[hackerspaces] In Support of Abbenay HackSpace

Nick Farr (HacDC) nickfarr at hacdc.org
Wed Sep 30 02:36:44 CEST 2009

Mr. Winberg:

Greetings!  I'm Nick Farr, an Accountant & Consultant based in Washington,

I'm writing to you in regards to the group currently occupying your building
at Lövholmsbrinken 4 in Stockholm.  I'm writing today not necessarily to
voice my support for the actions of these tenants or their methods, but as a
fellow Businessman and, in a global sense, a Stakeholder in the activities
of a subset of this group.

I believe you have a unique opportunity to constructively engage this group,
a segment of whom are operating a unique laboratory and creative space
similar to many others that are emerging around the world.  My colleague
Hellekin O. Wolf, who wrote you earlier today, described these spaces far
better than I when he said they, "...fill the gap and setup bridges between
academic knowledge and corporate research, between the scientist and the
artist, between engineers and the public. They can help discover new talents
and seed innovation."

I refer to these laboratories as "Hackerspaces", and I am a founder of my
local Hackerspace, HacDC[1] and a member of the C-Base[2] in Berlin,
Germany.  While each of these Hackerspaces have varying organizational forms
and political orientations, we all share the common goal of forming spaces
to learn from each other and make what we imagine a reality.

If you look back on the histories of corporations that innovate, you'll see
incredible similarities between the activities of their founders and the
activities of those in Hackerspaces.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the
first Apple Computer in a space they shared and collaborated in.  Bill
Hewlett and Dave Packard started the company that bears their names in a
similar space.  What many people don't realize is that both of these
companies were founded in bad economic times, in 1976 and 1939,
respectively, and all four men carried their ideals, once considered
incredibly radical, into business success.

Even though the OECD Economic Outlook for Sweden[3] predicts output will
recover in 2010, unemployment is expected to continue to rise beyond 11%.
Throughout the industrialized world, the "jobless recovery" is creating an
increasingly tense political climate.  It is becoming clearer to me that in
these times of increased joblessness, actions by governments to protect the
rights of property owners are being met with disproportionately hostile

I offer the rise of the Pirate Party as an example of this phenomenon.  The
jailing of the founders of the Pirate Bay[4] in Sweden set off a wave of
concrete political action and activism.  Pirate Parties, directly inspired
by this arrest and conviction, have created a viable political force in
several EU countries and the EU parliament itself.  It's becoming
increasingly clear that hostile action towards the Pirate Bay and
corresponding global media attention has increased overall public awareness
and acceptance of anti-copyright methods, thereby accelerating the erosion
of the value of Intellectual Property.

In a sense, the government of Sweden may have missed an incredible
opportunity.  Instead of engaging and exploring the shifting realities in
our world, of attempting to understand the global phenomenon in play, they
did what governments typically do and put a stop to it.  It's interesting to
note that one of Sweden's most successful businessmen, Ingvar Kamprad, once
faced a similar problem.  Threatened by the revolutionary business idea of
being the lowest cost provider of furniture, suppliers caved to pressures of
IKEA's competitors and boycotted Kamprad.  In response, Kamprad began
designing his own furniture in 1955 and in turn, created one of the world's
most successful brands.

While I believe it somewhat unlikely that the Anarchists in your building
are currently planning the next great global brand, I do believe that those
involved with the Abbenay HackSpace are in the same kind of situation.  They
are innovators, pioneers and at the forefront of the technology that is
rapidly changing our world.  Citing the examples of history, I argue that it
is more profitable and a better long-term strategic investment to negotiate
an amicable lease and engage this group and their ideas.  Granted, I don't
necessarily agree with their politics, but as the examples I cited show,
great ideas have come from unusual people innovating in interesting times.

I believe those occupying the building have the best interests of the
property itself and the community at heart, though their methods and
rhetoric may not reflect this.  While they may not be able to pay market
rates today, I suspect that your property rights are best served by
respectfully negotiating a proper lease with this group.  If you extend a
certain level of respect for this group and an understanding of their
situation, I do believe they will respond in kind.  While I am unfamiliar
with the tax laws in Sweden, there may be an opportunity for you in allowing
this group to officially organize in a manner similar to groups that have
rehabilitated properties in East Berlin.  At the very least, allowing them
to become financially viable protects the value of your property and wins
you a new customer in the process.

However, I believe that engaging this group allows you to become a unique
investor in the kind of people like Jobs, Wozniak, Hewlett and
Packard--pioneers and innovators with a radical spirit.  What you can learn
from them and what they can learn from you has the potential to create an
incredibly positive economic impact.  Even if the next Ingvar Kamprad isn't
among the squatters in your building, you would definitely be buying a great
deal of goodwill from a very large international community and help to show
that Capitalism isn't the evil that Anarchists make it out to be.

I thank you for your time and hope I've done something to explain what I
believe is a wonderful opportunity you have the choice to participate in.  I
am more than happy to do whatever I can to facilitate an amicable resolution
to this situation and offer you whatever credibility I have in this
community to achieve such an end.

Respectfully yours,

Nick Farr

[1] http://haccdc.org
[2] http://c-base.org
[3] http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/53/20213258.pdf
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pirate_Bay
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