Summer Source Camp (English)

Indymedia Vis 07.09.2003 03:55 Themen: Indymedia Netactivism Weltweit
From August 29 to September 6 the so called "Summer Source Camp", a hacker and activist meeting took place on the island of Vis in the adriatic sea, 3 hours from the coast of Croatia. The camp, which was situated on a former military site of the Yugoslav army, was organised by the Tactical Technology Collective, Amsterdam and the Media Institute, Zagreb (short MAMA, Spirit and purpose of the whole thing was to bring together developers of free software-solutions and implementers from the NGO-world, to encourage further education and to animate a mutual dialogue.

Summer Source Camp, Island of Vis

Registration upon arrival

Morning circle on day 1

The week's schedule

First session, introducing terminology

David Turner (FSF) and other participants in a discussion

Enrico Zini and Mako Hill (sitting on floor) of the Debian GNU/Linux project

Jason Diceman, Commons Group


Another session

'Linux' in Taiwanese

Jaromil, Dyne:bolic

Who's present?

The canteen

"Wash your dishes"

...and so we did.

'Cheers' in more than a dozen languages

This camp wasn't all about theoretical discussions only, such as the principles of the GNU General Public License (resp. its coming amplification for web-based applications, e.g. production systems in use by Indymedia) or discussions about what is copyright or proprietary software compared to free or "open source" software, but also practical things: workshops ("How do I install Linux?" [1]), video screenings round the topics of netactivism, hacking and development work, network-security and GPG/PGP encryption followed by a keysigning party.

The two parties of developers and implementers were not clearly separated. Everybody was part of the pool of ideas and gave information and experiences to the other participants, instead of only being present as a consumer in lectures of alleged "experts". "Each of us is an expert, each of us has something to offer and nobody should be excluded" organisers pointed out again and again.

The various workshops in which you could offer know-how or in which you could learn something were accordingly casual and balanced.

First, the available concepts were clarified:

What is "FREE"? "FREE" means, if you can do the following with something:

  • 1. use it
  • 2. understand and adapt it
  • 3. copy, distribute and sell it
  • 4. publish changes and share them with others

To clear that definition from its contradiction between "free" (free of charge) and the right to sell a product it has to be pointed out that the word "free" in english is not definite. Besides its meaning of "free of charge", "free" also means "free" in terms of freedom ("Think free speech, not free beer"). Therefore, alternatives in foreign languages are in use, also: "libre", "libero", "livre", or: "Open Source".

"PROPRIETARY": at the users expense, closed code, "intellectual property", controlled and not accessible in terms of the items mentioned above.

"COMMERCIAL": can be free (in terms of free speech), but it doesn't have to be; at the users expense and a product that is business-oriented.

"PUBLIC DOMAIN": the public has access; there is no such thing as "intellectual property", but it depends on which country you are in and if regional regulations allow the non-existance of "intellectual property" in the first place. Adjudication normally protects the rights of the copyright owner, "public domain" however is an expression which is widely not legally defined. (read more here:

"COMMONS"/"COLLABORATIVE PROPERTY": an old expression of property and economy in a collective - shared resources and non-proprietary common goods. Today you can compare it with free/open source software, music (in regard to social consensus), national parks and the copyleft-movement. A danger of the "commons" which is not really relevant anymore in the electronic era was the mis- or overcultivation: "too many cows = too little grass".

After that, there was a first introductory game with provocative questions which others had to give anwers to at random. Questions included if you thought that any form of information should be freely accessible. While within the entire spectrum there were different basic opinions to the polarising questions, the consensus moved towards the attitude of making scientific and political information generally non-restrictively public and to protect private data. With balanced arguments it was discussed if and to what extent proprietary software should be applied in your organisation. The supporters of open software brought forward arguments that it was not good to rely on shorthand practicability but to bear in mind longterm advantages of independence from huge corporations in the IT-industry.

On Sunday, August 31st there were discussions in three groups. The topic was "Intra/Inter- Developer Collaboration". It was about communication within the developers-community. Democratic processes were distinguished as well as the making of sufficient documentation and the importance of teaching users how to participate in technological development to make themselves independent from overworked developers. Further ideas coming from the circle of participants were: documantation in the form of an FAQ, because those are easy to understand, but above all they are easier to write for the developers than complex, structured manuals; making the provision of documentation mandatory before including new features into a program, as well as examples and visual illustration of the usability of a software project (screenshots!). According to the participants in these discussions the mantra of free/open source software development "Release early, release often" remains valid, because: the software itself is not the actual product, but the "service" of an ongoing and taken care of project with its community of developers and users is.

In the opinion of the discussion groups it was important to encourage the cowork between different projects to foster social relations ("Think pivo on the beach"), to cultivate common (data-/protocol-) standards and therefore provide a basis for future collaboration. An audio-recording of the discussion groups' summaries can be found here.

On the Summer Source Camp in Vis there were more than 80 participants from approx. 35 countries. Among them people from Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Ukraine and the Baltic states, Croatia/Kosovo/Serbia, Taiwan, Mongolia, Africa, various other countries of Europe and Northern America. Most of them coming from the sectors development aid, advanced training of IT in transition countries, development of applications to support local organisations in regions which are difficult to access (like the Amazon region) and further education of emancipatory initiatives to abandon economic dependency on western industry to the greatest possible extent.

The facilitators of the "Inter-/Intra-Developer Collaboration" workshop you can hear in the audio recording are David Turner ("Gnu GPL Guru", Free Software Foundation), Jason Diceman, Commons Group and Mako Hill (board member of "Software in the Public Interest" and Hardware-Manager/accountant of the Debian GNU/Linux project).


[1] Short comparison between the different Linux distributions, which were introduced and explained during the camp:

RED HAT is the most widespread, commercial distribution with its extensive support-system, which is sold especially to bigger companies. Next to SuSE, it is a good distribution to get introduced to the open source world with.

DEBIAN, had its 10th anniversary recently. At present it is organised by approx. 1500 volunteers. With about 13.000 software packages on eleven different platforms (among them Sun and Macintosh) it is the biggest distribution worldwide. Documentation is available in about 25 languages. In addition the Debian project has adopted a social contract, which aims to preserve the ideals of free software. The entire distribution consists of only free software.

A smaller, customised version of the debian distribution called "Debian NP" ("non profit") for NGOs and their special economic needs is in developement. (

Compared to other distributions, SLACKWARE is still maintained by only a handful of people. The advantage of Slackware is the good support of old hardware, e.g. 386 platforms, which under normal circumstances would be waste. But with Slackware they can be used for e-mail, text-based websurfing and simple communication.

DYNE:BOLIC: Similar to Knoppix a distribution bootable from CD with its focus on multimedia applications and audio streaming. Probably in the future it will be the standard toolkit of many media-activists. (

Comment: Relating to a Dyne:bolic workshop Jaromil (maintainer of Dyne:bolic) and a croatian hacker played a joke creating a version the distribution that is live bootable under Windows, which begins with an autorun skript first to eliminate the Microsoft operating system as soon as the CD is put into the drive and boots Linux afterwards. And even if you can expect this script not to find its way into the regular releases of the Dyne:bolic distribution it was an impressive demonstration of the most primitive flaws of the "most popular operating system in the world" and why a switch to other operating systems is worth thinking about.

Thanks to Luna for the translation.

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Follow-up article

Indy Vis 18.10.2003 - 22:33 offers a follow-up article with further images and links to audio files.

Bye :)