[hackerspaces] Establishing hackerspace and getting people actively involved

Koen Martens gmc at sonologic.nl
Mon May 10 18:35:22 CEST 2010

Hey Adam,

On Mon, May 10, 2010 at 12:16:35PM -0400, Adam D Bachman wrote:
> Whoa, I *never* said anything about paid staff. I pointed at the coworking

No, was just referring to the email that started the thread.

> By "approach as a business" I mean that if we can't find enough members to
> support the space, then the space will not exist. I think running the
> organization in such a way that it cannot exist without large, regular
> influxes of capital from outside sources is an admission of failure. Node
> has a physical presence because there are enough people willing to buy in.

That's something I fully agree with. I'm currently in the luxury position of
having a small budget available to help other hackerspaces in my country get
set up. But for me, an important condition is that the people who are taking
the initiative are already putting some of their own money in, and have a plan
to make the endeavour sustainable without that particular influx of capital.

It can be much of a chicken-egg problem: without a space you don't attract
members, without members you can't pay for a space. As has been discussed in
this thread already. I'd be happy to help kick-start promising hackerspaces
with this budget I have, but only if I can see a clear path to success for
the space. I guess that makes the business analogy even more pertinent: i'm
the investor, but instead of making money with the investment my ROI is more
hacker awesomeness and cool projects!

> To be clear, I see it as a business because we have a lot of the same
> concerns as a business--taxes, overhead, capital expenses: income and
> outflow. But, I don't see it as a commercial entity in that we're trying to
> sell people something. We exist, we are what we are. Those who want to be a
> part of it find us and become a part of it. We don't have to sell it because
> people just get it. We tell the story not to market ourselves or make
> ourselves more attractive, but to make clear what it is we're trying to do.

Just to nuance it a bit, a hackerspace could perfectly well operate without any
capital at all. Squatted places, donated/found tools, it's another way of going
about it. Not my particular way, but i'm very symphatetic of such undertakings
because they are even more sustainable as a whole (apart from the occassional 
eviction that is.....).

> >  I think once you go down the lane of paid staff...
> 100% agreement.
> > And I think we all agree on one thing, and that is that everyone has
> another explanation of the term 'hackerspace'.
> 110% agreement. Awesome.

That makes for 220%, excellent :)


Koen (gmc)

> - Adam
> On Mon, May 10, 2010 at 11:33 AM, Koen Martens <gmc at sonologic.nl> wrote:
> > On Mon, May 10, 2010 at 10:59:34AM -0400, Adam D Bachman wrote:
> > > I definitely see what we do administratively as a business. It is whether
> > > you're for or non-profit. You have income and overhead, the second must
> > be
> > > balanced against the first, therefore you are running a business. If you
> > are
> > > creating something people want, they will pay money for it. Whether the
> > > thing you're selling is the actual physical space or a compelling vision,
> > > backed by physical infrastructure, you've got a product. Going for-profit
> > > over non-profit allows flexibility, but can reduce the image of community
> > > ownership. The co-working community (in the US, at least) has been
> > combining
> > > for profit and community led successfully, so it can work.
> >
> > I would think that approaching a hackerspace in such a commercial way, with
> > paid staff, has a danger in it: that the 'members' are slipping into
> > consumer
> > mode. Expecting the paid staff to take care of everything, refusing to pick
> > up simple tasks themselves because 'hey, she's getting paid for it, let her
> > do it!'. I may be a long-haired left-wing hippy (or so some of our members
> > tell me from time to time :), but I feel that in our hackerspace everyone
> > is on an equal footing. I may be the president, but that doesn't mean I
> > don't have to vacuum or clean the toilets. In fact, once I start claiming
> > special status for being the president (or, in the case of the mail that
> > started this thread, that i do so much that i need to get paid), others
> > will likely be less motivated to do the tedious tasks that are also part of
> > having a hackerspace.
> >
> > On the danger of starting another heated thread on the definition of what
> > a hackerspace is, I think once you go down the lane of paid staff, you're
> > not a hackerspace anymore. But that's just in the context of what I think
> > a hackerspace is. And I think we all agree on one thing, and that is that
> > everyone has another explanation of the term 'hackerspace'.
> >
> > Gr,
> >
> > Koen
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Discuss mailing list
> > Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
> > http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
> >

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