Returning home from 13 days on the road, and I wanted to share some thoughts after attending BSides Las Vegas, DEF CON 25, Skytalks, and spending some much needed time with my tribe before and after.

I use that word on purpose — tribe: “families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect”.

What attracts so many hackers to spend a whole week in Las Vegas? I believe it is something far more powerful than just the draw of the individual conferences, no matter how interesting and useful they each are.

I think the real reason we gather is the positive sense of community and wellbeing that occurs when surrounded by so many smart and interesting humans that share our culture and values. There are deeply primal needs (from Maslow’s hierarchy) that get met at these sort of events, if only briefly. The feelings of safety in numbers, acceptance, belonging, and the fellowship of the community. Of being able to connect emotionally and intellectually, sharing the latest cool tech, our work and our creations with others who will appreciate them.

I am thankful to have made some wonderful real life friends from attending InfoSec cons for the last 7+ years. We get together in the same physical space when possible (sometimes even outside of cons!), but our time together is still often measured in single digit days, annually.

I think there are few of us that ever feel like we have enough contact with our close friends and intentional family in our day-to-day lives, which can be sad and isolating. Instead, we have “pocket friends” — nearly always present; just on the other side of the glass. We use twitter, slack, Signal, IRC, emails, texts, and voice to lash us all together in various groups and communities. It helps, but it is never quite enough.

Pocket friends understand and share the particular stresses and often unique conditions of our field. We vent our frustrations to each other, make stupid and often hilariously inappropriate jokes, give each other random technical assistance, celebrate our successes and victories, and collectively lend a sympathetic ear when needed.

In short, we support each other, as a family should. And that is what keeps me here, and planning for the next conference.

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