It’s been almost two years that I’m hanging with the Telecomix crew of amazing people/jellyfish. And I think it’s the first time I’m writing about it. I’ve discussed it a lot recently, mainly because a lot of media here wanna speak with us, also because I heard of, at least, two more long term project about Hacktivists.
Also we have an interesting discussion inside the ‘core‘ team, about the whereabouts of the cluster, along with more and more interesting questions coming from people.
Hence, this post. And, well, since Telecomix is the sum of the people inside it, it is not an insight of a unique mind, but more a part of this hydra of jelly.
Follow the white rabbit
One question I have a lot is how do I ended up in Telecomix. The answer I generally do is that it just happened. I was not looking for entering such a group of people. I do not think any one with a sane mind, would voluntarily enter a group that will eat your time and nights, will put you in front of a lot of unwanted attention (and I’m not speaking about the media here), will raise the expectation that people will have about you and will confront you to tough choices (going to sleep or having people killed).
If you put it that way, no one will accept it. Besides some wannabe heroes maybe. And sociopaths (but heroes are sociopath anyway).
So, I ended up in Telecomix at the same time I decide to enter a hackerspace. I entered in this place, meeting a lot of people. The Telecomix name was already in the media (due to Hosny Moubarak shutting down the intertubes in Egypt) and I was helping with some Streisand already.
I think you do not enter inside Telecomix. It’s not a place mainly because a place would let you leave it, so you cannot neter it. You do not join it for it has no registering system (and anyone telling you there’s one might want to lure you, but that’s not the point, not now). You just evolve into something that is Telecomix. Your mindset change, and evolve into it.
So, you just wake up one day, and it’s like: ‘OMG!!!!!! I’M TELECOMIX NAO!!!!!’. Once the caffeine is getting slow into your organism, and after the morning passed, you just found that all people in there are more or less normal people.
There’s no crypto-anarchists, speaking in tongues, bashing everyone that do not use strong crypto system, and crypto social conventions; there no supra-intelligent AI that tries to take over the world; there’s no pure-hackers that feeds on data and caffeine; there’s no one that want to save the world.
Enter the Matrix
Well, that’s partly true. We do have bots that can be quite schizophrenic and sociopath some time. There’s a lot of different and unique person, from all over the cyberspace. There’s sociologist, computer scientist, slackers, hackers, beer makers, paranoiac and conspiracy theories adept, politic-minded and a-politic ones, and I suspect some aliens to participate in the cluster.
Some might wonder what’s a regular day in a hacktivist group. I don’t know, I can barely speak for mines and, well, a lot of people will be disappointed I guess. Have you seen the movie Hackers? No? You should, it’s fun. But it’s not like that.
I spend a lot of time simply sitting in front of a computer, starring at console-like screens (and yes, I do take pleasure having a computer that no one else besides me can understand or use). I do that for my work, and for my hobbies.
If you can get behind the screens, you’ll see that I’m connected on a lot of chat rooms, not saying that much quantity of things. Even when writing stuff, either for work or, like this piece of text, for my personal use, I’m on a console. Sipping some black coffee, while not noticing that it’s two in the morning, you can spend a lot of time chatting with people, while writing some software, scanning some infrastructure, or just crawling the intertubes. That’s what I do all day. My job requires it, I do enjoy it, and I’m doing it with the Telecomix crew.
This is my daily routine. Waking up too late, spending way to much time on IRC and intertubes, spending not enough time with people around, going to sleep too late. And hanging around in hackerspaces and conferences also, to make things and to exchange knowledge and skills with people in the meat space. Oh, and playing a lot of games (pen and paper RPG, video games, etc), and spending time with the media when they ask for it.
So, you see, I have a kind of regular life. I’m not crawling undercover in highly secured area to steal a computer, I’m not hacking through governement systems just to find your credit card. I’m just trying to find new way to let the data flow, because that’s what matters to me.
Meet the cluster
Asking an agent what is Telecomix will get you in an abyss of perplexity, for none of us have the same definitions. For one, we do asks this questions ourselves quite a lot, and the answer still changes and we have no consensus (but we’re not looking for it).
We agreed on the fact that we’re not an organisation, meaning we have no identified head, agenda, plan or funding. We believe we are a too much centralized acentric cluster. Why too much? Because people rely on us instead of trying to build their things. Or at least, it is the perception I have from the inside.
We can do a lot more of thing if we had 35h a day and/or a way to work for Telecomix as a full-time worker. But then, I think we’re gonna loose a lot of fun. And that’s the important part in Telecomix. The fun. We’re in here to have a lot of good time, doing things we like, things that are important (like decentralize the planet), but you can do that at this rhythm only if you have the opportunity to laugh and having fun.
This is the part where people can feel uncomfortable. We’re not changing the world because we must. Hell, who the fuck are we to think we must change the world? The only one that can do that is you. We’re changing the world because it’s fun. The most amazing things we’ve done, we’ve done it only because we’ve enjoyed doing it.
I do enjoyed working on VPN and darknets issues for Syrians. I haven’t done it because someone had to step-up, this is not my fight and this revolution belong to the Syrians. I’ve done it because I wanted to learn about it, I wanted to tests how communication networks can works under harsh conditions. When the network was attacked by Hosni Mubarak, the cluster just tested if we could work using the old lines, and how to spread it.
We just having fun with weird and unexpected situations, because if we were doing it because we thought we must do it and that no one would step-up, we will burned ourselves.
The hardest lesson
And this is hard to learn. When working with a group of people where there’s always someone connected and discussing interesting issue, while helping people through the world trying to communicate and getting arrested and probably killed for having done so, you’ll go through ugly mental states. Caffeine and stress doesn’t mix well, if you add sleep deprivation you’ll go technical.
The strength of a cluster is redundancy. Working with so different people, working on so different topics (from ham-radio, to darknets, to drones, to ACTA) grants you the possibility to just leave and disconnect.
You won’t feel comfortable, especiallay when there’s live at stakes. But you’ll be up to no good after 36h of wake, filled with caffeine and alcohol and Cameron knows what. You need a life out of the cluster, or you’ll become a bot.
The strength of this small group of hacktivist (we’re 220 connected on #telecomix at the time of writing this) are the differences of its members. We often disagree on a lot of topics, but that’s not a problem, we’re in a doocracy and if I want something to be done, I just need to do it myself. An
d we have a lot to learn from the ones that are different.
Living with people that shares your ideal, and all your opinion, is boring. We had some crisis, and we’ll have more of them because that’s how a chaotic and unplanned system should grow.
And we have no plan. We have no agenda. We have some back channel that exist mainly for technical purposes. Those purposes includes shouting your rage about someone, hopping that someone will get agree with you, finding that you’re alone and that you’re an asshole and a bastard and then just calm down, find the /ignore command again, and going back to normality mumbling some things about cthulluh returns or equivalent.
The thing is, I perceive Telecomix as an idea. A powerful, always changing one. Or as a virtual bar, where you’ll have free virtual drinks, served by nice-looking waiter, waitress and octopus, all being virtual. But you’ve got the point. Or not. I do not care.
I’m not sure I’ve been anywhere with that, but I think I’ve enjoyed writting it. That makes me wonder if you’ll have fun reading it. Not sure it makes sense.
Let’s git push this for the sake of it.