Last Tuesday was the first time I know of that Hackaday hosted our own live event. There were some less official get-togethers associated with conferences and things like that. But we threw The Gathering to see if readers would rise from their lairs for a chance to interact with one another. We called, you answered, and I had an amazing time. Hackaday packed the place with over four hundred readers, and every conversation I had ended up being a fascinating interaction. Thank you!
[Brian Benchoff] and I returned to our snowy homelands the next morning. Surprisingly this was the first time we had met each other despite working closely on Hackaday for the past several years. I also had the pleasure of meeting [Eliot Phillips] and [Jack Buffington] for the first time. I’m sorry I didn’t have more time to hang out with them, but when you’re trying to say hello to several hundred people you’ve just got to keep moving.
Before I get too wordy I better throw the more tag in here. Join me after the jump for a blow-by-blow of what we did, what sticks out in my mind, and where we’re going next.
What we did
We rented out the LA Brewing Company, forced the staff to wear Hackaday shirts all night. Then had fun. What did you expect?
It should not have come as a surprise that readers started showing up about 90 minutes early. In true friendly-hacker fashion the first gentlemen I met walked right in and asked if he could lend a hand setting up. Right on! Despite my nervous agitation the place was ready for the 6pm open. [Ben Delarre] had his Laser Grafitti Rig set up on time. We had envisioned a huge bare wall for the projection surface but that doesn’t actually exist in any bar so we made do with a smaller projection screen. It was still a ton of fun. [Brian] found a place for the Jolly Wrencher flag which is something he made himself. It was hung from the awning on the front of the building. I tried to kill myself hanging posters from a ladder that was just a bit too short. And [Lori], who coordinated everything, got the check-in area arranged, and the swag situated.
Apparently it took forever to get in the door. I’m going to blame the guy checking IDs because I thought we were more than ready to scan tickets or look up names pretty quickly. But by 7:15 most folks were inside. At least the wait for a beer was never very long, which makes up for the delay at the gate. We shushed the masses and cleared out a landing on the stairs to the loft so that I could get the formal remarks under way. This talk included info on where we’re going (see below) but it was nice to break it up with a few lightning talks. [Brian] spoke about the HaDuino; opening almost one bottle of beer before it broke. [Ben] spoke about the trials of putting together Laser Grafitti; he built a great controller but the missing source code was a trial and a topic for a future post. And [CharlieX] and his wife [Kris], both associated with NullSpaceLabs in LA, spoke about previous and future LayerOne Conference Badge Hardware.
We raised a glass to the concept of Hackaday and got back to enjoying ourselves. The place stayed pretty full right up until we had to vacate the premises; sometime after 10pm. I managed to escape hangover. Since I was talking with so many people I didn’t get very many opportunities to visit the bartenders. In fact, I never made it up to the loft to try out Laser Grafitti and I’m kind of bummed about it. Next time we may just have to plan to hack together our own large-format projection screen
What sticks out
My biggest takeaway from this even is that readers want to help. From the guy who showed up 90 minutes early to the defense industry coder who offered to spearhead a guest post explaining synthetic aperture radar for mortals, everyone seems happy to pitch in to make Hackaday more awesome. Let’s do it! This really is the epitome of a virtual hackerspace. People contribute their expertise and time where they can, we all celebrate success and try to overcome anything less. It doesn’t mean we have to live in the same place, but live events like this really drive home the message that what we do here is enjoyed by all.
People are positive in person. From the comments you’d expect nasty arguments to break out at The Gathering. But I didn’t experience any of that. In fact, there was one attendee was handing out “Internet Troll” business cards and he seemed to be among the most pleasant of the bunch.
We have our own fanboys and that’s okay. I actually had people come up and tell me they only read what I write and don’t like anything other writers are doing. Luckily I didn’t get the opposite. But one thing I always like to point out… it’s not about me or the rest of the staff. Hackaday is about the community.
Where we’re going next
This is both a literal and figurative question. Hackaday is growing and so “where are we going?” is a very important question. New faces, new content in the form of guest posts, and the addition of live events might be troubling for some long-term readers. But this blog has grown from the ground up. Everyone brought on as a contributor has been a long-term reader. It’s one of our core values. None of us want to see the awesome go away, and we’re watching the horizon to ensure that we stay on course while covering Fresh Hacks Every Day.
The opportunity to include original content in our weekly rotation is a welcome addition. This helps to make sure we don’t stagnate, and certainly adds value to what we offer. But close analysis will show that we’ve been sticking to a tight goal of featuring at least six gnarly hacks (most of them from readers) each day, leaving about two slots for original content and newsy posts (like this one). We hope that this is a satisfying policy for those who, darn it, just don’t want to see anything change.
We have some opportunities that we have never had before. Although we’ve been working on many things the only one I’m ready to discuss was also revealed at The Gathering. [Brian Benchoff] has some grand ideas for hacks that are difficult, costly, time-consuming, and unlikely to be profitable. In one way or another that describes every project you’ve ever thought was awesome. Don’t worry [Brian], I’m only spilling the beans on one of your endeavors: wire-wrapped 68000 computer. He sent the board files to Seeed Studio in December and they’re back. When visiting Apex Electronics he picked up a bunch of wire-wrap sockets and other interesting baubles for the project. It’s designed for a case and the preliminary photos (I think he made the interesting ones blurry on purpose to irk me) are drool-worthy. Think wire-wrapping an entire retro-computer is a big project? It’s nothing compared to some of the other things he has on tap.
Seriously, I couldn’t go. Where’s the next one?
It’s really hard to say where the next one will be. We used this as a test to see if the Hackaday community would actually show up, and you did! Meetups are great, but I’d prefer to do some hacking if we’re going to the trouble to get people together. The first hacking event would most likely be in LA again — as a first test run. But if we can take these to other cities we will.
As far as branching out, what makes the most sense to me is to hit the other large population hub in the US: New York. After that it would be great to do something in the middle like Chicago, or somewhere in Texas. And of course it would be great to have some in Europe. But we haven’t hacked our own money printing system (yet) so this is dreaming pretty big — which we’re not afraid to do.
Here’s a question for you. It could take a long time to organize these events. Do you want us to organize some more spontaneous meet-ups to coincide with other events? For example, having some of the Hackaday staff plan to meet at a bar during DEFCON? Would you come and hang out even if you had to buy your own beer?
[Photos by Edward de la Torre unless otherwise noted]