I got home today from a month-long trip to China that I organized <https://www.noisebridge.net/wiki/NoisebridgeChinaTrip2>. 10 of us traveled around, visiting all of the hackerspaces currently in China, exhibiting at the Shenzhen Mini Maker Faire and giving talks and workshops and exhibiting at the big Maker Carnival China 2012 in Beijing. We also visited my manufacturer in Shanghai, where my TV-B-Gone remote controls are made.
Lots of photos:
This was my 10th trip to China. I was there with my mom in 1998, and then every year since I started making TV-B-Gone remotes there in 2004. It has been very interesting to get a snapshot impression of how China has changed through the years.
Though not very accurate, it is possible to have a sense of some very real change happening in China.
In 1998, there was capitalism visible in China, including KFCs everywhere, but it still felt like a 3rd-world version. Also, the Cultural Revolution was not all that long gone in ’98, and my sense was that people were still realing from it. Police were all over, and they had guns. And people seemed to be a bit wary of them.
On my trip in 2008, just before the Olympics, there must have been some heavy propaganda happening on Chinese media, ’cause lots and lots and lots of people I met all asked me what I thought about protestors in London and San Francisco. And before I could answer, they all said the same thing: “CNN is all lies.” I’d probably mostly agree, but probably for different reasons. There were also many inconvenient, seemingly random, restrictions imposed by the Chinese government (such as not allowing anything to be shipped with a battery installed). When asked why, most Chinese people I asked, answered with a straight face that it must be done because otherwise the Dali Lama would blow things up at airports.
By the time of the first Hacker Trip To China that I organized in 2009, things were very different. A gigantic, ugly statue of Mao was surrounded by a perimeter of stores selling everything imaginable. A huge department store had a mongo pile of a newly released American board game that they were pushing hard: Monopoly! There were still no hackerspaces in China, though. I still had the sense that officials were very official, and you didn’t want to cross them.
When I went there on my own last year, things were somehow way more open than it felt before. People I met were openly criticizing the government. There were two hackerspaces, XinCheJian in Shanghai, and FlamingoEDA in Beijing. Lots and lots of people, including those with positions in Chinese bureaucracy, were expressing the opinion that Chinese culture needs to change to encourage people to be creative and innovative — without this, they said, China would not have an economic future.
When I mentioned hackerspaces, people agreed with me that this was one means of implementing this change; and there was a lot of interest in me sharing my experiences in how to start a hackerspace. And there was also a lot of interest by people in organizing a Maker Faire for the same reason.
One year later, this year, there were not one, but two faires in China: a Mini Maker Faire in Shenzhen, and a big Maker Carnival in Beijing. And there are 7 hackerspaces in China, with talk of lots more. There may very well be 100 more soon, as the top 100 universities may be mandating that they each have one. And an elementary school in Shanghai is slated to have one soon. The hackerspaces in schools and universities are being called “Toyhouse” .
Everywhere I went, the Chinese media was interviewing me about how hackerspaces can change China in positive ways.
The Chinese government still openly censors the internet (though there are free online services that easily circumvent this). And the bureaucracy is still huge and centralized (though so big and out of control that many actually call it “anarchy”), and people in power can, seemingly on a whim, make decisions that adversly affect projects (such as the last-minute venue change for the Shenzhen Mini Maker Faire and the last minute date change at Maker Carnival — both because some bureaucrat said he needed the venue for a meeting — no apology — it’s just the way things are.
How will the changes in China play out? I don’t know. We will get to see.
After my Midwest Workshop Tour of Hackerspaces <http://blog.noisebridge.net/2010/08/04/mitchs-midwest-workshop-tour-of-hackerspaces/> I had 8 days at home to prepare for me next Workshop Tour, this time visiting Eastern Europe and Belgium, where there are lots of new hackerspaces!
My trip to Europe was paid for by BruCON <http://2010.brucon.org/index.php/Main_Page>, and annual hacker conference in Brussels, Belgium, which is branching out this year from security to other diverse hacking activities. I’ll be giving a talk there on how to bring your project from idea to reality, and how to make a living on your project. I’ll also be setting up a Hardware Hacking Area, teaching people to solder and to make cool things with micrcocontrollers.
While in Belgium, I’ll also be visiting three hackerspaces in the area, giving workshops and talks.
VoidWarranties <http://we.voidwarranties.be> — Antwerp, Belgium
HSB <http://hackerspace.be/Mitch_Altman_Electronics_Workshop> — Brussels, Belgium
whitespace <http://0x20.be/Main_Page> — Gent, Belgium
And while I’m out here in Europe, Hacktivity <http://hacktivity.hu/portal/en>, an annual Eastern European hacker conference paid for my trip to and from Eastern Europe, where I’ll be setting up a Hardware Hacking Area.
While in Eastern Europe, I thought I’d put out the word and see if any of the brand new hackerspaces would like me to give workshops at their spaces. The response was very enthusiastic, and I set up a tour of four hackerspaces!
progressbar <http://www.progressbar.sk/> — Bratislava, Slovakia
brmlab <http://brmlab.cz/event/mitchaltmanworkshop> — Prague, Czech Republic
H.A.C.K. <http://hspbp.org/tiki-index.php> and Kitchen BudaPest <http://www.kitchenbudapest.hu/en>
Harkopen <http://harkopen.com/news/workshop-mitch-altman> — Bucharest, Romania
Everywhere I go, hackers are graciously putting me up in their homes. I feel really grateful to be part of such a warm, welcoming, community of hackers.
As with my other tours, the workshops on this tour give anyone and everyone the opportunity to learn to solder by making any number of kits that me and Jimmie Rodgers and Ladyada and others have created to teach people to make cool things with microcontrollers — kits that are designed so that everyone, regardless of age or skill level, can complete successfully and take home with them. It is very similar to what I do when I’m home (and what Miloh does all the other times) at Circuit Hacking Mondays at Noisebridge . The workshops also help build publicity for the hackerspaces that host the workshops by attracting people to the space, and showing everyone how cool it is to have a hackerspace in their home town.
Sharing experiences about our hackerspaces is also a big part of how hackerspaces around the world help and support each other, and I’ll be sharing all I can about Noisebridge and how we got going and make things work out.
Other than reimbursement for air fare from the hacker conferences, I am doing this Workshop Tour without charge, and only ask to be reimbursed for any parts used ($10 to $30, depending on the kit). I do this ’cause I love it!
I am looking forward to meeting more of the coolest, intelligent, thoughtful, friendly, creative people in the world — hackerspace people!
Here is my schedule:
11-Sept: leave San Francisco
12-Sept: dinner with whitespace hackerspace — Gent, Belgium
14-Sept: progressbar hackerspace workshop and talk — Bratislava, Slovakit
16-Sept: brmlab hackerspace workshop and talk — Prague, Czech Republic
17-Sept: Hacktivity conference dinner — Budapest, Hungary
18-Sept: Hacktivity workshop
18-Sept: Hacktivity party
19-Sept: Hacktivity workshop
20-Sept: Kitchen BudaPest and H.A.C.K. visit — Budapest, Hungary
21-Sept: Harkopen hackerspace workshop — Bucharest, Romania
23-Sept: VoidWarranties hackerspace workshop — Antwerp, Belgium
24-Sept: BruCON conference talk and workshop — Brussels, Belgium
25-Sept: BruCOB conference workshop
26-Sept: HSB hackerspace workshop — Brussels, Belgium
27-Sept: whitespace hackerspace talk — Gent, Belgium
29-Sept: fly back home to San Francisco
After this tour, I’ll be home in San Francisco for the entire month of October!
After being on the road since the beginning of July, 2010, I’m in Toronto, my second stop on my Midwest Tour of Hackerspaces which will last throughout the month of August. (This trip started with setting up a Hardware Hacking Area at RMLL in Bordeaux, France <http://2010.rmll.info/spip.php?lang=en>, followed by setting up a Hardware Hacking Area at Ninjacon in Vienna, Austria (formerly Plumbercon) <http://plumbercon.org/>.)
My first stop was the Detroit Maker Faire <http://makerfaire.com/detroit/2010/>, where 22,000 people gathered to check out over 300 exhibits, enthusiastically sharing, learning, and teaching through making cool things. I led a panel on hackerspaces both days of the Faire — both with standing room only. Hackerspaces are really popular now! There are way more hackerspaces in the Midwest alone, than time to visit all of them in a month. This is an exciting time to be a geek!
My main thing at the Detroit Maker Faire was to set up a Hardware Hacking Area, which I did with the help of Jimmie Rodgers <http://www.jimmieprodgers.com/> and Dale Grover, of A2 MechShop <http://www.a2mechshop.com/>. Together with 19 other volunteers, we taught 1,500 people to solder! The Makezine blog has a really sweet writeup on it:
From now (4-August) till the end of the month, me and Jimmie and Matt Mets (of Hack PGH <http://www.hackpittsburgh.org/> — who will be joining us for the rest of the tour after Canada) will be giving 14 workshops at that many hackerspaces around the Midwest.
The workshops will give anyone and everyone the opportunity to learn to solder by making any number of kits that me and Jimmie have created to teach people to make cool things with microcontrollers — kits that are designed so that everyone, regardless of age or skill level, can complete successfully and take home with them. It is very similar to what I do when I’m home (and what Miloh does all the other times) at Circuit Hacking Mondays at Noisebridge <https://www.noisebridge.net/wiki/Circuit_Hacking_Monday>. The workshops also help build publicity for the hackerspaces that host the workshops by attracting people to the space, and showing everyone how cool it is to have a hackerspace in their home town.
I also share any and all experiences with the hackerspaces I visit about how we started and run Noisebridge.
Me and Jimmie and Matt are doing this without charge, and only ask to be reimbursed for any parts used ($10 to $30, depending on the kit).
As we go from city to city, hackers host us, and we meet some of the coolest, intelligent, thoughtful, friendly, creative people in the world — hackerspace people!
While traveling I hope to have time to blog more about our experiences here on this Noisebridge blog. Jimmie will be adding his thoughts to the blog on his website. And Matt will be blogging about it and posting it to the Makezine website.
Here is our schedule:
Hacklab.TO — Toronto, ON — visit on 3-August
Site3 — Toronto, ON — workshop on 5-August
Kwartzlab — Kitchener, ON — workshop on 6-August
think|haus — Hamilton, ON — visit on 7-August
OCD — Detroit, MI — workshop on 8-August
Mt. Elliot Makerspace — Detroit, MI — workshop on 9-August
I3 — Detroit, MI — workshop on 10-August
A2 MechShop — Ann Arbor, MI — visit on 11-August
AHA — Ann Arbor, MI — workshop on 12-August
LVL1/Actors Theatre — Louisville, KY — demo on 13-August
LVL1 — Louisville, KY — workshop on 14-August
Hive13 — Cincinnati, OH — presentation on 17-August
Hive13 — Cincinnati, OH — workshop on 18-August
BloomingLabs — Bloomington, IN — workshop on 19-August
Arch Reactor — St. Louis, MO — workshop on 20-August
KC Mini Maker Faire / CCCKC — Kansas City, MO — Hardware Hacking Area at Faire on 22-August
Quad Cities Co-Lab Hackerspace — Quad Cities, IA/IL — workshop on 24-August
PS:1 — Chicago, IL — workshop on 25-August
Madison BarCamp — Madison, WI — talk on hackerspaces on 28-August
Sector67 — Madison, WI — workshop on 29-August
I wish I had more time, since there are many other hackerspaces that we don’t have time to visit on this trip.
According to google maps, we’ll be driving about 2,400 miles in the car we rented for the month. Road trip!