[hackerspaces] Looking for some insight from other S.O.O.H.

Nate Bezanson myself at telcodata.us
Wed Feb 9 05:46:15 CET 2011

> If anyone else has been through this 'how active should we be'
> discussion, and has some good advice, please email me off-list. I'll
> give the details there.

Nah, I'm not gonna get into the meta discussion here, I'd rather talk
about activity directly. And I think that's appropriate on the public

Activity breeds activity. When you come into the space and nobody's there,
you do your thing and leave again. But overlapping activities become
hangout time, and when the space is a fun place to hang out, people bring
their friends along.

Some of this means more members. If the space isn't fully utilized yet,
then it can/should accommodate more members! At some point, you'll hit a
critical mass where activity becomes self-reinforcing and the space
transforms into a vibrant community. Reaching that point is hard.

One thing that's worked for us at i3Detroit is entry-level classes.
Lockpicking seems particularly interesting to newbies who read the blog of
a "hackerspace". Blade sharpening and welding have also been very well
attended. Find the entry-level stuff that fits your facilities, and teach,
teach, teach! We typically pick up one or two new members from a class of
20. Many of them don't renew after the first month, but plenty do, and
there you have more activity. And someone who's new to lockpicking might
be a lvl 9 mage at woodworking...

Another thing that's brought people into the space regularly is supporting
a FIRST robotics team. The high-schoolers don't pay dues (providing them
with workspace is one of the community-enriching activities we brag to the
IRS about), but they bring ideas and noise and dust and all the other
byproducts of learning and doing.

And if you're thinking "Welding and knife sharpening? That doesn't sound
like the hackers I know!", you're right. I'm resigned to the notion that
we're a makerspace. When a member asked what an infosec con was, it popped
into sharp relief for me, and I walked around in a daze for a day or two.
But I've realized I'm totally okay with the idea, because we share the
same ethic, and the more the space is filled with people with *different*
skills, the more interesting the community becomes.

One other thing: Group projects to rally behind. When we entered that
Instructables laser contest, we all went on a
call-grandma-and-have-her-vote blitz, which was a bit silly at times but
really energized the group. Finishing up our individual (and each other's)
projects for Maker Faire was a great last-minute push, which really
brought people together. And every few months, we organize a
potluck/lock-in/all-night work party to chew down the spacewide to-do
list. One or two members will do a bunch of planning and purchasing to
make sure that when the hands are available, the work is doable. Turnout
for these work parties has been astonishing, and as long as they're kept
fairly infrequent, interest seems to grow each time.

There's been some talk of dedicating a few desks to "co-working" space to
attract some daytime activity, since most members are only around during
evenings and weekends, but that hasn't really materialized yet. Personally
I love the idea, as I believe the group can only benefit from higher


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