Backbone 409

Hacker communities

Notes from the discussion at Backbone 409, June 2014, Calafou.

The idea is to discuss the status of hacker meetings, hacklabs and hackerspaces in different countries.


How is the community formed, where it lies?

Hackmeetings started at the end of the 1990s, after an enormous repressive action of police against hackers. It says we are hackers, we want to be here, to be clear to the world that we are not enemies of anybody. To blend with social movements. Not to sell ourselves.

The main thing of Italian hackmeetings have always been the social movement connection and fighting repression.

Not sure if it is special compared to other meetings, but it has always had a lot of critique against:

  • the Net;
  • the rhetoric of network, that Internet will save us all;
  • information workers as privileges, well earning, etc.

Hacklabs were born of the hackmeeting.

Founding ground: A/I collective, autonomous servers. Centrality, common ground that everyone recognised, in the technical measures, in the history of repression. They helped to build a more tight movement.

Italian hackmeeting is managed by a mailing list and moving from city to city each year, so lot of power is left to the locals.

90% of time it is in squatted spaces or politically connoted places. One time in Turin it was not in an occupied space. The list acts more as a means to have continuity. Most of the job is done by local folks.


First event in 1987.

Beginning: small community which started to organise events.

Late 1990s: Internet workspaces / hacklabs, some small meetups.

Until 2005: there was an anti-police approach. They should not be there – but the camp worked within the law as much as possible.

2005-2007: boom of new hackerspaces, lot of fresh blood in the hacker scene.

2008: more commercial.

Police got more and more into the events, and last time at least one of the organisers thought it was not a bad idea to include them officially. This created quite a spurk.

Hacker community in the Netherlands is low influx, people rethinking their positions.

Hacklab spaces:

  • ASCII: stopped;
  • PUSCII: gone virtual.


  • technology first, politics second.

I was the organisers of the first 3 hacker camps and gone with them since then.

There is an important distinction between activists and hackers. Hackers’ movement in the Netherlands did not come out from political activist scene. Activism became very technological because of the development of technology, but hackers have been mainly interested in technology all along.

Netherlands was the first country with a criminalising hacking law. It was not acceptable to profile yourself as a hacker scene so they started to profile themselves as an activist scene. It was an act of self-defense.

Name: Dutch hackers / Hac-Tic

Changes over time:

  • mainstreaming of hackers as a social movement and
  • slow descent towards commercialisation, accepting to work for big companies, etc.

So there is a convergence but they have always been different, and maybe this was the last camp because this difference became too big. It was always a consensus based on the lowest common denominator, but now it has become a complete myth.


~2000: Hacktivity started, completely self-organised. The event was bought by some big company in a shady operation, now it is owned by an offshore.

Hackerspace Budapest: more technological than political, but definitely not a-political.

Camps started last year after OHM. The first was called Camp0 and the second this year is Camp++. There was an argument, and somebody said: “We are going to show you how to do this!” Next year we did it with 30 people and everybody had the catharsis feeling that they were missing at OHM. Scaling up to 200 people I would not mind at all, but that should be the limit.


Many people from Indymedia and other activist projects went to the hackmeetings.

2001: first hackmeeting. After that every year in different squats. Main point of difference: always anarchist and pretty politicised. Disadvantage: loosing the bleeding edge technology side. Advantage: framework where you can talk from a more political perspective.

No team of organisers and no people coming as clients. All the process on the mailing list, but not delegated to locals so much as in Italy – most things go through the list.

Around 200 people come and there are around 50 people at talks, which can become huge flame wars.


30 years ago the Chaos Communication Congress started, first with 50 people, like friends and family. Nowadays it is way too big for a small group of people to organise it. Core team does cash flow and metaorganisation. Still, the organisation is pretty open, anybody who have spare time can participate.

Last year CCC invited Calafou to make a presentation, because it is important to get the politics back – that is why small scale events like this one are important too.

Intermezzo: Nothing Will Happen: meeting 4-5 times a year in former Yugoslavia, with 20-40 people around. The schedule is organised during the day. I really recommend going there.

Last Congress had 8000 people, which was crazy.

Question: To what extent the Chaos Communication Club is influenced by the local subclubs?

Answer: It is influenced quite strongly, depending on how much they participate.

Disclaimer: not a member of the CCC any more because I hate their politics and their lobbyists.

The CCC Started in 1982, 30 years ago. It grew from the original club in Hamburg. I consider it in more of a hackerspace than a hacklab, because of their politics which is getting mainstream. There was a time when the Club was in a squat, but they went from there.

Somebody else: most CCC members believe very much in the state and when you go there as an anarchist you feel quite alienated.


There are hacklabs and hackmitins.

2009: hackmitin started. Mailing list is the main way to organise it. First was in Mexico City. Always took place in social centres and squats. Growing every time.

Since the beginning it was political, except the first one which was quite technical, because it was the first meeting and many other people came who were interested in the technical stuff and not the political. Later they realised that the political part was the main thing. Lot of free media, independent media collectives went there and got involved in the subsequent hackmeeting.

Probably one of the youngest movement, but we had the benefit of learning from all the other movements. Largely based the organisation on these lessons. Every year we find our own ways of doing things.

First hacklab started two month before the first hackmeeting in an underground parking lot in an occupied building, and stayed 2 years in the same building.

Then we declared ourselves a Nomadic Hacklab. On the bus and on the train with Wi-Fi routers and computers. It was not very practical, so we had to invite people to make a hackerspace and they can do what they want and make a little hacklab hidden inside the hackerspace. Finally the people which came were such that there was no point in hiding our political stances. Rancho Electronico is not defined as political, but does not hide its politics.

There is an older hackerspace, which is not very nice.

More in Latin America?

2006: First hackmitin in Chile is the same time as Los Angeles and Mataró.

(There was one in Argentina before.)


This event is like an international hackmeeting which can work because it focuses on one topic: infrastructures.

How the participants here can imagine an international hackmeeting that can bring together the different communities?

In a lot of countries there are more than one hacker event, and people can feel part of a community more and another less.

We should keep in mind two things:

  1. Size: as you scale up the character changes. The advantage is that it attracts young people and it is more open, whereas smaller events can be very close.

  2. Constitutuency: I am now visiting a hacker event in Denmark, which started with 20 people 20 years ago and it is always the same event: now they are 40.

Borders: language is the biggest barrier at international meetings, that is why it is nice to have the translations.


For me it is not a problem to grow as a number of people and I don’t think that CCC lost its value because it grew up. The opposite. It grew bigger because participants accepted to loose some political value.