32C3: The 32nd Chaos Congress

It feels kind of weird to leave the Christmas celebrations early to hop onto a plane to Hamburg. That being said: I can get used to that if what awaits there is the Congress 😉

As the name implies, this was by now the 32nd installment of this event and I was completely new here. So find my way around was rather hard at first. I didn’t know that you could pick up your registration-band on the evening before the event, nor where to find what. Luckily, Markus and Andreas helped me out here. Thanks!

The Congress is huge. More than 13,000 attendees and more than 1,300 helpers (“Angels”) who kept everything running smoothly. But not only the “official” helpers were a big factor for making this a quite pleasant experience. Everybody there was extremely nice and I felt right at home from the very first minute. Sure, the large crowds still posed a big problem for me but when everyone is patient and there is simply no shoving around it’s less of an issue. A big THANK YOU to everyone there!

The “Conference” Part

Part of the whole event is a multi-track conference with usually four parallel talks starting at 11:30 and going all the way to and beyond midnight. A big chunks of these sessions had a security focus but there were also talks about information sharing, politics, hardware, social topics, … you name it.

As the rooms couldn’t accommodate everyone at the event, all talks were also live-streamed and are by now available as download on media.ccc.de. While many talks weren’t all that interesting to me I’ll probably still be downloading multiple GBs during the next couple of weeks to see some of the talks I’ve missed.

Perhaps I might even write the comments and recommendations here if time permits 😊

I didn’t see many talks live but there was one right before the end of the conference that just blew me away:

Here Frank Rieger and Ron give a humorous summary of what happened in 2015, what might happen in 2016, and (since they’ve been these talks for quite a while) also what happened with their predictions from 10 years ago. Simply awesome! The first thing I did when returning to my appartment in Graz was to look for their 31c3 talk and watch that.

The Django Assembly

Another big part of the Congress are so-called Assemblies. Here groups (like local hacker spaces) can register a table for their members to work and collaborate during the event. Lucky for me, Markus registered one for Django and asked me if I wanted to join in there. Stupid as I sometimes am I assumed this was some kind of booth were someone would have to be present all the time and therefore declined as I wanted to not commit myself to anything during my first congress.

Turns out, I spent basically 90% of my time there and Markus thankfully didn’t object 😊 As I was sitting right at the corner to the main walkway I at least could act as some kind of dispatcher for when people had Django- or Python-related questions. Some I could answer by myself, some ended up in a huge discussion with nearly everyone at the table. Great stuff and I hope we could help some folks with their projects!

Projects

When nobody was asking questions, we (Andreas, Ulrich, Arne, myself and all the other folks at the Django assembly and nearby tables) worked on our own projects. For me this mostly consisted of these two:

  • letsmeet.click is Andreas’ and Arne’s project for managing meetups. In the end it’s supposed to become an alternative to meetup.com, with which many people in the community are not all that happy right now. It’s still very early but there were enough people working on it during that week that I’m quite optimistic that this will go somewhere despite the .click domain 😉

  • carparkbot was something I had wanted to write for quite some time. We have the weird situation at my company that we have some folks blocking others with their cars because of a lack of parking slots. Then the blockees write into our primary Slack channel the car’s license plate and someone else notifies the actual blocker. This small tool looks up the license plate and notifies the car owner within the channel and via direct message so that the manual look-up phase is now gone.

  • I’m currently also reading a book about Neo4j and wanted to start filling a local instance with some useful (at least to me) data. A couple of months ago some folks started drawing graphs about the interconnections between various podcasts. Neo4j seems to be ideal for actually storing such relations and so I started messing around with that.

The Venue

To keep everyone from not having to pause every couple of hours to go out and find something to eat and drink, there were multiple food stand areas and bars distributed throughout the building. Want to grab a pizza? Go to Hall 2. Want to have a burger? Next to Hall G.

Having multiple locations for that was absolutely essential as the CCH (Congress Center Hamburg) is one of if not the largest conference centre in Europe. While the building itself felt smaller than for instance the Palais des congrès de Montréal it had one of the largest talk rooms I’ve ever been in. Simply amazing.

That being said, I found the building and its floor plan rather confusing. There were escalators and stairs everywhere and all that being filled up to capacity didn’t really help either. Next time, I will bring my own map. A big one 😉

And yes, I definitely plan to come back. While security and hardware isn’t something that is my primary focus the atmosphere of the Congress is something that I don’t want to miss anymore. So after 2016’s “Support-Marathon des Jahres” I will most likely head to Hamburg again and I already can’t wait for it! So hopefully see you again in less than 12 months!

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