[hackerspaces] Hackerspace drama, oh my!

Colin Keigher general at keyboardcowboy.ca
Wed Jul 2 19:41:09 CEST 2014

Yeah. I can safely say the same thing for Vancouver Hack Space (VHS).

Prior to moving to a larger (and in a lot of ways better) space, VHS 
catered to a small segment. However, there was a desire to grow and it 
did but came at a cost. Now VHS suffers with a problem where theft has 
occurred and a mindset that didn't exist before has come out in favour 
of having cameras within the space, something that previously would have 
been outright rejected.

Needless to say my interest in the space has waned in the past few years 
and the discussion of cameras has sealed the deal on my wanting to be 
around anymore. Much of the blame for this shift in culture comes from 
individuals who come from groups like Occupy and amateur radio clubs. 
When you make your space the space for everyone and not put your foot 
down early on what is and isn't acceptable and adopt an anarchistic 
approach to things, this can be the end result. The plague that 
negatively affects Noisebridge can affect other spaces too albeit in 
VHS' case, there is not (yet) an issue with people sleeping there.

It should be pointed out that I do not condemn these groups but I will 
say openly that I want nothing to do with them.

In order for a space, organisation, or group to survive change, rules 
have to be set in stone from the get-go and not have them open to 
reinterpretation at a later date should new groups come in and not like 
what is in place. I helped form a non-profit society last year that has 
been setup so it's open to membership but it would be difficult for a 
group to join and usurp us from running it. I've also folded a project 
of mine (https://canary.pw) into the NPO and have made it so I retain 
ownership and rights to it should I decide that I do not find the board 
friendly to me. It's not sure-fire that everything will work as intended 
but a lot of mistakes were learnt from VHS and other organisations and 
we dare not be repeated elsewhere.

Matt's advice is pretty good. Start a community first and then form an 
organisation; otherwise you're just going to be fighting this battle all 
over again.


On 01/07/2014 09:24, matt wrote:
> I think this boils down to the dichotomy of hackerspace vs co-working 
> space.
> If you build up infrastructure and expect a community to show up in 
> it, don't be surprised if more than one community shows up, or the 
> community that shows up is not one you want to be a part of.
> Noisebridge suffers the tragedy of the commons in a pretty severe 
> way... having had mole people living in their basement and bi-polar 
> homeless people show up and and claim they are 'sleep hacking'.
> That's not what I am talking about.  What I am talking about is the 
> last line in that piece :
> "A lot of this can be traced to our collective inability to remember 
> our core pillars of consensus, excellence, and do-ocracy. There is no 
> one person or event that can be blamed. As a community, we failed to 
> hold close the values we had. *We were hacked by policy hackers."
> *
> Now I don't know anything about synhak... so I am just going to speak 
> to the perspective brought forth by the person who wrote this piece.  
> This is a person who enjoyed the community that arrived at synhak in 
> the early days.  As the space grew and changed and time went on, so 
> did the culture and so did the community.
> I think Torrie is talking specific solutions but not seeing the forest 
> through the trees.  When torrie talks about common values along side 
> mission statement, and limiting growth of new membership.  What she is 
> really talking about is fostering a community rather than 
> infrastructure.  She's focusing more on being with the people she 
> wants to be with, than focusing on building a space.
> And I think that has worked out very well for NYC Resistor.  We like 
> each other.  We've liked each other with fairly decent success for 5-6 
> years.  And while folks have grown apart and there has been some 
> inevitable culture shift. The community has remained strong.
> So, the answer is simple.  Synhak like noisebridge built a space.  And 
> communities fought for it, and some took it and some lost it.  Much 
> like noisebridge.  NYC Resistor built a community in a coffee shop... 
> everything else came later.
> Advice I give most folks starting a hackerspace, start a community 
> first.  Find the people you want to start the space with.  Worry about 
> that.  because at the end of the day, even if you don't have a space, 
> that community is worth way way more.
> -Matt
> **
> On Tue, Jul 1, 2014 at 12:02 PM, Buddy Smith <buddy.smith at ieee.org 
> <mailto:buddy.smith at ieee.org>> wrote:
>     Saw this on /r/hackerspaces/
>     https://medium.com/@tdfischer_/rip-synhak-7093ade6b943
>     Anyone involved care to comment? Has something similar happened to
>     other spaces? How did you get past it? How could it be prevented?
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