[hackerspaces] A New Hacker Has Joined Your Party!

Ron Bean bucketworks at rbean.users.panix.com
Fri Jan 14 03:31:06 CET 2011

Far McKon <farmckon at gmail.com> writes:

>Just to play devils advocate, I worry about some of the themes coming
>out in this thread.

I do too, but for different reasons (and I'll note that some of our
local members will disagree with me about this)

It's nice to think that we could inspire more people to become Makers,
but as a practical matter I don't think it's going to happen very
often. In order to pay the rent, we need to attract the type of people
who are 80% convinced the moment they walk in the door. Since targeted
publicity is hard, we need general publicity as well, but the purpose
of that should be to encourage people to pass the word to others who
are already predisposed to join us. If that doesn't happen, we won't be
around very long, because people who need a lot of convincing are going
to balk at the cost, and we won't have enough members to be

This brings up an important difference between a "hackerspace" and a
"makerspace"-- a "hackerspace" just needs enough room for people to
hack on their laptops, so it can rent less space and therefore charge
less for membership. A "makerspace" requires more square footage for
shop space, and therefore has to charge more for membership. It has to
find a large number of members who are willing to pay that higher cost
for years at a time, and we need to focus on locating people like that.
It's OK to also have members who join for a few months and then drop
out, but you'll never attract enough of those to keep the doors open
over the long run.

Alternatively, if you want to be an educational institution, you will 
have to focus on that, at the expense of less time hacking on your own 
projects. You'll have to put some serious effort into getting grants to 
pay the costs of all that outreach. That will result in a very 
different organization. In theory you might be able to do both under 
one roof, but it would have to be two organizations sharing space, 
rather than one organization that can't decide what its real goal is.

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