Hack the Left is a hackathon for left activist projects developed by teams of activists and technologists.
Postmortem / HowTo
A superset of the projects worked on at the event can be found in the projects spreadsheet.
castediscrimination.com a project to track caste discrimination in higher education in India.
- team: Theeba, Thenmozhi, Mike (Mike.K@radlife.org)
Past Event Copy
February 5-7th, 2016
Potential Projects Sheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1M5TeEmgEqSnvtbPYTcblxn3r61jP1FYpwPczwlKLObE/
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/205927149755389
Hack the Left is an experiment to see what happens when you get a bunch of anticapitalist leftist hackers in a room for a weekend with the intention to build something. There's a growing cultural understanding of the potential for liberatory technology. It's on us to actually bring it into existence.
Should I come?
Programmers, hackers, designers, tinkerers, hardware buffs, artists, cryptoanalysts, sysadmins, EEs, filmmakers, webdevs, and "security experts" all welcome. Basically, if you have a technical skill and are aligned with the anticapitalist left, show up ready to apply your skills.
We need people involved with left-aligned organizations, technical or not, to show up and help guide all the technical folks towards doing things that are actually useful. If this is you, whether you have an idea for a project in mind or not, our success hinges on having people like you there, so please get in touch. We'd like you to share the struggles that your organization has, help differentiate actually useful projects from not-so-useful ones, help guide projects toward further usefulness, and/or if you have a project in mind, share it. We want to build with, not for.
In terms of political alignment, this event is centrally for those opposed to capitalism and at least somewhat skeptical of the state and authority. There's some expectation that anarchists and left communists will be leading most things. People with close but not quite aligned ideologies, e.g. people who are on the fence about capitalism but pretty sure the present-day situation is fucked, MLs, Maoists, etc., are all welcome to come but should try to keep political arguing to an absolute minimum.
What on Earth is liberatory technology?
The best project candidates for this event are technologies and works that undercut, obviate, or help fight back against capitalism and/or the state. The other excellent but probably much less practicable category of projects is those that would be useful to people living in socialist societies. Some example project ideas:
- Privacy and whistleblower technology, like Tor, Signal, and SecureDrop
- Art and data projects like the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and Wealth Inequality in America
- Tools for non-technical left-aligned organizations like Anti Police-Terrorism Project, The Icarus Project, and Homobiles
- Hardware projects like the pocket Tor proxy, the Off Pocket, and signal jamming devices
- Educational art projects like Men in Grey
- Distributed systems supporting direct democracy, like Secure Polling System
- Other visionary future shit? Socialist cryptocurrency? Mesh networks and other free internet projects? Tools for direct democracy? A fully distributed social network?
There's a ton of possibilities. Spend some time brainstorming other ideas before the event if you can. We'll spend some of Friday afternoon talking about those ideas and forming teams around the ones people seem to like.
How should we go about this?
Glad you asked, because there are a few things to talk about.
Hack the Left is intended to mobilize leftist hackers around our shared politics, building momentum and community. Start something ambitious and keep it going. Make a few comrades. While this event clearly has a much stronger theory component to it than most hackathons, the emphasis should be on shared politics and building things. Some amount of dissent is inevitable, but it would really bring joy to my heart if less than 10% of the event was spent debating the political merits and demerits of individual projects. This is not to say that we should be uncritical -- it's hugely important if a bunch of participants think your project sounds fascist, because they're probably right -- but that we shouldn't spend much time arguing those points. People who are way too loud and just won't let up will be asked to take it elsewhere.
While this event centers on class struggle, we hold feminist values dear, and hold that meaningful class struggle must include, non-exhaustively, struggle against patriarchy, white supremacy, cissexism, heterosexism, and ablism. Attendees will be expected to help uphold these values. Attendees who e.g. make racist, misogynistic, or transphobic remarks will be unceremoniously booted. We're working on (picking) a Safer Spaces policy, which will be linked before the event.
While we aren't big fans of the law or cops, we intend to not do anything illegal at this event. So while "my project is to write a virus that steals from the rich and gives to the poor" might be great anticapitalist praxis, it's not something you're gonna do at this event, and we won't condone or allow it.
Everything we develop at the event will be open source. If you want to do something closed source at the event, get in touch, and we'll probably tell you why you should open source it. If you prefer to open source on the darknet, that's fine.
This event was inspired in part by the Al Jazeera special about Rabble, titled Rebel Geeks: Steal From The Capitalists. The idea is that capitalists are really, really good at building technology, and a lot of their techniques are politically agnostic. Like Hackathons. So we encourage you to steal ideas from your corporate gig -- design thinking, Agile, Lean, all that shit -- and allow it to inform you in the process of fighting capitalism.
Though we have pretty strong principles underlying this event, we're really open to suggestions you might have. Please feel free to get in touch and share your ideas.
- Friday @ 7pm -- Opening discussion, brainstorming and team formation, lightning talks
- Friday @ 10pm -- Start hacking
- Saturday -- Hack all day
- Sunday -- Hack hack hack
- Sunday @ 2pm -- Group presentations w/ discussion/critique/Q&A
There won't be a competition, because we actually don't need some scarcity game to reify our ideas about what's awesome and what's mind-blowingly awesome.
There will be food. We can't at this time guarantee that we'll be able to provide all your meals over the course of the event, but we're going to try our very best.
Food that is certain:
- Friday night snacks & appetizers
- Saturday midday Food Not Bombs serving (volunteers needed!)
- Sunday pizza lunch
- Snacks throughout
- Tons of coffee starting Saturday morning
We're working hard at expanding this list. Please let me know if you're able to help out.