Joshua I. James
by Joshua I. James
3 min read

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Last Friday was the Cybersecurity Revolution conference. The idea for the conference came from my friend at Serene-Risc. The concept was something similar to what I, and I think a lot of other people, have been thinking for a while.

The Cybercrime Revolution conference is a 24-hour, online, streaming conference. The idea is that multiple research groups give local conferences and stream them online. When they are finished, the next ‘presenter’ streams their presentation. By doing this you can create a virtual conference when the streams are put together.

And it worked! …mostly.

The Good

We generated A LOT of interesting academic talks over 24 hours. Most of which are still accessible. Despite any bad stuff I mention I consider this a win for the community, and totally worth the effort.

The Bad

Time zones. My friend took care of time zone organization. Even for me adding talk times to the conference website got confusing. I eventually switched to only UTC. The problem with UTC is that people apparently don’t know their offset… Auto calculating time zones, and having time converters for the presenters and audience is necessary.

Streaming. I think all groups ended up using YouTube. Streaming on YouTube will give you different URLs depending on how you stream. We asked everyone to give us their stream URL before the conference, but most URLs ended up being incorrect because YouTube event stream URLs are confusing. This is also my fault for not producing a very clear guide for everyone.

Website or social media control. Multiple organizers need access to all communication channels, and they need to be promoted before the event. I ran the main website, which was hosted on Github so people could push changes. The problem is, I was in bed for part of the conference. When I woke up, a lot had changed and the website was no longer a good communication channel. Everything moved to Twitter.

The Worst

The above is just stuff that we need to think how to do better next time. Not really a big deal at all. We tried, and we learned.

The biggest problem that I saw with the conference was that there was not much of an exchange. For our part, we had YouTube chat and Twitter available, but received no questions. I also didn’t really ask questions in other groups talks.

The social aspect was really missing. We didn’t build networks or closer working relationships. We didn’t make new friends online. That is something that will be harder to fix for the next conference, but I think it is possible to do.

Part of the lack of interaction is because many groups were running their own local conference. Not just an online event, but an actual, physical event. We took the old style conference and put it online. The next step is to find a way to better use the Internet to enable interaction. I’d also like to see the presenters use the new medium in more interesting ways.

We ([email protected]) recorded our talks in front of a projector. I think we could have done something more interesting, but I’m not sure what format that would take.

Conclusions

We are a small research lab, and I don’t have the budget to send all of our students to conferences (if you would like to support a student let me know!). For our students the experience of presenting to a ‘real’ audience was great.

Our students also watched how other Universities run their conferences (for free). They were impressed and motivated by the work that others were doing.

Overall, there is a lot we can do differently next time, but this type of conference is very useful. Useful in a different way than a physical conference, but useful nonetheless. We should definitely do it again.

I hope everyone enjoyed the conference, or enjoy the videos online. If you didn’t see it our stream recording is here:

You can see the playlist with individual talks here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJu2iQtpGvv_4GjqpngYMFi2nDizMB-VA