HSF Debrief

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To all the HSF 2008 participants,

Thank you so much! The first Hacker Space Fest was so special. Of course, special to me but also very distinctive in its color, in its atmosphere compared to other events. A mix of technology hacks, social concerns, artistic expressions and global thinking that hopefully did not stay in one clear-cut ghetto but tried to evade boundaries & usual limits of techno-related events.

HSF couldn't have existed without the help of all, and especially of those who were there all week long for all the fun parts but also all the work that came along. The spirit of the whole fest was very much linked to this, as no real problem was encountered and every situation managed in a cool and distributed way. As a friend say, not too little organization, not too much organization.

Contents

Data

We had around 200 people for the whole week, and it didn't feel like it. Had it been bigger, I think we would have suffered. Why aim for bigger? It was like family coming together, with the space for all to live, work, exchange and project.

In term of conferences, the content was there, not too much technical (sometime in some conferences, it gets boring to see 4 speeches in a row about reverse engineering in assembly) and gave at the same time excellent hacks / content with good laugh and good times! There was a clear difference between the scheduled conferences (Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday) which were "to the point, well maintained" and the Open conferences (Saturday / Sunday) which were more free-wheeling, prospective looking.

The workshop days enabled everybody to know each other, to have time to do things on or out of the program and generally speaking, to live without being in a real rush.... Except for those who were running a workshop of course ;-) It was just pleasure to see all these people soldering, tweaking then walking away with DIY USB FM Transmitter, a little smile on their face. The multi-touch screen was also such an amazing experience, it actually changed my way of looking at such interactive setup and provided an audible and visible blast to many participants. In term of self-organization, most people do understand how hacker events are run, with this freely organized atmosphere and "who wants to participate just join!", some don't.

The lives and performances were awesome, with Jean Marc Montarou, CSI, and Benjamin Cadon for example (forgive me not to write the whole program, you all were fantastic), sometime troubling, sometime like a furious blast of living energy, such as with Aymeric and Fantasy Control Enterprise! who kept us listening and dancing late at night, thanks so much to everyone for these special times on friday.

Finally, during all the HSF, there were funny bits of performances and installations going on. These were the cherry on the pie for us, providing the light and deep touch to the conference. Maybe not being able to describe what it was with words is the best compliment you can have for an experience you gave. Thanks to all the performers and artists for this.

Schrodinger fun

The expression "Schrodinger fun" was coined shortly thereafter: the best part were not captured on film, video or camera, staying only in the minds of the lucky ones who were there. In a digital world, it can be disturbing for some to realize that some things can't be replayed forever, can't be captured. Yet, that's why we were there, to live something that has a greater meaning and truth than technology, money or belief. Such thing could be described as communion without the communautarism.

Make it unique

So many different people from different places came here, on their own money, to exchange and provide unique content. We were not in the dualistic classical conference setup where a talented minority gets its travel expense and hosting costs covered and the vast majority pays a lot to participate. This also made a difference. There was no "ohhh 3l33t, this is a sp34k3r!" kind of attitude. Everybody on the same ground. Some people (not participating) in the event didn't like that. They preferred royalty with a clear definition of the happy few and of the public. Well, too bad for these, we don't need this kind of apartheid attitude in conferences.

Many comments we had were "Woahh... this was badly needed!". Indeed so. There have been constant attack on the different hacker projects from various sources (with names left as an _easy_ exercise to the reader ;-)) and such conference was not possible for years. Now we hope that many other people will see how important it is to have forums where we can debate on freedom on the internet, unaligned research projects and new foundations for developing a next generation society. We're very happy to see that many people, even in France, are thinking in positive, forward looking ways even during the grim and tough condition of this year 2008.

Relationships

Press was also here. They fully understand what hacking is about, without this terrorism-induced paranoia that is often associating technology subversion and creativity with criminality and bad intentions. That means that when mainstream media misrepresent hackers, the are _willing_ to misinform the public. Thanks to the daring journalist that are actually doing their work.

We also had major support of the local municipality of Vitry s/ Seine who did clearly understand what this was about and provided us with infrastructure and welcoming arms. Are we finally getting in a situation where independent local political power take informed decisions with trust? It seems that such possibility exist. Thanks to them.

We were also lucky to freely establish HSF in the nice industrial environment of the 6Bis art center. /tmp/lab also provided a good basis of operation and is excellent team to work with. What comes out of chaos when good will takes over? I think we proved good things would emerge. Thanks to all of the people!

How was that possible?

Then a final and major thank you to all the people who lent us equipment, sound system, video projectors, cameras and all the other little stuff without which we couldn't have done this, and also thanks to all the people who donated, for some far more than what was suggested. There's an ecosystem of people, tiny organizations and informal groups who are conspiring for creativity, life and new initiatives. These people are as much in our heads as in our heart and working with them constitute for sure one of the most pleasing part of this whole event along with the meeting of all the people who came to HSF 2008. We had quite a shock team from Bourges who came to help and provide as much good vibes as energy and projects. Thank you so much to all of you!

This is also to say that it doesn't take too much to organize such an event. It doesn't require you to have expensive sound system (a good old stereo would do and very often the speaker were able just to speak without the mike) and most of the time, some friend will already have the video projector you need. All it requires is a small group of motivated people, and that's precisely the most difficult part and the most precious thing that you can have and grow in your environment.

Pictures & Videos

We have quite some pictures of HSF online:

And we are still in the process of editing the videos, some are available still:


Further

What next? Well, given what it was, we are naturally thinking of doing something next year! One idea would be to be doing it over two places, one North in France, one south somewhere with one day of travel in between. With Bricovan and /tmp/van maybe? Definitely, the idea would be to bridge two places, two set of people, two mindset, and to keep pushing the ideas we have here to some new places.

From what we gathered and witnessed, the goal now is to unite the southern and northern hacklabs, and to help create more labs and more events like this one. So this is with the humble project "SOUTHERN CONNECTION" that we will end this debrief of HSF and start for new adventures in the wonderful world of YOUR LIFE!

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