Everyone Come to HOPE!

UPDATE: Looking for a HOPE conference schedule where you can see workshop times alongside talk times? You’re in luck, I made one: HOPE X Schedule Grid

Yep, it’s time once again for the Hackers On Planet Earth conference, Friday July 18–Sunday July 20 at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City. And it’s time for my biennial post urging you to attend, because HOPE is full of wonderful things.

Corset Lore performs again at HOPE's chiptune concert.

Corset Lore will perform again at HOPE’s chiptune concert. (Photo by Marjorie Becker.)

“But I’m not a hacker!” you may say. Shh shh shh shh shhhh. It’s ok. I have never been more confident in saying you very definitely want to be at HOPE. Even if you feel like your technical skills are so poor that the Supreme Court has more of a social-media life than you. HOPE is a place to learn more and play with technology. You definitely want to come to HOPE.


Reason #1: The NSA.

You’re still confused about how it is they know so much about you. You’re wondering what you need to be worried about, and what you can stop worrying about. Let me tell you: going to HOPE for the past ten years gave me advance warning about this whole mess, and a lot of understanding of how, when, and why tracking happens.

This year, because there’s pretty much nobody left who DOESN’T care about surveillance, we have a tremendous number of talks where you can learn about threats to journalism, alternatives to phones that spy on you, tools to avoid tracking by corporations, ways to avoid location tracking, and how we can learn more about government spying programs. If you’re really wondering whether you should be worrying about the government, Quinn Norton’s talk on real-world enemies like bosses and angry exes should be of particular interest.

Reason #2: Dissent is our theme, and it’s in the conference’s DNA.

Daniel Ellsberg, who let the American public know the US government wasn’t telling the truth about the Vietnam War with his leak of the Pentagon Papers, is one of our keynotes. NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake will also be speaking, and we’ll hear from lawyers and journalists who work with Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Barrett Brown, and other prominent dissenters.

Reason #3: Elevator hacking.

There are certain phrases which seem to go straight to the pleasure centers of the brains of  the HOPE speaker selection committee, causing us to vote yes even before we’ve read the entire proposal. “Elevator hacking” is one of these mystical phrases, apparently. I’m not saying I think you should try elevator hacking. But you want to learn how elevators work, right? This is the kind of “basics of technology X” talk that makes HOPE awesome. Be there.

Reason #4: A chance to get hands-on.

Every year, we have more workshops! They’ll teach you everything from making electronic instruments out of e-waste to how to request government documents. You’ll also have opportunities to learn how to solder circuits and pick a lock on the mezzanine.

Finn is, shall we say, animated. :D

Finn is, shall we say, animated. :D

Reason #5: Finn Brunton is doing a talk about Bitcoin, and he just got back from hanging out in the woods with libertarian currency fanatics and paying for his dinner in ounces of silver.

My buddy Finn Brunton is one of the more engaging storytellers you’ll ever meet. Having written a very readable and entertaining book on (digital) spam, he’s now turning his attention to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Expect journeys down rabbit holes: you might end up hearing about cults, or forgotten art movements, or just the classical history promised in the title and some anecdotes from his recent encounters with people named “Liberty Phoenix” and “Thunder Dave.”

Reason #6: Disruptive Wearable Technology.

This is another “you had me at the title” talk. Wearable technology? Cool. Glasses that let you tag grafitti, or a bauble that tells on TSA agents who grope you? Extra, extra cool. Looking forward to this talk. Plus, we’ll have the very cool X-Pose dress on display at the conference.

Reason #7: Biohacking.

Not all hacking is about machines and electronics. Learn more about other sciences from our biology talks this year: one on DIY biological experimentation in hackerspaces, and one on how poisons work.

Reason #8: You’re curious about North Korean media.

One of our speakers went to North Korea, figured out the broadcasting system there, and recorded a great deal of radio and TV. Hackers’ curiosity about how media tech works in other countries yields some very interesting information. This should be one of the year’s best talks.

Reason #9: You want logos taken off your stuff.

I’ve long been attracted to the anti-commercial ethic that’s always been present at HOPE. This year, artist Miriam Dym will bring her Logo Removal Service to the mezzanine, helping you stop being a walking billboard for brands you don’t care about.

Reason #10: Movies and music and DANCING (I insist!)

We’re overflowing with really awesome-looking movies this time. I’m particularly excited about the sci-fi comedy about a future battle between China and Google and a brutally-honest-sounding documentary about the rise of 3D printing companies. We’ll also be screening The Internet’s Own Boy, if you want to learn the hard way why everyone misses Aaron Swartz so much.


Minusbaby will also return to HOPE this year. Less likely: me in a grand boubou dancing to the visuals. (Photo by Marjorie Becker.)

I’ll be presiding over the concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings, which are spreading a little further from the usual music on Game Boys and Commodores this time to encompass sampling and other electronic excursions. Some really talented musicians will be there. Join us!

Reason #11: You remember text-based virtual worlds like LambdaMOO.

Todd Sundsted’s talk is pretty much my fault, but what was I supposed to do when I heard he’d been trying to build Facebook in the elderly LambdaMOO text-based virtual world? Nothing gets me like quixotic hacks with weird old technologies barely anyone talks about anymore. The other history-related talk I’m excited about is Jason Scott’s, which will be an entertaining introduction to the DeCSS case, a part of copyright-law history that everyone should hear about, one which still shapes how we can and can’t legally use technology today.

Reason #12: You’re a programmer, and you’re planning to make your own security tool.

First of all, don’t. Not unless you’re really aware of what tools are out there, much less what people are actually able to and want to use, MUCH LESS if you have no background in cryptography and security architecture. Really. This is not your kid brother’s iPhone app we’re talking about, here. But if I still can’t dissuade you, you should attend our numerous talks on developing crypto tools, particularly Kaytee’s talk on usability research and Ella’s talk on threat modeling.


Register now to show your support for independent publishing and independent thought.

2600 Magazine, the institution which backs the conference, has hit a spot of trouble. Well, a lot of trouble. Their distributor, Source Interlink (now TENthusiast), filed for bankruptcy, failing to pay 2600 a tremendous amount of money. TENthusiast has regrouped, but 2600 is in a lot of trouble. One of the great ironies is that this is an aftershock of Time Magazine leaving Source Interlink — when a media juggernaut sneezes, independent publications catch the flu.

Registering now for HOPE will help ensure the conference has the funds it needs up front to run smoothly. HOPE, like 2600, is a mix of weird-yet-hopeful, technological-yet-thoughtful ideas which you can’t find anywhere else. The cross-pollination of creative, social, and technical ideas at the conference has made it far more valuable to me as a researcher than any academic conference I ever went to. Plus it’s open to the public, with an entrance fee that is ridiculously low ($120 for three days, including the concerts and movies?!), which few academic conferences or industry conferences can boast.

See you there!

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