An Introduction

Brendan | Posted 2009.01.23 at 7:34 pm | Perma

PantheonHello, my name is Brendan McCollam. I’m an American who’s traveling around the world visiting hacker spaces in Europe and South America. I am not a hacker myself, just a general-purpose geek.

I went to school in LA at Pomona College where I studied neuroscience. Afterwards, I received a Thomas J. Watson (yes, that T.J. Watson) Fellowship to travel, visit hackerspaces and meet the hackers who inhabit them.

The Watson Fellowship was established by Thomas Watson’s children in honor of their father. Thomas Watson Jr., in particular, had spent a great deal of time as a young man traveling and felt that it was a very important experience in his personal development. After building IBM into the computer-inventing, holocaust-enabling Linux-supporting behemoth we all know and love, he was basically like, “I have more money than god, what should I do with it? I can either swim in it Scrooge McDuck-style, or I can be awesome and fund cool things.”

He settled on the latter, and the Watson Fellowship was born. The Watson Fellowship is not an academic program, and I’m receiving no degree or academic credit for my travels. Rather, it’s an opportunity for lucky individuals to learn more about the world, themselves and some subject they’re deeply, personally interested in. I chose to study hackers because I’ve always been a computer geek and hackers are the coolest computer geeks there are.

When I tell people I’m traveling to hang out with hackers, I typically get one of two reactions. Either, “That’s awesome!” or “Be careful they don’t steal your credit card number!” Which reaction they have usually reveals quite a bit about that person’s attitude toward computers and technology. Sadly, hackers have been so pilloried in the mainstream media that I even had one person ask me if I was conducting jailhouse interviews (I haven’t done any yet).

I’m almost six months into my travels now, and I’ve been all over Europe to many different hackerspaces and conferences. I’ve been invited to come on here as a guest blogger and share some of my experiences. Going forward, I’m going to be posting photographs and interviews from some of the hacker spaces I visit. If you’re interested to see where I’ve already been and some of the other things I’ve seen on my trip, I’ve been keeping a personal/travel blog since I started last August.


With this we welcome Brendan to the team! Everyone thanks for reading so far, and expect interesting articles from this man in the coming weeks and months.



  1. To be fair, the late Mr. McDuck left his fortune to future generations in the form of the only public money-swimming pool in the western hemisphere.

    Anyway, congrats on the new blog job. I’ll be reading.

    Dave Jacob Hoffman, January 26, 2009
  2. [...] a grant that he is currently using to travel the globe to visit and document hackerspaces for the blog.  On the commercial side of things, informal Jellys and more serious co-working spaces have begun [...]