In my text last week I discussed the fact that increased competition for tickets at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin will ultimately result in a less closely bound community with less diversity and a more transient body of attendees
Of course, this is not a unique case, the phenomenon of crowding out is well know to most people, from bars and nightclubs that “used to be cool” but are now “too popular,” to gentrified neighbourhoods, made cool my pioneering residence introducing art and culture to formerly derelict spaces only to wind up pushed out by rising rents they can no-longer afford.
The fact is; to avoid one paradox, you need another.
Yogi Berra’s paradoxical crowding out principle, famously expressed as “no one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded” can only have another as an antidote, “for anyplace to stay cool it has to suck.”
The Suck Principle.
Only places that suck can really have a continuous community, because if nothing about the place sucks, it will attract more and more people until it sucks because of crowding. So if you want a continuous, closely knit community, something about the venue or event must suck, your only choice is what should suck or how it should suck.
Ideally, it should suck in a way that will discourage transients, but yet be easily adaptable-to by regulars. In other words, it should suck in away that discourages attendees with little or no commitment to the community, but doesn’t really bother committed members.
For instance, when I’m choosing a bar to hang out in a new city there are two things I look for. The first is that prices, while not being really high, are also not the lowest around. This means that no one is hanging out there just because of low prices, but because they like that bar. The second is inattentive service. This means that transients will feel underserved and likely move on to a different bar, whereas regulars will get to know the bar staff, and get to know how to get attention.
Would I prefer a bar with cheap drinks and great service? Maybe. But the point is, so would many other people, and I prefer bars that are not too crowded, and therefore apply the Suck Principle and find bars that suck in the way that doesn’t bother me.
Now a congress like Chaos Communication Congress is not bar, but yet perhaps we can use the Suck Principle to find some solutions for the issues discussed last week.
Change The Venue.
That would kinda suck. I’ve grown attached to having the CCC at the BCC. Don’t get me wrong, Alexanderplatz is a hole. More an urban obstacle than a central square, it’s not exactly the most charming part of Berlin. Yet, what it is, is Central and easily accessible. Making it less accessible would suck, but not in a principled way, transients and regulars would be equally inconvenienced, thus there is no community building suck here. Also, it would move the conference away from C-Base, a frequent hangout for local hackers, so a change of venue would likely suck more for regulars, inverting the principle. Pass.
Make Tickets Harder To Get
Instead of selling them on-line, sell them through local and international hacker spaces. Sure, that would suck for e-commerce fans or people in remote locations, since you couldn’t just click-though. You would need to visit your local hacker space and pick them up, but that would only suck if you weren’t otherwise going to visit your local hacker space. Some tickets could still be sold online, just not all of them. This sucks in a perfectly principled way, since it exactly sucks in way that wouldn’t really bother regular community members who would be passing by their local hacker space in any case.
Sell Options For Next Year
One way to encourage continuity is to sell options for tickets for the next congress. Transient visitors with little commitment to the community are unlikely to want these, since they would not be sure they would attend next year, but regular attendees, especially locals, would snap these up, since it’s pretty certain that they will plan to attend the following year. Having to be there at the previous congress would suck for transients, but not for regulars. For me personally, this would work really well.
I hope the Congress organizers consider keeping the current venue and trying the other two ideas, it would be really sad to see the congress community fracture and dissipate, and for the second year in a row many local hackers who have been attending for many years have been unable to get tickets, and that sucks in entirely the wrong way.
However, Cafe Buchhandlung sucks in entirely the correct way, and that’s why ,in its 8th year, Stammtisch has remained not overcrowded, with plenty of space for all. I’ll be there tonight by 9pm as usual. See you there. If any are in town early for the Congress, feel free to drop by and say hi.