36C3: Some impressions

Between 26 December and 31 December it was once again time for me to spend some days in Leipzig for this year’s iteration of the Chaos Communication Congress. This was now my second time at a Congress in Leipzig (and forth or fifth in total) and I still think that Leipzig is simply a great place for such an event. The venue is more spacious, there is more room for community stages like ChaosWest or the OIO, and the city of Leipzig is even providing every attendee with a public transport ticket for the duration of the event.

Sure, it takes around 25 minutes to get from the main station out to the faire-ground, but that’s OK. At least it’s enough time to eat a Franzbrötchen and drink a hot chocolate 😅

The main topic of this post won’t be the talks I attended or a run-down of all the local food options. I’m pretty sure those will find their own space here in the next couple of days. Instead, I want to write a little bit about a couple of more general impressions I got this time around.

Maker-faire

First off, back at my first Congress, there was a huge hall filled with people from hacker spaces all around Europe showing off various contraptions and devices they’ve been working on during the last 12 months.

With the venue in Leipzig now being much larger this part of the Congress has received lots more focus and space. There are now two huge halls full of soldering stations and blinking lights. If you’re into hardware it’s simply amazing to see so many ideas coming to life. There are also usually lots of courses for all age groups to get started.

But Congress was also always a place for me where I could pick up one or two software projects to work on. Just as an example, a couple of years ago a couple friends and I started to work on a little Meetup.com alternative and we got pretty far! There were usually also lots of places where people asked for help with their respective code bases, similar to what you can find on other community events like the various PyCons all over the world with their respective interpretation of “sprint days”. This part of the Congress has moved more and more into the background.

I’m a software-person with no talent whatsoever on the hardware-side, so it’s now far harder for me to find projects I’m interested in in halls 2 and 3. Perhaps it is finally time to register something like a software-craftsmanship assembly or one for Go developers 😉

Community spirit & Angel’ing

The second thing was a lot harder for me to pinpoint and I’m not sure I’ll be able to describe it properly, but here we go: Something felt weird about the volunteering and the community in general this time around. It was extremely hard to find shifts for new people. Pretty much all the cleaning shifts, for instance, were basically gone the moment the Congress started. Don’t get me wrong: I think it is great if more and more people help out. At the same time, there were some problems with staffing certain other kinds of shifts.

One instance I saw first-hand was at the end of day two at the main entrance. All of a sudden, the folks at the cashdesks were alone without anyone behind them to fixate the access-bands or to check folks who accidentally went that route even though they already had a band. We were currently on a shift doing access control at the main gate and we split up to cover both ways while calling Heaven to send some reinforcement. That went well but I still got the impression that there was a problem with organizing the shifts or finding enough people at certain times.

Something similar seems to have happened on day four when CERT wrote a toot to find people who were willing to do shifts as they were struggling to cover the whole day. Same for the whole tear-down crew. Sadly, I couldn’t stay myself as I was completely exhausted and it looks like I wasn’t the only one based on looking at some other folks sleeping during the “Security Nightmares” talk. But that wasn’t really limited to the last day.

Fitting with the “Resource exhaustion” topic of this year’s Congress I felt less and less energy all around me and inside of me for the whole event. Again, I cannot really pinpoint it but some part of the magic seems to have been replaced with pure exhaustion.

I, myself, was at a point on day three were I actually wanted to go home, something that hasn’t happened before, and on day four I was starting to think that this might very well have been my last Congress. I’m not sure if I will think like that even a couple of days from now but I will definitely want to change something about my attendance next year.

Do you want to give me feedback about this article? Please send it to comments@zerokspot.com.

Alternatively, I'm also experimenting with Webmentions. If you write a post on a blog that supports this technique, I should get notified about your link 🙂