SAN FRANCISCO — R. Miloh Alexander and Seth Schoen are hunched over an old pay phone whose innards are being grafted onto the guts of a Walmart telephone and a voice-over-IP modem.
Right now, the Frankensteinish hybrid looks like a pile of tangled wires. Somewhere in the mess, an alligator clip has popped loose. Schoen frowns.
“We really need to solder these down,” he says.
The two are working on a recent Monday evening at Noisebridge, a collectively operated hacker space in San Francisco. Across the table, Noisebridge member Molly Boynoff is typing on a sticker-covered MacBook, learning to program in Python. Next to her, Noisebridge co-founder Mitch Altman is showing two newcomers how to solder resistors and LEDs onto a circuit board.
“There are zillions of people around the world doing this,” says Altman, referring to the swell of interest in do-it-yourself projects and hacking. “It’s a worldwide community.”
At the center of this community are hacker spaces like Noisebridge, where like-minded geeks gather to work on personal projects, learn from each other and hang out in a nerd-friendly atmosphere. Like artist collectives in the ’60s and ’70s, hacker spaces are springing up all over.
There are now 96 known active hacker spaces worldwide, with 29 in the United States, according to Hackerspaces.org. Another 27 U.S. spaces are in the planning or building stage.
Located in rented studios, lofts or semi-commercial spaces, hacker spaces tend to be loosely organized, governed by consensus, and infused with an almost utopian spirit of cooperation and sharing.
“It’s almost a Fight Club for nerds,” says Nick Bilton of his hacker space, NYC Resistor in Brooklyn, New York. Bilton is an editor in The New York Times R&D lab and a board member of NYC Resistor. Bilton says NYC Resistor has attracted “a pretty wide variety of people, but definitely all geeks. Not Dungeons & Dragons–type geeks, but more professional, working-type geeks.”
For many members, the spaces have become a major focus of their evening and weekend social lives.
Since it was formed last November, Noisebridge has attracted 56 members, who each pay $80 per month (or $40 per month on the “starving hacker rate”) to cover the space’s rent and insurance. In return, they have a place to work on whatever they’re interested in, from vests with embedded sonar proximity sensors to web-optimized database software.
Altman wears a black Dorkbot T-shirt, a black zip-up hoody and olive khakis with large side pockets. His long gray hair features vibrant blue and red stripes, and he’s nearly always smiling. His enthusiasm for hacker spaces is infectious.
“In our society there’s a real dearth of community,” Altman says. “The internet is a way for people to key in to that need, but it’s so inadequate. [At hacker spaces], people get a little taste of that community and they just want more.”
I can most warmly recommend you to read the whole article here!
Congratulations to all parties involved.
And btw: As for today, we know of 101 active hackerspaces, plus 18 uncategorized; besides this, 64 hackerspaces are planned or (17 out of which) currently in building process.
And every time I see a post like this come up, a talk being held, a paper mentioning one of these spaces – every one of these times, more people get interested, and the long list of planned hackerspaces grows a little more.
And this is what makes me so very happy about Dylan Tweney’s article.
Build! Unite! Multiply!
As for 02:50 PM EST today, our good old Apache crashed due to the WIRED article’s appearence on the front page of digg.com; shortly after temporarily fixing load issues, the database was brought to its knees.
So, first off: W00T!!!1!!eleven
Secondly: We’re working on it. For the next couple of hours, however, only static html pages generated from the wiki will be served (besides this blog) – until we finalized the wiki optimization.
Again, thanks for all the interest. You people rock.
our next hackerspaces call-in will be held on the 1st Sunday of the upcoming month, as usual: April 05th, 2009.
The call-in conference opens at 02 pm PST / 05 pm EST / 10 pm UTC / 11 pm CET / @458 BMT.
All information for dial-in can be found on the general call-in page.
For giving an update about recent activities and general awesomeness at your hackerspace, please RSVP on our wiki!
Mr. E, President of the Chicago Hacker Space, Pumping Station One and jur1st, President of the Cowtown Computer Congress announced on March 7th the formation of an agreement which tightens the bond between regional spaces. We believe that this won’t be the last such agreement as similar organizations continue to come together around the United States.
This reciprocity agreement allows members of both organizations to utilize the facilities of each other’s organizations when in town. At this early stage for both organizations, members who would like access must provide proof that they are members in good standing at the sister organization and will be given full privileges to use networking services, take classes and use the workshop while on the road for business or pleasure.
Expect more announcements of strategic alliances between spaces very soon.
Last week, I visited the Parisian hackers at /tmp/lab. Located a little ways outside of the city, in a somewhat tricky-to-locate industrial building, /tmp/lab is nevertheless an active and thriving hackerspace. The weekend I stopped by, they were having three separate events: an OLPC-repair night, a soldering workshop, and an experimental film screening.
Hmm...this sign smells like hackers...
Brendan: How long has /tmp/lab/ been around? Philippe: One year and a half, yes? Niko: Uh-huh. P: So last year.
B: And how many people were involved with the founding? When you first started? P: Around 10, but then 3 or 4 people really got this thing going, really said “Oh, we are going to do it!” It’s not all the people who said, ‘we are going to do it,” who are the people who are continuing to do it. It’s a constantly rotating membership, new blood.
B: Where did you get the idea or how did you decide you wanted to have a physical space? P: Chaos Camp! N: Wireless chaos camp, it was. August 2007.
The subterranean entrance. As a great philosopher once wrote, "RTFM"
B: How long did it take you get started, after the idea? P: That’s an interesting thought, because said “we’re coming back and we’re doing the hackerspace,” but we had lots of problems getting a space. And some guy actually showed up from the team and said, “Maybe I have a lead some space,” basically he contacted some people. I came here, and thought “Wonderful, let’s do it!” The team split because it was not a legitimate-for-rental place. Half didn’t want it, and the other half said, “F*&% it, let’s do it.”
B: So the space is squatted, then?
P: No, actually, we have kind of an understanding with the owners, but we don’t pay rent. N: Renting for free. P: We pay only the ADSL line, nothing else.
B: Where did you originally get members for the space, did you all know each other before? P: Actually not so much. N: Not so much. We are friends of friends of people we knew, mostly. A lot of people we didn’t know, but from the same social circle, probably.
Replacing an OLPC keyboard at /tmp/lab
B: So you didn’t advertise it or anything? N: Not really, I remember getting an email from some friends of mine that said, “Tmp lab is opening. You’re welcome,” that’s all.
B: How much time do you, personally, spend on a weekly basis working on the space? P: Here, or in general? B: Well, just anything related to the space. P: I don’t know. I don’t really count. N: Me either.
B: You said the only real bill is the ADSL, does everyone just kick in? Or how does that get paid? P: Actually, it’s part of an artist’s co-op, and this is considered one of the artists’ spaces. People put in some money for their situation, but it is not this money which is being used to pay for the ADSL. It’s individual members who say, “we are going to also kick in to the main organization.”
B: So you don’t have membership dues? P: Yeah, we should have something like €30 per year or something. N: But we don’t know who the “members” are. P: We don’t care, actually. We’re all equals.
B: That was my next question, actually, about the organization of the space? You said it’s constantly changing, are there some people who are more in charge of making decisions, or is it just by votes? N: We just have co-members. P: And the decision-making makes me very *joking stutter* un-c-c-comfortable. Decision-making is always hard. N: We try to minimize complexities. We try to keep things as decentralized as possible.
B: Can you give an example of a time there’s been a conflict, or a disagreement about how to use the space? P: Workshops! There was a question about having the workshops be centralized by a few people, or being completely chaotic, and basically the vast majority were saying ‘let anyone who wants to organize a workshop do a workshop,” and a few people were saying, ‘oh we should centralize it,” so we finally settled it that the three people should centralize it [their workshops] for themselves, and everyone else can be as chaotic as they wish. It didn’t fit, really, the agenda of the people who wanted to centralize, so in the end it turned quite chaotic. But it’s a very fixed way of doing things, because when you want to do a workshop, you just sign up on the wiki, and create a new workshop on a date, and if it fits the agenda–the date is free–then you get admin rights on the agenda [google calendar page] to add your event. And each person who has done an event before has full admin rights on future events. So it’s like, do sh*t and you get some kind of access.
Fun with soldering guns
B: How much lead time for an event, like, for this soldering event? How far in advance do they plan that? P: The soldering event was one of the most planned. It’s usually like a couple of days. A week, couple weeks maybe for this.
B: What were some of your original goals for the space and do you think you’ve achieved those? N: Getting the people together, to do stuff, and enjoy it. P: And we’ve done that. B: I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with the number of people you have turning out for events here. N: We too! P: I’m definitely impressed. B: Especially because, not to dis your space, I like it, but it is hard to find, so to have people come all the way out here… P: Maybe in the last three or four months things have been getting really streamlined. We have workshops every weekend, and people coming every week. We have cruise control now.
Replacing a damaged screen is surprisingly simple
B: That’s my next question. The workshops are whenever somebody organizes one, but are there any recurring events, like a regular meeting? P: We have weekly meetings, but you are welcome to organize a workshop whenever you like: even on weekly meeting nights, or on Saturday or Wednesday, whenever.
B: What about sort of bigger events for the hacker community, I know you organized some sort of larger festival. Can you talk about that a little bit? P: Yeah, it’s the Hacker Space Fest, in June 2009, it’s going to be the second one. The last one was 2 days of conferences, 2 days of workshop, and 3 days of experimentation and free association. N: And parties! You have to have parties. P: It was really interesting. B: How many different hackspaces attended that? P: We had…five, maybe. People from a hackerspace in Seattle, from Toronto, people from Berlin; Croatian people. Between five and ten different groups.
Yours truly trying to look 1337 around mysterious long-haired hackers.
B: What about events that you guys go to? I know you went to Wintercamp and CCC. P: FOSDEM, it’s an open source developer meeting in February in Brussels. N: Also, Wireless Camp. B: Could you talk about Wintercamp a bit? because I wasn’t familiar with that one. P: It’s the first one, this year. It’s a very specific event– N: It’s closed. P: Yeah, it’s closed, it doesn’t follow the hacker ethic of being open. N: *jokingly* And I hate it because it’s closed! He went, I couldn’t. P: Yeah, that sucks. It was really interesting to get these people together at the same place and time, but at the same time I would really have enjoyed having Niko along. Even just to have him join and say, “Hey, I’m from the same group,” wouldn’t have been so easy. One event we go to every four years is in Holland. B: Oh yeah! What the Hack! P: HAL [Hacking at Large], What the Hack, HAR [Hacking at Random]. B: I’m so disappointed I’m going to miss that. N: Why? B: Well, I’m supposed to be back in the US before it happens. Maybe I could go to the US and then come back… P: Oh, please do. It’s really awesome, and such an important event. N: If you need help, or some kidnapping, let us know. P: We can fake a ransom letter from “HAL-Qaeda”. B: “Help! I’ve been kidnapped by hackers!” P: “Al-Qaeda?” “No, HAL-Qaeda!” N: *sarcastically* They’re the worst! Hackers and Arabs! We must nuke them.
B: What are some of the projects you’ve worked on? You can talk about Consumer B Gone, I thought that one was cool. P: Yeah, there was some synergy that came together on that one. I was going to get some gear at the supermarket to organize a party, it was maybe my birthday, and I was pushing the shopping cart, when it stopped. And I thought, “What the heck? If they can do it, I can do it!” so we went back with a scanner and another guy and did some reverse-engineering work. And then we were like, “Oh, we can do this! Oh, it does this! Then we can do this! Oh, maybe we can do this!” B: Did you grab a shopping cart to work on reverse-engineering? N: No comment. P: Quote me, I’ll deny it. B: Anything you want left off-the-record will be off-the-record. P: Nah, nah, I admit nothing. Who is speaking? My name is Nicholas Sarkozy! But yeah, the cool thing is from nothing, you reach up to this finished project which can have a good impact, or a sh*tty impact. B: What about you, Niko, any project you’re particularly proud of, or something somebody else did that you thought was cool? N: I don’t know. I’m working on OpenWRT as developer, I’m pushing it, for one. We’re having a workshop in April, with wireless “battle mesh”, where we invited some wireless routing protocol developers to conference their approaches. B: Are you working on expanding it [OpenWRT] to new platforms? N: All kinds of things.
B: Last question, if you guys could have one wish for the hackerspace, what would it be? P: Never to become a movement or a syndicate or a party or a church, keep it decentralized. N: Keep it the way it is now. With a lot of different cells. And if it gets too big, it has to split. P: Like spores in the wind. But I’d like to see us include not just geek stuff like networking, but also physical sh*t. I saw this guy who was talking about building these crazy artifacts which generate energy.
B: Well, that’s pretty much it. Thanks for your time.
Even though I couldn’t attend ETech as I had planned, Rose gave a excellent presentation that unfortunately wasn’t recorded. Even though it wasn’t recorded we here at hackerspaces.org have seen sone interesting trends on the twitter feeds and the blogs. So all I can say is job well done. More to follow next week.
Our next hackerspaces call-in will be held on the 1st Sunday of the upcoming month, as usual: April 05th, 2009.
The call-in conference opens at 02 pm PST / 05 pm EST / 10 pm UTC / 11 pm CET / @458 BMT.
All information for dial-in can be found on the general call-in page.
For giving an update about recent activities and general awesomeness at your hackerspace, please RSVP on our wiki; and probably you’d like to waste a thought on helping us with audio recordings or call-in setup!
Recently the Columbia Chronicle did a profile of Pumping Station: One, the hackerspace I run in Chicago. I don’t have much to say here other than the article puts across the vision of hackerspaces succinctly.
While twenty people sat around with their laptops and coffee, Sacha De’Angeli stood up to propose a crucial decree for the group.
“The rule I’d like to propose comes from Bill & Ted,” he said. “Be excellent to each other.”
The motion was voted on and seconded. From then on, the organized group of Chicago hackers would have to “be excellent to each other.” After the meeting was adjourned, the hackers scattered and began individual discussions about topics such as knitting and machinery.
Courtesy KAMIL KRAWCZYK
A new Chicago-based hacker space, called Pumping Station: One (PSOne), is ready to set up shop in the city. Since October, the group has been looking for a building to call home. At press time, the group had written a letter of intent and were waiting for the owner’s approval to move into the space as soon as April. Until they move into a space, the group meets every Tuesday night at The Mercury Cafe, 1505 W. Chicago Ave.The members of PSOne aren’t out to steal money or use their computer skills to overthrow the government. Actually, a few of the members aren’t computer experts at all.
Josh Krueger, a member of PSOne, defines a hacker as “someone who makes something and modifies it and uses it in a way that wasn’t originally intended.” His definition can be applied to just about any medium.
“[A hacker space is] a place where people can go to push the boundaries of their form and art,” said PSOne founder Eric Michaud. “It doesn’t relate just to computers.”
The members of PSOne come from very diverse backgrounds. They’re artists, engineers, programmers, bakers and writers. One of the only qualities that binds all of them together is their desire to create. The creations, however, vary from machines to crafts.
A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to visit Forskningsavdelningen (“The Research Department,”) a hackerspace located in Malmö, Sweden. Malmö is a faded port town that suffered enormously from the closing of shipyards and the loss of port traffic in the 1980s. It reminded me a bit of a more charming version of an American rust belt city like Baltimore, or Philadelphia.
In recent years, the city has seen an economic recovery, but there’s still a great deal of vacant industrial property. The Research Department is located inside an old factory and has a very grunge feel to it.
I spoke with OlleOlleOlle, a friendly, articulate hacker with very little of a grunge feel to him. He was nice enough to fill me on the origins and operation of the hackerspace. Read more…
When: Thursday, March 5, 2009 @ 8:00 pm
Where: HacDC Auditorium (1525 Newton St NW, 20010)
Why: Because he’s Dan M.F. Kaminsky. That’s why.
Cost: FREE – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC – EVERYONE IS INVITED!
The man responsible for breaking DNS like it’s never been broken before (then quietly gathering the world’s network operators to fix it because he’s a superhero) will be talking about his experiences with DNS and (if we’re nice to him) previewing some of his latest research at HacDC tonight at 8:00 PM.
I hope all is well with the tubes tonight, and might I add let the Ted Stevens be with you!
As you can see quite a few hackerspaces fell under their wrath, and we can’t wait to see what they bring to the table. Show up and be amazed. If your still wondering what to expect they have a press release.
Monochrom from Vienna is a worldwide operating collective dealing with technology, art, context hacking and philosophy and was founded in 1993. So to sum up, monochrom is an unpeculiar mixture of proto-aesthetic fringe work, pop attitude, subcultural science and political activism. Their mission is conducted everywhere, but first and foremost in culture-archeological digs into the seats (and pockets) of ideology and entertainment.
monochrom released a leftist retro-gaming project, established a 1 baud semaphore line through the streets of San Francisco, started an illegal space race through Los Angeles, buried people alive in Vancouver, and cracked the hierarchies of the art system with The
In Austria they ate blood sausages made from their own blood in order to criticize the grotesque neoliberal formation of the world economy. Sometimes they compose melancholic pop songs about dying media and host the first annual and inevitably leading festival concerned with cocktail robotics. At the moment they’re creating a conference series about sex and technology. Also they do international soul trade, propaganda camps, epic puppet theatre, aesthetic pregnancy counseling, food catering and — sorry to mention –modern dance.
monochrom’s gigs will be a medley, a little tour-de-farce, a presentation of their projects and political motivation. A joyful bucket full of good clean fanaticism, crisis, language, culture, self-content, identity, utopia, mania and despair, condensed into the well known cultural technique of a gala show. Powernapping highly welcome.