Every year, between Christmas and New Year's Eve, a very special convention is held: The Chaos Computer Club hosts the Chaos Communication Congress. Among my peers, this is just "The Congress", the real highlight at the end of our year.
Don't be fooled by the name though, The Congress is not just some conference, with talks and meetings and business cards. The Congress is where every internet citizen, technologist, hacker, DIYer, net-politician, programmer, computer scientist, or geek convenes to exchange ideas. It is a place of levity, amazement and enlightening.
The Congress lasts four days, and every day is packed full of exciting talks. My favorites:
- Ich sehe, also bin ich … Du (German) As it turns out, you don't need special hardware to defeat defeat biometric scanners or passwords. A digital camera and some ingenuity is often enough.
- From Computation to Consciousness (English) This really resonated with me: What is consciousness? (Why) are animals or computers conscious or not? What does it all mean? Really, this is a computationally motivated introduction to constructivism. Highly recommended.
- Traue keinem Scan, den du nicht selbst gefälscht hast (German) The story of an entertaining person discovering that a scanned PDF does not necessarily contain the same text that was scanned if your scanner was built by Xerox.
All of these talks and many more are also available online, and I highly recommend you watch some of them. But The Congress is not just talks; this is where all the German hackspaces and user groups meet and present their projects. Walking through the halls, there are laser shows, quadrocopters, 3D printers, stitching machines, automatic cocktail mixers, mechanical and human musicians, and so much more.
At its core though, this is a place where a bunch of like-minded people meet and take over a convention center. The Congress happens in the CCH, the Hamburg Convention Center. Over the course of the four days of The Congress, this building transforms from a sterile business location to a colorful geek-party. Within a day, all the lights in the building are somehow turned colorful, a pneumatic tube network sends messages across the building, there are lounges and coffee rooms, and strange and beautiful sculptures of light and electronics show up all over the place. Just walking across this cornucopia of light and sound is a treat for the senses.
And this is just the natural thing that happens if you let a bunch of creative people do their thing. It is really a crowd like no other: Nowhere else have I seen such an open-minded and approachable crowd. There are no unpleasant drunk people, no fights, no harassment. All over the place, people talk to strangers, adults and children build things together, and men and women interact as equals.
The Congress is really unique. I can't recommend it enough. If you can free up those four days between Christmas and New Year's Eve at all, go there. You won't regret it!