Sunday 7 May 2017

How the Summit's Working Sessions will work and Summit's Schedule

(email sent to all Summit registered participants)

Hi Summit Participants (BCCed). I have been receiving a number of questions about how the Working Sessions will be organised at the Summit, so here is an explanation of how they will be setup.

At the moment it might look a bit weird the fact that we have more Working Sessions (106) than participants (81). This is actually quite normal (at this stage), since we still have a large number of participants that will be registering in the next month, and a significant number of Working Sessions that will not have enough energy, content, focus or registrations to justify its inclusion in the final schedule.

In case you are wondering, we have done this before in the past, and it worked really well :)

For example, at the last Owasp Summit 2011, we also had 100+ Working Sessions proposed before the final schedule was created/published.

This year, the schedule will also be created based on an darwinian model, where the 'best Working Sessions' will be 'officially supported' and placed into the 'official schedule'

By 'best Working Sessions', I mean Working Sessions that have the most focused objectives, realistic outcomes and number of registered participants.

The key objective of the schedule creation process (which is a giant puzzle) is to maximise the participant's time (i.e. productivity) in topics they deeply care about (i.e. their passion and reason to attend the Summit)

Although this means that there will be a number of Working Sessions that will not be included in the official schedule, this doesn't mean that they can't happen. Part of the Summit's setup is a large number of 'meeting spaces', where groups of 5 to 10 participants can run those dropped (or even new) Working Sessions (we will also have specific times during the day allocated for these ad-hoc meetings, which will be advertised in an dynamic schedule). 

In fact, at the last Summit, there were amazing Working Sessions that were 'created' during the actual Summit, and only had a small number of Participants (it is amazing what can be achieved when a number of highly knowledgeable and passioned individuals come together in the same physical location).

Working Sessions meeting spaces

In terms of where the working sessions will occur, we have two main areas:

1) the conference facility - This is a typical conference environment with 3 large rooms which can be split into 2 to 5 meeting room areas (depending on the expected number of participants). There is very good AV support (i.e. large projector) for each split meeting room area.

2) the lodges/villas - About 100 meters from the conference facility there are 10 Lodges (already booked) which have enough space for 2 Working Sessions to occur in parallel. Each of these meeting spaces will be kitted with flip charts and the TVs have HDMI ports to connect to laptops (good to present supporting materials and to include remote participants)

This means that we could (if it made sense) have a maximum of 25 Working Sessions happening in parallel (now I don't expect that to happen, but it is good to know that we can scale up).

Working Sessions format

In terms of how the Working Session will be organised, this again depends on the topic and number of participants that are interested in actively 'participating' vs just 'watching' (and maybe ask a couple questions)

At the last Summit we had 3 main types of Working Sessions

1 group around one table - This Working Session is based on a group of 5 to 10 participants that sit around a table and actively work together on a focused topic. This type of Working Session is very well suited for the Lodges meeting spaces.

Multiple groups using multiple tables - This is usually used by the Working Sessions that have a larger group of participants (10 to 30) or that want to work individually/in-smaller-groups (during certain parts of the Working Session) on an 'heads down' mode (for example: creating a document, writing code, reviewing materials, etc ... basically ... actually doing something more than talking  :)  ). The format is usually based on an initial briefing, followed by active work/collaboration in small groups, followed by a presentation to the wider group of what was done. This type of Working Session works well on the main conference rooms, where multiple circular tables can be setup inside a specific room.

Experts panel - This is a special type of Working Session (which tends to occur on the main conference meeting rooms), where a specific group of specialists/professionals are gathered together to cover a focused topic. Watching this panel will be a large number of participants (from 30 to 100) which will create the panel's audience (while still be able to ask questions). For example at the last Summit, we had a number of Browser related Working Sessions, where key developers from the main browsers were working together on stage (and it was fascinating to watch). For the current Summit, I expect that some of the CISO Working Sessions will have this format, and so will high-profile ones like the Owasp Top 10 2017 (which is bound to generate some heated debates :)  )

As you can see, there is quite a lot of flexibility in the setup, with the main objective being to create the most productive environment for participants, and for real deliverables/outcomes to be created during the Summit 

If you are organising an Working Session and have an idea for how it should be setup, please talk to us and we will do our best to accommodate your ideas.

The role of the Working Session organiser

Key for these Working Sessions success is the amount of preparation that goes into them, namely the amount of work that is done BEFORE the Working Session starts (by its organisers and active participants). 

It is very important to make the point that the hard work for the Working Session happens before the Summit (for organisers and active participants). The most valuable resource that exists at the Summit, is the Participant's time, and since each Working Session is 'competing' for that time, the darwinian model of the Working Sessions will mean that only the most prepared ones, will have the critical mass to occur.

A core idea for Working Session's web page(s) at is for them to be used as a location to present all supporting data/information for that particular Working Session. It should also be used to show/link the work done before, during and after the Summit (please contact an Summit Editor if you need help with adding content to your Working Session)

The role of the Working Session participant

As a participant, you will be coming to the Summit because you care deeply about a couple AppSec/InfoSec/Security topics. 

What you need to do is to be disciplined and to map out which Track or Technology or Working Session you 'have to attend'. Once you have those mapped out, you should chose a number of other Working Sessions on topics that you are interested in, and fit them into the rest of your 'personalised schedule'.

Will this mean that there will be conflicts when two working sessions that you 'really would like to attend' are happening at the same time? Probably yes. But at last Summit we were pretty good at avoiding these conflicts, and one of the advantages of participant's staying the 5 days, is that is it much easier to move things around to fit the best possible schedule for everybody.

This is why it is so important that you register your participation in the Working Sessions you want to attend (you can already do this on your individual Participant page)

For the Participants that are only going to attend a couple days or are participating remotely, it is REALLY important that you let us know asap your availability (so that we can try to fit the Working Sessions you are a key participant, with the times you are available)

Schedule creation

The current plan is to:
 - keep focusing on the Working Sessions content for a couple more weeks, 
 - then really push for Working Session's registrations (by participants) while creating multiple draft schedules based on the info available, 
 - publish a 'full working schedule' for consultation/feedback a week(ish) before the Summit start, and finally
 - publish the final schedule (before the Summit starts)

Let me know if you have any questions

Thanks for participating at the Summit

Dinis Cruz