August 08, 2011, 1:54 PM — There are two big, annual tech conventions that demonstrate a major split among technology professionals who go to Las Vegas specifically for tech conferences, not the things everyone else goes to Las Vegas for (really big swimming pools and tacky architecture).
The first is the Consumer Electronics Show – a toyfest jam-packed with flashing lights, loud colors and the conscious pursuit of kitschy idiocy. It demands that you jump in and play – touching everything, talking to everyone, trying everything. Video racing, indoor skydiving, phones smarter than your laptop, laptops lighter than your phone, networking gear that creates network pipes so huge the demo requires that you get in and personally crawl at light speed to a router on the opposite side of the Las Vegas Convention Center (Which takes about five minutes 'less than half the time it takes the sun's energy to reach the Earth!")
At night is more of the same, but the unavoidable forced-fun participation starts out in rock bars, bit, tacky shows and open-decked sky-scraping cocktail lounges that is just the start of the kind of bacchanalia that re-fills the supply of morning-after stories you wore out after college and prompt a lot of unscheduled "check-ups" at the family doctor when you get home.
Black Hat, the annual hacker's convention whose attendees are split about evenly among real or wannabe hackers, security professionals from major corporations, and various depths of undercover federal agents either hoping to arrest the first group or recruit and hire the second.
Black Hat is the quintessential look-but-don't touch conference.
Everything is fascinating, most of it is frightening and everyone is trying with varying levels of subtlety that they're more leet than you and you really don't belong there because your skillz aren't mad enough to hang with this crew. (Most of "this crew" doesn't belong to a crew; they just want you to think they do so they can have someone to bully for the weekend before having to go back to their basements and be bullied on the way to the convenience store for Monsters and Cheetos.
If you're just there to learn or observe, you hang around the back of the conference halls, wonder why the all-black clothes you're wearing still don't seem black enough, never take your laptop out of your suitcase or turn on the WiFi to keep pimply punks from moving into it to run up their Hack-your-Neighbor scores.
Black Hat Conference