Comparing 2 Security conferences: Bsides Ljubljana vs. Risk conference 2018

As you might already know, I put more focus into IT security in last couple of months. So besides looking for IT technology conferences and gatherings, I have also started to look around for conferences with emphasis on IT security. So I had opportunity to visit 2 of the in this month. First one was BSides Ljubljana, which is prepared by community enthusiasts, while second one Risk Conference 2018 is commercial conference prepared by Real Security. Despite obvious differences in budget, I cannot stop myself comparing them.

Size and participants

It is in fact not really fair to compare both conferences by size. Bsides holds about 190 participants, while Risk Conference had more than 400.
Risk Conference has much wider support from sponsors and commercial companies and besides sponsoring, they also bring many of their customers to the conference. Additionally Risk Conference was 2 day conference and you had much more time to talk to participants, presenters and sponsor representatives. Due to number of participants, I was able to find several people to talk to and also quality of the lectures helped here.
On the other site Bsides has much cosier atmosphere, where a lot of people know each other and they are willing also to come many miles to visit conference and meet peers. So I observed nearly half of participants coming from abroad. Funny fact is, when you have a mix of several nationalities, you have more chance to learn something new, get different point of view onto your problem and generally learn more.

Verdict: Risk Conference is bigger and has more opportunity for geek talk, but Bsides offers higher quality

Venue and show

BSides venue was in building of startup community at Tobačna ulica in Ljubljana, where chairs are missmatched, everything is simpler and this way much more relaxed. If you are early in lecture room, than you have better chance to get better and more comfortable sitting :). At BSides we cannot really talk about show and all you can hope for, is dependent on presenters, who often have several aces up their sleeve.
On the other site Risk Conference seemed to me all about the show. Conference is placed into beutyfull hotel in Spa hotel of Laško, where all was fully matched, presentation were shown on huge and high quality beamers. It all started with eye catching (and piercing) laser show and skilful show by flying basketball acrobats Dunking Devils, whole main happening was moderated by native English speaker Chris and all lectures were interrupted by attractive hostess, who was carrying huge 5 minute reminder and stole all attention from audience.

Verdict: Risk conference has more fancy venue and offers more show

Quality of lectures

Risk conference has great show, as I mentioned above, but it is unfortunate, that it goes on a cost of lecture quality. Pretty looking ladies are interrupting even those few good prepared and technically more advanced presentations. The only way to get some deeper technical information was to get a hold of presenter after his/her presentation and ask questions that you wanted answered.
Bsides was (to my delight) quite opposite. Lectures were on very high level and every lecturer dove deep into technical details (ok… there was one exception), what satisfied my urge for deeper understanding of technology. There was also not a problem catching lectures after their presentation and ask them additional questions. In fact, you could also get a good answer from many participants, what shows, that Bsides is more than conference, it is a community of pretty advanced presenters and participants.

Verdict: Bsides has much better quality of lectures

Food and beverages

I know, that food is not something you should look at conferences, but unfortunately it is integral part. Both conferences were short enough, that whatever food would be there would suffice (as long as it is edible 😉 ).
So there is not much to compare. Both conferences had sufficient food and beverages available, just at Risk Conference you could get healthier food.

Verdict: Risk Conference has healthier food

Value for the money

Since I am not privileged to view into budget of either conference, I am guessing here. In my opinion Risk conference costed much more per participant as Bsides. And if I look from my perspective, where content is more appreciated as show, I have here clear winner.

Verdict: Bsides offers higher value for the money

Personal preference

I was fortunate enough, that I was able to visit both conferences. There are things, that I could find valuable on each of them and so I can say that my time was not put to nothing.

Verdict: If I had to choose just one of 2, I would have no problem deciding and would gladly visit only BSides

Conclusion

If I conclude my evaluation and comparison, I would still have few suggestions for both of conferences.
Risk Conference:
– I have nothing against show, but please think about interrupting good lecturers and let them do their job. Some of us are actually looking for a quality content at the conferences
– Keep bringing good engineers from partnering and sponsoring companies to the conference. They are your hidden value, source of valuable information and great discussing partners.

Bsides:
– I would wish, you could get more sponsors for your conference. I actually did not miss much there, but at least beamers could be of a better quality, so that we would not need to shut down all light next time.
– Keep attracting good presenters and I also hope next time at least few local ones will dare to contribute.

Stay curious and never stop learning!

3 thoughts on “Comparing 2 Security conferences: Bsides Ljubljana vs. Risk conference 2018”

  1. Dear Mr. Znidar,

    thank you for your thoughts about RISK conference. We are more than happy to receive comments and suggestions from experts in IT industry. It is difficult to serve every aspect of the conference and believe me that we are always looking for ways to improve it for the next year to come. But maybe to clear some fundamental ideas of our conference. The presentations itself are never meant to be to technical since the visitors are from different fields of operations and responsibilities and going into deep technical descriptions would be too much for some of them. As you know there is not a single IT enthusiast or specialist that would understand all the solutions and technologies that we cover.

    That is way we are dividing the conference in 3 learning zones:

    – the presentations of the technologies and their aim,
    – workshops, where our visitors can discuss deep technology features and functionalities,
    – and last but not least DEMO labs where they can actually see the tools in action, try and test the equipment and see what problems they solve or for what field they have been used.

    Somehow, I was a little bit sad because of your comments on RISK conference and I think it is not really fair to say that we do not deliver enough technical info. According to your comments I have a feeling that You did not visited tech workshops or labs and discussed deep tech stuff. If you participated in workshop’s and labs on the other hand than I would really appreciate Your comment where you could not get tech insights. If you missed the workshops or labs we are really sorry. This year we had more than 20 workshops and labs – plenty of deep tech geek discussion possibilities.

    I think You cannot really compare us with Bsides with all respect for you. We have a totally different approach; our target audience is not the same. This year we had a lot more than 500 registered visitors and to serve each one of them 100% is mission impossible, but we are giving our soul to come close to this 100% of satisfaction.

    Where on our conference You can listen to experts like Ramzes Gallego (former ISACA vice president), Kah Kin Ho (who btw. is doing regular consultations to governments and the largest companies in the world) or others who really give the visitors: “The big picture on what is today happening in the world of CYBER THREAT LANDSCAPE”, you can still find a lot of technical expertise and knowledge at workshops and labs. But I agree that some of the speakers did not deliver as expected. But hey, it is always and everywhere like that – isn’t it ? Sometimes the planned presenters are disabled and here and there someone else jumps in to cover the gap and might find himself in an demanding environment which frankly to say our conference is.

    I cannot comment Bsides conference, because I never was there, which is a pity and I promise to myself that one day I will catch up with that also ;-).

    Still I think that people in our industry should stick together and help each other not doing differences between the peers. We do not see Bsides as a competitor or anything else and we are happy that also they are trying to bring knowledge in our region and working on attracting as many tech enthusiasts as possible. Somehow, we are in the same boat with a similar mission. And we salute them for their goals, their hard work and effort. We would always support them in any possible way since it is our strong believe that the market needs to be informed, educated and helped in this crucial strategical topic as cyber security is.

    BTW we are doing that for the last 16 years. We even are producing a magazine just to inform our colleagues and industry peers. You can grab your free issue at: https://real-sec.com/infomagazine-by-real-security/

    Besides the RISK conference we organize more than 40 workshops and smaller events yearly. You can follow us at: https://real-sec.com/d1-blog/

    We inform the professional public with more than 150 posts and news yearly.
    We have a training center where we are really going into deep technology every month with leading IT sec experts. I would like to see you also joining us there sometime, because you can really get a lot of useful information. Just check regularly the invitations that we are sending out. Just in last month we had trainings for:
    Avecto, Fireeye and Forcepoint. It is a pity that you missed them, we really diged deeeep into the technology .

    https://real-sec.com/2018/04/avecto-reseller-training-at-real-security-training-center/

    You are more than welcome to all of our events which are almost always free and we take the expenses on us just to bring in the knowledge and expertise to our partners and customers.

    P.S. You can also join us at LI, where we have an active group of IT experts at:
    https://www.linkedin.com/company/real-security/

    or at FB at: https://www.facebook.com/realseccom/

    where you can see and get a feeling what is happening at trainings, events etc..

    Thank you for coming to RISK this year and I am glad that you expressed some thoughts on our conference, which we for sure will use to improve for the next year’s event. Hope to see you soon at some trainings or workshops at REAL security HQ.
    Br
    Renato Uhl
    CEO of REAL security d.o.o.

    1. Whoa… What an honour.
      When I wrote this article, I never thought, that I will receive such long reply. And this even from CEO form company preparing the bigger conference.

      I am also glad, that I caused such a long reply, where you are giving me counter arguments. But better than this, you also give me (and my readers) promise, that you will try to overcome disturbing factors in the next conferences to come. With this, I think, I have achieved my point and all my blabbering in this blog post, was worth it.

      I was also in contact with your colleague David and we had very nice talk about the conference you are planning for next year. I must say, that I like many of ideas and I will love to come again. If nothing else, that you prove it, that I was wrong in this post 🙂

      Concerning technical workshops this year….
      I have been to some and lecturers were really trying very hard, to explain technical details, that interest me, but at the end 30 minutes are simply not enough (those felt even only 10 minutes, due to interesting topics… you know how time flies, when you have fun). If I could have it my way, I would love to spend whole day with such experts and go really into depth, but as I have several times experienced also my self (as lecturers), there are not enough listeners available in our small Slovenia, to make even the smallest lecture room full.

      Let me for the end thank you for preparing such conferences, bringing experts from and to Slovenia and giving us the opportunity to learn something new, because even so small or low budget conference is way better than nothing. I know there is no way to satisfy all tastes, but your response and attitude shows me, that you DO CARE. And this is what we all want and need.

      Regards,
      Matjaž

      P.S. From now on I am following you closer (FB and LI) 😉

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