To our family, friends, fans, and community:
We don’t like having to do this again, but we’re pulling the plug for an in-person Skytalks 2021.
2020 fucking sucked. There’s no easier way to put it. When we made our announcement in April of last year, we weren’t expecting the magnitude of the crisis that was unfolding in front of us. Looking back, it was obvious that we made the right call, maybe even a little late — but we weren’t alone. Unfortunately, the crisis that forced the tough call 11 months ago isn’t over yet.
The calculus that we went through last year for actually putting on the event hasn’t significantly changed. Using the numbers for the space that we were populating in 2019, as well as estimates of being able to use 25-33% of the rated room capacity (which, honestly, we still find kind of optimistic), we’d max out at putting 175 people in a room rated for 530. Sure, it’s a bit more than twice the number we were able to fit in the largest Skybox at the Riviera, but for a 5200 square foot ballroom? That’s paltry. Add on top of that trying to add in “socially distanced” line con management (and those who have been in our Line Cons know how crowded those can feel) and it seems like this is going to be a no brainer.
As we write this, travel is still somewhat restricted. The state of international travel is still very much in flux, and there’s a not-insignificant number of people who travel from outside the US to come to DEF CON, and it’s still very questionable as to whether they can make it this year. Domestic travel, both by air and by land, is still up in the air too, to a lesser extent — there’s still states out there that require travelers entering or returning from travel to isolate when they (re-)enter the state. That means your week-long DEF CON vacation may have just turned into three. And those of you who normally rely on the company to fund your trip to Vegas for Black Hat and DEF CON are probably out of luck, because a lot of companies haven’t lifted their restrictions on non-essential travel. You and I may think DEF CON is essential. Those in the corporate C-suites don’t.
Things are changing, and nobody really knows what things are going to look like in 4 months. The good news is that it finally looks like we might be seeing the end of what has been a very long and arduous journey for everyone here on the third rock from the sun — and certainly for those of us here in the United States. Vaccines are finally, slowly starting to be made available. We’ve survived a couple of very gnarly infection crests. We just need to see this through for a little while longer. However, given what we’re being told now, logistically it isn’t reasonable for us to put together Skytalks, especially in the manner that we’ve traditionally done. We know that other events are still going virtual this year. Other events are going for a hybrid model, and some are event trying to go to an in-person model. We wish them all the best of luck.
We’ve also discovered that online conferences don’t have to suck. The food and drink isn’t overpriced, and hasn’t been under a heat lamp for who knows how long. The camaraderie is still there, and we’re finding a lot of ways to make these events fun. DEF CON 28 wasn’t what anyone expected last year — it was a lot of fun in ways that we’re still coming to understand. I’m looking forward to seeing what DEF CON 29 is like. And the team behind Skytalks might even have something to contribute. The “Hallway Con” event that we ran during New Years was a blast, and that might fit in an evening format. And it’s possible that we can pull together a series of talks as well. Obviously, it can’t be “Skytalks”, because they’ll have to be recorded. But we can potentially try to pull together the esoterica and irreverence you’ve come to know and love from Skytalks. We’re still discussing what we want to do for that. Stay tuned.
Next year will be the 30th anniversary of DEF CON. We’ve got the opportunity, and the reason, to make that one something for the history books — something that eclipses the celebration at DEF CON 20, now 9 years ago. Something that’s pretty hard to believe, looking back on it. All of us here at Skytalks hope to be back for it. We hope to see you there too.
In any event, stay healthy. Stay Safe. Stay Hacking. We hope to see you all again in person at DEF CON 30 in 2022.
Much love from the Skytalks Senior Staff, including: troutman, jivesx, zeus, 0x00, « Caspian », CircuitSwan, Z3npi, and bluknight.
31 March 2021, 0000 UTC