#ikaskide13 informal networked learning vs the university


I’m delighted to have been invited to facilitate a CryptoParty at the Escuela Universitaria de Magisterio de Donostia, UPV/EHU as part of the “I. Jornadas de Aprendizaje Informal y Comunicación en Red” which take place on July 15/16.

The objective of the event is to facilitate contact between initiatives of different characteristics and foster research that provides coverage and guidance to initiatives that are being developed and will be developed in the future. This impulse can be facilitated by contact between the university and the various agents of formal, non-formal and informal education”.

CryptoParty is an interesting example of a worldwide decentralised peer to peer learning network with real results based on real needs, so I think a lot can be learned from it. I’m looking forward to sharing ideas and experiences with the other participants in the event, and of course can’t wait to eat my way through Donostia and hang out with some of my Iberian posse…

#ikaskide13 is free and will be in Euskara and Spanish – register here

Imagining the real when the real is imaginary

From a work in progress with Fulano de Tal


These notes represent a preliminary outline of what we hope in due course will be developed into a fuller piece of writing designed, as ever, to support the human project and the transformation of everyday life. Small ambitions, then.

As is so often the way, we were overtaken by events, and these notes were assembled before both the online data surveillance revelations regarding the UK and US States, and also the events taking place in Turkey and Brazil. A preliminary reading of the role of the internet in these latter events suggests that its major role has been to drive up the speed of extension of social struggle, while the Prism and Pandora reports confirm the views of ‘conspiracy’ theorists (already proven many years ago by the discovery of universal monitoring of all telephone calls to/from the entire island of Ireland, for example). These revelations also highlight the forked tongues of the major cyber-players (contestational in public, craven in private), and their willingness to voluntarily initiate the will of State.


What will we ultimately be attempting by putting the final version of these thoughts down on paper? The fulfilment of two inter-connected aims:

  • An attempt to understand how the Spectacle has benefited from the development of the internet (and other ‘new’ media) and how the internet offers the means to coordinate social contestation
  • A desire to make an assessment of  the impact on the individual, both as ‘atom’ and as member of the social collectivity, of ‘new’ media, and the implications these have for fundamental phenomena such as identity
Audience and style

This is an open-ended endeavour, and one we aim to make as accessible as possible to non-techies and non-academics. It is not an item to be filed under cultural theory, but represents the beginning of an attempt to put this new world at our disposal once and for all. We draw on known schools of revolutionary thought, such as the Situationist project, council communist theory etc, but do not wish to confine ourselves to the company of other middle-aged men with questionable personal hygiene, sitting in free-house pubs and speaking in abstruse tongues.

The Game of being

The chance offered by the internet to masquerade as personalities we are not is more than a potentially sinister ruse to ensnare the unwary, but offers infinite opportunities for self-invention. In that sense that it makes ‘real’ the proposition that we are who we say we are and choose to be. Given that more people are spending more time engaged in remote communication, the notion of reality (also challenged by some post-modernists as being spurious because off its contingent and relative status) is itself opened to debate.

In this view, the persona becomes a more sophisticated self-chosen variant of Raoul Vaneigem’s division of the self into a series of roles (father, partner, worker, etc). Perhaps we should also consider Immanuel Kant’s categories as the framework by which a ‘self’ is defined, or as the Velvet Underground put it, “I do believe we are what we perceive”. However, the introduction of effectively mandatory online IDs, which is gaining currency via the Cloud, once again limits us to a given identity.

There is an intrinsic tension between the ‘anonymous’ movement as a strategic means of developing resistance and evading State scrutiny, and the progressive ‘selfism’ that characterises human behaviour, namely the stressing of the primacy of the individual’s status and experience over the value of the collective, which the new social media promotes. If all that anonymity means is the individual freedom to not be surveyed and to pass passively unnoticed, it is a defensive, conformist. and utterly negative freedom, and contributes nothing to the project of human community. If, however, it is a flag of convenience for all those individuals whose starting point for mutual unmediated recognition is to be free of the State’s panoptical gaze, then it is positive.

‘New’ media and human perception

The rate of acceleration of production and dissemination of perceptible images and ideas has been immeasurably increased by the development of electronic and cybernetic media. If, as the McCluhanite school observed, visual images penetrate our consciousness far more quickly and in a far less mediated fashion than the spoken word, then this progressive acceleration is merely a matter of degree following on, eg, from TV and motion pictures..

Whether orthodox Darwinism is sufficient to entirely account for changes in brain development is debatable, but it seems likely that being exposed from shortly after birth to new forms of media may alter the brain’s hard wiring within a single lifespan. Once again, this is merely consistent with the dialectic between humans and matter, whereby tool development, a human activity, affects human perception and behaviour in turn.

Suffocated by thin air

The development of ‘new’ media has been co-terminous with radical changes in economic activity in the West, to the extent that commentators can talk about ‘living on thin air,’ which at first hearing, seems to posit that the grubby-nailed world of industrial production is a thing of the past. This fallacy is relatively easy to sustain in economies where the production of things is overshadowed by the production and exchange of services, concepts, and experiences. However, it overlooks the daily horror of multiple fatalities in Bangladeshi sweatshops due to working conditions, for example.

Apparently, Charles Leadbeater, author of Living on Thin Air, argues that production has not only been superseded, it has been replaced by ‘participation’, a term that not only carries the characteristic Blairite whiff of false consultation, but also overlooks the ubiquitous price of admission associated with any activity under capitalism. “Partnership” and the pretence of consultation (the politicised variant of participation) create a notionally non-hierarchical world where fundamental disagreement has been left outside the hall, and the rules of discourse and behaviour are determined by their ‘appropriateness’, an unexamined ethos that places greater importance on the manner by which a message is conveyed than on its content.

Representation and ‘reality’

There are further challenges associated with new forms of media, in particular the primacy given to the representation over the reality of the thing or the experience, to the extent that gap-year students will talk about having ‘done’ a given country, as if  such journeys were something ‘outside’ the traveller, rather than part of the process of living. The temptation to record actuality rather than experience it, and the facility the internet provides to channel-hop such representations makes us all part of a movie that we seek to create, rather than living. However, as we observe when we examine the construction of memory, the apparent transience of experience that characterises online activity conceals the invariance of the version of ourselves held in aspic by those who control us through our self-representation ossified as data objects. The trivial attractions of an eternal present help to create the control we cede over a current version of ourselves, which can be re-transmitted to haunt us.

Electronica as police-person

The internet provides the opportunity to communicate freely and learn about the daily lives of others on a scale simply not imaginable twenty years. Thus, the Net and other media, such as mobile messaging services, have provided the opportunity to extend social interventions rapidly and efficiently. It is therefore no surprise that States have been keen to impose their control as soon as they are able, in a not dissimilar fashion to income-generating market enterprises seeking to penetrate such a rich mine of no-cost peer activity.

We would also do well to remind ourselves of the policing possibilities offered by social media, which have been used to identify geographical concentrations of the expression of particular views, as was the case following the recent street killing in the UK of a person wearing a Help for Heroes (and therefore implicitly pro-military) T-shirt.

The Enemy without a leader

The problem with the internet and the fuzzy lines between national and international capital formations in general is largely one of control. The phenomenon of poacher turned gamekeeper at senior levels is well illustrated by Eric Schmidt, executive Chair of Google, who was previously an adviser to Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton. However, the porosity, flat structure, and flexibility of the internet are capable of ultimately defeating any attempts to contain and suppress it, assuming this is what the mass of users want.

Hacking and other forms of counter-attack become inflated into full-blown assaults on the machinery of state, acts of terrorism. Fractally, but not effectively, there is some logic in this position, but this form of ‘psyops’ deliberately ignores the myriad motivations of participants, eg, self-defence, journalism, subversive humour, all-out assault etc, and the blurred lines between these categories. The conflation of all contestation as ‘acts of terrorism’ is a powerful ideological weapon, and needs to be challenged.

The deadly seduction the internet offers is to act as the consolation of the defeated, in the form of online games, pornography etc. Capitalism would be happy for us to scuttle from office to home (assuming one has to leave home to work or one has a job) in order to download our lives. Who would we challenge and who would we blame for this state of affairs?

The personalisation of data strengthens this isolating tendency yet further, ensuring that the ‘news’ which people receive online is selected according to the existing political assumptions of the consumer. The only contact we would have with others would therefore be virtual, and the selection of ‘facts’ and, by extension, contacts, would be predicated on one’s existing worldview, caught in  a solipsistic, self-reinforcing bubble.

Anonymity cuts both ways. One could vote for different shades of s*** via online survey, and, generally, communication would become increasingly unnecessary. Julian Assange argues (New York Times review of The New Digital Age,  02/06/13)  that this false reciprocity and illusion of participation actually creates the opportunity to “build and fine tune a political figure” (an apparent citation from the book being reviewed) by knocking off the ideological rough edges of an individual, who could be re-designated, for example, as challenging and polemical, but ultimately compliant. The political subject is thus dissolved by consensus, and becomes an object, a work in progress.

The logical endpoint of this impersonal scenario would be a re-imagining of the human as an entity who understands ‘the social’ as itself a story or a game, rather than a defining and irreducible core from which all other possibilities flow.

Space is the place

Space has long been contested, between nation-states and between classes, not only for the resources it might contain but also for the dominance it represents. Proletarians are right to be suspicious of containment, given the consequences of the expropriation of common land (acts of enclosure), and the reduction of nature to a theme park. In 1945, British dock workers ‘on the lump’, who had previously been financially dependent day to day on being chosen for work, were offered a stipend, even for workless days, on condition they waited to be chosen for work in a purpose-built hall. They refused, on the grounds that being incentivised to move from street to hall represented an invasion of liberty. This demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of space as a vehicle of containment, and is poignant given the subsequent defeat of the dockers’ power by the introduction of containers to transport goods.

Space exerts a phenomenological fascination on the human mind, not least perhaps because of the ‘elective affinities’ between space and the human mind – unconstrained by limitation, superseding time, and resonating with possibilities. It may be that resistance to  enclosure was not simply a rejection of the act of converting ludic space and common ground into ‘resource mines’, rather than free, mutable, ragged zones where anything could happen. This parcelling up of a  universal dimension of physics could be usefully compared to the introduction of the measurement of time, making what is infinite into a domesticated servant of Capital.

Thought, memory, and imagination share the characteristics of space, unlimited and infinite. It is tempting to assume that data is indeed as free as the air, escaping the limitations of the geographical, but this belies a reality of vast, energy-guzzling data bunkers, a fact that relegates the fable of online indeterminacy and lack of permanence itself to the status of political ephemera.

Marx was right to assert that capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction, and that Capital’s desire to roam freely across the globe puts the nation state in jeopardy.The struggle for space also plays itself out in the negotiation of the respective powers of national and international law and the significance of formal boundaries, such as the case of the Icelandic MP who was pursued under US national law for using US-owned social media to disseminate Wikileaks footage of US army attacks on Iraqi civilians. Somewhat naively, privacy was invoked by the MP in question, who argued that her online existence was (or should be) as susceptible to confidentiality as her offline life. However, the cultural effect of the near ubiquity of Western social networks imposes a vehicle that promotes free-market values at the expense of ‘local’ attitudes and social structures. In pointing this out, we do not seek to defend Islam, state capitalism, etc, but merely point out the apparent ‘givenness’ of the Facebook cosmos.

Who’s the tail and who’s the donkey?

It is hard to measure and describe the constellation of relationships between big capital and national governments that facilitates this centralising process, but the mutual benefits are clear. Monopolisation favours large corporations and thus provides an incentive for them to undertake activities that serve the agendas of government. The State’s desire for secrecy and the suppression of information is self-explanatory, and it appears unlikely that the two factions (Capital and the State) will disagree on anything more fundamental than matters of detail.

Other writers have noted the lack of reference to the political economy in critiques of cyber-society, and the assumption that the prevailing social relations are ‘always with us’, like the weather (or the poor, as St. Matthew would have it). Enthusiasts of the possibilities offered by the Net choose not to recognise that as long as we live in a society where power relations prevail, the internet will not be ‘allowed’ to act as the fundamental agent of democratising change, while critics tend to view things in tactical, piecemeal terms, rather than strategically. That is to say, it is easy to wage single-issue battles and/or devise plans to, for example, evade individual surveillance techniques, without recognising that these are one of the many and self-replacing heads of the hydra.

It has even been claimed that the development of scientific theory may be wrested from the hands of academics, and arrived at by a consortia of peers, wiki-style. Once again, this optimism overlooks the reality of real-world constraints, in this case academic gatekeeping. However, it does re-introduce the role of chance to the nature and acquisition of knowledge, pushing the boundaries of constraints in order to effect often unsought paradigm shifts.

Memory as a ghost from the past

As soon as we learned to record our thoughts, we created a world outside ourselves to which we could refer, and which could be drawn on by others to corroborate or challenge our arguments. This represented a reification of human consciousness, and created the means by which our thoughts could be remembered without us being present, or indeed alive. This process has been made richer by the ‘netification’ of daily life, but the principle remains what it was at the time the Rosetta Stone was inscribed.

Clearly the nature of communication is deeply affected by the extent to and the method by which data is/can be recorded, and this development is invaluable in resolving disagreements regarding what we said and when. However, the frozen memorialisation of life by Facebook and other media is qualitatively distinct in a number of profound respects:

  • The self and how it is objectively (in the sense of being an object) presented is a matter of our own choice
  • Our existence as ‘cyber-memory’, and ultimately the uses to which this data is put, is in the hands of others, the data managers

The first point is crucial inasmuch as it is risks removing the continuing and unique relationship between oneself and another implied by subjective memory, and holds individual reminiscence up to ‘objective’ comparison with the cybernetic self as the individual has chosen to construct it. The relational aspect of memory (eg, the dead ‘live’ in memory as recollections of how they related with the individual) is extinguished and is replaced with scrutiny of an object.

Regarding the second point, to one extent or another, engagement with storecards, Facebook etc, are acts of ‘living agency’, and can be avoided or minimised if desired. However, the ‘decampment’ of memory makes it the property of others, and it is added to the vast databank dealing with human behaviour, tastes, desires, etc. What we are describing goes beyond the more intangible world of alienated commodities that Marx describes in relation to capitalist social relations, in that what comes back to confront us is an ossified version of ourselves.

2. New York Times review of The New Digital Age, 2 May 2013.

The geopolitics of domain names pt. 2

So, this is pretty ludicrous &/or worrying – TorrentFreak recently reported on the latest developments in the  “entertainment” industry  vs The Pirate Bay Whac-A-Mole bonanza, including this interesting detail:

“However, in today’s complaint the Swedish prosecutor suggests that the court has jurisdiction over the .is domain because it is registered to Fredrik Neij, who has Swedish nationality.”

Err, what? The Swedish prosecutor suggests jurisdiction over another nations’ domain because it is registered to a Swedish national…this is going to be interesting.

BTW – finally after investigation I got a .nl & a .lu

Getting back on the train

From the “I’d forgotten all about that dept.”…

So I was checking some dates on old posts and came across a link to an article in Slate talking about the Madrid bombings which picked up a blog post I’d written:

“Cataspanglish at Slow Spain remembers the grim day three years ago: “Students of the company where I was teaching in Tres Cantos were on some of those trains that were blown up and that day and the days and weeks that followed were completely surreal. I was living in Lavapiés and the world’s press and secret service agents were virtually camping outside my door. I had lived the IRA campaigns as a school kid but this was far bigger and on my doorstep and watching the events unravel was one of the strangest times of life. I had to get back on those trains the following week and like many others, I didn’t have a happy ride.”

CryptoParty Lux 3


The event aims to gather people from the Greater Region SaarLorLux and will be held in English, French, German and, of course, Luxembourgish!

Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is recognized in many countries to be as central to individual human dignity and social values as Freedom of Association and Freedom of Speech. Simply put, privacy is the border where we draw a line between how far a society can intrude into our personal lives.
From Why Privacy Matters of the CryptoPartyHandbook

Make sure everyone learns something, sharing knowledge and empowering people to protect their privacy in the digital domain.
It is very important that you leave the CryptoParty with tools you can use on a daily basis, and explain to your friends how to do it too. All the attendees should come with device(s) where they want to install tools.

The Luxembourg CryptoParties are intended for everyone; no prior technical expertise or knowledge is assumed. Crypto geeks please come along and help us out!

From Luddite to Sysadmin…?


“sysadmins are the secret masters of the universe, and they keep your life running.” says Cory Doctorow, writing about his short story, “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth“. A post apocalyptic tale where the aforementioned sysadmins are the unlikely heroes, I was introduced to the comic book version on my phone by the Doctor @pdavenne, in fact a comic book was the only way I was going to read about bloody sysadmins.

So how is it that a once proud Luddite like myself would be contemplating acquiring the wierd and wonderful skillset of the sysadmin?

As I take more resposibility for where my online stuff is located, who can get access to my data, my operating system (windows > OSX > Linux), I’m constantly having to learn new things, and just as moving to Linux was inevitable for idealogical reasons, it follows that the only way I’ll be “happy” with using a server is when I’ve got full control over it. I’m lucky to be surrounded with incredibly smart people who can, and often do, do all this stuff for me, but it’s my stuff and my responsibility.

Many free services that people have been depending upon in recent years have been shut down, sold off, change their terms & conditions without consideration for the user or are simply cases of digital sharecropping. The latest, greatest, ones of course being Google announcing the closing of their popular RSS Reader service, Twitter buying Posterous and shutting it down, and Twitter (again) changing the use of their API which will effectively destroy many of the 3rd party services built on it which contributed so much to popurlarisng it in the first place.

So I’m pretty much done with sharecropping for these companies – so much of what I do, of what everyone does these days, is on a server somewhere out there, surrounded, as Julian Oliver often points out, “by guns, dirt, tax and shareholders”. It’s time to take control of that server and skill up.

The geopolitics of domain names

As a firm believer in the stupidity of the nation state concept I had long argued against the use of country specific domain names, supporting genereric top-level domains (.com, .org, .net etc.) instead. After all, wasn’t this the great promise of the internet, something that existed above the ridiculous borders created on this tired old planet?

But the other day I found myself investigating country specific domain names for a new site. Which is the best, the safest –  the country with the best record on, and best legislation for, protecting my rights of freedom and privacy?

Annie Machon, best known for blowing the whistle on MI5 gave these reasons for moving her domain to Switzerland and .ch:

“First of all, I wanted to get out of the USA domain-name hege­mony. Recently the US has been increas­ingly flex­ing its legal muscles inter­na­tion­ally.  It is now claim­ing global domin­ion over all the old domains ori­gin­ally set up in its ter­rit­ory: .com, .org, .net, .info, you name it.

And it does not mat­ter if you are are a cit­izen of another coun­try, liv­ing in another coun­try, your web­site is hos­ted on another country’s serv­ers, and you have noth­ing what­so­ever to do with the good ol’ US of A: if you use one of these domain names, the US gov­ern­ment can pull the plug on your site, with no warn­ing and no redress.  This has already star­ted to hap­pen.

So I am now safely ensconced in Switzer­land — not­ably the only coun­try not to take down the Wikileaks web­site in 2010, des­pite massive global push-back from the US et al.  Switzer­land still seems to be tak­ing basic human rights seriously.”

So sadly I’m weighing up whether Holland (where the ChokePoint Project and the Rudi Bloemgarten Foundation are based) is a better option than Switzerland and resigning myself to the fact that shortly I’ll have a new site located in some nation state somewhere.

Stay tuned to see where I go…

ChokePoint Project overview from the ECSA workshop Brussels

An update on what’s going on at the ChokePoint Project – cross-posted from the CPP blog:

In November Ruben and Axel presented the ChokePoint Project at the No Disconnect Strategy Workshop on European Capability for Situational Awareness.

Here is the summary of the presentation, written by the workshop team, which provides a good overview of the Project (the presentation slides are here).

ChokePoint Project – Ruben Bloemgarten

Ruben Bloemgarten presented the work of the Choke Point Project trying to address similar issues to those of the ECSA platform. Ruben noted the importance of timing, as old information was said not to be actionable anymore, therefore being essential to determine the kind of information that can be provided and to identify who can supply information.

Mr Bloemgarten noted that there were three main spheres of organizations and data types: first, a technical sphere generating measurement data (network activity generated, network topologies); second, a legal one including jurisprudence; and third, reporting organizations with direct information of the impact of both previous spheres on the ground.

He clarified that data was not equal to information, so for the purpose of the talk data should be considered machine readable, while information should be considered human readable. Therefore a data broker would be necessary to collect and transform information into data and vice versa. He further pointed out that data needs to be homogenized in some format so that comparative analysis can be performed and that the output (quantitative or qualitative) obtained can be used by other existing projects.

Concerning the access of users to the platform, Mr Bloemgarten stressed that when new information was generated and could be communicated to third parties, different layers of access might beneeded. One can allow access of technical users to raw data and access to non-technical users to a more global set of bits of information.

He moved on highlighting a series of requirements that an ECSA-like platform should consider in order to be functional: there cannot be trust without verification and he argued that the platform needed to be open. Second, potentially dangerous data could not be part of the system and therefore anonymization of raw data or removal of classified information must happen at the data source provider, before entering the system, as it is complex to segment this information once is part of the aggregation and processing and can potentially cause harm.

Mr Bloemgarten came to the end of his presentation clarifying that the ChokePoint Project had different tracks, measuring connectivity of regions based on Measurement Lab data or cooperating with the partner Digital Rights Watch for all what concerns the track on legal developments, as well as with other partners to avoid duplication and to incorporate diverse expertise to the project.

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