[hackerspaces] Members v. Non-members, rights and obligations, etc.

Nick Farr (HacDC) nickfarr at hacdc.org
Thu Aug 20 19:29:18 CEST 2009

Hey Don,

In retrospect, I absolutely agree.  In trying to decisively illustrate
a point, I think I overstated those two distinctions that in practice
are much more of a gray area.  The issue of serving members vs.
serving the public and spaces of old vs. space of new ended up being
much more black and white than I had intended.

However, I don't think you should write off the Design Patterns as
"obvious" or merely conflict resolution techniques.  While those of us
in our late 30s or 40s *might* have learned these lessons in our
professional careers, we have to keep in mind that many of those with
the requisite time and enthusiasm for building spaces are in their
early 20s or younger--and do not have the same benefit of experience.

It's important to note that the sections on sustainability,
independence and regularity are not quite so obvious, especially among
hackers that like to fly by the seat-of-one's-pants and reach for any
easy solution that "works", for now.

Aside from these basic operating guidelines--we really shouldn't try
to pin down any characteristics that define a Hackerspace.  We have
more important theoretical issues that defining what is or what isn't
a hackerspace.  Any space that hackers meet to make things could be
called a hackerspace, whether that's Noisebridge on a Tuesday night, a
skybox at the Riviera during DefCon, or a food court during a 2600

Semantically, I also fell into another trap in identifying who a
hackerspace serves.  As long as a hackerspace makes an active attempt
to engage those outside the direct membership, I believe the degree to
which it is member-serving or community-serving is reasonably
irrelevant.  The specific balance should be something each space
strikes for itself.

The issue here is not so much casting definitions or assigning
motivations.  It's about identifying patterns, trends and theory that
helps us realize what is going on with Hackerspaces, so current spaces
might better know how to continue to thrive and new spaces can benefit
from the trial and errors we've been through.

I do want to get into how spaces work in different parts of the
world--that is a huge area of exploration that is worth getting into,
especially as we see some of this latest wave of spaces begin to fail.
 In a way, this kind of failiure is inevitable and it's something I
want to work to avoid.  We're very lucky that there's a lot of
excitement behind hackerspaces, so much that we're more apt to see one
effort fork from another than to see an effort die outright.  However,
we have to be realistic and recognize that this level of excitement
behind hackerspaces is not sustainable.  This effort will eventually
mature and shift and we have to be prepared for that moment.

We need to think about the future--and perhaps that future is one
where soldering irons are just as acceptable in bars and coffee shops
as pencils and moleskines.  A manifesto, taxonomy or some kind of
advocacy of a higher purpose isn't going to get us there.

However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't think about that kind of a
future and work out the theory of what's failed in the past, avoiding
it, and coming up with new ways on how to get there.  That's all I'm
getting at here.  ;)

Nick Farr / http://nickfarr.org
Washington, DC, 20013-1208 | +1 (707) 676-FARR | Fax: +1 (866)
536-2616 | 8B13F204
Sent from Temecula, California, United States

On Wed, Aug 19, 2009 at 14:18, Don Ankney<dankney at hackerco.de> wrote:
> You're making a strong distinction between the "classic" hackerpace and the
> "design pattern" hackerspace -- this is an artificial distinction, I think,
> for several reasons.
> First, most of the design patterns are simply conflict resolution techniques
> that most of us have learned in our professional lives obvious solutions to
> simple problems (hungry? Have a kitchen in your hackerspace; Too much old
> hardware lying around? Get rid of it). Are they useful enough to have
> written down? Sure. But they are hardly defining characteristics of a
> hackerspace.
> Semantics aside, though, I think the point you're trying to make it this:
> "The key distinction between a space like the L0pht and a "Design Patterns"
> Hackerspace is that the latter actively engages those outside their direct
> membership and the former exists primarily to serve its members and their
> interests."
> But why can't a hackerspace exist primarily to serve its members and still
> actively engage those outside the direct membership? CDC is a bit of a red
> herring here -- the secrecy is what opposes wider community activities, not
> the member-focused mission.
> The Black Lodge is primarily for its direct members, but we do actively
> engage and interact with a wider community. Since we're open about our
> activities, this combination is perfectly natural and works well for us. The
> distinction is artificial.
> I think trying to define the Hackerspaces phenomenon as a movement or
> philosophy is in itself an exercise in futility. You're going to have as
> many philosophies and motivations as you have hackerspaces.
> In cities like NY where a reasonable workspace is insanely expensive,
> resource pooling may be the primary motivator. I'd imagine that in parts of
> the country, the public suspicion homebrew project draw (think Boston)
> creates a need for community awareness.
> Based on your Defcon presentation, in DC you're providing access to
> knowledge and resources in an area where they are scarce.
> Seattle has none of these problems or motivations. We live in a relatively
> affluent city with where hacking technology is widely accepted and
> resources, including spaces, are available (Washington State leads the
> nation in high-tech and scientific employment -- I think we have as many
> code monkeys as baristas).
> Since bars and coffee shops generally frown on soldering irons, my personal
> motivation is mostly social. The lodge is a place we can hang out, drink
> beer, and build stuff -- no manifesto or higher purpose needed.
> On the other hand, I fully recognize the motivations and goals of other
> hackerspaces. I don't intend to discount or disparage the type of work
> they're doing. I'm just not sure that large generalizations (beyond and
> interest in technology) or a formal taxonomy are really possible or useful.
> -- Don
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces+dankney=hackerco.de at lists.hackerspaces.org
> [mailto:discuss-bounces+dankney=hackerco.de at lists.hackerspaces.org] On
> Behalf Of Nick Farr (hackerspaces.org)
> Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 6:29 PM
> To: Hackerspaces General Discussion List
> Subject: [hackerspaces] Members v. Non-members, rights and obligations, etc.
> Great to see all of you who made it to HAR and DefCon!
> The great discussions I had there made me start a draft of this blog
> post I just finished:
> http://hackerspaces.org/blog/2009/08/19/rights-and-obligations-of-hackerspac
> e-members/
> I'm curious to hear your thoughts.  I'm trying to think more about
> hackerspace theory leading up to a talk I hope to submit to the 26C3.
> Nick Farr / http://nickfarr.org
> Washington, DC, 20013-1208 | +1 (707) 676-FARR | Fax: +1 (866)
> 536-2616 | 8B13F204
> Sent from Dallas, TX, United States
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