purplecon happened! we did it! all we had to do was believe in ourselves!
people interested in information security from around the world but mostly new zealand all met up to drink bubble tea and share their limitless cosmic knowledge.
we, the organisers, were a bit nervous but quietly excited for our first ever conference. we’d never organised a conference before, and without naming names, many of us had never executed a successful transaction at the post office before. we weren’t sure what people would expect, since all anyone had to go off was the pastel purple website and some weird surreal cherry blossom tweets.
at around 9am on november 18, 2018, about 150 people gently and respectfully walked into the spare conference room kiwicon wasn’t using. it was this weird v-shaped room, and not in like, a practical way. but, upon arrival, everyone got a lanyard with the official purplecon badge, a glow in the dark star.
on the way in, you’d walk past the bubble tea stand, which made bubble teas to order, as complex or as simple as you like. we made sure to have appropriately pastel taro milk tea available.
after that you’d walk past the aesthetics table.
we know “aesthetics table” isn’t like, a real thing, but, you see, we’re calling it that anyway. here you could decorate yourself or your favourite objects with cute and pastel items.
google’s image recognition labels that photo as “wedding”, so.
defensive, positive, actionable
we also were able to sneak some information security into this fashion show.
we spend a lot of time talking about breaking things and bemoaning how broken/terrible they are. we wanted purplecon to be the antithesis of of that.
we called out for digital internet friends to submit their talk proposals, and the digital friends delivered! nobody prepared us for the heartbreak of cfps. there was so much amazing content submitted, and we only had enough time slots for a quarter of it.
talks had to be defensive, positive, and actionable. speakers were required to submit a document containing some form of write-up of the takeaways from their talk, so that months later, when you think “oh i remember a cool conference talk about this” you could actually look up the takeaways and maybe even actually use them. we also liked the idea of having a great archive, so that the knowledge the speakers worked so hard to create was searchable as text. it’s easier to search text than find out which of the 500 “Hacking _____ for Fun and Profit” videos on youtube is the one you remember from 2 years ago.
if you were watching closely, you might have noticed a subtle kind of “theming” or “aesthetic” going on with purplecon. we feel like we owe you an explanation. basically, we noticed a lot of the other security themed stuff looked like this
y’know, the classic hacker style. this style is legit, it’s just all the same.
everybody’s rebelling the same way
our understanding is that hacker culture is all about rebelling, not conforming, or just generally doing your own thing
because, well, if you can do whatever you want with a computer you may as well do whatever you want in real life. you have root access to your own identity. we thought it would be kinda weird if everyone was rebelling in the same very specific way
so, we’ve made another very specific way in which we can all rebel.
c’mon, look at this. does this look like the kind of thing a responsible adult would let us do?
we’re not saying that this way is better, or there are only two ways, or anything, but we hope that seeing these two kinda opposite examples makes you feel like you can rebel in your own way.
a different perspective
at the heart of our conference, we wanted to create a space where people from different backgrounds and life experiences felt comfortable learning about security.
we did an experiment: would presenting ourselves differently (as a kawaii teen set loose in the digital realm) result in a different audience? we consider ~30% of our audience and ~50% of our speaker lineup being not cis-men to be a good start. we’re also proud to have had this without having quotas or acceptances based on someone’s identity.
our tickets sold out at hummingbird speed which tells us this is something that people really want to see more of and to be part of.
so, we look forward to doing this again with you next year~!
here are some cute photos from the day
and remember, the real friends were the incredible volume of limes we made along the way