August 6, 2005

What the Hack, report 1

Category: Anthropology,Personal,Travel — @ 7:54 am

Even if you tried, it is difficult to spend much time alone at a hacker conference/festival (or any such similar event). The whole point is to immerse yourself fully in the string of events and happenings, and more so, with others—friends who you finally see after much too long time apart and with those friends who have just recently entered you life.

So when you finally leave, as I just have, things feel strangely silent, even on a train brimming with conversation.

My trip began with a flight to Amsterdam and an immediate train ride to Eindohoven where I met up with two of my steadfast IRC buddies, one of them who now lives in the South of .nl, the other who has been traveling through Europe for over a month.

After an urgently-needed night of sleep and a trip to the market and store (where I made the very wise choice of buying a waterproof rain jacket given the torrential rain that became part of the environmental woodwork ), we ignored the dark clouds, and made our way via train to Boxtel, the town adjacent to the festival grounds where the volunteer-run What the Hack crew had built, over the course of week, an infrastructure of tents, programs, radio station, party areas, bathrooms, hot showers, av equipment, and naturally, a sturdy and fast net connection, so that on top of this basic infrastructure, human presence could bring the campground to life. Already palpable was the excited buzz among the 200 + folks there with pitched tents, enjoying the beer, and relative calm that was soon to end. The CCC folks had erected a dispersed but fantastic altar of lights, the glow and twinkle of the blue, red, and white, a condensed display of the energy building up.

I was quite relieved that Mako had been guaranteed a speakers tent, which was less tent and more semi-permanent bungalow with wooden floor, beds, table, chairs, and thick white canvas forming a protective layer against the storms that came to visit, quite dramatically and perhaps too frequently, over the course of the event. I had lugged a tent with me only to discover missing poles, which in the end was a blessing. I would have been soaked staying if I had relied on it.

The first night there time started to accelerate. Arriving at 4 pm, the next thing I knew, it was 4 am and I was finally getting to bed, physically cold but emotionally glowing.

After one day of relative dryness, Wed morning greeted the day with a slow steady rain that was an ideal excuse to stay in bed, late, and get some needed sleep after a long night. As every hour passed, the trickle of folks arriving increased and soon there was a torrent of bodies. Tents accompanied by a healthy dose of electronics equipment were erected in what seemed to be like no time. There were some elaborate structures like semi-transparent buckie balls, rainbow tents, rugged army tent-barracks, right along the standard 2-4 person tents.

I spent most of Wed doing the final preparations for my talk. I had decided, a bit last minute, to enlarge the scope of my talk to include a summary of a report that included one of my contributions. I guess I have been so used to the paltry 20 minute academic conference talk that when I realized that I had 50 minutes, I knew that I could cover a few more topics. I spent most of the day re-reading the report, taking some notes, and finally making my aesthetically boring slides that consist of black text on a white background. I spent a good 5 hours in the cafeteria area, mostly by myself except when a few friends came to visit, a small volunteer effort putting WTF stickers on condoms, and finally taking a break when my good friend Niels finally showed up. With slides under my belt, and at 2:30 am, it was ostensibly tent time. The problem is that when there are more than 2 people sleeping in very close proximity to each other, there is a very good chance that getting to sleep will not be priority number one. And indeed, the main topic of conversation that night, happened to be a little odd, though it generated over 2 hours of intense, perhaps too descriptive, conversation: the merits and visceral consequences of various toilet designs (I will leave it at that).

Thursday, the first official day of the WTH, opened with a morning keynote with Hack-Tics/HFH Rop and 2600′s Goldstein, who used the hour to reflect on cons-past as well as the current political state of US/EU.

Soon after, or really right after their talk was mine. There were a handful more folks than expected (being the first talk after an hour long keynote and during lunch time) and of course my computer did not work with the A/V equipment (thankfully Mako was around to lend me his computer). I started off feeling more nervous than I should because I usually settle into my comfort zone. If you are interested in the topic, instead of seeing me talk, I recommend the report…

The best thing about WTH talks is that all they are taped within within 1.5 days are put online. There was an amazing media, audio group, Rehash who were taping the event and being really smart about how to proceed one’s the tapes arrived at their headquarters: encode immediately and put online…. (TBC)


  1. So where’s the link to your talk and the slides???


    Comment by rabble — August 6, 2005 @ 3:23 pm

  2. so here is the site:

    and then:


    It is *very* strange to see yourself on video like that.

    Comment by sato — August 7, 2005 @ 10:10 am

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