By John Borland
August 11, 2007
On a big tent in the center of the Chaos Communication Camp, banners
proudly proclaim the presence of the American embassy and its "Hackers
on a Plane" tour.
This is the home of the biggest American delegation yet to come to one
of these European events. The U.S.-based Hacker Foundation , which is
leading a tour of 40 North American hackers through Europe, hopes it
turns out to be a turning point for the U.S. scene.
The idea, says Foundation co-founder and treasurer Nicholas Farr, is to
get a sense for the potential of European "hacker spaces" -- places in
the community where local programmers can collectively meet, work, and
share infrastructure -- and inspire Americans to produce similar
facilities at home.
Most American hacker groups work on a more informal basis, meeting at
homes, schools or aOnaplane d-hoc locations that don't lend themselves
to local involvement. The Foundation is hoping to start changing that
culture, as well as getting hackers types more deeply involved in the
"The idea is to have someplace where hackers can come and have meetings,
do good works, and show the community what they're really about," Farr
says. "We want to show people that hackers aren't criminals, that
they're creative types who have a way of making technology do things it
wasn't originally intended for."
Founded two years ago as non-profit organization aimed at helping
provide seed funding and infrastructure for hacker projects, the
Foundation soon realized that having space and meeting centers was a
critical part of seeding community involvement. The group is starting a
prototype hacker space in Washington D.C., hoping both to provide a
resource for local programmers, and to show a different face of hackers
to the politicians in the area.
European groups, particularly in Germany, have a long tradition of this
kind of activity, and in the best spirit of American fact-finding tours,
the Foundation is leading its Hackers on a Plane tour through last
week's DefCon conference, this week's Chaos Communication Camp, and then
through stops in Berlin, Vienna, Cologne, Bonn and elsewhere, hoping to
get ideas from local organizations.
The five-day camp here on a former Soviet air base near Berlin has been
particularly inspiring, Farr says. Americans here are now discussing
creating a parallel "Hackers on a Base" camp in the United states, using
a decommissioned army facility. Others are eager to start hacker space
movements in their own local communities.
"This is expensive, but I think the good works we'll see over the next
few years will justify the trip," Farr says. "We're hoping this trip
winds up being a watershed moment for the U.S. scene."
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