[hackerspaces] hacklabs.org

Matt Joyce mdjoyce at gmail.com
Thu Apr 30 15:26:24 CEST 2009

Hi again list!

  So I am involved with the Make:NYC (www.makenyc.org) group.  Before I got
involved with resistor we started this group as a DIY meetup.  The idea is
that anyone can show up without being forced to pay anything.  The only
thing that's required is you participate in the events.  We have grown into
setting challenges.  Things such as wind power generators, boat races,
bizarre mechanical timers... in short we have fun with creative and mentally
stimulating challenges.

   But Make:NYC unlike resistor is not bound by dues, or even a fixed
location.  We rely upon the kindness of others to find venues for our
events.  And operational costs are fronted by organizers.  We toss out a jar
looking for donations at the event and will usually point out that the
material costs were an out of pocket expense for the organizers.

   The simple fact is of the 11 or so make:nyc events we've hosted so far
only 2 have ever recovered more than the operational costs from donations.
We the organizers lose money almost every time we host an event.  We still
do it, because we love seeing it happen.  And the truth is people have
become regulars at the events and I think we're fairly fortunate that in NYC
there are multiple venues willing to help us out.  NYCResistor has in fact
hosted several events.  That being said, our arsenal of tools and resources
( stored at an organizers loft ) is growing continuously.

  My opinion regarding the last comment is pretty straightforward.  If you
hosting events you can get away with using other peoples venues.  And even
as NYCResistor we may well need to borrow alternative venues for certain
events.  But, as a hackerspace that provides shop space and rarer resources
( such as cnc equipment or oscilloscopes )... we couldn't do that with a
donated space.  The legal concerns would become a nightmare and
organizationally being hamstringed by our benefactor a headache.

  There's also a community that's built up around the space that's a lot
more tighter knit than any other group I've seen.  The financial commitment
to the space inspires people to get more involved in the running of it, and
the projects that come out of it.  If you aren't willing to commit
financially to a space ( and we're talking a relatively meager commitment 75
USD a month in NYC is not much money it's basically a gym membership ), then
odds are you aren't willing to commit yourself to the space and the
community around it.  Consider it a bar being raised that will sift out
those with a passing or idle curiousity from those who are actively

   Also the space itself has garnered popularity by being entirely its own
thing.  Self sustaining and productive.  Also something that gives back to
multiple communities.  Hosting other peoples events and classes.  There's a
flexability there that would be impossible to ensure in the scenario of a
donated space.

Both operational paradigms have their benefits and weaknesses.

It's a matter of choosing the right tool for the job.

-Matt Joyce

On Thu, Apr 30, 2009 at 4:59 AM, <quemener.yves at free.fr> wrote:

> Hash: SHA1
> - ----- 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<http://www.catb.org/%7Eesr/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...
> Iv
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