My first RSA Conference was probably in 1998 when I first saw Jim Bidzos and the Sugar Hill Gang sing an information security inspired take off of their infamous hit, “Rappers Delight”.  Jim came on the stage (why do I remember a zip-line being involved?) with a robe and a hood and took the stage and they cranked out a wonderful version of the song.  As part of an opening act for a security conference, or any conference that I’ve attended that has never, ever been topped. 

Back then, the conference was much smaller and we enjoyed an alternating venue between San Francisco and San Jose.  While I enjoyed a bit of a break during the scramble between sessions in San Jose (between the convention center and a number of hotels), the rain was often a culprit and running to a session meant getting drenched.  Even during the early years in San Francisco, the conference was spread out a bit and many a session that I presented or attended at was in the theaters at the Metreon.  Hmm, now that I think about that, the RSA Conference used to also include a pretty decent breakfast and lunch.

In addition to the Sugar Hill Gang, opening acts to kick off the conference over the lifetime included:

Over the years, even though the attendance has gone up and the conference fee has steadily increased, the big bang Tuesday morning conference kick-offs have grown more and more subdued.  Nevertheless, the line to get in there on Tuesday morning is quite long as we old timers hope for a return to a big name kick-off.  As always, no matter who it is, its exciting and always gets us pumped up for the week!

And from an edutainment perspective, the closing keynote is often just as exciting, but usually a bit more topical.  Sometimes the presentations / speakers are complementary to what we’ve learned or seen over the week and sometimes its just a very different perspective.   Of the over the 17 closing sessions that I’ve seen, several stand out –

  • Steve Wozniak
  • Bill Clinton
  • Al Gore
  • MythBusters Guys
  • Steven Colbert (selling his new product, CloudFog!)

Finally, it’s important to note that even the venue for the CodeBreaker’s Bash has been a source of entertainment.  Sometimes is nerdy people like me trying to dance, sometimes its the dance troupes, the music groups, or just the ambience, people, and the venue.  Years past for the venue include:

  • Palace of Fine Arts
  • Tech Museum of Innovation (when it was down in San Jose)
  • City Hall
  • Moscone Center (I’m pretty sure I remember being there for one)
  • Marriott Marquis

I hate to say it, but the least inspiring and desirable location is the Marriott Marquis, the location for the Thursday evening CodeBreaker’s bash.  It’s been there for a while, and I get the sense it isn’t moving.  The other locations are often challenging to get to (why are the buses so slow) and some required security screening to enter.  In years past, they were woefully underprepared with the food and people would be grabbing food off of the tray as they were going to be delivered to the tables.  Fortunately, things have gotten better and I don’t recall that being an issue of late.


This year, 2015 promises to be even bigger with hopefully the same amount of educational value as we’v seen in the past.  One of the things that always didn’t seem to belong was the “Booth Babe” concept that didn’t seem to fit into the RSA model.  I’m used to seeing those at some of the IT infrastructure and other industry events, but RSA always brought a more senior level audience component to the event.

Now, according to a number of news articles, the eye candy that one sees on the exhibit floor will be drastically reduced with new contractual language that prohibits some of the more interesting outfits and requires that “All Expo staff are expected to dress in business and/or business casual attire. “  Hopefully we can actually focus on the products and services offered up by the vendors and not the girls, not Elvis, Power Ranger, or other gimmick to get us to check out the booth.

The conference hasn’t changed over the years from a high level timeframe.  There’s always the conference welcome reception on Monday night that has lately been held in the Exhibition Hall.  Tuesday AM starts the keynotes and the tracks start in the afternoon.  The event has the big gala on Thursday evening and the last remaining sessions Friday morning with closing keynotes Friday afternoon.  In between are briefings, super informative sessions in a number of different tracks, the exhibit hall, the conference bookstore, Netwars, the SandBox, Peer To Peer Sessions, and vendor parties.

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