The Circle of HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) Conference Wrapup

Chelsea Manning speaking at the 2018 Circle of HOPE Conference

This was my eighth Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) Conference; I've presented talks at four conferences, and have assisted the A/V and Lighting teams in various ways over many years (writeups of past conferences and talks here). These remarkable, volunteer-run conferences, held every two years, feature knowledge, sharing, beauty, joy, community, and--always--a dose of chaos. The conferences are always inspiring, and--this year's alt-right trolls aside--I think this was the best HOPE yet, although you wouldn't know that if you only read about the conference on Twitter.

I was there all three days of the conference, went to probably a dozen talks in all three rooms, walked around the exhibits area, talked to many former and current students running the A/V, and other friends who are involved in running the conference. And I wouldn't have even known the level of controversy if I wasn't also active on twitter. What happened? Some alt-right trolls came in and disrupted the conference and intimidated a few attendees. None of that is good, of course, and the volunteer HOPE staff could have dealt with the situation better.  But I agree with the core idea of the conference organizers in that the answer to hate speech is more speech--not banning the wearing of certain hats (or people wearing them) as some people are demanding on twitter. 

Here's a pretty good summary of the situation, a support of HOPE and way forward by @JairusKhan on twitter (the whole thread starts here). Two important key phrases for me from Mr. Khan's thread was that after the incident "...HOPE should be considered under attack by [alt-right] agent provocateurs.", and ending with "But the reason why this all happened isn't because Nazis think #hopeconf is a safe space. It's because HOPE is where the people fighting Nazis are sharpening their swords.": 


I'm pretty much in agreement with Mr. Khan, and I don't have a lot to add, but I hope people will understand that this deplorable situation--intentionally caused by few people determined to disrupt-was a pretty small negative part of a conference that was otherwise overwhelmingly positive.

Of course one of the highlights of the conference for me was an inspiring talk from Chelsea Manning (photo above). She clearly, like many of us, was more comfortable as a geek in the shadows than as a public figure.  But she is now embracing her current role and bravely standing up to the many who hate and attack her. I was very inspired listening to her. 

I also enjoyed pretty much every talk I attended, all of which will be online soon (click on any photo to enlarge):

In the closing ceremonies (which I watched online yesterday since I was helping strike the other rooms while it was happening live), HOPE ringleader Emmanuel Goldstein, no stranger to controversy, seemed exhausted by the situation and afterwards even seemed to be questioning whether to even continue onwards.  I've long respected the way Emmanuel handles controversy; I think back to the way he and the HOPE core team handled a remarkable appearance in The Next HOPE in 2010 by Adrian Lamo, who had a major role in Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning going to prison (my writeup and photos of that appearance here). Lamo was widely hated by many at the conference, but in the Q&A part of the talk, Emmanuel, as moderator, demanded respect for Lamo while still allowing challenging questions to be asked.  This was remarkable and inspiring and to me represents the way forward.  Those who are currently attacking HOPE on twitter should keep this spirit in mind. Don't let the trolls divide us, let's rally around our community and overwhelm the hate with love and understanding. If trolls want to attend the conference and act respectfully, let them--they might even learn something. In this environment, we all need HOPE more than ever.


My Show Networks talk from The Eleventh HOPE (Hackers On Planet Earth)

My Show Networks talk from The Eleventh HOPE (Hackers On Planet Earth) is now here on Youtube.  It's about 50 minutes long, and it was a lot of fun.  This is my fourth time over the last eight years at this fantastic conference.

A couple people came up to me at the end of the talk to point out that broadcast storms can cross VLAN's on a switch, which I had said off the cuff at the end in response to a question.

Guest Appearance On the Great 2600 Show "Off The Hook" on WBAI

On short notice I was a guest last night on the great 2600 show Off the Hook on WBAI radio, talking about show networking, my upcoming talk at the HOPE conference, the Gravesend Inn, and even Donald Trump.  It's always fun talking to these guys, Emmanuel really keeps you on your feet, and I thank them for having me on.  You can listen here.


Show Networks Presentation at the 11th HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) Conference

I'm really excited to be speaking about the way that networks are used for live shows next month at the fabulous 11th HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference.  My talk will be Friday, July 22, 2016 - at 1pm in the Friedman room (18th floor).  I've been going to this biennial conference since 2004, and have spoken at the last three conferences (past writeups here).

HOPE X Wrapup

This past weekend was the once again amazing Hackers On Planet Earth conference, which I've been attending since 2002. My friend Jim J came in for the conference, which this year probably had the most attendees ever, because it featured a live video link from Edward Snowden in Russia. I've subscribed to 2600 magazine (sponsors of the conference) since about 1985, and this was my 6th hope, and I spoke at the last three.  Each year it's a great mixture of tradition and new stuff.

HOPE is always inspiring, surprising, and exciting. There's a hacker village area, lock picking, vendors, etc, on the 2nd floor, and then on the 18th floor there are three main rooms of talks. This year we made it to only a few talks, and most of them were excellent.  NSA whistle blower Thomas Drake was inspiring, since he and William Binney (who spoke at the previous conference two years ago) both sacrificed their own livelihoods and careers in true allegiance to the constitution.  (Sorry about the crappy camera phone pictures--I didn't drag my big DSLR around this year):

This year for the first time they streamed the whole conference (they had so much bandwidth they kept urging everyone to use more--I put my phone on the secure wifi and seemed to survive OK), and checking the stream before we even left Brooklyn on Saturday they were announcing that the 18th floor was full minutes after it opened, even though Ellsberg and Snowden wouldn't appear for several hours. There weren't any other available overflow areas so Jim and I decided to spend some time picking locks, and watch the talks later. Then--showing true hacker ingenuity--someone brought in a projector and a laptop, and someone else ran out to Radio Shack to buy a little speaker setup, and whipped up an overflow area to watch the live stream on the second floor:

Daniel Ellsberg spoke first for nearly an hour.  He was great, but then unfortunately kept talking through much of the time allotted to Snowden, so we didn't get to hear from him as much as I would have liked. After the crowds cleared, we went back up to the 18th floor and checked out a couple other talks, including Steve Rambam's biennial expose on the latest ways that our privacy and anonymity have been sold. Rambam is a very right-wing guy, and it's pretty cool in this conference mostly of liberals, anarchists and independents that he comes and shares his insider knowledge.

Sunday we came in for the fantastic two-hour Elevator Hacking discussion by Deviant Ollam and Howard Payne.  This was probably the highlight of the con for me--it's fascinating the parallels between elevator control and the kind of stuff we do for machines on shows. 

Later that day I caught part of a couple talks, and then gave my talk, "A Story of Self Publishing Success".  That seemed to go well, and I now have it online here.  At the end of my talk, I gave a copy of my book away and, being a hacker convention where you don't have to give anyone your real name, "Sri Swami Steve" won the book copy:

The closing ceremonies were an informative (if long) celebration, where they did thank City Tech students from the stage (I had arranged for a group to volunteer to help out our alumna Erin Grabe on A/V).  Jim J and I stayed late to help strike the audio/video/lighting systems.

I thought during the overcrowding of the Snowden talk that the conference had outgrown its venue, but it seemed by the end that it all worked out, as usual.  

So I'll be planning to be here in NYC again two years from now, to be exhausted and inspired....

My writeups from 2008 here, 2010 here (my talk here) and my 2012 here.