This past new year's, I attended the 37th Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany. This was the first congress since corona, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with it. That said, I begin this new year with a powerful energy.

Being A KDE Person

While at congress, a partner told me they were glad I am a "KDE Person". I'm not entirely sure what makes someone a "KDE Person", but I like to think maybe I am one after all. As far as I know, this was KDE's first time going to CCC as a group. We even had our own assembly, which was super fun as a vehicle for meeting new people, sharing ourselves as KDE, and as a kind of "home" for us during the week.

The idea came about somewhat randomly. I had gotten lucky in the second public sale and managed to get two tickets. Of course, I bragged about it in a KDE matrix channel which revealed that there were a few others already attending on their own. Inspiration struck.

"Lets have a KDE assembly!"


And so we had an assembly, quite possibly KDE's first in history.

Only one other in the group had actually attended CCC before, so it was a totally new experience for everyone. Nobody had any idea what exactly an "assembly" meant here, so I pitched a goofy Art Project idea about accepting "confessions" (booth and ministerial garb included) in a booth from people who maybe have some problems with wayland or KDE.

That got shot down, so the compromise was a suggestion and feedback box that definitely wasn't actually a paper shredder in disguise.

This turned out to be a huge hit, and we were wildly successful at collecting feedback with half a box of confetti to show for it.

We are already in discussions about what KDE will bring to 38C3 :)

Meeting new people

Besides the assembly, I spent a good deal of my time upstairs at La Quadrature du Net's tea house. This was something I deeply enjoyed at my past two congresses and was intent on sharing it with my partner K who has heard so much about CCC from me over the years we've been together.

I was so eager to renew that same vibe, that we showed up early in the morning on the first day to enjoy some tea before the public opening session.

Hackers being hackers, however, meant that the two of us in that moment /became the tea house/. There was nobody else, and apparently the crew doing the buildout in the night before had stayed up so late that nobody was able to come in the morning to serve tea.

We dug through some boxes, got a quick tea setup hacked together, and began to see the institution thrive again. I think this was a very excellent introduction to the hacker scene and congress in particular for K.

Sharing ourselves

The real reason I go to congress is that I find it to be a quite meaningful event to me, personally. Every year I go I walk away with new friends, new relationships, new ideas, and most powerful of all, a renewed drive to be creative. Here I am writing a long-ass blog post, after all.

KDE was only allocated a very tiny table amongst a sea of tables and chairs in one of the bigger hackerspace rooms. We were allegedly supposed to be sharing space with two or three other groups who had their equally small tables next to us, but their attendance didn't seem to materialize. So hackers being hackers, we expanded our control and reallocated their territory into ours.

This proved to be an extremly wise decision early on, as we ended up meeting the folks organizing the Linux on Mobile assembly, who found themselves assembly-less. Perhaps due to some phenominal german humor whereby it was assumed the assembly itself would be "mobile" and not need a fixed venue.

With these folks, I got to know some incredibly cool hackers working on PostmarketOS, a full-sized linux distribution for old mobile devices. A rather serendipitous encounter, given that fellow KDE hacker Joseph was giving their own talk on ecological re-use of unsupported hardware through FOSS.

Renewed sense of ~

The ease at which I find new relationships are forged and maintained through this wild intersection of scenes is tremendous. It is something I've deeply missed since I last went to congress in 2015. Shortly after that congress, I went full-time into law and politics. More than full-time, I would even say. So much energy and worth was poured into doing good, changing the world, making an impact.

I don't regret that for a minute. But it wasn't sustainable. Not in the way I was doing it. So, I got burnt out. I won't deny that's a big reason moving to Berlin was so quick a decision for me, but it also wasn't the biggest one.

At any rate, I'm barely able to keep touch with many of the people from that time. I've moved on to different spaces, a different scene, using different tools to stay in touch, but few of them have followed me here. It seems to validate the feelings I had prior to retirement that too many of the relationships in my life had become transactional and based on our professional work in housing and human rights.

Yet, here I am, reflecting on organizing KDE's first CCC assembly. KDE has never really left me, just as I've never left it. Sure, I disappeared for a long many years to do other things. But even during that time we kept in touch. I still had a thumb on the heartbeat of the open source world, of FOSS, of the hackerspace scene.

Sure, there's some books written about my work in California. There's an international political movement I helped build; it now runs itself without me, for the most part. There's a legacy back there that I'm immensely proud of. But it doesn't give me joy right now in the same way that knowing I'm collaborating again with relationships and humans who I first met nearly 15 years ago.

That's where home is for me. Here in free software. Here in creating art. Here in creating a new world of possibilities.

I'm really glad to be home again.

Let's begin.