Introduction: Rules of Thumb, a Hackerspace Philosophy
Well this is the thing I’ve been thinking about and putting off for the longest time. This project has been both a book idea, a video series, a tumblr thing and a podcast series idea, so here it is in its latest variation. Blog posts.
You might not know me. I’m not anyone you should of heard of. In 2010 I was a co-founder of the Nottingham Hackspace. Arguably the greatest Hackspace ever founded. I regret much of what came to pass and today I am in despair of the space around me. For sometime I’ve been utterly unable to engage with the Hackspace. Periodically checking back in to be sent spinning into self-doubt and the fear of what might become of me if I try to fix the problems I see. Hackspace is both my muse and my nemesis. What I am engaging in here is not entirely healthy but I must purge myself of it and in sharing hope that, somehow, someone will learn something about my folly.
Hackerspaces, or more correctly Hackspace, and my experience of them is something that dwells inside my head constantly and I think about Hackerspaces about 4 to 5 times every hour. They obsess me. They consume me. What could be done better, what works well, what doesn’t work well. How do people feel about them. What are they for. Who are they for. What would I do differently. What would I do the same. When I think about them, hackerspaces, I have some recurring thoughts, that like pebbles on a beach, have rolled up and down the sand so many times they get some of the rough edges worn off them. These, though they may not yet be entirely smooth, are the Rules of Thumb.
They are pithy ways of explaining a phenomena or a problem in a Hackerspace. Sometimes they only help us understand the problem. Sometimes they contain a suggested solution or at least a way of thinking about the solution. Sometimes they’re utterly half baked. In time I hope to hone some of these rules of thumb into something useful, maybe a video series or a pamphlet or a book or a zine or something. I dunno.
When I write I’ll mostly be thinking about the Nottingham Hackspace as I see it. But I have travelled extensively to places of a similar sort all over the world. I have helped in the running and founding of other like-minded institutions. I have often coached or been coached by those who would be leaders in this area and spoken often and in depth to participants of Hackerspaces for many years. I will literally bore almost anyone on this subject if given the chance. From this stand-point my philosophy has been made. Just a warning I use the terms Hackerspace and Hackspace interchangeably all the time. I sometimes say shared workspace or community workshop, I almost never say maker space… I do not say FabLab. I may write about all that at some point. I am not overly hung up on word meaning and pigeon holes and categorisations, but I have found that the sort of nerds who read about Hackerspaces are. So to you dear nerd I apologise, but please take it as a given that I am flippant with these word meanings and generally I am talking about a shared workspace run by its members where notionally they collaborate on ideas, share tools and the workspace itself, with something of a social aspect involved.
I very much welcome feedback. I do not consider any of my Rules of Thumb to be complete or unchangeable. I may have overlooked some things and I’ve certainly presented it all from my own narrow view point. I hope to some extent to learn from this exercise as well as school others with it.