[hackerspaces] Discussing/Alleviating the Decline (was: Children in hackerspaces.)

Ashley McClelland armcclelland at gmail.com
Mon Feb 1 06:25:59 CET 2010

Okay, so I've been following the list but haven't said much (or anything) as
of yet. I have quite a bit to say about this thread in relevance to our
hackerspace. So, hopefully this is helpful and/or interesting in some

Interlock Rochester (Interlockroc.org - Rochester, NY) is in the very early
stages of establishing our hackerspace and recruiting members. We have had,
what I would consider, an explosive turnout and response to our space. We
get between 3 and 5 interested, prospective members each week, and on
average we have thus far recruited 1-2 new members each week. We have been
around since October without a space, and only in our 'temporary' space
since December. We have right around 25 current, paying members and have not
even built our space out yet. We are moving into our permanent space later
this week.

We have been fortunate enough to divvy out the most head-aching tasks
amongst our four 'core' members (though we have many 'founding members' who
have done so much to shape the direction of Interlock, I am using this term
to refer to the current officers/board members.) For instance, one of our
officers is working hard at getting together our insurance plan ASAP, as
well as working out the internals of our networking and technical
infrastructure as it evolves. I personally worked (with the help of others)
on putting together our Articles of Incorporation and getting us approved as
a New York State Non-Profit Corporation, and I deal with the incoming dues
and fund management (funfun! :P) Another member has headed much of our
design and promo and assists with new member paperwork. Another member
'leads' the direction of the organization as a sort of 'figurehead',
bringing up relevant discussion and heading the direction of meetings in our
early stages. These four core members (our officers) have all attended
(together) local small business advisement meetings together and
brainstormed more logistical, legal, and *non-as-exciting-as-the-hacking
parts *of our evolvement as an organization. We even recruited a dedicated
member to serve as our director of public relations (informally), to conduct
outreach meetings and lead the discussions for how to intertwine Interlock
with the Rochester community, as we view this as an important long-term goal
that deserves its own devoted focus.

Together we have so far remained very in-sync with divvying out tasks and
creating a solid infrastructure from which we can grow and sustain our
membership, with our legal bases acknowledged (and hopefully covered), and
our footing fairly solid as we expand. We simply did what we knew was the
only way to start a hackerspace: divide the annoying parts amongst ourselves
that no one REALLY wants to do (we all really just want to hack on stuff):
insure, incorporate, advertise, lead (I include 'lead' because we have a
member-driven focus and strive for a loose leadership structure but do need
initial direction as a new organization). We do recognize that without
building our infrastructure strong, we will simply fall apart under the
weight of our own membership. We have been fortunate to get quickly
connected and tied in with tech events and leaders in the community, and our
members have been more than willing to fill holes where needed.

For us, the momentum we gained made failure less of an option and more of a
consequence if we didn't handle the overgrowing momentum in the right way.
This is why we pushed forward into a temporary space before moving to our
ideal, permanent space and focused on gaining devoted members who were
willing to invest time and money into the building of the space. We did this
by paying $200/month to have a temporary location (across the hall from our
permanent location) where we met regularly and were able to collect and move
in some items. We've been able to work through some initial rough patches in
our temporary space, organize subgroups for the final build out of the
permanent space, and even begin group nights like 'programming night' and
'make night' to begin the orchestration of inter-group education and
expression. We've also been able to test the ways in which the 'dynamic' of
the group should play out in order to achieve maximum communication and
minimum flaming disagreement. :) (When you meet at coffee shops, everyone
gets along swimmingly. When you start talking where the kitchen is going to
go in your space, then you start to find out more about people's opinions!)
:) We now have 20+ devoted people ready to work together, rather than our
initial 5-10 members who met regularly at the coffee shop without a space to
collect thoughts, donations, concrete ideas, and spirit. Getting a space, in
my opinion, is one of the most important parts of driving movement forward.

We have yet to begin our 501(c)3 paperwork, though, and would love any
advice or guidance that any other hackerspaces might have as we embark on
that task! :)


On Sat, Jan 30, 2010 at 10:23 PM, tetsu yatsu <tetsuharu at gmail.com> wrote:

> My plan at FAMiLab had a failure-plan: either 1) we start an awesome
> hackerspace and become immediately notable and struggle/strive to help
> people learn, establish identities, grow personally, etc hackerspace hacker
> ethic stuff, OR 2) we start a cool hacker hangout, some people join and
> decide they could do better, then start their own.
> I don't mind if we fail, as long as people know that it can be done. It
> should belong to the members, and if they would rather be part of a
> formative process than joining a preexisting space, I don't mind :). I
> encourage it.
> Like I heard on the irc channel: "When there are less than 2 people per
> space, we have too many spaces."
> On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 3:09 PM, David Powell <davepow16 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I feel Harford Hackerspace differs a lot from our neighbors (HacDC,
>> Baltimore Node) and because of that we have been successful for over a year
>> now. When we initially started I was able to gather up 6 members and we
>> still have those original 6 members today. We started collecting dues as
>> soon as we started working on projects. We a using a free space provided by
>> a member so our overhead is very little. Our 6 members pay their dues every
>> month and we are a very happy small group. We want to expand our membership
>> and we have had several people come part time who are not include in the
>> original 6. For some unknown reason we can't seem to recruit more dues
>> paying members.
>> We focus more on just doing stuff than we do on holding classes. Mostly
>> because non of our members really want to teach a class. They just want to
>> build stuff and learn as they build it. We have actually learned a lot this
>> way. The problem is that we come up with ideas on the fly and we are not
>> actively advertising Events. We use meetup.com and mailing list to
>> announce our weekly gatherings and as I said we do get people who show up
>> randomly to those but they don't come too often and we are not charging them
>> dues.
>> Our goal this year is to restructure a little bit by adding fund raising
>> events. We just got word last week that our 501(C)(3) status has been
>> recommended for approval so we are just waiting for the official letter.
>> I would like to see an organization setup for the purpose of marketing
>> hackerspaces. It would be nice if we all contributed to a fund that allowed
>> us to put Hackerspace.org in all the major related magazines and on related
>> websites. It seems that whenever there is a major publications about
>> hackerspaces our website traffic goes through the roof.
>> David
>> On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 2:47 PM, Nick Farr (hackerspaces.org) <
>> nick at hackerspaces.org> wrote:
>>> I think a conversation exploring the "decline in Hackerspaces" I
>>> predicted for 2010 is warranted, separate from the discussion on Kids in
>>> spaces.  So here's a new thread.
>>> I like what Adam Bachman said:
>>> "I agree. That's what happens when you get a massive publicity push like
>>> the HS movement got in '08 and '09 (the co-working movement in the USA is
>>> seeing this too, by the way). Articles in every publication and a lot of
>>> overexcited folks getting too deep into a medium sized weekend project
>>> (signing a lease and donating old electronics) before considering the long
>>> term commitment."
>>> There's also the Benelux area which is just ramping up--and given what
>>> members of that community have pulled off recently (i.e. HAR, BruCon, etc.)
>>> and what they're planning (Multiple Hackerspace Membership), there's proof
>>> that there are many areas whose enthusiasm has not yet peaked.
>>> All that being said, I strongly believe in building for
>>> sustainability--hence, why I emphasized corporations, insurance, etc. when
>>> we started out with this several years ago.  What sorts of things are your
>>> hackerspaces doing to keep up enthusiasm or strive towards "being here
>>> tomorrow"?
>>> Nick Farr / http://nickfarr.org / 8B13F204
>>> Washington, DC, 20013-1208
>>> P: +1 (707) 676-FARR
>>> F: +1 (866) 536-2616
>>> Sent from Washington, DC, United States
>>> On Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 04:06, Koen Martens <gmc at sonologic.nl> wrote:
>>>> On Thu, Jan 28, 2010 at 11:48:18AM -0500, Nick Farr (hackerspaces.org)
>>>> wrote:
>>>> > And, granted, this is simply my opinion.  As a sociologist, I'm seeing
>>>> > the kinds of disagreements and arguments we're having as signs that a
>>>> > corner has turned for the worse.  We had a rapid period of growth, and
>>>> > it appears that 2010 will be the year when there will be more spaces
>>>> > folding than opening.  Not reaching out, moving on, expanding and
>>>> > looking for new opportunities (i.e. engaging kids) just makes my
>>>> > prediction more likely.
>>>> Perhaps the US is ahead of us in that regard, but I see none of that in
>>>> my own region (Benelux). The Netherlands is seeing initiatives being
>>>> deployed, belgium is rapidly gaining hackerspaces and Luxembourg is (for
>>>> me at least) a big inspiration.
>>>> Who knows, maybe in a few years we'll face the abyss the US hackerspaces
>>>> are apparently facing. But for now, hackerspaces are go over here!
>>>> Gr,
>>>> Koen
>>>> --
>>>> K.F.J. Martens, Sonologic, http://www.sonologic.nl/
>>>> Networking, hosting, embedded systems, unix, artificial intelligence.
>>>> Public PGP key: http://www.metro.cx/pubkey-gmc.asc
>>>> Wondering about the funny attachment your mail program
>>>> can't read? Visit http://www.openpgp.org/
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