30c3: expectations thoroughly exceeded

Photo credit: Antje Bendrich CC-BY

Photo credit: Antje Bendrich (CC-BY)

Don’t worry, the blog hasn’t died already, but I don’t want this to turn into some kind of dull personal diary – so rather than writing posts purely for the sake of doing so, I figured I’d wait for something worth writing about.

First though, for the sake of a quick update – the minimalist lifestyle is going great so far. Since the last post I’ve spent seven days in London, six in my homeland for Christmas, and am now currently half way through a seven-day stay in Hamburg, Germany.

And the reason I’m here in Hamburg is why I now have something to write about. See, as I mentioned before, I came for something called 30c3, AKA the 30th Chaos Communication Congress.

This is my first time at CCC, and before I arrived I was pretty much expecting a traditional convention or conference. And in part that’s what it is, with all the usual trappings – a programme of presentations in large auditoria, various formal and informal workshops happening around the place, and so on.

However, that doesn’t do it justice at all.   Perhaps I could describe it as equal parts conference, festival, and… well, geek heaven…

I totally agree with this photo policy, as those who know me will recognise - it's fantastic to be among others who feel the same way!

I totally agree with this photo policy, as those who know me will recognise – it’s fantastic to be among others who feel the same way!

First off, it’s absolutely huge. It took me until the second day to properly get my bearings, and until that happened I was almost convinced that someone kept turning up, adding new bits onto the building and filling them with new awesome stuff. I’d love to show some pictures, but that would be difficult – there are signs like the one on the right up all over the place, and people are of course everywhere.

It’s like a festival because there’s a large social aspect to it, and it has its own self-contained nightlife. Yes, nightlife – as far as I can tell, this thing is open 24 hours a day over its 4-day duration, and the talks alone don’t finish until 1am (they don’t start until 11am, either). All perfect for owls like me (and H who’s here with me).

It’s “geek heaven” because of the prevailing culture among the attendees. I’ve always tended towards the hacker mentality (and if you’re not sure what I mean by that, please do click on the link – it’s probably not what you think!). I’ve met a couple of like-minded people over the years (including a few of my best friends), but this place contains thousands of them, mostly far more into this stuff than me, and it’s inspirational. There are whole halls full of people busy either making or displaying awesome things. Naturally it goes without saying that the event has a fantastic Internet connection (Eisteddfod, take note!); in fact it even has its own local cellular phone network. And all this stuff is of course set up by the same kind of enthusiasts that organise and attend the event.

Anyway, I’d much rather be enjoying the awesome than writing about it, so I’ll leave you with the following:

At one point on the first evening we were here, I was relaxing with a beer in something resembling the chill-out room of a pretty great nightclub (this is speaking as someone who doesn’t generally like nightclubs); then, a mere five minutes later, I was sitting in an auditorium listening to a presentation on particle accelerators. And these two things were in the same building. As part of the same event.  And it was 11pm.

I think that pretty much sums it up.

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