32C3 – An Angel In Retrospect – Being Part Of The Conference Instead Of Just Attending

And here is one more post about my 32C3 experience at the end of last year in Hamburg. This was the first conference I did not only “attend” but was actually “a part of”. There is a big difference between the to approaches: Normal conferences are fully organized and you go there to listen to the talks, to meet and talk to people you already know and perhaps, if you are the communicative type, meet a few new people that share your interests. The annual CCC conferences are different in this respect because here attendees are encouraged to help with many different aspects of the conference from checking tickets at the entrance, be part of the wardrobe team, become a camera man, help people find their way around the congress, help people with their network problems, etc. etc.

One the one hand this helps to keep the ticket prices down because the 1.500 volunteers who signed up as congress “angels” put in 10.000 work hours and all of them did it voluntarily and for free. That saves a lot of money. Like me, many might not only have altogether altruistic motives to volunteer. Apart from being happy to help I became a congress angel to get a glimpse of how and by whom the event is organized and how things work behind the scenes. I signed up for a couple of camera shifts and in addition spent some time at the network help desk. Not only did I learn a lot about how the congress is run but I also met a lot of people during my network help desk shifts, both people seeking help and other network angels in the same shifts, who freely shared their ideas on the stuff they were having fun with during the less busy times (after all this was a hacker conference so there weren’t too many people who had network issues with their equipment they couldn’t figure out themselves). If I had just “attended” the congress I would have never met all these people and it wouldn’t have been half the fun it was! In other words, I’m fully hooked on the concept!

The crucial thing about becoming an angel at the congress and volunteering is that there is a system that makes it easy and flexible in the extreme. The major idea is that one is not assigned to do something but that one has complete control over what one wants to do and when. The place where work and volunteers come together is the web based “angel-system” that works equally well on big and small devices. Here, one can pick tasks and 2 hour timeslots before an during the conference that fit into one’s overall schedule. I took camera shifts for presentations I wanted to attend anyway and network help desk duties at times in which there was no talk I wanted to go. During the congress my plans changed slightly and I could re-arrange my shifts in the “angel-system” in a jiffy from my smartphone. A great system that gives the conference the volunteers it needs and the volunteers the freedom to assign themselves tasks to do and be in control. Wonderful!

I’m totally hooked on the concept and I feel encouraged to be part of the event even more next time rather than just attending. So if you plan to come to a CCC congress in the future, sign up as an “angel” before you arrive and have more fun!