[hackerspaces] RANT!: SO VERY frustrated with lack of local activity :( Warning: some negative energy present - sorry

Lokkju Brennr lokkju at gmail.com
Sun Nov 27 01:30:43 CET 2011

Much of what the OP said sounds like the issues we have here at
BrainSilo, in Portland, OR.  I and 2 others started the space, in
response to a huge number of people requesting it, but we never got
many people involved, and now have about 8 members.  The space is
hardly used outside of the weekly open house, though it is available
for members 24/7 - and it really all boils down to we don't have
anyone interested or capable of really promoting the space.
If someone like the OP was around, and wanted to try to change the
space, and make it grow, I'd simply step back and *let* them.  I think
most people would welcome someone with the energy to get things done -
and would give them the power to make changes, if they also took the

Loki // BrainSilo.org

On Sat, Nov 26, 2011 at 1:29 PM, Matt Joyce <matt at nycresistor.com> wrote:
> NYC Resistor has not been a stranger to people slacking off.
> The reality is, people have lives outside their hackerspace.  Sometimes that
> means they need to spend more time with family, or more time with their girl
> / boyfriend / anything in between...
> Sometimes it means that work is just drilling someone and coming home to
> work some more is the last thing they want to do.  Sometimes it's just
> people not feeling very creative.  And much like is being discussed in the
> thread on depression, a hackerspace is the sum of its parts.  When a few
> members aren't firing on all cylinders the whole space begins to feel it.
> That's what being part of a community is all about.
> So, I know that some of the stuff NYC Resistor tried, and I've seen similar
> stuff elsewhere... is setting some deadlines, and goals to work toward.
> Hack Friday, awesome august, interactive parties... every time one of these
> events is planned a few people really run with it.  They get themselves
> riled up, and they work hard so that when that event rolls around they are
> going to have a good time.  And that will inspire others.  Maybe not at
> first, but when they unveil their work... boom.  Inspiration.  Kick in the
> pants.  What have yah.
> Hackathons are great too.  But the idea is to get some of your members
> together and go as a team.  Kick butt while meeting other folks who are also
> kicking butt.  Make some new friends.  Attract some new members.  Etc etc.
> I myself moved away from NYCR over a year ago.  Now I find myself in the
> realm of Hacker Dojo.  Sadly, I also find myself working for an employer
> that just loves to make use of me.  And less sadly, I love to be used by.
> =P  So for the year and a half I've been in silly valley, I've only been to
> a couple hackathons, and most of my side hacks have been done at my apt
> rather than at the dojo.  This is in part because the dojo is more of a
> software / web dev hack space.  In part because many of the members there
> are more focused on startups and business goals.  But mostly it's because
> when I get back to my apt and stow my bike, I am too damned tired to wander
> the less than a mile I have to go over to the dojo.  Some nights I don't
> even eat dinner.
> So, would an active group nearby get me off my ass?  Would it make me push
> back on my work load a little?  Hell... tying back into the depression
> thread... would my general lifestyle be better off if it did haul me out and
> about more often and put me in more contact with more people.  I don't
> know.  There's a good chance I simply couldn't sustain it.  But it's hard to
> say.  I myself find myself depressed by the lack of cool stuff going on at
> the dojo.  With 300 members, and plenty of amazing stuff going on there, I
> feel like maybe...  just maybe its me, and not them.  I came from a
> different hack space.  And, my approaches to things don't quite jive with
> theirs.  For instance I don't like having to go before some form of
> arbitrary review board before doing something.  I don't like that I can't
> leave a project around while I work on it like I can at home or could at
> more hardware oriented spaces.  I mean at NYCR four or five folks would go
> out on literally the spur of the moment... buy a slot machine and proceed to
> hack it ( for months ).  Or rip apart an old teletype.  So on and so on.
> These are things that aren't easy to do at a space like the dojo.  And so
> they don't happen.
> There's a lot of reasons for slacking.  Sometimes it's cultural.  Sometimes
> it just happens and you have no one to blame but yourself.  Sometimes it's
> perfectly natural.  And sometimes it's maybe you wishing for an ideal that
> isn't very realistic.
> So ...
>     In answer to your question regarding whether or not you should start a
> new space, the answer is, maybe.  From what you've written it seems like if
> no one is showing up anymore it's not really a cultural issue... unless
> those folks not showing up are supposed to be doing something or are
> preventing you from doing something.  There is always going to be turn over
> at any space.  NYC Resistor has an alumni approaching 20 people would be my
> guess.  But active membership probably between 30 and 40.  The space has
> changed a good deal since it was started 3 years ago or so.  NYCR has been
> lucky to find great people to keep the space growing and wonderful.  But
> plenty of great hackerspaces have disappeared into the myths and legends of
> usenet just because their members went running off into the future and the
> space just couldn't follow.  One of the most important things a hackerspace
> can do, is reach out to and find new people and let them grow and change the
> space into something new.  And that can be hard.  You may not like the
> results.  But, that's okay too.
>    I don't think you need a new space unless something about your current
> space is creating an issue.  It doesn't sound like it is.  It sounds like
> you are just looking for a way to attract old and new members back to your
> space and be awesome again.  I'd suggest hackathons, parties built around a
> creative theme, or some cool new classes.  That's on you not the space.
> And, maybe it just isn't going to happen.  Some cities just don't have the
> people necessary to get the space off the ground.  Maybe you want to work
> then with a museum or library to try and get the next generation interested
> in the STEM stuff that will give them some hope.
>    Before NYCR bounced up I got some ex-nyc2600 folks together to run some
> events called "make:nyc"  We basically just tried a whole bunch of different
> things to get random people to show up and ENJOY themselves.  What seemed to
> ultimately work best... was challenges.  Stuff like bridge building,
> zeppelin building, building catapults out of balsa wood and rubber bands.
> Fun engineering problems that ANYONE could get into and deploy as simple or
> as complex a solution as they want.
>    Bug labs used to help us by lending us their own office space to host
> this stuff.  We'd have kids from local engineering colleges and lawyers, and
> actual kids, and hackers, and what have you show up and some were scowling
> and angry it wasn't everything they had hoped but a lot of people kept
> coming back.  Many of them are now NYC Resistor members or part of the
> surrounding community ( which is sometimes virtually the same thing =P ).  I
> think widget was a member long before he became a member.
>   So that's one thing that might work as a way to excite people and draw
> them in.  NYC Resistor itself drew people in with microcontroller study
> group.  Hell the mailing list from that ancient effort is now a rather large
> albeit fairly quiet mailing list where engineers in NYC and the tristate
> area ask the occasional question about a part or issue... or just announce
> some opportunity.  You never know what your successful model will end up
> being when you go into these things.  And you need to be adaptive to what
> your community wants, not what you want.
> Just some stream of thought here I guess.  No great manifesto =P  I think
> Bre has a couple of those that may be relevant.
> -Matt
> On Sat, Nov 26, 2011 at 10:20 AM, Mars Saxman <mars at redecho.org> wrote:
>> On Nov 26, 2011, at 6:58 AM, B F wrote:
>> > I'm a founding member of a crafts group
>> > and wrote the bylaws for it (which, unfortunately, are rather
>> > inapplicable to a makerspace).  These bylaws essentially set up a club
>> > within a club.
>> The bylaws may not be applicable but the organization sounds a lot like
>> what we are doing here at Air Light Time & Space. We have an "inner club" we
>> call "the board" or "the LLC", which bears financial responsibility for the
>> space and makes legal decisions. This group has no defined officer roles and
>> manages itself via consensus. Then there is an "outer club" consisting of
>> all the regular dues-paying members, who get a key and the use of tools and
>> facilities, and agree to follow the shop rules. We don't pretend that this
>> is a democratic system, but of course the board is very keen on keeping the
>> space full of happy, dues-paying members, so in practice we pay close
>> attention to what the general membership wants.
>> We started organizing a year ago and opened our space in February, so we
>> are still quite a young organization, but we like this management style so
>> far. Things get done, the do-ers are basically in charge, and we don't waste
>> a lot of time on process. It's great to hear from your craft group's
>> experience that this style of organization can succeed long-term. One thing
>> I realize from what you've described is that the ALT&S board is probably too
>> small. It hasn't been a problem yet but over the long term we should
>> probably make more of an effort to look out for particularly active,
>> enthusiastic, self-starting members and recruit them onto the board.
>> -Mars
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