Congrats to i3Detroit on the grand opening of their new space in Royal Oak, MI (near Detroit). Not only is their space incredibly cool, they brought in the Mayor to officially cut the ribbon. Of course, being hackers, they’re not going to settle for oversized scissors and a red ribbon with a bow. Instead, watch as Mayor Ellison cuts through a 40-conductor ribbon cable with an oxyacetylene cutting torch:
To boot, their space is DOPE!! Tis ground level with a garage door, electronics lab, classroom, reading loft, and…they’ve got metalworking equipment!!! Oh, dear angle grinder and MIG welder, how I love your sparks, smoke, noise…and how I hope see you join with microcontrollers and heavy duty servos to make robots that fix abandoned buildings! How I would love to see a homebrew alt fuel open source automobile roll out the i3 doors! Pipe dreams?? Only time will tell…
Is it only a matter of time before we have a Head of State blasting open the doors of their country’s latest hackerspace? Hopefully so!
The /tmp/lab is organizing a group visit of CERN, the world’s largest particle
physics laboratory close to Geneva.
We have to give a 4-6 month advance notice, which probably brings the visit to
February/March 2010. Because I must give an estimate of the attendees, I would
be grateful if you subscribe before Monday Oct 19th.
While you’re there, maybe you should go try to find this little piece of history:
This machine is a se(rver!) DO NOT POWE(R IT) DOWN!! (Courtesy of Cory Doctorow)
* * *
Unfortunately, the list for /tmp/lab’s CERN excursion is FULL!
However, as there seems to be such a huge interest in making the trip still, probably somebody wants to step forward & start a list for a second group? [hint, hint]
C-base. Noisebridge. C4. HacDC. They are officially recognized and organized as independent entities. These spaces are funded, operated and controlled as directly as possible by their members. They open their spaces up for events, classes and social gatherings, and eagerly invite new members to join. These spaces are good examples of the Membership form of organization, the style of organization that most directly inspired the wave of spaces that began to form in late 2007, after Hackers on a Plane and that year’s Chaos Communications Camp.
While these spaces may make it look easy, bootstrapping a space under the Membership form of organization is often far more difficult than pursuing other forms of organization, especially when starting from scratch. There are also other ongoing organizational challenges. Ultimately, if something fails, members can only blame themselves.
Unlike Anarchy, Membership spaces require an official form of organization with explicit expectations, rights and responsibilities of members. Unlike Angel spaces, Membership spaces require their members to contribute the bulk of what it takes to rent and operate the space. Unlike Owner spaces, Members have an equal say in where to locate, how much to pay in rent and what projects to pursue with group funds. While spaces run by a Board and spaces run by Members are largely similar, the degree of difference in control and responsibility can be substantial depending on the situation.
Following this formula, the first step in bootstrapping is officially forming an organization. Incorporating is usually the first place where the 2+2 model from the critical mass pattern comes into play. The 2+2 group is usually the first to sign the paperwork and contribute the startup funds necessary to secure and rent a space.
Even while the 2+2 group has an implicit authority by virtue of being founders and visionaries, all they can do is set an example, work on the tasks at hand and inspire others to help. Without a space, these membership groups recruit others by reaching out over e-mail, attending conferences, dropping by local events such as DorkBot and Maker Meetups, and hosting their own workshops in shared spaces. More members means more dues and resources, but it also means more opinions and potential for disagreement.
In some areas, the 2+2 group will often contribute a substantial boostrapping funds to execute a lease, after which the usual rent and expenses are paid for by member dues. In many ways, it’s easier to “sell” potential members on the value of a space once it’s actually leased. Some hackerspace efforts began collecting dues long before a space was leased, making the process of executing a lease a shared effort from the beginning. In any case, once a group is large enough to pay the expenses, it’s safe to call the bootstrapping process over.
The notable advantages over alternative forms are largely ones of legal compliance, independence and true democratic control:
Anarchy: Membership spaces are official legal structures with explicit expectations and guidelines for operation and more stable bases of operation.
Angel: While Membership spaces can generally collect donations from outside the group, core expenses are paid for by members and function entirely independently.
The Owner: Members are not accountable to the concerns of an owner, the nature of their business, living situation or other concerns. As a group, members are free to use the space as they see fit, negotiate changes as a group of peers and have discussions where everyone is on equal footing. There is no “veto power” in a Membership group.
The Board: Members generally stay informed to all operations of the group and generally participate in any discussions that make a substantial change in the group. Instead of changing decisions made by a board, or waiting for a board election to intervene, decisions are made as a group from the beginning.
The notable disadvantages over alternative forms require more work from the members and more time spent on administrative matters and potentially distracting disagreements:
Anarchy: Membership spaces must periodically file paperwork, support the space through dues, stay on top of other legal requirements and fulfill their stated obligations as members. This leaves less time for projects, hanging out, etc.
Angel: Members are generally constrained by the resources they can obtain themselves. Instead of having the space and cool projects paid for, members must assess dues and raise money to pay for rent and expenses.
The Owner: Instead of having an owner to rely on for collecting and paying the rent, easily making special arrangements, mitigating disagreements among participants and having one “final say” on matters, members must come to agreement on certain issues or figure out ways to work around issues.
The Board: Instead of electing someone you like to make decisions for you, members must spend time on an ongoing basis meeting to discuss issues and working to solve problems collectively.
Talk of a fully democratic membership organization may be a bit misleading. In any group, leaders will generally emerge. Those founders who start spaces naturally fill a leadership role by guiding their space from nothing to existence. Sometimes, in the best interests of getting the space going, founders will gloss over underlying issues within the group that form from differences of opinion. Failure to resolve these in time usually results in group fragmentation that can lead to a group’s demise.
If the founders or other leaders who emerge exercise too much power, or hold onto it for too long, they can alienate others in the group or possibly even default in practice to another form of organization.
Another problem with fully democratic organizations is that members can always vote with their feet! Failing to attract new members or high membership turnover is also a big problem with membership spaces. Unlike Owner or Board spaces, every member is inherently responsible for creating the conditions that attract and retain members who help support the space.
While I strongly believe this form of organization is the best and most closely aligned with what hackers look for in a space, it’s not without its problems. Hackers are generally bad at paperwork and group dynamics, so sometimes an alternative form of organization is the best course of action to pursue. Sometimes ceding a little bit of control for the sake of having a space or keeping it open is the best thing to do.
However, if you’re serious about building a dynamic, sustainable space, you should consider following this model! It’s worked throughout the world and with the right energy, it can work for you too.
First of all, please introduce yourself – who is behind syn₂cat and what do you do for a living?
While syn₂cat began as a two men project in August 2008, it has by now developed into a fully fledged non-profit organisation, featuring 4 administrative members and 4 additional officers. The initial founders, Steve and David are a freelance IT consultant and a political science student respectively.
Of the additional people that soon stocked up the syn₂cat office, macfreak109 is a school teacher in information science, xx5y is a microelectronics engineer, Bartek a post-grad physics student, Gunstick a sysadmin and Michel is a student in secondary school. We only now got reinforced by an 8th crew member.
So how did you come up with the idea to found a hackerspace?
The idea of a hackerspace was born out of desperation
David felt that, should he ever have to return to Luxembourg after university, there’d have to be a hackerspace. Visiting the Metalab in Vienna, though only for a short hour and without much going on, was a key moment in filing that decision.
Though the idea of building a hackerspace was initially scheduled for after David’s graduation, we spontaneously decided to do it “right there and now”. Since then, the project has been steadily growing like an open source project, with its “developers” learning by doing how to run such a show.
What are your future plans for the hackerspace?
Bootstrapping the space is still the near future and once we accomplished that, attracting more people and launching projects will be our focus. One group will focus on youth projects to get more young people into thinking outside the box and begin seeing solutions instead of problems.
Another future task is to constantly shift the responsibility of the actual space to other, maybe younger, people. Although we talked about an “administrative” board, we are far from paper tigers and want to keep the complexity as flat as possible.
Why do you think is the movement spreading so fast right now?
It gained a lot of momentum by the Hackers on a Plane project and the incredible amount of hackerspaces growing in the US. The sudden US movement had its spark from some German hackerspace visits so I guess it was the Germans again
Interestingly enough this amalgamate of people starting open spaces backlashed to Europe again to give rise to a new iteration of hacker- or open spaces. The movement is nothing new but currently it sees fit in the hacker culture which sees an imminent uprise. To get to the point: People saw peers doing cool things in cool spaces and thought – “us too!” – and started doing it too.
Another factor might be the rise of social networks which allow ideas to spread quickly, especially amongst technically minded people. Hackerspaces take the connections made online and map them into the physical world.
The next big things will be our OpenWeekend where we show the space to the general public and keep it open for 36h straight. Further, we are also planning regular Python classes and electronics (soldering) sessions, with another focus on attracting other peer-groups such as user groups , the Chaos Computer Club, miniature railway hackers etc…
And the last question, where can we find some pictures?
Now at the 9th edition, the “Troppo Caffe’ Poco Cervello” (too much coffee, too little brain) it’s a cultural and scientific happening that lasts three days where people from all over the world (and beyond) are meeting in Palazzolo Acreide and via the internet to share experiences, research, culture, poetry, art and science with the intention to create new and beautiful things to donate to the community.
This edition will have people from all Sicily and also foreign guests committed in advanced programming sessions, dissertations for beginners, scientific experiments, sumptuous lunches, enormous dinners and sleepless nights dedicated to the passion for computer science.
Poems will be read, poems will be written, everything and nothing will be discussed, weeds will be weeded, new weeds will be planted, debates will happen, decisions will be taken, all and nothing will be done!
Everyone can join, the important thing is to leave the brain at home and bring a lot of coffee!
Thanks to our night shift teamwork with Georgyo, we’re now running the latest Mediawiki, a brand new kernel and cleaned up the Apache2 configuration to avoid name clashes between sites. Yeah, it’s all behind the scenes and you may have missed it, but it’s done. Thanks to Astera for backup! Support Abbenay!
The one-month old Abbenay hacklab has put out a call for support from the Hackerspace community. In the spirit of ASCII and PUSCII, they opened up operations in a squat in downtown Stockholm. While squats are unusual in Sweden, this particular space has been able to stay open for a month.
We are however facing an imminent eviction threat and police pressure has been significantly increasing lately – with civil cops coming very often to take pictures of the house and sirens waking us up early in the morning. This call is asking you to contact the landlord to show support to the hacklab and the squat…
Herein lies a rather unique opportunity. While you may not agree with the politics behind squatting, Abbenay’s call for support is asking for an open dialogue with the building’s landlord, advocating on behalf of Hackerspaces and asking for reasonable accommodation. Here is an opportunity to purposefully advocate for a fellow Hackerspace, not by necessarily aligning yourself with the politics of the situation but by appealing to a property owner why it’s in his community’s best interest to allow Abbenay to continue.
Although their methods are questionable, please consider what benefits you and your fellow citizens could enjoy from having such a dedicated team of goofy researchers in your capital city. Beyond the obvious press coverage…you would be surprised … how productive and ingenious these people can be, and how shaking and beneficial such an endeavor can be for the local community.
Those of you who have started hackerspaces know how difficult the bootstrapping process is, as well as how beneficial these spaces are to the technically creative and curious where you live. While your hackerspace probably took a different route in coming to be, consider that every Hackerspace confronts its own forming and operating challenges differently. Consider how you give and receive help at your hackerspace and consider that what Abbenay is asking for isn’t that much different.
While this post is a bit of a departure from my theoretical musings of late, I believe this is a fascinating situation with a good working solution that shows promise. Even if Abbenay is ultimately evicted, the mere process of reaching out to a property owner in another part of the world can help you frame your own thoughts about your Hackerspace and how the magic and struggles in your space relate to those in spaces throughout the world.
This is a Story originally written by Smári that was spread on the net by some other people. I asked Smári if I was allowed to post it here, since I think it’s really funny – and here it is:
[Disclaimer: This is a bit of a joke, written last night as I was falling asleep.]
I just arrived in London after another one of those mind-numbing long haul flights, this time from Mumbai. And in my eight hours of pneumonia induced pain I managed to watch a delightful array of films that I hadn’t gotten around to, including the fourth ‘Terminator’ movie.
Two-or-so years ago, just before it became public knowledge that this film was being developed, I was visiting MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms when the makers of the film contacted CBA looking for technological goodies that could make the film more interesting. I’m sad to say that none of the more profound ideas tossed at them made the script, but either way, I think that the entire discussion contained an important implicit subtext which was lost on the kind of people who think that hurdling Christian Bale between flying machines whilst explosions happen is a good idea.
So I present here a short analysis of where the Terminator movies go wrong:
The first Terminator movie didn’t stretch things very much. It was a simple time travel scenario with man versus machine, a kind of crypto-luddite cumfest. It wasn’t until Judgement Day came around that the industrial model started to warrant scrutiny.
In Judgement Day we are treated to a view of Los Angeles being vaporized by a nuclear explosion. For the machines, this tactic makes sense. Take out major human outposts to diminish their numbers significantly straight off. Humans have very low tolerances for nuclear hijinx such as radioactivity, but machines, being simpler and more discreteized, can presumably take much higher doses before problems start to occur. Expose a titanium alloy to a source of beta radiation for long enough and sure enough it will melt or otherwise morph, but long before humans melt from that kind of radiation atoms in their DNA start picking up extra core elements, altering their nucleic structure, and causing their host to die a very brutal death.
This illustrates a model. Consider that for anything that is “required” for sustenance, or “must not be” for survival, there exists a continuum, and each individual occupies an interval on that continuum. The length of this interval is often called “slack”. More slack equals more likely to survive a lack of something crucial or an excess of something lethal.
Simply by comparing the average slack values and their 95% intervals for each individual species you can pretty easily discern the smartest set of tactics that can be employed by each side. The robots can go ahead and use nuclear instability, thermal radiation (metal objects tolerate high heat while humans like myself start to go all wiggly and faint when it’s higher than 45°C out), extreme climates, darkness, and that kind of thing to their advantage.
The humans on the other hand have a much better ways of dealing with machines at their disposal.
In Terminator 4 a huge 7-or-so-story evil robot thing came out of nowhere in one scene and started scooping up people. It later became a part of some sort of super-carrier aircraft. Each of these things must require a large amount of metal to build, not to mention rare earth metals, plastics, semiconductors, etc. In T-2 Schwarzenegger claims that he has a “metal” endoskeleton, without being specific as to which metals exactly. From what I’ve seen of the Terminator‘s Moh’s hardness, it is most certainly an alloy of something. Either way, Ferrum is for this kind of purposes a pretty aweful atom, and it kind of only makes up for it by fact of its general ubiquity. It requires lots of special treatment to be very hard, it rusts easily, and it is a crappy conductor compared to lots of other metals.
For proper construction of a Terminator you’d presumably need a bunch of metals: Titanium, Cobalt, Paladium, Chrome, Copper, Gold, Silver, Tantalum, etc. Each of these metals is relatively easy to get, provided you know where to look. Tantalum is a pretty good one. Most of it is mined in the Congo, by children. I would be very happy to replace those children with robots, but let’s face it: if the robots are out to kill us, one of our best ways to kill them off is to keep them away from tantalum. Even if that means making a bunch of child slave laborers unemployed. Not being able to use tantalum for capacitors would mean they’d need to use other types of capacitors, such as electrolytic, which have worse properties for a number of things, and are generally larger and more fragile.
See where I’m going with this?
Humans are part of an eco system that has been around for millenia, and through our evolution we have managed to adapt our “slack” values to be narrow for things very abundant in our environment (such as amino acids) and wide for things that are relatively scarce (such as certain metals). We can survive without tantalum. The robots cannot. We can survive without electricity. The robots cannot. We can survive without most of the infrastructure we take for granted – it won’t be pretty, but honestly, you can stick a human in a Mumbai slum far more readily than you can stick a Terminator.
Humans are good at surviving the kind of situation where everything is messed up and ugly. Our bodies adapt. Robot’s specifications don’t change. Sure, you’ll have a T-1000 liquid metal thing every now and then that’ll cause you some grief, but honestly there’s no threat that the T-1000 can pose that a little electromagnetic resonance burst can’t fix.
When it comes down to it, the battle between humans and robots is not so much about sheer power as it is about controlling the industrial chains. Attacking the slack. And as long as robots require things that are harder to get than the things humans need, the humans will win.
After the California adventure, we made our way up to Seattle. After getting in late, we met with Justin Martenstein from a hackerspace known as Saturday House. Unfortunately we learned that Saturday House is no more, and we discussed several reasons why hackerspaces can fail.
The next day we met with Rob, another member of Saturday House, and then Willow and Baron, who are starting a new space in Seattle called Jigsaw Renaissance. Baron was awesome enough to give us a ride out to Vancouver that night, where we checked out VHS. After driving us back to Seattle, Baron dropped us off at Bill Beaty’s house.
Bill Beaty is clearly a mad scientist, but awesome nonetheless. We interviewed him the next morning, as he seemed to know quite a bit about the history of the local hackerspaces. Following that, we talked with Noid about The Black Lodge (fomerly known as Eastside Hackerspace).
Having finished the West Coast portion of the trip, we shot across the country to Charlotte, North Carolina. Teleco Bob gave us a ride from there to Atlanta, where we experienced the beauty of FreesideAtlanta. Their space is huge!
The following day we caught a ride with Freeside to the Hackerspace Meetup at Makers Local 256 in Hunstville, Alabama. Great ideas were discussed, including things which could very well change the direction of hackerspaces at large… more on that in a later post.
Now that the chaos has subsided a bit, we are sitting in the airport, waiting for a flight to Chicago, eager to continue capturing the passion and creativity of the hackerspaces that await.