Backbone 409

Report on the meeting

Backbone 409 happened in Calafou, near Barcelona in early June 2014. Started as a small meeting, it finally drew little less than 150 practitioners for two days of intensive conversations sometimes happening in 4 venues consecutively. The high response and the good lineup of local and international initiatives showed the need for hacker spaces where anti-capitalist politics is the baseline.

The first thing participants highlighted was the good atmosphere. Many came a week before to help building up for the conference and installed infrastructure such as toilets, windows, electricity, lighting, and of course Internet. It was evident that autonomous infrastructures are needed and we have to construct them from the ground up. This contributed to the feeling of ownership of the venue and collaboration connected participants.

The meeting was an opportunity to bridge Spanish and English speaking circuits of techno-activists, enabled by the superb simultaneous interpretation of the Coati collective and their gear. This was not fully exploited but still many links were established. A highlight was the scene reports on the past and present from Italy, Netherlands, Hungary, Catalonia, Germany, and Mexico (in order of appearance).

Developers of privacy-oriented operating systems like Freepto, Subgraph OS and Tails met each other and their (potential) users, discussing features to be adopted from each others’ codebases. In addition to North European and North American projects, operators of autonomous servers such as Espora (Mexico) and Espiv (Greece) exchanged experiences and best practices. Sarava (Brazil) tech collective reported on the seizure of their server and a 24 hour “cryptorave” with 2000 attendants organised in São Paolo. The keysigning party (a.k.a. certification meeting) was surrounded by much debate so that best practices and recommended configuration files received major updates, while alternatives to OpenPGP like PBP were proposed.

The roundtables on the four focus topics (resilient hosting, decentralised architectures, project sustainability, and usable cryptography) offered an overview with the participation of 5-6 representatives of relevant projects and a moderator. These were good for introducing the major discussions and actors in the problem space but usually not enough to really push the discussions to a new level. We hope that once the topics are identified, such discussions will evolve during the next conferences like Interference and FSCONS, as well as the various hackmeetings. Other program points included a look at the relationship between the tech industry and the human geography of cities (in correspondence with the controversy about Google buses), an outdoor survivor workshop, a reading of the Liquid Surveillance book, project presentations and many more. Finally, in terms of developing the infrastructure of the global network, the idea of Virtual Internet Exchange Points was proposed as a peering space for VPN providers.

Since Calafou is in the middle of the forest, accommodation was provided on-site (campsite and dormitory) and food was prepared with the help of participants. On the upside, the killer application of the catering was a donation-based OpenWRT cocktail bar which should be replicated in other meetings. On the downside, we ran out of Club Mate on the second day because of logistical problems. Please send us more documentation.