On the future of the Chaostreff Bern

by Niklaus 'vimja' Hofer on 2015-09-23

We started the Chaostreff Bern in February, 2015. Since then, we meet on a regular schedule in the Lorraine-Brasserie to discuss interesting topics and to eat and drink. We have met many interesting and nice people and we have discussed a wide variety of topics.

I think that the time is now right for the next step. But why is that even necessary?

The issue

The meetings in the Lorraine-Brasserie are pleasant gettogethers. But they have a number of problems: It's usually rather cramped and loud and the sparse space is taken by plates and drinking glasses. In my opinion the possibility to seriously discuss interesting topics and the collective search for solutions should be an important part of a Chaostreff. It should also be possible to take out a mobile computer and get some work done if necessary.

The loud atmosphere in the Brass makes discussions rather difficult. Quite often it's so loud that one can barely understand the person sitting directly to the right or left. Since everyone is eating at different times, people are constantly distracted.

Another problem is that of the laptop computers. Too often the tables we're sitting on are too small for everyone to get a decent junk of table space. Also the little space provided by the tables is usually occupied by plates and drinking glasses. This makes taking out and working on a laptop difficult. And even if you manage to do so, there is no WiFi available at the Brass and we have to use the mobile network.

Thoughts on a solution

We have discussed the above problems multiple times both at the Chaostreff and privately with individuals. The obvious solution is to meet in a different place. There are a number of requirements for a new meeting point:

  • closed room
  • located near the center of Bern
  • heated (winter)
  • electrical power
  • Internet
  • For the duration of the meetings, we should have the room to ourselves
    • Alternatively, the room should provide an atmosphere that allows for active discussions and working

Not a hackerspace

There are also a number of things that the room does explicitly not need. Most importantly, it doesn't need to be a hackerspace, meaning that the room doesn't have to be ours, we do not need the possibility to store equipment in the room and the internet connection does not need to be under our control. On the other hand, it's quite OK if using the room costs us a bit of money. We should be quite capable to provide smaller amounts of money.

From experience we know that finding good rooms is hard. This is even more so if the room needs to be located near the city center. Additionally we are not yet sure how exactly these new meetings are going to work. These two points are connected with one another. Here are some suggestions on how this could work:

  • The meetings of the current form will be replaced entirely by the new ones. This would mean that we'd meet on a weekly basis at the new location. This however, would mean that we'd need a room on a weekly basis, which is probably even harder to find and possibly quite expensive. And we should also discuss the psychological effect that this could have on outsiders; Is it harder to approach a group of people when they are located in a locked basement than it is if they're sitting in a restaurant? Quite possibly...
  • We continue the weekly meetings at the Brass. Additionally we also meet once a month at the new location. That would make it a lot easier to find a suitable location. But it would mean that we'd have 5-6 meetings a month which is a lot.
    • If we make the date on which we have the additional meeting flexible, it makes finding a location even easier.
  • We keep meeting at the Brass every Thursday. Except for one Thursday of the month, we'd meet at the new location instead. This however leads to a complicated schedule, which can be confusing, especially for people who don't come to the meetings on a regular basis.

Just for fun...

Even though a new location should enable us to have serious discussions and to work on problems, it's important to not cut short the fun parts. 'Just for fun' and 'because we can' are important reasons for all sorts of cool projects in the hacker community. Even if we're going to have discussions on serious topics, the aim of the meetings is to have fun and there should be no pressure.