Dead Drops began in October 2010 as an offline file sharing network coined by a Berlin based media artist.
The concept is pretty simple. Upload some files onto a USB, cement it into a wall, and wait for any passer by to plug it in and have a look.
I’m sitting in Quoc Lo cafe, Hanoi. Nestled in amongst white, yellow and blue stained shop fronts and bike repair shops in an alley conveniently only a 5 minute drive from where I lay my head. Its a traveler cafe, with a lack of travelers. There are maps on the walls and a guitar resting up against some bookshelves next to a sofa. The walls are blue except for a splash of red brick – and hanging out of the red brick is a black USB cable.
I first heard about Dead Drops years ago, I can’t remember how. I won’t bore you with the details. But the idea caught my attention. There isn’t much to discover any more and this seemed like something genuinely mysterious. There are hundreds, if not thousands of drops around the world – each containing whatever files those searching have uploaded to them.
I began my journey at midday, first call was to grab some lunch. You cannot go exploring without lunch. The next stop took me to a tall coffee shop – about 4 stories. I walked in and asked for coffee, was taken into an elevator and sat upstairs. I didn’t recognize the place. I’d seen pictures of the drop and it didn’t resemble this.
I got my coffee and a pack of Marlboro Gold. Had a cigarette, poured my coffee down the toilet sink and began to have a look around the other rooms in this multi-story caffeine den. Each room was a replica of the last, wooden logs lined the walls, bland tables laid out neatly, all empty. Big bay windows at the far end. All empty. All silent.
I found my host on the forth floor eating with a large group, I payed, she overcharged. I left, looked around the street a bit, caught the eye of some store owners and felt far too exposed. I got back on my bike and left, feeling disappointed.
As I got to the traffic lights I thought I noticed a small alley, leading what looked to run parallel to the road I had just poured coffee on. I took a right and another, looking out for numbers – 24, 32, 68, 80. 100.
This was the place.
Into a little driveway, a big metal yellow door with a motorbike hanging above it and a receptionist with a curious look in his eye.
I walked in, looked around the place, he beckoned me upstairs and I obliged. I walked through a door and here I was, I could see the cable hanging out of the splash of red brick wall.
I sat down, waited for my coffee. I don’t know why, but I didn’t want anyone to see me doing it so I waited for my tea, and then was alone.
I plugged the cable into my laptop. A document opened, installed some hardware and then the files opened.
So what did I find?
Some pictures of people smiling, huddled together for a photo, in front of what looked like a square.
Some pictures of girls posing, some cute, some not so cute.
A Bombay Bicycle Club song.
The Beatles – let it be.
A Pokemon meme.
And a food map of Hanoi.
So all in all, maybe not everything I was hoping for.. I tried to copy the files to my laptop and it wouldn’t let me. So I think I’ll add some more files, a folder of music, some poetry, maybe even a picture of me posing in front of some tourist hot spot.
Perhaps not the most exciting dead drop. There is one other in Hanoi, so I think I’ll see if that one has anything interesting on it. But I have found this cafe. Right around the corner from home. Guitars, books, good WiFi, a great place to sit and write. Balcony’s to blow smoke from.
It has been a glorious discovery.