Sprinting to the #CryptoParty

#CryptoParty Berlin


– CryptoParty is a global, self-organising movement of peer to peer learning about how to protect the “basic human right to Privacy in networked, digital domains.”
We wrote a handbook in a book sprint
book sprints are a good way to get a collaboratively written book out in 3-5 days

The Long Version

What is CryptoParty? Interested parties with computers, devices, and the desire to learn to use the most basic crypto programs and the fundamental concepts of their operation! CryptoParties are free to attend, public, and are commercially and politically non-aligned. CryptoParties are absolutely against sexual harassment and discrimination.

From cryptoparty.org

Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. Privacy is not secrecy. A private matter is something one doesn’t want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn’t want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world. ~A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto by Eric Hughes, 1993

Party Like It’s 1984

The CryptoParty Handbook introduction “A CryptoParty History: Party Like It’s 1984” sez that:

“The CryptoParty idea was conceived on August 22nd 2012 as the result of a casual Twitter conversation between information activist and Twitter identity Asher Wolf and computer security experts in the wake of the Australian Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011.

“The DIY, self-organizing movement immediately went viral, with a dozen autonomous CryptoParties being organized within hours in cities throughout Australia, the US, the UK, and Germany.”

As someone with a long history of participation in peer to peer knowledge acquisition and having experienced the hard learning curve of luddite to needtobe cryptogeek through my involvement with the ChokePoint Project, the CryptoParty seems a perfect vehicle for getting non-geeks up and running with needed tools whilst breaking down some of the barriers between “geeks” and “users” at the same time.

Every CryptoParty has its own style and I’ve only been to the ones in Berlin but one thing that became clear very early on was that things had to be made accessible for the average computer/mobile phone user. To this end “The CryptoParty Handbook was born from a suggestion by Marta Peirano and Adam Hyde after the first Berlin CryptoParty, held on the 29th of August, 2012. Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev, co-organisers of the Berlin CryptoParty along with Marta were very enthusiastic about the idea, seeing a need for a practical working book with a low entry-barrier to use in subsequent parties.” https://cryptoparty.org/wiki/CryptoPartyHandbook#V1.0

The call went out for interested peeps to assemble the first 3 days of October 2012 at Studio Weise7, Berlin, and write the handbook in a book sprint.

In a book sprint a bunch of people get together to write a book in 3-5 days with a facillitator and, hopefully, no distractions. I’ve increasingly been thinking this is the only way to get things done in networked working so was intrigued to find out myself. The facilitation role is really important and we were lucky to have book sprints founder Adam Hyde to guide us through the process and make great food to keep the writing inspiration flowing.

We already had a lot of material in the “How to Bypass Internet Censorship” & “Basic Internet Security” books previously produced in other sprints, so the main job was to give context to a lot of it and bring it up to date. Things move fast in the tech world and legislation, and more importantly the interpretation and use of that legislation around networked communication, struggles hard to keep up and is subject to the force of political and commercial interests. For example, no one would have imagined how the use of email legislation would have been brought into the spotlight by the Petraeus affair between version 1.0 and 1.1 of the handbook.

Usually book sprint collaborators are working together physically, but due to nature of this particular beast, there were remote contributors too . We were creating the book using booktype and the interface has a chat feature, so between that and IRC it was possible to accommodate remote contributions and the whole book was being forked on GitHub (meaning another editable version was created on a popular code-sharing site) as it was being produced.

Plenty of information about the mechanics of book sprints can be found here – I found the experience to be a practial way to focus on a project and produce something in a limited timeframe. The main problem with creating a tech based book is the question of who is going to take responibility for the all important updates? In this case, it seems like the community around the book on GitHub are taking that role.

So, at the end of the 3 days the book was released:

“This 392 page, Creative Commons licensed handbook is designed to help those with no prior experience to protect their basic human right to Privacy in networked, digital domains. By covering a broad array of topics and use contexts it is written to help anyone wishing to understand and then quickly mitigate many kinds of vulnerability using free, open-source tools. Most importantly however this handbook is intended as a reference for use during Crypto Parties. It is being continuously developed.

WARNING! – Due to the rapid development of the Handbook, as well as lack of rigorous peer review, there may be advice within that does not guarantee your safety. As always, be vigilant! This is version 1.1 Each version of the book will improve upon the last, if you find any errors, please contribute your suggested changes.”

Get the CryptoParty Handbook here

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