I Break the Groundhog Day Cycle and Say No to the RSA 2011 Call For Papers

This morning I received an e-mail from the fine folks at RSA with the 2011 RSA Conference call for papers.  I was immediately reminded of Bill Murray in the dinner scene from the movie Groundhog Day, who, when informed by Andie MacDowell that her college major was “19th-century French poetry”, responded reflexively: “what an incredible waste of time”.   I had the very same reflexive response when I read the e-mail’s subject line: “what an incredible waste of time”.

(Quick aside: please don’t tell me you have not seen “Grounhog Day”.  Just do yourself the favor and see it immediately. You can thank me later.)

You see, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I have lived the RSA submission process over and over.  For six years and two companies I have done my absolute best to come up with the most compelling, vendor-neutral and highly informative presentation abstract imaginable.  Every year I get a predictable “no thank you”. RSA is simply content to round up the same usual suspects and follow the “rinse, repeat” cycle they have been in for many years.

I know I am not alone, as every year I hear the same from a substantial number of bona fide potential presenters.  Many of these folks decided that they did not need established venues like RSA and Black Hat to get their message heard and started the Security B-Sides program which is flourishing nicely as an alternative venue for new ideas and technologies.  You can get the skinny on B-Sides in the Bill Brenner CSO article here, and the B-Sides Web Site here.  (This morning the B-Sides site seemed to be having some issues so be patient)

But the difference between Bill Murray and I is that my Groundhog Day was a hell of my own making, because I willingly ran up the RSA hill knowing full well I was going to be summarily rejected.  So this year, I will simply say “no thank you” to RSA and spend my energy trying to get on the speaking rotation at the B-Sides show or some other venue that has not allowed itself to get into a horrible rut that does their patrons a huge disservice.

I once called the RSA show a “Denial of Innovation Attack” and the yearly failure of the show’s management to look beyond their normal presenters is yet another brick in that wall.  It is a shame for all of us in the security market, because what is billed as one of the most important shows for IT security fails miserably in bringing new ideas and technologies into the spotlight.