While you’ve probably never heard of the event before, it recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary in New York City. It is my hope with this post to spread the geek gospel as it were and encourage other cities to start their own G33k Xmas gathering.
During my time as a participant, G33k Xmas has always taken place after bone fide Christmas. Instead of trying to cram yet another event before that already-congealed holiday period, G33k Xmas waits until after the new year, when one is more likely to have an evening free and wants to come in from the cold and enjoy a warm social moment. It’s after the flip of the calendar that you’ve also had a whole year to evaluate the stuff you’ve collected, gathered, and stored in your New York-area apartment or studio. The thought occurs, “Someone else could use this stuff instead.”
On a private email list, a small close-knit network of geeks are given the date, time, and location of G33k Xmas. The list swells as friends-of-geeks are also encouraged to attend, and the list eventually diminishes to those who have opted-in, the few who are available on the scheduled date.
That was the easy part. Now one must decide what to give away, and how to get it there. I’ll admit even as early as Halloween last year I started putting things aside for G33k Xmas, knowing very well that I hadn’t used them in the past year, or was tired of moving things around in storage and would rather pass them along. Without a car, I was limited to what I could carry in my backpack and milkcrate on the subways, but still managed to haul around 50 lbs. of stuff to this year’s meetup. (Others brought even more!)
I’ve seen G33k Xmas with nearly thirty people in attendance in cramped, standing-only spaces, and I’ve seen it take place with 10 people around someone’s home kitchen table. This year the event was comfortably hosted at the Blue Man Group’s technology fabrication studio in the Lower East Side around a ping-pong table that doubles as an assembly bench during business hours.
Heres what I brought to give away:
- Pair of Sony APM-X5A 30W speakers
- Two fully-charged 12V lead-acid batteries
- British-to-American plug benchtop power converter
- Maker Faire water bottle
- Two six-foot DIN-5 to DIN-5 cables
- Roll of 12ga. wire
- Brand new Sheffield heavy-duty lockback utility knife
- Canon camcorder battery and charger, used
- Panasonic Lumix camera battery, new in box
- D-Link wireless router
- Linksys WRT55ag wireless router
- Optimus stereo amplifier
- 80 grit sandpaper belt
It’s amazing what one has laying around taking up space that someone else can make better use of in the immediate future. And, score! Because I walked away with the following (clockwise spiral from top-left):
- MaKey MaKey standard kit
- Homemade stereo pre-amp in enclosure
- Canon miniDV camcorder with case, docking station, charger, battery, remote, and power adapter (Yes, I still have miniDV tapes in storage that need digitizing.)
- Roll of full-color RGB LEDs
- Two Sparkfun Ethernet Pro shields (discontinued)
- European terminal block
- Space pen
- 2′ USB type A to Serial cable (not pictured)
- 1′ USB type A to USB micro-B gold-plated cable (not pictured)
- 10′ 8-channel 1/4″ stereo male to 1/4″ stereo male snake (not pictured)
There are no rules per se to G33k Xmas, but the system is quite simple: each person stands up, and describes their offerings. Anyone in the room is free to want the things being offered. If two or more people want the same thing, they’ll each tell why they want it or what their expected use-application for that thing is. The group will decide who should receive it. If no one wants your offering, you take it back, and don’t leave anything behind. You’d be surprised how often only one person wants or needs the thing you have, with a very specific use in mind; or how quickly consensus happens when two or more people hear each other’s stories for why they need this or that thing.
As makers and artists, we build things. We have our own projects and we assemble projects for other people. There are always – and I mean always - leftover parts and pieces, or entire elements from larger installations.
G33k Xmas is a wonderful solution to a wonderful problem: what to do with stuff when we’re done with it.
Self-effacing jokes are told, encouragement of future projects – “Build a Hackintosh!” – is given, and wares are kept out of the dump and instead resupplied back into a stream that knows how to make creative use of every remaining component.
Even in a city with plenty of reuse facilities and recycling centers, I’d rather ‘donate’ things to fellow geeks and know their future projects are made possible with my support.
And if not, they can always donate it back next year.
The following video is a time-lapse of the 10th G33k Xmas, as documented by CJ. Over two hours transpire in the span of the following 37 seconds:
People bring tech, then going around the table, everyone offers their stuff to the group with a brief intro if necessary, or just holds it up. If anyone wants it, they get it. If more than one person wants it, each party has to tell the group what they’ll be using it for, and the group decides which need is greater. If no one wants something you’re offering, you take it back. This really keeps useful things in the mix, vs “dumping” old stuff. This of course is just incredible fun, and gets pretty raucous.