With Hacking at Random now behind us, giving us a fresh supply of hackers excited about the Hackerspaces movement, it’s worth noting that the “Design Patterns” by Ohlig and Skytee are now two years old. Initially presented after the first Hackers on a Plane, and later revised for the 24C3 and other conferences, the patterns are still the best guiding theory behind the global Hackerspace Movement.
Of course, the theory must keep up with the practice of Hackerspaces. One of the things I enjoy most about Defcon, HAR and the other conferences I attend are the intense discussions on Hackerspaces and the theory behind them. One of the biggest points of contemplation in the discussions I have are the differences between members, non-members and other casual visitors to local hackerspaces. Many in the community don’t have the time or resources to build a hackerspace or become a member. However, it is these “casual users” that help breathe life and vitality into today’s spaces, the ones that ensure the success of this global movement and the ones I believe we have an obligation to support and encourage to make this movement sustainable.
In an interview for HAR FM, I noted my belief that Hackerspace members do in fact have obligations that come with the rights and benefits of building and sustaining a Hackerspace. While the rights of membership are clear, such as having a key, a place to build and store projects and other special privileges, the obligations of membership are something not often discussed or even consciously realized.
Since each Hackerspace differs slightly on members and the issue of membership, I choose to define a member as a person directly involved with the upkeep and governance of a Hackerspace. Most members pay dues to cover rent and expenses and share the obligations of administration, publicity, documentation and other duties essential to keeping a space open and flourishing. Without these members, the Hackerspace itself would cease to exist.
It’s worth noting that Hackerspaces have been around for quite some time, the most notable being the L0pht in Boston. Founded in 1992, the L0pht began life as a storage space for Oblivion’s electronic and excess computer junk and, as he describes, “turned into quite a presence”. The wikipedia article on the L0pht shows how its members functioned in a role similar to those in hackerspaces today:
As L0pht occupied a physical space, it had real expenses such as electricity, phone, Internet access, and rent. Early in the L0pht’s history these costs were evenly divided between L0pht members. In fact, L0pht originally shared a space with a hat-making business run by the spouses of Brian Oblivion and Count Zero, and the rental cost was divided between these.
The key distinction between a space like the L0pht and a “Design Patterns” Hackerspace is that the latter actively engages those outside their direct membership and the former exists primarily to serve its members and their interests. Spaces like c-base and the C4 that inspired the Design Patterns exist as a venue for the local hacker community, in sharp contrast with spaces like the L0pht and spiritual successors like New Hack City (San Francisco). The distinction is very well put in an article about the hacker documentary Disinformation, and the challenges the filmmaker had shooting NHC and Cult of the Dead Cow members who built and sustained the space:
The hackers are seen chatting, goofing around, and demonstrating their break-in skills at one of their said-to-be San Francisco-based hangouts, the so-called New Hack City hacker social club. “Said-to-be” because the whereabouts of the clubhouses that host the spare-time activities of the Cult of the Dead Cow is a well-guarded secret.
That secrecy made life difficult for director Backer, who was constrained by time, money, and few opportunities to interview his subjects.
“They were very strict,” Backer said. “They blindfolded us and drove us around for a couple days, going in circles. Finally we got to their secret location, and I had no idea where I was. They said we were in San Francisco.”
“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.”
Noisebridge even welcomes non-members to come use the space, and Altman says non-members can do everything that members can (except block the consensus process). The community governs itself according to the guiding principle expressed on a large poster of Keanu Reeves hanging from the loft: “Be excellent to each other, dudes.”
The spirit of excellence from Noisebridge not only covers how members must treat each other, it extends to how members should treat the community outside their membership, those that benefit from having a space nearby. This obligation is not a static one, as new members are almost always casual users first. There are also many casual users that spend a lot of time in hackerspaces, perhaps making more significant contributions than regular members, but decline to officially join for many different reasons.
Without these casual users, hackerspaces run the risk of disappearing like the L0pht and New Hack City did. Being welcoming to the outside world helps ensure our collective success and sustainability, helps show the world what hacking is all about and helps feed and cultivate projects and activities going on locally and globally. It leads to more hackerspaces and more resources for existing hackerspaces. It’s the kind of thing we should keep in mind when we build and maintain our spaces, that we’re not just in it for ourselves, we’re in it for our neighbors and our world.
Jocognito from the c-base has put together a great series of videos covering the Power to the People auction during the 25C3. Check them all (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) out for some ideas on how to run your own geek auction. If you’re going to be around Cologne this up coming weekend, odds are very good we’ll be doing another geek auction to raise money for local hackerspaces at SIGINT.
As we enter more challenging times and address a need to help fund budding hackerspaces, we want to hear your ideas and experiences with fundraising! Have you run or wanted to run your own geek auction? Seen events run by other charities that you think might work well in the hackerspaces realm? What should we try that hasn’t been done yet? Post your ideas on the wiki or leave a comment!
At a recent HacDC get-together, Tim Collins displays his latest toy to a visitor. It’s a microcontroller, a $6 mini-computer on a chip smaller than his thumb. “This has more computing capacity than my first computer, which cost thousands of dollars,” he observes.
Microcontrollers are the glue that holds the consumer electronics world together, used in everything from kitchen appliances to cars. These days, the parts are cheap enough so that tech enthusiasts like Collins can afford to play with them as a hobby, but they’re also still complex enough that you might need help if you want to use one to build, say, your own personal robot. And that’s where having access to the collective brains of the HacDC membership comes in handy.
HacDC, based out of a church in Columbia Heights, is a sort of a co-op space for tinkerers, with about 25 members paying monthly dues of $50 to rent out the 600-square-foot space. For the money, members get round-the-clock access to the space and its collection of donated tools. Non-members are also welcome to hang out.
These guys are hackers, perhaps, but not in the bad, steal-your-passwords meaning of the word. Hacking, in the HacDC sense, refers to the act of tearing into the latest technology to build or do something not originally intended by a device’s creators. A couple of years ago, I wrote about a guy who’d figured out how to wirelessly control his Roomba vacuum cleaner with a Nintendo DS. That’s the sort of activity we’re talking about here. Read more…
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.
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.
Our friends in Luxembourg from syn2cat are having a little get together that is open to the public (as long as you RSVP for the 10 spots), to put together a number of Arduino units for your hacking pleasure.
From syn2cat’s wiki post:
What is it about?
On the 15th of March we are going to solder an Serial Arduino Board and a few Velleman Kits to afterwards.
Hack them and make them behave in a different way than originally conceived. (Limited to 10 People! Deadline: 8th of March)
We will provide
There will be approximately 6 full soldering stations
with all the necessary gear (Multimeter, Wirecutter tools, etc…)
These sets will be available FOR SALE. So in case you like what you did
and want to become a REAL Pirate make a future proof investment.
Most of the Kits will be in 3 exemplars, if you are really keen on one, reserve it please.
A Room (kindly provided by emQue)
6 30W Soldering Irons with an adequate Tip and stand (but please bring your own should you have one)
6 Multimeter (again, you have one bring it please)
6 Ubuntu Laptops with the Arduino IDE
Power supplies (some regulated some not, Voltage varies)
So this last weekend I was at NYC Resistor taking in the sun *cough* taking in the sights *cough* taking in the culture *……* well yeah. Anyway I was witnessing the birth of something magnificent. The “sudo make me a sandwich” robot!
Some of you may know the origin of the story, but for those that do not I think a simple cartoon slide will suffice.
Make sure to check out Adam’s photos and his excellent blog called Shadowflux where he’ll post the code for this robot. Adam took the robot home to Seattle with him and I am optimistic that more sandwiches will be born of this robot and set free into the world.
In order to make it all work, Adam set up an arduino to interface with 2 servos and 2 steppers using the RepRap stepper controllers.
I used QCAD to design some bread and cheese distributing mechanisms and the infrastructure is up on Thingiverse.com.
The toaster oven needed a little modification and a servo controlled flap was put into place with some hinges to make it move slowly. Adam found some pretty special stepper motors with an amazing amount of torque fo.r the flap and the tray controls.
This is one of those robots that I swear is alive. The noises it made were like an animal and it seemed that everytime we looked the other way, it was coming to life and changing things with the setup.
I’m not one for posting press releases but this just puts the point across perfectly.
Note – This is the press release which we issued to a number of media outlets. You can watch the schedule of events become more refined by subscribing to our calendar or checking the events page. – jur1st
The Cowtown Computer Congress Opens Their Underground Lab
February 26th, 2009. Kansas City, MO – The Cowtown Computer Congress (CCCKC) is happy to announce the opening of their Underground Lab to the public with a full week of events Beginning on March 2nd, the grand opening showcase the rich and vibrant community of creative minds in the Kansas City area. CCCKC, the first organization of its kind in the midwest, will serve the community by providing technology classes, donating unique projects to local organizations and technology assistance to those in need.
The week will kick off on Monday, March 2nd with an open house for individuals and organizations who are interested in learning more about the organization and how they can take advantage the Underground Lab for meetings, classes and other activities.
The creative talents of CCCKC members will be showcased on Wednesday March, 4th. The member project showcase will be followed by a screening of Make:TV, a public television series which will be shown for the first time in the Kansas City area that night. If you’re curious about what CCCKC and the maker culture are all about, this is the night to come be inspired. Projects to be showcased range from alternative methods of energy generation to a labyrinth game which is controlled with the balance board from a Nintendo Wii Fit.
Thursday, March 5th is the regular member meeting where members come together to discuss group projects being developed for donation to local organizations and plan future community service projects like our monthly free computer repair opportunities.
Friday evening will feature a slate of speakers covering topics ranging from improving home security and information management to protecting data from theft while using public wireless internet.
On Saturday the public is invited to take part in a range of free workshops on basic electronics and soldering, e-textiles and Nintendo Wii hacking. All day members will be available to assist members of the public choose, install and configure computers using the free and open source Linux operating system.
About The Cowtown Computer Congress
The Cowtown Computer Congress (CCCKC) is a not for profit technology cooperative founded to advance technology of all kinds. They are a member supported organization providing technology classes, workshops and services to the public free of charge. CCCKC brings together some of the finest minds in midwest to collaborate on research and projects for other local groups. Through their affiliate program, CCCKC gives assistance to specialized technology user groups by providing them with a facility to hold meetings and work on projects of their own.
CCCKC’s Underground Lab is located 85 feet below the surface of the earth at 31st Street and Southwest Trafficway in Kansas City, Missouri.
Further inquires should be made to:
press at cowtowncomputercongress.org or to
John Benson – President and Co-Founder
That is but one of the questions I get whenever I go out and the topic of what I do in my free time comes up.
So recently I had that same question asked but this time, Dave Hoffman of Davemakes.com had brought a video camera.
From Daves’ site
The time has finally come to unveil my secret project. HELLO is a new series of videos about interesting people. This first episode features Eric Michaud, President of Pumping Station: One, a hackerspace opening up in Chicago. I asked him all about what a hackerspace is, and why you should join one.
For those that can make it to Paris for this battle of wits and protocols, it sure seems to be a rousing good time.
Here are some of the details.
“We are pleased to announce that the /tmp/lab will be organizing a Spring Wireless OpenWRT Mesh Contest called “Wireless Battle Mesh” during 2 days (April 11-12th) with the goal of building 3 wireless mesh networks based on embedded hardware running OpenWRT and different concurrent mesh routing protocols.
The targeted architecture will be 3 networks of 25nodes + 1 wireless managment networks (10-20 nodes) to achieve realistic size of nodes number, data traffic, configuration problems. The architecture will be set-up indoor and outdoor around the building of the /tmp/lab.
OpenWRT will be the selected for the BoardSupportPackage running on the different hardware nodes and a core network configuration will be built on Linux servers with user-friendly features such as :
Concerning the mesh-protocols, selected targeted protocols are :