January 2, 2012
Here’s a great - let’s call it a “book” - on how to get a hackerspace started. (It’s a lecture given by Jens Ohlig and Lars Weiler at Chaos Communication Congress 2007.)
What’s a hackerspace? You could also call it a “creative space” - it’s a place where people can gather to make things or talk about making things. Other things can be done in a hackerspace as well, but that’s the organizing concept. Usually, a hackerspace is also fairly straightforward and affordable to join. I’m a member of Hive76 in Philly, for the record. This book is called “The Hacker Space Design Patterns Catalogue”, and it gives the answers to common problems that come up when starting a hackerspace.
Part of my interest in books like this is seeing what problems people consistently run into when trying to do anything - the more problems you can solve in advance for people, the more they can do for themselves. Also, I’m very interested in the concept of the hackerspace in general; being a member of one has changed my perspective on a lot of things.
Finally, I’m always interested specifically in how to start organizations, so when I read a document like this I like to think about how its lessons apply to starting a company. Here’s a great example of hackerspace-starting advice that seems directly applicable to starting a company:
Is now really the time to start your hackerspace? Shouldn’t you wait? Have you really thought of all the problems?
Sure, it is the time! It’s important to start. Many problems you think of before will vanish as soon as you get started.
There’s some other interesting stuff in here too. Some of the answers are very straightforward (“do this, and that”), which is reassuring. Some of the answers provide wonderful empirical data, such as the idea that “peak enthusiasm at a hacker space has the form of a sine curve with a cycle duration of four years”. A few are illuminating in the range of options provided: “You need to make a group decision. Discussion does not seem to lead you anywhere”, to which the answer is to take votes or not take votes. Or you can take advantage of one of the other conflict resolution patterns given.