[hackerspaces] hacklabs.org

quemener.yves at free.fr quemener.yves at free.fr
Thu Apr 30 10:59:41 CEST 2009

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- ----- jaromil <jaromil at dyne.org> a écrit :
> OTOH sharing  knowledge is definitely  a common attitude  for hackers,
> it always helps to combine it into new knowledge :)

Eric S. Raymond may be a bit of a hippy hacker and sometimes says his part of BS, but I liked his writing "How to become a hacker" : http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html
I think he sums up well the hackers' attitude :
1. The world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved.
2. No problem should ever have to be solved twice. [i.e. share your solutions with the community]
3. Boredom and drudgery are evil.
4. Freedom is good.
5. Attitude is no substitute for competence.

> the  point of  accessibility  has  kept very  important  to those  who
> defined themselves  hacklabs in  the past 10  and more years,  so much
> that the hackmeeting in Italy  and Spain so far were organised without
> any  entrance  fees,  distributing   the  load  of  hosting  it  among
> autonomous peers.. like a p2p model for hackmeetings.

This is something I am usually both enthusiastic and very reserved about. Many software-based solutions have proved to us that relying on people to share resources benevolently can work (P2P, Tor, ComputeAnything at Home...) but when translating such attitude in the physical world, I have observed a few differences : 

On the online world :
1. People willing to share resources usually have too much to begin with. (10% of CPU usage for common tasks is frequent these days as well as gigabytes of unused space.)
2. In case of needs, reclaiming of the shared CPU power or storage room can be made quickly without problem.

In the physical world :
1. A lot of the physical things cost money. In all the "P2P-like events" I have seen in the physical world, it could only work when some people had money to spare. It doesn't necessarily mean rich people, but it means people who consider that they have more money than is necessary to them. They are key to the success of these events. But curiously, where seeders are revered and leechers honed on the online world, this translates into a wider range of weirder attitudes in the physical world. Many people I have seen willing to put some money on the table for some events felt cheated afterwards. Many of the people who didn't put any, did not manage to understand how essential it was for some people to pay for the stuff and believed the event could magically pay for itself. There are many social reactions attached to money that we don't have to deal with when we share CPU or HD resource.

2. Physical resources can be rooms, furnitures (beds, sofa, chairs, tables), tools, hardware. It is possible to find people willing to lent them but the fact that it takes some time to get them back is a huge drawback of the physical world : I would happily lent half of my hard drive to a good project. It is harder, however, to consider lending them a room of my flat even if I don't use it. 

(Thinking aloud) : Is there a way to solve both of these problems through a simple set of rules ? 

The second issue could be interesting to deal with through some doctrine : never rely on a lent item to be there for an extensive period of time. See a hacklab as a software running on a benevolently shared hardware. In fact I wonder what would happen if this theory was enforced seriously enough for the owner of an item to be able to reclaim it in a short time. Let's say it, when it comes to their own space, some hackerspaces have a squatt dynamics : installing somewhere, trying to be hard to move away. That makes people very unwilling to let a hackerspace install somewhere. What if the reputation was "when you say us to leave, we can leave in 6 hours and will do without holding any grudge" ? Similarily, "if you lend us tools or hardware, it is here at your disposal, available in one hour max, please have some coffee while waiting that Stef untangles the wires on the middle of which it rests.".

This is clearly not the ideal situation to work in. It puts constraints on the hackers. But I wonder if this could not be beneficial over time : knowing very well that this is a lending and not a gift, getting unused stuff from interesting people could take a whole new scale. "Hey guys, the electronic microscope here is taking dust, wanna try it out ? I'll take it back in July, maybe earlier". "Sure you can use our hangar for now, it will probably be empty for the whole winter. But be prepared to move out if we need it". The lab would still own some things, but its capabilities could maybe be greatly extended through all these shared items.

On the first issue, however, I don't have much ideas. Should monetary participations be public, be anonymous, pseudonymous ?. I think it is essential that people can see how much money has to be spent and how much has to be received. I am not sure I remember correctly but I think that at the HSF2008 there was a bar a la wikipedia on a whiteboard stating thinks like : "shopping for last meal : 250/417 €" with a money jar beneath it. But we have to recognize somehow that unlike CPU cycles and gigabytes, unused monetary resources is not something we will ever swim in...

Sorry about the big block of text, I do tend to be enthusiastic about these subjects...

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