[SpaceProgram] Potential sponsors for Hackerspace Space Program

Paul Szymkowiak paulszym+cchs at gmail.com
Mon Jan 2 09:47:50 CET 2012

Hi Alex/ All,

I'm a bit pressed for time right now, as we're 13 days out from our very
first Mini Maker Faire, with lots still to bring together.

However, I thought it important to take the time to voice some opinions.
Apologies if this post seems a little terse, condescending or
"accusational": due to time constraints, I haven't taken the time to vet it
as well as I would otherwise. I thought it more important to get this aired
early, I'll accept any criticism of poorly chosen words.

>I myself would like to focus on building the organization responsible for
>coordinating hackerspace space projects and probably doing marketing
>to encourage other hackerspaces/universities/organizations to take part
>and encourage donations via sponsorships, kickstarter, etc which can
>be allocated to participating hackerspaces

I think this might fundamentally be the wrong focus. At the risk of
explaining how to acquire an egg, poke a hole in it, etc, I feel were
proposing some things in our discussions about our approach that - at least
for me - feel wrong from a hacker/ hackerspace perspective. I'd like to see
this effort avoid going down what I'm feeling has the potential to be "the
wrong path".

I had two concerns with our proposal to DARPA, which I discussed with
Ricky, for which he assured me he understood and even shared my concerns,
and that he intended for those concerns to be addressed equitably as the
project progressed. If needed, we can discuss those specific points,
however it's probably more productive for me to make some comments here
that echo my earlier concerns and focus my feedback on the way we proceed
from here forward.

One of the failings of the majority of "rationalised", organised
communities, has been to assume the need to govern most things about those
communities centrally. That has been done - again in the majority of cases
- by creating overbearing, bureaucratic systems that employ lots of people,
consume lots of funds, move slowly, are disconnected from and unresponsive
to the immediate needs of those being governed. Over time, the people in
those governance systems often have no tangible "skin in the game", making
them even less effective. I don't think they start that way, or are
intended to be that way - especially where "can do" people found them - ,
but even with the best of intentions, governance groups tend to, as a
general rule, end up finding their way to being disconnected, ineffectual
and expensive (both in terms of time and money).

One of the things about Hackerspaces - as a general rule - is that they go
completely against that paradigm. They are meritocracies, operated by
people with "skin in the game". The NoiseBridge tripartite pillars are a
great example of a common culture with the hackerspace network:
https://www.noisebridge.net/wiki/Noisebridge_Vision. Many people who come
along to a hackerspace are - by definition - not people who want to be
governed or lead, and many of those are also actually more interested in
working through the process to solve problems for themselves, rather than
accept someone else's known solution. Part of what it is to be a hacker is
to learn how to do it yourself: to fundamentally understand the inner
workings of a thing. It's about being present, that "the plan is nothing,
the planning is everything", "to do is to be" line of thought. And an
aspect of being a hackerspace is to support creating one-off or small-run
items locally, supporting specific customisations, using local skills and
local resources, rather than a hacker needing to accept a standardised,
mass-produced thing with its tradeoffs and limitations.

So - egg sucking hopefully over ;-) - , but with that thinking as a

 - I agree with Jerry's nod to the challenges of "herding adamantly
independent cats", and I suggest it is worth considering carefully the
futility of such an approach. There may be some small subset of things,
that we can commonly gain agreement on, that would benefit from central
coordination, but I'd argue it's probably much less than you might
currently think.

 - I agree with Jerry's point that there is a lot that can - and I think
should - be done locally: yes projects, but also promoting those projects,
as well as sourcing and managing funding for them.

 - I think, in the first instance - and perhaps echoing at least in part
Luke's comments - we should let the actual efforts of the individual
hackerspaces dictate what the grand vision might look like - built from the
bottom up based on actual interest and actual action - rather than paint a
top down grand vision that nobody may actually be interested in signing up
for. So, using your tree analogy, let's plant a few seeds, see which seed
grow into trees, which trees bare fruit, which trees are strong enough (if
ever) to warrant grafting, and over time, which small wood of fruit trees
we might look back at with pride and consider successful.

 - Perhaps there is a role for an ongoing, centralised group in simply
curating (or even documenting) the learning's from all the local projects
into a centralised reference tome of experiences (a Wiki?), or by analysing
and filtering out of those experiences, distilling general principles for
approaching certain types of problems. A set of
problem-solving heuristics: patterns, if you will. Maybe even a pattern
language for hacking/ making? This is approach of capturing the process of
the hacking/ making approach to problem solving was something I think that
Jerry may have originally proposed and that I pushed for in the original
DARPA proposal, and I felt we under emphasised. In any case, it's not clear
to me yet how - or even if - such a group should be funded. Perhaps its run
from a significant volunteer effort, much like Wikipedia; perhaps not.

 - I have concerns about a central organisational body seeking, acquiring
and managing funding at a global level. First, I'd be concerned that it
needs to be staffed by ambassadors and other board members who have direct
technical knowledge and experience in the underlying projects. I have
related concerns about the kind of commitment that "investors" at that
level would expect from the output from hackerspaces, how that would be
realised, and how that might taint the nature of a hackerspace through its
involvement in the programme. And I have yet other concerns about under
what principles that centralised group would amass and manage funds, and
how it would effectively distribute those funds to hackerspaces
globally. In the first instance, I'd strongly discourage this effort from
going down that route at all. If it must, then I'll strongly advocate we
need to all agree on the basis of the how that centralised body operates,
how people can become part of operating it, how it itself is funded (if at
all), and how individual hackerspaces could obtain funds through it, before
committing to something that hackerspaces globally could consider being
involved with and representing them.

 - I think a better model might be to keep the core organisational unit
being a hackerspace. Then forming temporary centralised sub-groups on an as
needed basis. Have active members from the hackerspaces actively working on
space-program projects self-select into those sub groups and convene, as
needed, to determine if some temporary combined organisational structure is
in order. That meeting could occur via Skype, G+ hangout, etc. The actual
representatives/ individuals actively involved in sub groups would shift
and change over time, as would the proposals driving the perceived need for
a combined organisational structure. If the group has consensus that such a
structure is beneficial, it would be formed with a clear tangible goal and
intent, and ideally with a short-to-mid-term target. Once that target is
achieved, the organisational structure would be disbanded.

Well, I hope that makes as much sense as I'd intended. Looking forward to
the ongoing discussions :)

PS - Although I'm heavily involved with
these views I'm expressing are my own.


Paul Szymkowiak

TimeZone: GMT +10 hours

On 2 January 2012 12:55, Alex <alexcg at gmail.com> wrote:

> At present I'm trying to build a list of potential sponsors for any
> project. We can use this as a shared resource for space projects across all
> hackerspaces.
> I myself would like to focus on building the organization responsible for
> coordinating hackerspace space projects and probably doing marketing to
> encourage other hackerspaces/universities/organizations to take part and
> encourage donations via sponsorships, kickstarter, etc which can be
> allocated to participating hackerspaces
> Alex Cureton-Griffiths
> +86-136-8186-0166
> Twitter: alexcg / Skype: alexceegee
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.hackerspaces.org/pipermail/spaceprogram/attachments/20120102/000b4494/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the SpaceProgram mailing list