[hackerspaces] Introduction from Birmingham, England

dosman dosman at packetsniffers.org
Thu Oct 1 23:00:19 CEST 2009

Having "official" presentations I feel is required to get people  
started if they have interest and don't know where to start. But there  
needs to be a lot of unfocused time too. You might even think of it as  
"class room time" and "shop time", even though it all takes place at  
the same table. Also, you are never going to be able to please  
everybody. In fact, the day of the week our group meets on was driven  
at the request of someone on our mailing list who has yet to attend  
one of our meetings, so don't let only a couple neigh-sayers stop you  
from trying themed nights out. I do know several people that are  
interested on our own group that have not attended a meeting because  
we are semi-focused on microcontroller programming for now. Of course  
focusing on microcontrollers was just an excuse to get some interested  
people together, and at some point I definitely want to have some  
nights where we focus on some other things. We would never turn  
someone away that came in with a completely unrelated project (that  
is, related to making/hacking/building/etc), but sometimes all it  
takes is a slight sense that the meetings are not exactly what someone  
is seeking and it can throw them off. Take for instance our last  
meeting. The official agenda was for me to present some basic Arduino  
code and hardware I made for one of my projects. But we started off  
the night by making speakers out of coiled wire, permanent magnets,  
and plastic cups, then I gave my song and dance, then the night ended  
by getting our AVR programmers back in operational condition (lots of  
troubleshooting that night).

I'll also add that it may help to document your meetings on your wiki  
(I don't mean agenda based meetings, but nights that you are gathering  
to work on your projects). For our meetings I have been noting the  
number of attendees and also write a very brief outline of what we  
did. Not only does this help you remember what happened when, it also  
helps you build a sense of history of your group. It can also serve as  
a way to show potentially interested people what types of interests  
other members have and persuade them to attend even if the main focus  
of a particular meeting isn't something they are interested in. Our  
group has a few people in it that have pretty large telescopes with  
axis control. While we are not focused on astronomy per-say, it ties  
in well the idea of making microcontrollers communicate with other  
equipment. One night we even had the ISS and Discovery fly overhead  
just at the tail end of a meeting, we all went outside and watched it.  
Because of that we may attempt to have a scope auto-guide and attempt  
to get some photos of the station and other satellites. But noting  
that on the wiki helps give a sense of what your group is about,  
assuming you are still seeking new members.


On Oct 1, 2009, at 12:48 PM, Antonio Roberts wrote:
> When we first started we toyed with the idea of having theme based
> sessions e.g. arduino hack day, circuit bending session etc, but some
> of the attendees felt that this could be restrictive and might
> alienate those who don't want to take part, thereby reducing the
> attendance numbers and possible members. So, every fortnight when we
> meet we have just a random hacking day. Some long-term projects have
> emerged from this but overall I've noticed that newcomers and even
> some current members just don't know what to do or expect when they
> turn up. So now I'm toying again with the idea of having theme-based
> sessions. If anything it'll just give a bit more focus to the group
> and its activities and possibly spawn bigger projects.
> I know that meeting once every fortnight is a bit counterproductive in
> itself, but out of the five tech groups nearby we're one of two that
> meet this frequently. All of the others meet monthly. So, I'm thinking
> of more projects that could take place outside of the space and
> possibly even on the Internet.
> This is where I ask you guys for help. Not necessarily for ideas for
> activities (though they're always useful) but just your experiences of
> what type of session works best. Is it better to have sessions be
> free-for-alls or set a task?

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