I’ve returned from AgoraFest. I consider this year to be successful. Although we changed venues for the third time this year’s venue; the Buffalo Ridge Resort in Gary, South Dakota; was probably my favorite. It had more modern facilities than our original location, Villa Maria, and wasn’t as rustic as Turtle Creek Glen, which we used last year.
There were fewer overall presentations and workshops, which was actually a good thing since we didn’t have to deal with schedule conflicts. Obviously my presentations were of the highest quality but the other presentations I attended were also very high quality. Part of the reason the quality of the presentations has increased is because us presenters are finally get somewhat competent at presenting.
I’m glad I prepared for the worst weather since I was tent camping and the first two nights got damned cold and it rained during the last night. If you’re going to camping, be prepared to deal with any type of weather because the weatherman doesn’t know what he’s talking about (it wasn’t supposed to rain at all according to the forecast), especially here in the Upper Midwest.
Even though it’s a lot of work, I’m looking forward to beginning plans for next year. Fortunately, we shouldn’t have to be as rushed since this venue worked out well enough that I expect we’ll just use it again (part of this year’s delay was finding a venue that was more palatable to some of our city dwellers who aren’t used to the “hardships” of camping).
I had a blast at AgoraFest but TANSTAAFL and I’m paying for it with a nasty case of plague.
The new venue, for the most part, was better than the old venue in my opinion. The one downside was the lack of shower facilities. There was only two showers, one in the men’s room and one in the women’s room. Next year I’ll bring a solar shower and a small popup shelter for it. There was also a lack of power drops at the campsites but that has encouraged me to look into building a solar generator. They’re actually pretty cheap to setup now that the price of decent solar panels has come down significantly.
On Friday morning I gave a presentation on building AR-15 rifles. After lunch I lead a small expedition to a public range and we did some shooting. Next year, now that I know how good the range facilities are, I’m going to have a more formal shooting event. On Saturday I gave a presentation on assembling a bug out bag, attended and performed a reading at the unveiling of the new agorist short story collection, and gave a short speech about the need for anarchists to become stronger, smarter, and faster than statists.
Some of the other highlights of AgoraFest included the Discordian tent. It was easily identified by a giant inflated golden apple and contained the expected Discordian affairs inside. There was an excellent presentation on astronomy but, sadly, the cloud cover didn’t allow us to do any stargazing. Two individuals were operating small bookstores with fine selections of anarchist literature. One of the attendees brought Arduino boards and held a small introduction course. The agorist space center returned so kids had an opportunity to launch model rockets. And we ended the whole affair with a terrific firework show.
It was a ton of fun and I’m looking forward to next year.
An an AgoraFest organizer I’m sometimes asked what makes it different from the other freedom festivals out there. I decided to pen a postmortem of AgoraFest 2015 that explains what makes the event unique.
AgoraFest happens at Villa Maria, which is a retreat in Frontenac, Minnesota. There’s a lot of things to like about the location but Internet connectivity isn’t one of them. For the most part the only Internet accessibility is in the castle. None of the cabins have Internet connectivity and you’re out of luck getting it via your phone unless you have Verizon.
Because we’re modern day agorists we want Internet connectivity. After all, how else can we use Bitcoin or quickly look up the spot price of silver and gold? To solve this I was charged with creating a mesh network.
Mesh networks, for those of you who don’t know, are networks where each node is capable of connecting directly to every other node. The advantages of this kind of setup the lack of central failure points. It also allows you to expand a wireless network as far as you have nodes.
Commotion Wireless is a firmware built on OpenWRT that aims to make setting up mesh networks simple. I loaded this firmware onto a series of Ubiquiti NanoStations and PicoStations. The NanoStations are directional and have an advertised maximum range of five kilometers and the PicoStations are omnidirectional and have an advertised maximum range of 500 meters. Both are outdoor rated so weather conditions such as rain don’t require us to shutdown the network.
In all we used four NanoStations and five PicoStations for the setup. With this setup we were able to extend the Internet connectivity at the castle to all three cabins and a tent we setup for flying drones and launching model rockets. Speeds weren’t great because the Internet service at the Villa isn’t fast but we managed to get a reliable connection spread across a pretty wide area.
Setting up a mesh network wasn’t only a good idea technically, it helped demonstrate the feasibility of mesh networks to attendees. I gave a talk about mesh networks at AgoraFest, which included my overarching plan to get networks to establish mesh networks and eventually interconnect them to bypass centralized Internet service providers. In other words I want what Guifi has accomplished in Catalonia. Obviously that will take a great deal of convincing, resources, and effort but there’s no better place to find a group of willing people than AgoraFest.
The guys over at Anarchy in Action put together a short video from AgoraFest 2014. Since we’re already in the process of planning AgoraFest 2015 I thought it would be a good idea to post this video as it gives a small idea of what the event is (which is to say it’s not a bunch of people dressed entirely in black plotting to blow up some bridges):
Are in or near Minnesota? If not, are you willing to travel to Minnesota? Do you want to get your counter-economics on? Have you been looking for an event where you can hang out with agorists instead of people who want to vote their way to liberty? If so I have the event for you, Agorafest 2014! That’s right, after last year’s success we’ve decided to host another weekend of telling the state to go fuck itself.
For those who haven’t heard of Agorafest (which is probably a large number of you since last year was the first year) it’s a conference for agorism. Agorism, for those unfamiliar, is a strategy of attaining liberty not by begging our masters (also known as politics) but through counter-economics. In other words it’s a strategy to live freer today by using voluntary cooperation amongst like-minded individuals. You can read all about it in And Agorist Primer [PDF]. Like any good conference, Agorafest will have food and alcohol available. We will also have vendors because counter-economics isn’t much fun if there isn’t, you know, economic activity.
Agorafest 2014 will take place on August 22nd through the 24th at the Villa Maria Retreat in Frontenac, Minnesota. All of the information is available at the registration page. We’re still getting the schedule of events up but we will have a wide selection of counter-economic discussions and workshops just like last year.