produce amazing artwork, which he sold and donated the proceeds to help our cause. Then, he bid like crazy in our auction! And to top it off, he arranged an amazing memorial for our friend Rance.

Joey and Jenny gave up their time to plan and run BourbonCon and raised $1600 that went to cancer research.

Jim gave of his time, money and whisky stash to run a great class just to help people, and show them a great evening.

Bill at No Starch, who supports us year after year, did it again with amazing donations of books and great whisky (always a big hit!).

Emily spent her time and energy making an awesome quilt, and donated the proceeds. I can’t imagine how many hours that took!

The folks at Crypto Challenge put in a ton of work to make an awesome event, and gave us two different one-of-a-kind challenge coins that will go up for auction.

I had lunch with a small group of friends who brought me in for advice and assistance starting a non-profit geared to helping out members of the community that are in need. We expect that to spin up very soon. I can’t imagine the ripple effects that will have through our community.

Khalil, Mubix and Darren got into ridiculous bidding wars at the charity auction and.. get this.. gave away the items to their challengers after winning them!

Rance (who we all miss dearly) gave up his black badge, which he won for $1,337 against Army Trained (who couldn’t be at Derby because he’s deployed). This year, BK won that badge for $2,048 and instead of keeping it he made it a living memorial so that it would move around from year to year and .. get this .. gave it to Army Trained first! Then he won two Shmoocon tickets (thanks, Heidi!) and donated them to Army Trained. Then he won a Squirrel coin and donated it to Jericho, and a “Win Cleaning Kit” which is going to Winn! Wha, wha?!

Len also got into the spirit and donated his winnings.

This goes without saying, but every item at the auction was donated by someone who thought more of others than themselves.

This sort of shenanigans and love isn’t isolated to Derby. Render dod something very similar last Shmoocon with the Rance painting, and other have been gradually getting into that spirit through the years, but this year it was insane! I honestly think more items were given away than kept this year!

The auction at closing went a similar way, when many of the CTF teams, who gave up their whole conference to compete in the CTF, donated theirwinnings, and to top that all off, all the auction items at closing were won then re-donated! I was stunned at the generosity and love shown by our community!

We also received love from many speakers who donated their honorariums. I mean, to spend all that time developing a talk and presenting it, to give away the honorarium. Amazing!

Stories of love and generosity kept pouring in as we witnessed attendees helping other out who were down, or “lost” or “stuck”. :-)

On Sunday, Xelpha’s car was vandalized by an unknown person. To make matters worse, this was her first time to a hack conference. Her boyfriend, Integrisec, suggested a GoFundMe and Tarah picked it up and ran with it. Not only did they raise enough money for the repairs and cleaning, but the campaign went over and Integrisec donated the extra money to HFC!

I can’t leave out the DerbyCon staff, who gave up countless hours, days, and weeks of their lives to make all this possible.

I’m leaving out many, many acts of love and kindness, but this would be a really, really long post and frankly, folks aren’t doing good things to get a mention, but the fact is dozens of people gave of their time, money and energy to help in a myriad ways, and I want you to know that what you did matters.

All of this was witnessed by a large group of college students who were learning, for the first time, what it is to be a part of the hacker community. I remember the hacker community decades ago and as a youngster I wanted to emulate what I saw in the community because I related to being a hacker and wanted to become more of whatever that was. Back then, the community was darker and much more self-serving. Don’t get me wrong.. the community supported me and made me who I am, always willing to share knowledge but this is a serious evolution, and so next-level. I can’t imagine how the next generation will grow from having this community as a role model.

My goal now is to make sure this isn’t a fluke happening at one conference. My primary goal with HFC is to create more opportunities to let the hacker community shine every day, in all corners of this country and our world. We’re already doing a lot of good just making all the crap you depend work, and work securely, but DerbyCon was proof that this community is ready for the next level, to do even more good.

Thank you all for the amazing experience. I’m so thrilled to have been a part of it.