A late summary of SHA 2017

Note: I wrote this right after SHA2017, in summer 2017. It’s been sitting on my laptop ever since, so I finally decided to just post this here.

Two days ago, I returned from SHA2017, a 5-day long outdoor hacker camp in the Netherlands. It’s been the second time I went to a dutch hacker camp, and my fourth hacker camp in total, if I recall correctly. The week before, I was a bit reluctant to go, but luckily I did, since it turned out to really great.

But let me get my reasons for being a bit reluctant out of the way first. Just six days before leaving to SHA, I came back from a four week journey across northern Spain and the south-west of France. I was traveling in my firetruck, an old ’82 VW LT, and while I did have a pretty decent trip, it was just a bit too long for me. The original plan was to take the truck back to Munich, and just a few days later take it back up to the Netherlands. Now after those four weeks, I had just grown sick of the firetruck, at least for a while, so I wasn’t quite sure how to get to SHA2017 instead, and also where to sleep, since I was planing to camp the truck.
In the meantime, planing for our village had gone ahead, in quite a different direction than what I was hoping for, and I was just seeing the tail lights of it. Some of the things I wanted to focus on got quite a bit lost in the whole thing, a lot of which I’d attribute to me not having communicated them more clearly, and also not having done anything about it during my trip, only beforehand.
Lastly, I haven’t felt as much at home at hacker events like I used to. I’m still trying to pinpoint exactly where that is coming from, but the general feeling was very much on my mind while making a decision.

Ultimately, I decided to still make my way to camp. The first plan was to go there by train, a mode of transportation which would have greatly limited the amount of stuff I could’ve taken to the event. I tried, with only very mixed success, to get people from our makerspace to bring a few things for me, but I still would’ve had to leave a lot of cool stuff at home. Two days before departure though, the chance to share a car turned up, so that was the way to got, and I could take pretty much most of the things I wanted to take with me.

So what was so great about being there? Essentially: The right things at the right time. I constantly carry a bunch of project ideas around in my head, from various sources and in various states of being thought through. And for quite a few of these, there was just the right village, just the right workshop, or just the right person to talk to about. All at one camp. Let me give you a few examples.

Last year, I went to NoWhere, the European regional version of Burning Man, for the first time, and again this year. Leaving each of these burns, I had the dire need to contribute something artsy to next years event. This year, part of the ideas of what to make involved some sort of fire. There’s a lot of fire at most burns, but at NoWhere, all of it is probane powered, mostly poofers (like pyro flame throughers). So as a proof of concept, a friend and I wanted to build one. Fast forward one month, I’m sitting in Mike W.’s workshop „Flamethrowers 101“, on a dutch campground. Teaching me and a bunch of others all the important stuff about how to safely build a poofer. Very big thanks to him and HobbyBob for doing that session.

Next thing, I’ve been toying around with making and selling electronics kits for a while. My latest project is a synthesizer dev board, with which I had held a workshop at a local faire. Part of my original plans about SHA2017 was to do one there as well, which I ended up doing, after just barely scraping the parts together to make it work. But in the process of preparing this workshop on site, I got to talk to so many people who have done similar things, that it just got me so excited to keep pursuing this thing. The workshop worked out great, and we also did another session to play around with synths, not just mine, the next day, leading to more fun discussions. A big thank you to the Hardware Hacking Area, Emily, Mitch, and everyone else who made this possible and who endured my questions.

On a similar note, I got „dragged into“ the Guild of Makers, by Lucy Rogers, who wants to make an organization for makers who are in the process of „going pro“ or have already done so. Such a great idea, and in a great discussion together with @honx, I felt like we had a great exchange of ideas and encouragement to make this happen.

There were more such coincidents, like talking with the AltPwr people, which do a thing very similar to another NoWhere project on my list. But let’s stop here for now. Having been to SHA2017 has encouraged me to definately make it to 34C3 this December, something which I wasn’t too sure about before. And while there certainly were a few things that could’ve been better and improved upon, I’m more than happy I made my way to camp. See you at congress!

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