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Ephemerisle lessons learned
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This got long.  Here are the subjects:

Infrastructure/tech lessons:
1.  Most inflatables are too delicate for general use.
2.  Sealed plastic bins held up just fine for occasional dunking and are also compact and cheap.
3.  We should all take knot-tying lessons. 
4.  Save the cellphones from drowning and abandonment!
5. Anchoring is hard.  Let's provide that as civic infrastructure.
6.  Rope barges are a great cost-saver and allow for flexibility and isolation of different areas.
7.  There's huge untapped potential for all that houseboat roof space. 

Social lessons:

1. Societies have to be grown.   (This came out of a conversation with my friend D)
2.  Make the event longer
3.  The city should divide into noisy vs quiet areas.
4.  There are already two distinct cultures.  Let's make sure the event caters to both of them.
5.  Houseboats should customize. 
6. Foster good relations with local law enforcement. 

A thought about seasteading in general.  I think there are two major pathways to large permanent presence on the sea, and they're very different. 

- Path 1 is mainly business-focused:  Buy a cruise ship, retrofit it to do something not too controversial like medical tourism (as opposed to, say, drugs and prostitution, park it a few miles off the coast of the US, and start making money.  With adequate funding, this is probably 5 years away.  There's a clear path to profit and risks are not too insane. 

- Path 2 is more society-focused:  Keep growing Ephemerisle every year, and over the course of the next 15 years it may grow to the size of Burningman.  Growth will be slow.  People have pointed out that companies have serious problems if they grow by more than 10% per month.  I think the same will likely be true of an ocean society.  We experienced loads of social infrastructure issues that will likely take a while to iron out.  I would recommend making Ephemerisle longer next year (say, 4-6 days) to allow more social issues to arise and be dealt with.  I have no idea how much money was lost on Ephemerisle this year, but if it can become profitable it could be worth spinning off as a business.


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Infrastructure/tech lessons:

1.  Most inflatables are too delicate for general use.

The whole Achievement Lounge concept relied on an inflatable Coleman Island.  The island cost $80 and could seat many people, but I was constantly worried about it popping.  I was stressed out over babying it the whole time.  It was accidentally rammed by a boat (ironically, a boat sent over to pick it up and bring it across to me) but only the top section popped.  If the pop had been four inches lower... no achievement lounge.  Next year I'll either spend $250 for the hardcore canvas island or I'll abandon inflatables entirely. 

2.  Sealed plastic bins held up just fine for occasional dunking and are also compact and cheap.

My super cheap ghetto method of making pontoons (buying $5 12 gallon bins at Home Depot and then using weatherstripping to seal the lids worked fantastically well.  I could stack 15 bins into the backseat of a Honda Civic and then assemble it all on site.  They're not good for continuous complete submersion but are otherwise fine.  Even though they were dunked several times over the course of the weekend, they picked up very little water.  Each bin supported around 80 pounds, so with the cost of weatherstripping added in, it's still around $10 per 100 pounds of load.  For total dunking security, sealed 5 gallon containers are the way to go at $12.50 per 100 pounds, though they have the disadvantage of not being very stackable. 

3.  We should all take knot-tying lessons. 

Seriously.  We were all fucking clueless.

4.  Save the cellphones from drowning and abandonment!

Cellphones were very useful for coordination, but they had a habit of being left in odd places when we were afraid of them getting wet.  Let's invest in some dry bags or some waterproof walkie-talkies.

5. Anchoring is hard.  Let's provide that as civic infrastructure.

This is especially true with a large number of not-so-maneuverable boats in close proximity.  The solution of lashing a line of houseboats to each other and then anchoring the ends was problematic as problems resulted when one boat in the middle needed to leave.  If we don't have everyone anchor themselves (which could lead to a tangle anyway), we should get really good anchors for 5x30ft corridor platforms and have the boats dock to those. 

6.  Rope barges are a great cost-saver and allow for flexibility and isolation of different areas.

The construction cost is low relative to a continuous pathway, and the delay of 1-2 minutes is acceptable.  It allows the city to be assembled in a set of smaller, separately anchored chunks.  It also gives the visiting 9-year olds something to do that makes them feel important.  :-)
I could see doing rope barges as long as 200ft.  This would help separate noisy from quiet areas and enhance the town's sense of scale.  One of the city's three platforms should be anchored separately, and the build crew can camp there.

7.  There's huge untapped potential for all that houseboat roof space. 

Presuming the weight is distributed properly, it would be very cool to hold unconferences or other such events on the houseboat roofs.  There could also be a mini golf course, projected movie screenings, waterslides etc.  Or if two boats are far enough apart, an advanced version of the Achievement Lounge.  :-)

Social lessons:

1. Societies have to be grown.   (This came out of a conversation with my friend D)

This is more about seasteading in general.  I think there are two major pathways to large permanent presence on the sea, and they're very different. 

- Path 1 is mainly business-focused:  Buy a cruise ship, retrofit it to do something not too controversial like medical tourism (as opposed to, say, drugs and prostitution, park it a few miles off the coast of the US, and start making money.  With adequate funding, this is probably 5 years away.  There's a clear path to profit.  

- Path 2 is more society-focused:  Keep growing Ephemerisle every year, and over the course of the next 15 years it may grow to the size of Burningman.  Growth will be slow.  People have pointed out that companies have serious problems if they grow by more than 10% per month.  I think the same will likely be true of an ocean society.  We experienced loads of social infrastructure issues that will likely take a while to iron out.  I would recommend making Ephemerisle longer next year (say, 4-6 days) to allow more social issues to arise and be dealt with.  I have no idea how much money was lost on Ephemerisle this year, but if it can become profitable it could be worth spinning off as a business.

2.  Make the event longer

We were getting N amount of learning per day of event.  If the have an event that's twice as long, we can learn twice as much, which will help the event get its sea legs (so to speak) a lot faster on an annual basis.  It also means I don't have to spend the whole time setting up and taking down art.  :-)

3.  The city should divide into noisy vs quiet areas.

My big interactive visuals art + psytrance music ended up on the platform where all the platform builders were sleeping.  The result?  I had to turn it all off at around 1am so people could sleep.  LAME.

4.  There are already two distinct cultures.  Let's make sure the event caters to both of them.

Not to stereotype too much...
- There was the hardcore DPW-ish build crew who busted ass to make the platforms come together as well as the food and other event infrastructure.
- There was the very intellectually oriented group who spent much of their time on the houseboats talking, and didn't engage as much with the central platforms
I can't pretend to speak for either culture, but I do want to make sure they're both happy. 

5.  Houseboats should customize. 

They were for the most part rather faceless, which made it hard to tell where you were or get any sense for the peronality of the boats

6. Foster good relations with local law enforcement. 

I don't know if it is possible to get a section of river reserved or find a more secluded area where we can be louder, but I think it would add a lot to our level of comfort in being ourselves and feeling like we're in a separate society for the duration of the event. 





 

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> 1. Most inflatables are too delicate for general use.

I think for infrastructure, this is true, but I think they're great for personal (day) transport -- pootling around on small boats was useful for short-distance trips. I see inflatables like bikes at burning man, and I can see smaller non-dirigibles with motors as art-cars. Houseboats are the new RVs.

> 2. Sealed plastic bins held up just fine for occasional dunking and are also compact and cheap.

Yep -- also, I think everyone outside the houseboats probably realised they needed more (waterproof) storage in general.

> 3. We should all take knot-tying lessons.

DAMN RIGHT. I am ashamed, and think that this would make a great regular noisebridge event (I'm all for having a monthly Piratical Arts meet for this and other seasteading/anarchist yacht club/ephemerisle topics)

> 4. Save the cellphones from drowning and abandonment!

I think one of the scaling issues is going to be power -- how to handle it, how to distribute it, how to not get freaking electrocuted by it.


> 5. Anchoring is hard. Let's provide that as civic infrastructure.

Yes, yes, yes. Moving this to pre-event prep would make everyone's life easier, I think. When we were scouting out for anchoring points, we found at least a couple of lines from previous anchors, too, which I firmly believe were ropes that had time-travelled from future ephemerisles.

> 6. Rope barges are a great cost-saver and allow for flexibility and isolation of different areas.

It hadn't occurred to me that it also functioned as an isolator, but we definitely want some isolation for spaces -- particular open water spaces (this is part of my own craazy plans for next year). I'm not sure you can fix the sound problem though. Patri was saying that the flat surface means that sound travels ridiculously easily over the water, and we don't have the same level of space to play with as BM.

> 7. There's huge untapped potential for all that houseboat roof space.

I bet people are already thinking about this.

---


> 1. Societies have to be grown.

Yep, we had conversations about this too.

> 2. Make the event longer

double plus yes

> 3. The city should divide into noisy vs quiet areas.

See above; not sure this is possible, but I bet it would be improved by having more semi-inside structures.

> 4. There are already two distinct cultures. Let's make sure the event caters to both of them.

I think some of this just came from the fact that people were maybe uncomfortable coming out of the houseboats? I don't know -- again, I think having more tempting transport options might help. Also, everybody has to fall into the water at least once. It's not so bad!

> 5. Houseboats should customize.

I also think that by making anchoring a public service, we can encourage people to scatter, and that will encourage people to travel more and not clump together.

> 6. Foster good relations with local law enforcement.

This is always a problem for events like this. Frankly, I think that beyond the huge physical challenges of moving the event to somewhere with more waves, the regulatory challenges of pursuading each and every authority that covers the new space that this isn't going to be an unmanageable or ecological disaster will be very hard. At least the sac delta cops must be accustomed to dealing with drunk frat boys and may be rather reassured to handle apparently responsible return custom...


Infrastructure:

Yes to knots learned way ahead of time, cool cheap transportable stacking bin platforms, barge & rope ferries, and good anchoring!

Maybe we could set up a bunch of anchors and buoys ahead of time.

A roped-off area for swimming and kids' small boats would be fairly easy to do and would be generally useful and good for safety.

I think the general concept of personal stuff kept in sea-person-like fashion... dunnage... sea chests... might be useful. In our little boat we found that having some tote bags and backpacks wasn't really a good system.


Social:

A longer event would help people settle into social roles, contribute more, and learn more about what life on the water might be like. If a lot of the people involved are setting up or tearing down for most of the event, it's a different atmosphere, and those people don't get to fill other roles or relax or relate to people other than in a working context.

On relations with locals and law enforcement (not the same, but intersecting) We might explain further to businesses and chamber of commerce about the event and that we will be spending money in their area. We could also donate to some cause, and do something like clean up litter or build some kind of useful permanent improvement in a public area, like a park or a public dock. The publicity as well as the direct $ spent may speak to local govt and businesses enough to gain a little traction with law enforcement.

As a person tooling about in a small boat I also think that platforms could signal places available and good for docking, or that we develop protocols for doing that!

Some non-phone/walkie talkie based signalling systems might also be good. Like a set of standard hand signals beyond waving hello and flipping the bird. 8-)


4. Save the cellphones from drowning and abandonment!

Small Pelican cases. I have one for just this purpose (when at a LARP, you just never know) and it's perfect. Floats, waterproof, awesome.

Ooh, that looks useful. And it's about the same price as the shitty iphone cases at the apple store. (not that I'd want to use the waterproof Pelican case all the time!)

For quick drops, a double-stopper ziploc bag should be sufficient. Won't save your phone if it drowns, but since the bag is partially air filled, it will take it a little time to go down.

I've used this technique to use cellphones and small electronic equipment in rain, showers, baths, and hot tubs successfully. Only dropped cellphone once, and it was into a bathtub, and was able to quickly retrieve with 0 damage.

some waterproof walkie-talkies

Or, better yet, have a bunch of people get their ham tickets and pick up Yaesu VX-7Rs. I've used its non-waterproof little brother, the VX-5R, for years and been nothing but thrilled with its performance. You could probably get away with point-to-point comms, or you could set up a repeater.

Dude, your general thoughts are totally borged from our Monday night talk! It's cool/cute that we actually listen to eachother. ;)

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