Dragon Con 2016

So, this is normally the time I’d release my schedule of panels for this years Dragon Con, so people interested in seeing me (both of you) can look there instead of sending me a message the usual way.

I was actually down for several panels, but a week or two back I realised I wouldn’t be able to attend for a uniquely American reason – Medical Bills.

Back in May it was the High School Graduation of my eldest (yes I’m that old), and going to watch it meant sitting on bleacher seats and that aggravated a back injury I’ve had for a few decades.

Now, were I back in the UK, this wouldn’t be an issue, I’d go to the doctor, get referred to a specialist or the hospital if needed, maybe spend some money on a prescription or two. However, this is the US, where no chance to make a buck can be allowed to go by. As a result, the money put aside for Dragon Con (yes, I have to pay for everything except my badge, despite both me and my wife being track assistant directors – me the EFF track, my wife with Signage) has gone to medical care instead.

As a result, I’ll no longer be on the following panels (although I may still be listed in the app/program).

Friday

11:30 a.m.
Activism 101 and State Level Activism
How do you change the world when there are such an overwhelming number of problems today? Does activism mean having to get arrested or does it require civil disobedience? We’ll explore the tenets of our democracy and ways to work within the system to make the world a better place.
Hilton Room 208-209

8:30 p.m.
Forensics and Cyber Forensics Are Lies (and are Not Science)
In court, juries give a lot of weight to forensic science and evidence (thanks to police TV shows). However, most of it isn’t science, and it’s often overhyped or falsified. So why does this “CSI Effect” happen, and what can be done about it?
Hilton Room 208-209

Saturday

10:00 p.m.
Online Stalkers and Your Safety
SWATing, Doxxing, and death threats are becoming more and more common. Sometimes it’s an obsessive ex, a jealous fan that takes things too far, or sometimes it’s “just for the lulz”. How can you preempt them and protect your privacy without turning into a digital hermit?
Hilton Room 208-209

Sunday

10:00 a.m.
UK Investigatory Powers Bill (Snooper’s Charter)
The UK Investigatory Powers Bill makes “1984” look tame by comparison. Is this an overreaction to recent threats of terrorism? How does the British system differ from guarantees provided by the American constitution, and why should Americans be concerned by legal issues overseas?
Hilton Room 208-209

Monday

10:00 a.m.
FOIA Workshop (Filing Freedom of Information Act Requests)
How to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act, with live demonstrations and results from prior years’ panels. Be your own activist!.
Hilton Room 208-209

Plus at least one Brit-track panel (but their schedule is always in such flux that the details had not been finalised before I had to pull out. I was also looking into doing a panel with TrekTrack on the Axinar lawsuit (I consulted on one of the amicus briefs) but we couldn’t get enough panelists in time to makeit worthwhile. There was also a robotics track panel on drones, but as I and the other panelist backed out, that’s now cancelled entirely. That’s 5 EFF track and 3 others, for a total of 8, more than most people (although both Mika McKinnon and Sue Kinseweather – I’ve done Pratchett panels with Sue in the past, and the online stalking one was with [and inspired by] Mika – have double that number.)

So, without these panels, what I have instead is a retrospective of all the panels I’ve done in the past 6 years, from 2010 to 2015.

2010

My first Dragon Con, and one where I’d talked myself onto the panel a few weeks beforehand. The panel was on ISP’s and 3 strike laws.

It was ok, for a first attempt, although I think I could have done better, but hey, it was my first time!

2011

This year I got a bit more ambitious. I also signed on to the EFForums volunteer team, and doubled the number of panels I was doing, as well as the number of tracks I was doing them with.

First was my most ambitious panel yet (or, in fact, since, as it’s the ONLY panel I’ve done slides for) on the Muon1 Distributed Particle Accelerator Design project that I was invovled with from 2001-2015.

Then I continued my P2P run with a 10th birthday panel on bittorrent with lawyer (and friend) TJ Mihill. This went much better than last years, as I had some experience under my belt, plus it was a Monday panel, not a Friday, so I had some comfort with my audience, my fellow panellist, and a degree of tiredness that meant I was less self-critical

2012

This was a slower year for me than most, I again took on two panels, and both related to copyright and P2P. The first was defending P2P litigation, with friend and colleague Blair Chintella,

The second was going to be a first for the track – a remote video panel with me and Holmes Wilson of Fight for the Future. Due to issues of network bandwidth at previous con’s, we’d gone for what should be the quietest time for network use – first thing Monday, but in the end, due to a miscommunication and double-booking, Holmes couldn’t make it and I had to do the panel solo. This wasn’t so bad, as the panel – on how user activism and the Internet Blackout Day – was something I knew well – Tactical SOPA Strike: How the Web Defended Itself Against Congress

I also tried live-blogging the event, but it didn’t work out too well, mainly due to the aforementioned limited bandwidth available. [Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday]

2013

This is the first year that I ramped up the number I’d done, from two panels, to seven. This time it would be four EFF track panels and three Brit-track panels.

Friday started with three panels back-to-back, a showing with Q+A of TPB-AFK, Nymrights: In Defense of Online Pseudonyms, and ISP’s and 6 strike laws. Unfortunately, during the TPB documentary I twisted my knee (inflaming an old injury – yes, I’ve a number of past hurts) getting comfortable and spent the rest of the weekend hobbling badly.

Nymrights is all about the rights to have and use a Pseudonym, be it on domain registrations, or social media. Since most people know me by K`Tetch, this is really a no-brainer.

Finally, another i the series of P2P-based panels, covering the voluntary agreement between ISP’s to implement a 6-strikes policy.

The Saturday had my first Brit-Track panel, on British Literature. now I’m lucky to have been exposed to so much of it, especially since when I was at University, I was friends with Dr Andy Sawyer, who headed the British Science Fiction Foundation’s John D Wyndham archive at the University’s humanities library. I would spend many lunchtimes and some weekends hanging out there, discussing and learning. It was also my first experience with Brit-Track’s Assistant Director, Rob-in-the-Hat. Sunday was a panel on British Crime shows – something I know quite well as an avid fan of shows like The Bill (and getting a snog from Samantha Janus on my 18th Birthday, who was there filming Liverpool cop show Liverpool 1). unfortunately, the Brit-Track doesn’t tend to record their panels.

Monday returned to a topic I’d covered in past years, with P2P Litigation and Prenda Law, with three lawyers, but it did well for a Monday panel.

Audio/video for this panel was corrupt

Then it was straight over to the Brit Track again for Worlds of Terry Pratchett, and that ended a busy (and painful) year.

2014

This year I was made Assistant Director of the track. The previous assistant director had back issues, and couldn’t continue, but was happy for me to take his place, so more responsibility on me, yay! Also, add track number 4 to the list, and even more panels (up to 9 listed). To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the first BattleBots (whose host had such faith in me) I finally add the Robotics track to my list (which is funny when you consider my main degree is in Robotics) with a panel I hoped would celebrate that. Unfortunately, a few weeks before the con, the team captain of the BattleBots team the Robotics Director was in committed suicide, so part of the panel became a remembrance for Brett “Buzz” Dawson.

Unfortunately, because of the timing which couldn’t be changed, it conflicted with another panel I was due to speak on, dealing with Net Neutrality. In case some of you didn’t know, one of my first significant jobs at TorrentFreak was to investigate rumours of Comcast interfering with bittorrent usage, which it turned out they were, nationwide. Our report led to a second investigation by the EFF and Associated Press, which confirmed our findings, and that led to an FCC investigation of Comcast. This eventually morphed into the full-on Net Neutrality regulations imposed by the FCC which were upheld by the courts earlier this year. As you can imagine, missing this was somewhat annoying, but because of Buzz, I ended up doing the BattleBots panel.

It was a year of last-minute changes. Right after the Battlebots panel I was due to do one on the worlds pf Pratchett, but because of a last-minute (well, last-week) addition of Python star and director Terry Gilliam, we were moved to Saturday morning, opposite the parade. So it was a bit quieter, but just as much fun as usual.

0901041059Nor was it my only Brit track panel, Friday had me starting my convention panel engine in the Top Gear meetup, while Monday morning had me kicking off a 3-panel set with a panel on British Comedies. Of course, there’s no real comparison between British and American comedies, because because there’s so very few American comedies (although there’s a lot of shows that purport to be comedies, but think a laff-track substitutes for comedy) – offhand in the last 20 years there’s been Frasier, Community, South Park, and Brooklyn-99 are the only ones that spring to mind (and I’m claiming Episodes as British, because the leads are mostly British, AND the whole premise is that Americans can’t make comedy shows)

On the EFF side, I started a series on safety online, with the unimaginatively titled “Online Family Safety“. The aim was to give parents and teenagers a guide to best practices and actions that can make them safer (or at least less at risk) online. Alas, it was somewhat hijacked by the idea that there’s some sort of magic bullet monitoring/nanny software that can replace actually having an interest in your children and interacting and teaching them, we even included my then-17yo daughter to expand on that point Oh well…

My first ‘big’ panel came on the Sunday, with the moderating role in the big panel on Edward Snowdon. With hackers, researcher, and most importantly, the then-deputy General Counsel of the EFF Kurt Opsahl, it was a real test of nerves.

That leaves us with Monday and the last two panels of the triple-run. First the Freedom of Information Request Do-it-yourself kit. FOI Act (and their state level equivalent) are the bread-and-butter when it comes to government accountability. So knowing how to file them, and more importantly how to file good ones is something important. While I covered the European side, the US side was covered expertly by the EFF’s Dave Maass. The panel even led to a major investigation by MuckRock.

Then for one of the last panels of the year, the last in my series of panels (for now at least, because there’s not been much new in 2015/2016) P2P, Copyright Trolls, and Your Privacy, where I again talk about the issues with a lawyer who’s used me for some copyright troll cases, Blair Chintella.

2015

After the 7 of 2013 and 8 (supposed to be 9) of 2014, 2015 was somewhat quieter. After the experimentation with video in 2014, I made the decision that as well as recording the panels in audio, we should also record in video, because sometimes seeing what’s going on helps (especially if there’s slides). This meant a much greater workload, and so fewer panels as a result. I was again doing panels with the Brit Track, Robotics track and EFF track though (I am nothing if not multi-tallented).

First up was the first ‘proper’ BattleBots panel. My old bosses Trey and Greg were invited this year, following the debut season of the reboot on ABC. I hate to claim credit for it, but they’d been pushing for it for years, and only get a deal after I held the first BattleBots panel the previous year – coincidence, well I’ll leave that to you to decide 🙂

Alas, no video for this one, for certain reasons. Besides, I mostly stayed to the side, fixing some issues. Still lots of fun and my first major ballroom panel.

More sadness though as the next panel was the Terry Prachett: In Memorium panel. Sir pTerry had died earlier in the year, and so we discussed many aspects of his life, and the future for his series. This was followed by a massive photoshoot, because there were so many Discworld costumes.


More online family safety again, and yet again it was mainly derailed by people wanting a magic bullet software solution that just doesn’t exist. That’s why for 2016, I changed to focus from ‘family safety’ to dealing with online stalkers and threats as above. I’ve been threatened by Anonymous, and imprisoned hacker Jeremy Hammond before, and when I heard of the number of threats Mika McKinnon (who’d been introduced to me by mutual friend Jay ‘Saurik’ Freeman in 2014) had received when working for IO9, I knew it had to be the way it was done to avoid getting bogged down again.


Finally the second in the series of Freedom of Information Request panels. This didn’t give major revelations, but did result in a response that pretty much blew both myself and Dave Maass away in terms of quality. I’ve since spoken a few times with the person that dealt with the request, and there’s a long piece on the topic coming soon.

The future…

That’s brought things up to date. One of the reasons for this was to collate all my panels to date, but also because it can make a handy reference in case I decide to apply for a guest/Attending Professional spot in future years (being able to see past panels at a glance is handy)

Year

EFF

Science

Brit-Track

Robotics

TrekTrack

TOTAL

2010

1

1

2011

1

1

2

2012

2

2

2013

4

3

7

2014

4

3

1

8

2015

2

1

1

4

2016*

5

 

?

1 (cancelled)

1 (cancelled)

7+

* Attendance cancelled because of medical issues