Recently on Twitter,Â infosec proÂ Marcus CareyÂ voiced his dislike for all the “Faces of DEF CON” avatars people are using. Specifically, he said every time he sees one he wants to unfollow the person. Asked why, he opined that it was “infosec clique culture at its finest.”
I responded that I was keeping my own avatar and that he could go ahead and unfollow me. It was an honor to be included in the “Faces of DEF CON” series by artist and fellow infosec proÂ Eddie “EddieTheYeti” Mize, I told him.
He unfollowed me (he later re-followed) and asked what I had done to deserve the honor.
I’ll let Eddie and other industry peers speak to that if they wish, but that’s not the point of this post. Instead, I want to focus on Carey’s assertion that a clique is afoot.
First, some background: Eddie did the series in the run up to DEF CON 22 last year, usingÂ ink, lime juice, soy sauce, wine, coffee, tea, pencil, acrylic, and waterÂ to captureÂ hackers and other security practitioners who have a burning intensity for their profession. Since then, he has done such portraits for others outside the DEF CON scene.
When he did one of me, I felt honored because the effort suggested that I was succeeding at bringing something valuable to the industry table. That’s what I chose to believe, anyway.
So I’ve used it proudly as an avatar. I use it for my Facebook and LinkedIn profile photos as well.
Is it fair to say those of us using the artwork are part of a clique? I’d have to say no for a simple reason: I have never met many of the “Faces of DEF CON” folks. Some are friends and industry collaborators. Others are people I know of and respect for the work they’ve done, but have never met. Still others are complete strangers to me. One of the awesome byproducts of the series is that I’ve made new relationships with people I’ve been able to learn from. Folks have reached out to people they didn’t know because they noticed they too had been “Yeti-ized,” and that’s pretty cool.
In my experience the word clique suggests you have a group of close-knit friends or colleagues who huddle together all the time, declining to converse with people outside the circle. That’s not the textbook definition, but it’s how I’ve come to see it.
Since I don’t know a lot of the others who were Yeti-ized, I can’t consider myself part of a clique.
And yet I don’t fully dismiss Carey’s view. I can see how some might feel left out, that just because they haven’t been Yeti-ized, their efforts somehow don’t count. Not that I believe that.
If you’re an industry professional who toils away every day to make the world a better place, you don’t need a special avatar to legitimize your work. I know a lot of infosec giants who have not been Yeti-ized and are perfectly fine with it.
I know others who have been included in the series who don’t use their portraits as avatars.
Carey is entitled to his opinion. He makes his fair share of good points on Twitter, and I know he puts his heart and soul into his craft. I respect him.
But on this particular point, he made a big deal out of nothing.