Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of walking around Paris with Cass Phillipps and Sarah Prevette. A few blocks into our walk, an intern from Ballou PR ran up and said “you’re Cass Phillipps!” and the evening went from there. We were joined by another attendee of FailCon, who was on our way to a hacker space – I didn’t know what a hacker space looked like in Paris, and Sarah wanted to go, so we followed.
The hacker space is called LeLoop, and from what I understand, they are currently on their 2nd location, though I hear they will have to find a third soon. You may wonder why they keep moving – well, that is because LeLoop operates under the invitation of a squatter space…
Walking into the beautiful blue building with a courtyard, the three of us thought there was a lost-in-translation moment when one of the guys told us this was a ‘squatter space.’ They explained that, like in San Francisco, squatters who rest for more than 24 hours have certain rights and owners of the space must go through a process to kick them out (the owners of the current space recently got a court order, and thus the squatters must move space). For those who do not know the rules of a squatter space, there are a few key ideas:
1) Squatters must rest there 24 hours without being kicked out in order to gain living rights
2) Someone must always be at the space, otherwise the owners can come back and claim the space
3) The squatters must be given a court order with a certain level of notice in order to be forced out – this process can take anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the ‘sympathy’ of the judge
Standing on the second floor of this abandoned office building, I suddenly noticed that all the conference rooms downstairs had sheets over the glass panes, creating rooms, and that above on the third floor, one could see mattresses draped over the rails.
This evening, A group called La Quadrature du Net literally meaning “The Squaring the Net,” was holding a co-meet-up with the hackerspace. The group fights for the rights of users on the web, and
are a funded association by the French government (UPDATE: La Quadrature are funded by members as well as by the OSI – more here) . When explaining their presence here, there seemed to be some very official jargon involved. For example, the hackerspace were not the squatters, they were invitees of the squatter space, and thus had no legal connection to the squatters. The guys (and gals) from La Quadrature du Net had then another step of separation, as they were invitees of the Hackerspace, or so explained Axel Simon, one of the organizers of the event.
While we didn’t stay through the event (Sarah was starving), we certainly were impressed by the people there. Easily the most hardcore group I’ve seen so far in Paris, and I will certainly be keeping in touch with them, if only to look in on the amazing adventures they seem to have.