Two of my friends and I crammed into a small and aged European hatchback, drove all day along hundreds of miles of motorway, and finally through a succession of ever smaller roads. We were heading for a set of GPS co-ordinates in the north of Scotland, along with all of our camping gear.
There’s nothing like the hacker camp we’re looking for. After heading down a lane barely wider than the car, we drove through a farmyard with a sheepdog lying in the middle of the road (the reclining mutt seemed unconcerned as we edge the car around). We had arrived at GampGND, one of Europe’s smallest hacker camps.
A Village Becomes A Camp For A Weekend
If you’ve ever been to one of the larger camps, you may have encountered the Scottish Consulate village. The Scottish hackerspaces come together with a characteristic irreverent humour, and from where I’m sitting they really get that hacker camps are about having fun. CampGND is their start-of-season shakedown, at which they assemble what is in effect the Scottish Consulate village on a farm in the depths of rural Aberdeenshire for a weekend of fun and hacks. We were lucky enough to be able to make it to the camp, and we are much indebted to them for the experience.
So how does a hacker camp of about twenty people work, in contrast to one of several thousand? There are no villages, no talks, and no attractions, for a start. Instead it’s a much more intimate and social affair, of communal sitting around the table working on projects — or catching up on a bit of Hackaday editing, in my case. It was fun watching the work of the GB1GND special event amateur radio station (I corrupted the youth with a deplorable piece of radio culture from the long-ago CB days, by reminding them that a DTMF keypad can be used to play “Yankee Doodle” — 4426462, if you are curious). And of course we spent much time sitting around the fire in the evening drinking Scottish beer, toasting marshmallows, and talking the usual tall tales and interesting stuff of a hackerspace conversation.
Coming from Oxford Hackspace and MK Makerspace in central southern England it was particularly interesting to share experiences with the folks from 57 North in Aberdeen and Edinburgh HackLab. The mechanics of running a space are universal wherever in the world you may be, and it is both refreshing to find the support of those with the same experiences, and interesting to hear their fresh perspectives. The catering was communal, for which we are again indebted, as we’d done the usual hacker camp thing of bringing along a few less palatable essentials.
Small Hacker Camps Are Not Just For The Few
We had an excellent time over the weekend, and though our drive required an unexpected Travelodge due to traffic congestion in the English Midlands it was very much a journey worth making. The point of this article though is not to urge you all to head for CampGND next year, while our hosts were very hospitable this is by its nature a small camp whose logistics would be taxed by a huge influx of Hackaday readers. Instead, it should be seen as a blueprint, a demonstration that you don’t need several thousand people and a huge venue to mount a successful hacker camp. If you can put on a hacker camp village for your hackerspace you can put together an event like CampGND, all you need is to find a field with the appropriate permission, bring in a few facilities, and assemble twenty of your friends. Every hackerspace should ask themselves whether they can do the same as the Scottish Consulate and prepare for their summer with a mini hacker camp, because it’s an experience worth having.