Summary of the FreedomBox Turns 10 Hackathon

Posted 2019-11-19

On Saturday, November 16th, the FreedomBox Foundation co-hosted a hackathon with the Software Freedom Law Center at Columbia Law School to commemorate the upcoming ten-year anniversary of the FreedomBox project's founding. The hackathon attracted 15 participants, who spent a Saturday learning the ins and outs of FreedomBox. Though more time was spent learning than hacking, we were thrilled to see so many newcomers excited about FreedomBox.

Summary of the Hackathon

The hackathon began with a morning discussion session for members of the FreedomBox community. In this session, participants discussed development plans, new ideas for the user interface, and personal wish-list items for FreedomBox. Mock-ups for user interface changes were drawn on a blackboard, alternative development ideas were debated, and some actionable plans emerged. The morning session succeeded in fostering productive discourse and giving everyone a voice.

After the morning session, Eben Moglen delivered a speech titled, "FreedomBox Turns Ten," in which he reflected on the past ten years of FreedomBox and its future. As our readers may know, the FreedomBox project was founded on February 5th, 2010, in a speech by Eben Moglen titled, "Freedom in the Cloud". The FreedomBox community continues to draw inspiration from Moglen's 2010 speech.

In Moglen's speech at the hackathon, he reflected on the original reasons for launching the FreedomBox project, what has happened since 2010, and where we must go next. Referring to the Pioneer Edition FreedomBox placed on top of the lectern in front of him, Moglen explained the role that FreedomBox plays in the machinery of social change:

“We need a lever and a place to stand, otherwise the whole Archimedean thing doesn’t work and we don’t change the world. So this [FreedomBox] is designed to be the fulcrum. It’s just a tool. And the abandonment of the unsafe ideas that ‘this isn’t really about me, and privacy is over’ — that’s the lever. We have to change people’s minds about that. I actually think the machinery is no more complicated than the world’s simplest machine: lever plus fulcrum plus the desire to move the earth. That’s sufficient. You only need a place to stand.”

Video of Eben Moglen's "FreedomBox Turns Ten" speech is available here:

After Moglen's speech, the installfest began. Participants were split into three groups and were taught how to install FreedomBox on a single-board computer. After installing FreedomBox, participants watched one of our developers demonstrate the first boot and initial setup process.

After the installfest, some participants stayed to learn how to set up their development environments and contribute code to FreedomBox. Thanks to the hackathon, we have already begun seeing new activity in GitLab.


The hackathon succeeded in bringing people together and spreading knowledge about technology, privacy, and freedom. FreedomBox has always been powered by an "each one teach one" ethos, and the hackathon embodied that philosophy. The hackathon was, thus, a fitting way to end a successful year for the project. To everyone who attended the hackathon, we thank you for giving up a big part of your Saturday and listening to our ideas. To the FreedomBox core team members who helped organize and lead the hackathon, we thank you for making this event possible.

Running Your Own Hackathon

Do you want to run your own FreedomBox hackathon? If so, you might be interested in using our material as a blueprint. Below, please find links to each session's instructions:

Feel free to ask us for advice in the community section of our forum.