[hackerspaces] A New Hacker Has Joined Your Party!

Ross Smith rsmith at i3detroit.com
Fri Jan 14 15:14:57 CET 2011


> I'm just glad that there are enough hacker/maker/artist/whateverthehell spaces out there than we can actually have a discussion about the differences in mission between them. It used to be that
> everyone who "had a warehouse" was all in the same bucket - in practice, the community is filled with individuals and communities that are fiercely independent, and defy classification. In all my
> discussions with other communities, I haven't run across two that have the same mission, model, membership profile, etc.

Agreed.  Every space is (ironically) a collective of fierce
individuals, which seems to be the whole point.  I see the core
purpose underlying these varying space as "autonomy", which is
realized in so many spectacular ways that I don't want to draw lines
around them.  I do, however, want to pick everyone's brains (and share
mine) so my autonomous group isn't an autonomous island, so to speak.

> We will be holding cage matches here in Boulder, CO between the Phoenix Asylum (maker/artist space) and Solid State Depot (hacker space), finally bringing the biggest missing element to the
> community - bloodsport. ;)

Start a league!  We Detroiters will love it ;)


> We also have a lot of electronics guys, and I think we'll have a good
> mix eventually. My concern at this point is finding enough "core"
> members to pay the rent (which we don't have yet). I think we need to
> concentrate on that now, and think about other activities later. My
> point was that a "makerspace" needs a larger core than a "hackerspace"
> to get started, because it requires more space (=$).

Be mindful of your dues structure, though.  We have two monthly rates
at i3Detroit - $40 and $90 monthly.  We began with a core of $100 / mo
members who were able to support our first space (1,200 sq ft).  We
later had to move and found our current one (about 8,000 sq ft).
After a long and drawn-out debate, the organization changed from $100
/ mo to our current two tier structure.  In the long run, we've found
it much more profitable to have a lower rate option; the higher rate
is out of reach for many people in our area.

Our membership practically quadrupled after introducing the lower
rate, which brings certain joys and troubles as you can imagine.  One
thing has shown itself, though - just because a member pays a lower
amount per month does not necessarily mean they have a lesser
commitment to the organization.  Members who pay at the lower tier
often share a substantial amount of equipment, teach classes, organize
events - and *find more members*.

A strong core will help you get started, absolutely.  After that,
offering alternatives in your dues structure will allow you to bring
in great hackers who aren't necessarily rich hackers - and it may
bring in much more money overall than one high rate.

It's a very big decision either way - to remain small, or to accept
expansion.  Either path has benefits and drawbacks; what matters is
choosing the one that aligns with your intentions.  Either way, it's
possible to offer a place for members to exercise their autonomy.

Ross Smith
i3Detroit President

"Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually
right." -- Henry Ford

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