[hackerspaces] distributed space?

dosman dosman at packetsniffers.org
Mon Jul 7 21:46:00 CEST 2014


At first this sounds like a neat idea. I agree that building your community first is a recipe for success. However, the devil is in the details. The overhead of running a space usually gets split into three pieces: collecting dues, paying the bills, and maintaining the physical space.

Collecting dues and paying the bills would be the similar to any other hackerspace in this scenario, it doesn't matter how the physical space is divided up. The problem is that you are now looking at maintaining multiple physical locations. A functional space will generally have a small number of core members who actively maintain the space (we'll call them "maintainers") and if lucky, once in a while they improve things too. This means trash gets taken out, bathroom cleaned, floors swept, fires put out, wifi fixed, etc. The rest of the members cause havoc and should not be assumed to know how to clean up after themselves (partly joking here ;-). So now you are spreading your "maintainers" across multiple locations which reduces the likelihood of each space being kept up appropriately. Also, even more importantly, your overhead has gone up because each space will have bills to be paid. Even if you are borrowing these spaces from friends, you essentially have multiple landlords to keep happy. When the wood shop is left like a tree-eating hurricane blew through, the electronics area unusable with one last drop-off of busted ink-jet printers crammed inside, and your metal shop just caught fire all at the same time you might regret being subjected to 3 angry landlords. At least when this happens at a "condensed space" you only have one landlord to deal with, and if you are lucky they won't find out since they don't live there. Also, from a North American perspective, if this will be a legal entity you will probably never get insurance in this configuration. This is because insurance requires well defined borders, I'd be surprised if they would know how to handle multiple locations. Also they won't insure private areas of someone's home separately. However I'm guessing this is not a major concern for what you are proposing.

On the other hand, if you had solid folks you know are dependable to maintain each area then it could work. However, I will also say that being able to walk from the metal shop to the laser cutter is a huge time saver. In my mind that is part of what makes a hackerspace special. There are not many places where you can etch your circuit boards, machine a metal enclosure, and laser etch an acrylic piece for one project under one roof. 

The closest thing I've seen like this is where a few members peel off and share space for themselves outside of the hackerspace. Say, someone has a garage and shares it with other members. It isn't available to just anyone, but again it's nice being able to network with other folks and make friends with the person that has the garage or whatever resource. This way members can help each other out and the community still benefits even though it's not a resource available to everyone.

Sorry, not trying to be too negative, it's good to think outside of the box. But it is some food for thought.


On Jul 7, 2014, at 2:50 PM, Brett Dikeman wrote:

> Hi all,
> I live in a neighborhood in Boston where there's about zero space
> available. Problems: many rentable spaces are ludicrously expensive to
> the point where the financial models don't work, or they're way too
> large to launch without it being a really big, expensive gamble. There
> is very little non-retail commercial space; even less industrial
> space.
> Also, as noted in other discussions, a lot of potential uses aren't
> compatible without good isolation from each other (metalworking,
> woodworking, electronics, coding, etc.)
> It occurred to me that there could be different spaces around the
> neighborhood that are all part of the same organization/community.
> Only for the sake of clarification of the larger concept (I don't want
> to get bogged down in nitpicking around these specific examples):
> maybe someone has a detached garage that they're OK with people doing
> metalworking in, we're able to find a one-room office good for
> electronics/coding/administration, the local craft shop wouldn't mind
> donating or sub-leasing a back office or some space in their basement
> for textile work, etc.
> Are there any groups who have tried this, successfully or not? My
> immediate thought it is that there's need to be a strong focus on
> community building to make up for the lack of one common room/space
> (such as providing tools for people to share/see what others in the
> group are working on, rotating a regular community meeting through the
> different spaces, encouraging each space's users to host "open house"
> sessions, etc.)
> Thanks for your thoughts!
> Brett
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