[hackerspaces] History of shared workshop spaces

Paul Boehm paul at boehm.org
Fri Dec 4 02:24:03 CET 2009

I think the core difference is, that a lot of earlier approaches
thought smaller. At a certain scale the problems shift from being
problems of/with individuals, to problems of organization design. If
you're building a hackerspace that can grow beyond the founding
members, to maybe 50+ members you're dealing with a very different set
of problems than in a small workshop for 5-10 people. If you're doing
it right, the problems shift from problems with individuals, to
keeping the group dynamic (new people arriving - hopefully with very
different and new backgrounds, and maybe old ones leaving) and making
it easy for these people to quickly be in charge of the space and
projects, but hard for people to hold on to that power for power's

On Thu, Dec 3, 2009 at 5:01 PM, Ron Bean
<bucketworks at rbean.users.panix.com> wrote:
> Back in the '90s, I used to lurk on rec.woodworking and
> rec.arts.metalworking, and the idea of shared workshop space came up
> regularly. The general consensus (or at least the loudest opinions) were
> that it was unworkable, because you'd be dealing with partners you don't
> know. How do you know they won't abuse your tools? How do you know they
> won't hurt themselves and get you sued? How you do know they won't
> disappear and leave you stuck with the entire rent? (etc).
> Then Wired writes an article, and all of a sudden we have shared
> workshops popping up all over the place, often including woodworking and
> metalworking tools. What changed?
> I don't know the answer, but I can make a few guesses.
> I always had the impression (maybe not accurate) that the woodworking
> and metalworking newsgroups were dominated by homeowners who had garages
> and basements to work in. There was sort of an implication that if you
> weren't a homeowner, you needed to work on your career instead of having
> hobbies, until you could afford to buy a house (Or, maybe I'm imagining
> that.) In any case, most of the people there had no strong desire to
> work with other people (more likely, they were using their hobbies as a
> chance to get *away* from the people they worked with all day, and spend
> some time alone).
> Contrary to popular belief, many hackers do value each other's company,
> and enjoy working on projects together. And in many cases, hacking is
> directly related to their careers. And in theory, it doesn't take much
> space (although some hackerspaces are quite large).
> There's also a long history or artists sharing studio space. Artists are
> used to not having enough money, and sharing space makes sense from that
> point of view. And many of them do value having other artists around.
> So I'm thinking that it's a cultural thing, rather than any practical
> difference.
> Anyone have other comments on this?
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