What I learned at the HopeX Hacker Conference

HopeX is the tenth anniversary of the Hope (Hackers of Planet Earth) conference.  A ‘hacker’ in this context refers to “someone who is curious and creative, who seeks to understand how things work, especially complicated systems.” (HopeX FAQ)

Undoubtedly, when you put together two thousand curious and creative minds, you can get some impressive results.

Not Your Typical “Buy!  Buy!  Buy!” Conference  Booths  

Not all conferences are created equal.  Some of them are endless vender booths selling useless wares.  HopeX did everything right in this regard.  The booths were primarily knowledge-based, non-profit focused, and DIY promoting.  From lock-picking sets, to the EFF  (Electronic Frontier Foundation), to a $999 Bitcoin ATM w/Skyhook, to the ACLU  (American Civil Liberties Union), to a logo removal service, every booth and attending presenter drew us in with valuable and intriguing information . .

The Specialized Talks

What more could you ask for?  From the hyper-specialized to the broadly generalized, there were talks for all types of hackers.  I  was fortunate to have had the opportunity to give my presentation on community-based economics via the You Track; an appropriate match for JoatU as these were  self-organized talks in a more intimate community-oriented venue.  And then there were the 5-minute lightning talks too!  What a great way to hear a fast-paced succinct presentation.  Information overload (in a good way)!

The Community is Strong in This One

The talks in between the talks really emphasized the value of this conference.  Being able to meet with so many curious people can really fill you with inspiration.  I received a lot of great feedback about my project from all kinds of people living all over the world; I couldn’t be happier.

The volunteers, the everyday attendees, and the humble speakers were the perfect trifecta  for a nearly perfectly executed conference.

Ten Interesting Takeaways 

10) If someone is overdosing on cocaine, get them to overdose on valium until paramedics arrive!  It could save their life.* (Bringing Down the Biological System: How Poisons Hack the Body – Jennifer Ortiz)


9) While science is great for solving certain problems, to think that it can solve all the problems all the time is just plain dumb. (Solve the Hard Problem – Gillian (Gus) Andrews)


8) Sometimes going with the moral decision (John Locke) can destroy your economy. (Hacking Money, from Alexander the Great to Zerocoin – Finn Brunton)


7) If you flash a rainbow colored LED penis to the audience, they’re going to have a hard time regaining focus.




Also, it’s important we recognize our biases, be respectful of people’s boundaries (e.g. Don’t touch!) and do everything we can to destroy the rape culture that we exist within! (The Sex Geek as Culture Hacker – Kristen Stubbs)


6) Self-Publishing will be more work, but it can really pay off.  Not to mention, you are in control of your own content which is especially valuable if you’re using this content to teach. (Self Publishing Success – John Huntington) *Full Talk*


5) A lot of talks spoke about the need for user-friendly cryptography.  Minilock is incredibly simple-to-use file encryption software (Usable Crypto – New Progress in Web Cryptography – Nadim Kobeissi)


4) We are closer than you can imagine to smart spaces.  A room that can sense how many people are in it and adjust the air conditioning automatically.  Or to know how many chairs are in there to better plan your Edward Snowdon talk.  There is technology that can let the environment (or others) be informed that you exist and you can choose to share more or less information depending on who they are.  The tech will be ubiquitous and as popular as barcodes in a decade or two (or less?).  I’m interested to see where this can go and to live in smart environments with Reelyactive. (YouTrack – Reelyactive – Jeff Dungen)


3) The Repair Movement is making a resurgence as being tested and applied in real life by numerous innovative individuals and groups.  When Sandra Goldmark rented a storefront and opened the doors to repairing broken objects, she brought with her some of her own broken objects just in case it was a slow first day.  It wasn’t.  The business, while not hugely profitable, has thus far been sustainable! On top of this, we have the transition towns movement which are working to bring our communities into the 21st century with permaculture practices and JoatU (my project) working to link it all together! (The Repair Movement – Sandra Goldmark; Michael Banta; Vincent Lai; Miriam Dym; Tiffany Strauchs Rad)


2) According to Robert Steele, an inordinate amount of conspiracy theories are conspiracy facts.  As an outsider with a limited amount of information it’s tough to know which ones, but it seems clear that more than we initially acknowledge have hidden information.  Go figure.  On a more positive note, he is an extremely strong supporter of the open-source movement and proposed that the CIA use a more open methodology for information gathering.  He obviously doesn’t work there anymore.  Read more about his open source revolution. And one of the biggest reveals he made, he expects the US to stand up and say no more when the pedophilia rings and sex-slavery intertwined in US government are revealed. (Spy Improv: Ask me Anything – Robert Steele)


1) ‘We need to know how governments act to know how much we need to scrutinize their actions.’  It only makes sense that to be a fair judge, the citizens need to be informed.  Forget the fact that the public education system is a joke, on top of that, the most damning evidence that breaks the US constitution is held in secret.  This is an unacceptable practice in a democracy. (A Conversation with Edward Snowdon)


All in all, I came away with a wonderful experience, new friends, great knowledge and about 42 pairs of Trip Glasses.

*Information taken from a HopeX talk does not guarantee results and encourages independent research.

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