Co-founded by Jack Daniel, Mike Dahn, and Chris Nickerson in 2009, Security BSides Conferences, also known as BSides is a series of informal information security events. It was established due to an overwhelming number of presentation submissions to Black Hat USA in 2009, the rejected presentations were displayed to a smaller group of individuals over time, the conference format matured and was publicized to enable individuals to start their own BSides conferences.
Each BSide event will run a bit differently depending on expected attendees, organizers, conditions and overall preferred outcome. Events can be organized in one of the following ways:
A structured event is a conventional format conference that typically coincides with another security conference (e.g. Black Hat, RSA). It means that attendees of the BSides event and the coinciding conference may intermingle and attend one or both events (e.g. BSidesSanFrancisco). A Structured event follows a conventional format in that speakers propose talks via the local site beforehand, with talks being selected and scheduled before the start of the conference.
The Unconference format may differ slightly between events (e.g BarCamp vs. Open Space), but the overall idea is this: be on time, share your ideas for talks, discussions, or even questions you might have, and then collaboratively set the schedule for the day. And as the attendee, make the unconference work for you. Attend what interests you, lead what interests you, share as much you want, and most importantly, make the day an achievement for yourself and for others by staying positive and participating openly.
BSidesBay is an example of using the pure Unconference format. The schedule for the day will be based in large part on the attendees. A theme may be set beforehand for the day to help guide topics and discussions. Overall. the day is attendee-driven with the help of expert facilitation.
Both the Structured and Unconference formats also have their pros and cons. People find the Structured schedule comforting, it gives people the variability to show up when they want, stay for whatever fascinates them and then leave whenever. The Unconference format can be more challenging for attendees, involving an open-minded approach and commitment to be there at the start of the day and, hopefully, stay and partake all day long. The Unconference format can also be that rewarding.