Category Archives: Ada Initiative resources in use

"Conferences are not intended to create bad memories, only good ones" DeepSec organizer René Pfeiffer

DeepSec logoDeepSec is the second hacker conference to adopt a public, enforceable anti-harassment policy in response to the Ada Initiative’s article about pervasive harassment of women at several hacker conferences (which called out DeepSec’s existing reputation as one of the most welcoming conferences for women).

We interviewed René Pfeiffer, one of the organizers of DeepSec about the conference, why they adopted a policy, and what they are looking forward to at future DeepSec conferences. It sounds like a great conference from all reports!

Tell us a little about DeepSec.

DeepSec’s full name is “In-Depth Security Conference”. The focus is on information security, and we like to present content which is not purely driven by marketing purposes. We are not a simple tradeshow with a “IT security” sticker slapped on the schedule. We try to be a platform where members of the academic community, governments, industry and (underground) hacking community meet in order to talk about security and exchange ideas. We believe in keeping an open mind and tearing down artificial barriers between groups that have a lot to talk about, but can’t in their normal environment. Most security related problems get worse if communication breaks down, so talking to each other is an important aspect of dealing with security breaches. This is what CERTs are preaching and what DeepSec tries to implement on conference-level.

The advantage to meet in person and talk and discuss certain issues from each perspective will give everyone involved a brighter understanding about needs and topics in the vast field of IT security, combined by interesting talks and new business opportunities.

The DeepSec event itself consists of two days of trainings followed by a two-day conference. We organise a dinner for all speakers and staff, and we have a party at the Metalab, a local hacker space, after the conference.

How did DeepSec get started?

In 2007 Paul Böhm created the DeepSec conference from scratch because he felt that a security-related conference where everyone can attend and talk openly was missing. He selected Vienna, Austria, as location which has been traditionally a bridge between different regions. Paul put a lot of effort into the first DeepSec and did a terrific job to kick-start it into existence.

What made you decide to adopt an anti-harassment policy?

There were two motivations. The first one were the experiences from other events participants wrote about. While we don’t feel that conferences and events turn into places of harassment in general, we like to do our part to work against this. It really doesn’t matter if there was a case already or not. The second motivation stems from the place DeepSec wants to be. We have a very international audience with roots in four different continents. If we want to create an atmosphere where everyone feels relaxed and is treated with respect, then we have to actively maintain this environment. Trust, respect and safe places do not automatically exist, they have to be created; you need people who care and who make sure an event stays hospitable.

Fortunately our staff cares, so our anti-harassment policy is really a statement of what we have been doing and trying to create since the first conference anyway.

What would you like to see at the next DeepSec?

We would like to see more people holding presentations and workshops who are not sure if their skills are “in-depth” enough, or who are not sure if they can handle speaking on stage. We actively support students with bright ideas with our under 21 category, and we will maintain a mixture of seasoned security experts and those who like a chance to become one. Everyone needs a start. Fresh perspectives never hurt, and we will actively support you if you let us know about the work you have done or are doing.

And for all the companies that are listening, please do not always think in leads when dealing with IT security. Be part of the community instead and show this proudly. Companies can have open minds, too.

Anything else you’d like to say?

We are well aware that small conferences have a lot of advantages compared to big events when it comes to publishing and enforcing an anti-harassment policy or protecting all attendees. If you are part of a team organising one of these big events, please consider to signal everyone thinking about attending that you want everyone to enjoy the talks, to have fun and not to be harassed for any reason. While you cannot control every single situation and second of your event, you can clearly state what you expect from everyone being there, and you can instruct your staff to do the same. It’s a simple step. Conferences are not intended to create bad memories, only good ones.

The DeepSec and BruCON anti-harassment policies would not exist without the Ada Initiative’s work. We are a non-profit funded primarily by donations from people like you. If you believe more women should attend hacker conferences, please become a supporting donor today.

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Interview with BruCON organizers, winner of hacker conference anti-harassment policy challenge

BruCONWe have a winner to our hacker conference anti-harassment policy challenge! BruCON, a computer security conference in Belgium, designed, adopted, and publicly announced an anti-harassment policy within 5 days of our post. A close second was DeepSec, another European computer security conference.

BruCON sounds like a great conference run by thoughtful people who are focused on attendees getting a lot out of the conference, technically and otherwise. We wanted to know more about BruCON and why they adopted a policy, so we asked the BruCON organizers for an interview. Wim Remes kindly answered our questions.

Conference organizers will be especially interested in reading Wim’s answers, as he describes his thought process around adopting a policy. “[…] My first reaction was “we don’t need this”. Being a […] white male that is obviously a very easy conclusion to make so I challenged myself. […] As we are growing we will gradually lose control about who attends our conference and how they behave themselves.

Q: Tell us a little about BruCON.

BruCON is an annual security and hacker conference providing two days of an interesting atmosphere for open discussions of critical infosec issues, privacy, information technology and its cultural/technical implications on society. Organized in Belgium, BruCON offers a high quality line up of speakers, security challenges and interesting workshops. BruCON is a conference by and for the security and hacker community.

The conference tries to create bridges between the various actors active in computer security world, included but not limited to “hackers,” security professionals, security communities, non-profit organizations, CERTs, students, law enforcement agencies, etc.

We are a registered non-profit organisation and our main goal is to create a bridge between security professionals and “hackers.” “Hackers” being “persons who delight in having an intimate understanding of the internal understanding of a system, computers and computer networks in particular”, not the criminal kind you might think of!

Q: How did BruCON get started?

The idea about BruCON developed in 2009, mainly driven by Security 4 All together with about 5 other core people. The security conference landscape in Europe looked pretty grim as almost all events were very commercial and focused on products rather than knowledge. The only real exception being the Chaos Computer Club conference, the group felt there was room for another forum where geeks could converge and share knowledge through presentations, workshops and trainings. With help from some very generous sponsors and an awesome group of volunteers, the first BruCON materialized and, as they say, the rest is history.

Today we attract about 400 attendees from all over the world for 2 days of trainings and a 2 day conference all focusing on information security and hacking.

What made you decide to adopt an anti-harassment policy?

When I first read about the idea, I honestly had to give it some thought. We have, to my knowledge, not received any complaints about harassment at BruCON and my first reaction was “we don’t need this.” Being a (slightly overweight ;-)) white male that is obviously a very easy conclusion to make so I challenged myself and there were two main factors that influenced my decision to do this:

  • As we are growing we will gradually lose control about who attends our conference and how they behave themselves. The “social fabric” that is woven reasonably tightly right now will loosen and if that ever happens to a degree where people see opportunity to harass others, we want to have a formal policy that is enforceable. We have that now.
  • Being inclusive is at the core value of BruCON and while there doesn’t seem to be an immediate need to adopt such a policy, I think it emphasizes the spirit of BruCON extremely well. It doesn’t matter who or what you are, if you come to share knowledge, you have a spot at BruCON.

Q: What would you like to see at the next BruCON?

That’s a difficult one as we are in the awesome position of not making are conference about the conference itself but about its attendees and speakers. We draw a lot of students and persons testing the waters of information security, we also draw seasoned researchers that find a forum to collaborate. If we receive one e-mail that tells us one of those new persons has started a career in information security or a few researchers come up with some kick-ass research after they met at our con, that’s all we really need to keep doing this.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say?

We are really looking forward to working with this policy and hope that we will not need to enforce it. As we seem to be the first to do this, we will also carefully gather as much data as possible on reactions, reports and other things we experience along the way. I will personally follow up with an analysis post-con and I’m looking forward to share that with you as well. Finally, we would like to thank Brian Honan for bringing the policy to our attention and David Mortman for helping with adapting it for our conference.

Adafruit selling Ada Lovelace stickers

You’ve probably heard of Adafruit, the woman-founded open source electronics company that makes and sells kits for open hardware projects. Now Adafruit is selling Ada Lovelace stickers in both color and black and white:

Adafruit Ada Lovelace sticker in color

Adafruit Ada Lovelace sticker in color

Adafruit Ada Lovelace sticker in black and white

Adafruit Ada Lovelace sticker in black and white

While you’re there, take a look at the electronics kits and other projects and think about taking some time to work through them with the young engineer in your life.

Ada Initiative news, October 2011

AdaCamp launch

We announced the first of a series of events bringing together women in open tech/culture: AdaCamp Australia (fill out the call for expressions of interest on that page if you are interested in attending). If you want to participate but can’t travel to Melbourne in January, we are tentatively planning to hold similar events in other locations during the next year, most likely the West and East coasts of the U.S. and Europe.

Geek Feminism

Mary has added a number of new pages to the Geek Feminism wiki in response to requests and suggestions, including:

As always, we invite you to expand and improve on the Geek Feminism wiki! See the Geek Feminism blog post for some suggested improvements.

Ada portrait watch

Wikipedia’s WikiProject Women’s History are now using Colin Adams’s new Ada Lovelace portrait in their Ada Lovelace Award for editors who have made significant contributions to Wikipedia about women and technology.

Ada Lovelace Day

Congratulations to Suw Charman-Anderson and her team on another successful Ada Lovelace Day on the 7th October. Also congratulations to Sydney Padua, whose iPad app for 2D Goggles: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage launched that day. 2D Goggles was originally developed in support of Ada Lovelace Day, and later of course Sydney donated signed prints to our Seed 100 funding drive. Our advisor Bruce Byfield covered Sydney’s iPad app launch for LWN.

We hope our inspiration post was useful in planning your own Ada Lovelace Day writing and we’ve loved hearing all about these and other women in open technology and culture.


This month Valerie Aurora was listed on the FemmenomicsTop 50 Women to Watch in Tech” list. Congratulations to the other members of the list!

Filed for tax-exempt status

Last month we reported that we were nearly done with our application for tax-exempt status to the U.S., this month we can report that we completed and submitted our application, less than 9 months after founding the Ada Initiative! More details here.

Upcoming appearances

Valerie will be attending the 2011 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Portland, Oregon on November 9 – 12. Come see her at the open source booth or Open Source Day and get your Ada Initiative schwag: lanyards, stickers, buttons, etc.

Valerie and Mary will both be attending LCA 2012 in Ballarat, Australia from January 16 – 20. They will be giving a joint talk on “Women in open technology and culture worldwide.”

Upcoming events for women in open technology and culture

See our calendar for a full listing, and submit any additional events to

Sponsorship opportunities

The Ada Initiative’s Venture Philanthropist sponsorship program allows organisations to sponsor the Ada Initiative for sponsorship amounts between $2000 and $9999 (USD) with a minimum of hassle. Contact for larger sponsorship packages.

New versions of Colin Adams's Ada Lovelace portrait available

In June, the Ada Initiative released a new portrait of Ada Lovelace by Colin Adams under Creative Commons Zero/public domain.

Ada Lovelace woodcut-style portrait, coloured

Ryan Kaldari's coloured version of the Ada Lovelace portrait, public domain

In addition to its use in a Wikipedia award, the portrait was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons in August, and we’re thrilled to see the first new versions of it. Fred the Oyster has uploaded an SVG version of the portrait, and Ryan Kaldari has produced a coloured SVG version.

If you produce a new version of the portrait, or incorporate it into another work, please let us know at we’re very interested in seeing its travels through the commons.

New Wikipedia awards: Ada Lovelace and Mind the Gap

One of the ways Wikipedia encourages contributions is by creating and giving various Wikipedia Awards. Museum and art consultant and influential Wikipedian Sarah Stierch spearheaded two new awards in the last week.

The first for the Women’s History Wikiproject, the Ada Lovelace Award. It is given to editors who make significant contributions to Wikipedia in the area of women and technology. The art for the award is the Ada Initiative’s new portrait of Ada Lovelace, created by artist Colin Adams and CC licensed by the Ada Initiative.

Mind the Gap award

Mind the Gap barnstar, by London Student Feminists, CC BY-SA

The second award is the Mind the Gap Award, for working to close the gender gap on Wikipedia and related projects through content contributions, outreach, community changes and related actions.

If you make either of these awards, please tweet about it and cc the Ada Initiative (@adainitiative), and we’ll retweet.

Thanks, Sarah Stierch, for your hard work making these awards happen! Wikipedians, award away!