I regret having never made it to a Hackers on Planet Earth gathering. I either lose track of the time, only noting the conference right after it has passed or when I have advanced noticed I lack the resources to make it up to New York for the weekend. I try to make it up in other ways, following the posting of video of the various talks. One year I even had a listener very generously call in with impressions and experiences from HOPE.
My friend, Quinn Norton, has a beautiful write up of the HOPE from this past Summer, the Next HOPE. She went on behalf of Gizmodo but apparently the article she wrote for them got lost in the shuffle or something. I am glad she was able and decided to share it on her blog.
Goldstein has made the HOPE conferences by far the most European of the American hacker gatherings– a political event, with a worldview that exceeds the technical. American hackers have often taken the mantel of bad guy hooligans much more than their European counterparts, for whom defiance and transgression are seen as more righteous and politically active. European hackers have often swung socialist, the Americans, libertarian. Goldstein tries to be as inclusive as possible. “The idea is to get people to come out of it saying ‘that’s really something different and I had my mind opened,’” says Goldstein.
(Goldstein refers to Emmanuel Goldstein, the pseudonymous creator of HOPE and also co-founder of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly and host of the Off the Hook radio program.)
Calling attention to aspects of HOPE like its European flavor, it shouldn’t surprise you that this has to be one of my favorite write ups of a conference. Bonus points for it being HOPE. She also deftly maneuvers through the WikiLeaks/Manning/Lamo drama that coincided with the conference this year.
What I really enjoy is how Quinn groks the scene. No doubt her observations have been honed by years of covering hacker gatherings and goings on. I don’t feel quite so bad for missing HOPE this year with such an immersive re-telling of how it unfolded, not just in the speakers, events, and other particulars, but also the visceral feel.
You can’t really get the feel of the event without talking about the Club Mate, a vile German caffeine drink based on the South American yerba maté plant. The drink became popular with American hackers after being imported at the Last Hope by 2600. It’s everywhere, and people refer to it constantly. “Have you had your Club Mate?” Speakers admonish their audiences. It’s thrust into my hands by a conference organizer. I thrust it into someone else’s hand. It may be hacker vitamins, but it tastes like sucking on a pill. I’d rather have a meth habit. Even the brewer, Loscher, acknowledges that it’s an acquired taste. The 2600 store ships it around the country, “supplying various hacker spaces with pallets of the stuff” according to the website.
I think she’s cured me of any curiosity towards Club Mate. But she has fueled my determination to pay closer attention to HOPE planning, to husband my resources, and some day make it out for myself.
HOPE: the lost article, Quinn Said