An ag(e)ing hacker, Luca Saiu's blog
2022-10-11 00:30 (last update: 2022-12-06 23:34) Luca Saiu

A personal reflection on the GNU Hackers’ Meeting 2022

According to the definition on the web site “The GNU Hackers’ Meetings or ‘GHMs’ are a venue to discuss technical topics related to GNU and free software”. And GHMs are in fact events structured as conferences with talks and presentation slides and all; very technical indeed, the way we like them and the way they should be. But if we take the time for attending every year since 2007 or so, and organising, it is mostly for the fun of spending time with our GNU friends in a relaxed environment.

After many years in which most GNU Hackers’ Meetings took place in Europe for no particular reason other than most of us regulars living in Europe we opted to hold GHM 2022 in Turkey:

This year I organised the talks, schedule, web site and most of the remote communication with participants. Since E. is not only a capable computer scientist but also a practical person who speaks the language and knows the region, she dealt with the hotel and restaurants. E. also proposed the dates and the place: October, when the weather is pleasant; and İzmir, a large university city on the Mediterranean coast. It was tiring in the end, but we worked well together.

Turkey has the advantage of being reasonably easy to reach not only from Europe but also from several countries in the Middle East, from which one can enter Turkey without a visa — visas for Europe, on the other hand, are notoriously hard to obtain from the Middle East. In fact since the beginning we were thinking about one specific friend and GNU contributor from Iran, that we would have really liked to finally meet in person.

And then of course the main reason: reaching out to new people. Local people in Turkey who might see the announcement about a GNU meeting nearby and attend out of curiosity; and then maybe become friends, and contribute to some common project.

In fact several people from İzmir reacted to my announcement with very enthusiastic emails, clearly excited. On the other hand few hackers from out of Turkey could attend in person even if there was interest, and we had to resort to some remote and pre-recorded presentations. Thanks to our good old friend (and master hacker) José Marchesi we could stream most of the event live, to a few tens of people.

E. and I arrived in İzmir two days in advance on Thursday September 29 in order to test the equipment at the venue; a very professional organisation. The following day we were joined by José and then by a few early attendees for the pre-event dinner. There we had a surprise: two of the participants, which whom we had exchanged emails before, turned out to be extremely young: one fourteen, the other thirteen. Both with GNU/Linux on their laptops, speaking good English. They were not expert programmers yet but wanted to learn. They turned out to understand free software very well already, and were in fact passionate about the need for free hardware.

The next two days were for the conference itself. Of the attendees some were professionals, expert low-level programmers working on embedded systems; an older student, obviously intelligent; a couple of newly-enrolled students just about to begin their university careers — one of them a Lisper, who asked several deep questions; the other an enthousiastic and committed but shy fellow, who eventually found the courage of proposing giving a talk. I was very happy to cut my GNU Jitter workshop short to fit him in. He did it, promising to do it again the next time in better English. It was already awesome, friend.

GHM 2022 group photo
A group photo with most of the participants

We are hackers, not professional organisers, and sometimes that shows. We had to improvise, change the plans, overcome a technical difficulty. Our small loudspeakers squeaked, some server connection was lost. And then a projector adapter is missing, and that presenter wants to only use the terminal console that we cannot stream. And now I laugh at the chaos that has turned already into a cheerful memory.
Near the entrance we covered two tables with free software stickers for the attendees and their name badges, each card prepared by me with my pathetically old laser printer and a cutter, then slipped by hand into its plastic holder. And even if our hackers’ table was nowhere as perfect as the hotel’s flawlessly arranged snack spreads one must at least concede that our hackish organisation was sincere. Sincerity is worth something.

The event web page now contains most video recordings and presentations slides: A few more might still come.

However recordings do not tell the whole story. Anybody interested is welcome to subscribe to the ghm-discuss mailing list, and join us next year.

GHM 2022 banner
The banner we prepared to promote the event. GFDL 1.3+.

[Update: The Free Software Foundation published an abridged version of this report of mine in Issue 41 of its bi-annual Bulletin. I wish to thank Devin Ulibarri from the FSF.]

— Luca Saiu, 2022-10-11 00:30 (last update: 2022-12-06 23:34)

e, english, free-software, ghm, gnu, hacking

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Luca Saiu

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