Engine of More: Bikeshedding
This is an introduction to Bikeshedding. What is bikeshedding? When a problem or a project is proposed in a Hackerspace, generally speaking, where the hackerspace is run with a flat hierarchy* debate ensues and rages on for a while and no actual activity gets done.
* we are not talking about the many dictatorships that look a bit like a hackerspace
The right place to start is with the Hackerspace design patterns which describe the problem thus:
Don’t be distracted into a discussion about bikesheds and their colour, that’s not what bikeshedding is really about, that’s just the example. In a Hackspace bikeshedding occurs often, not just because the folks in a space get distracted by all the possibilities of the outcome of a project, but also because structures are flat and it’s easy to avoid taking responsibility for a project. This also doesn’t just occur when
When something is everyones job, it’s really no ones responsibility, worse, if it is a group people that are responsible for something then its just as unlikely to happen.
Early on in Nottingham Hackspace we made a rule called Rule 3, Talk is Cheap..
Rule 3, “talk is cheap” came about because in the early days of the Nottingham Hackspace, it became rather tiresome when working on, say, an Arduino project, to have someone else say to you something like “What YOU should do is with that Arduino is build a robot.” The original idea of the “talk is cheap” rule, was to stop people telling you what you should do with your project and to encourage them instead to go do that thing they suggested, themselves.
I’m going to repeat this, with a slightly different example. You’d turn up with two halves of a bike with the intention of turning them into a whole bike, for example. Another member of the space would sidle over and say “What you should do with those bikes is make a cider press.” “No you’d say, I’m going to make a bike.” The idea was that instead of giving forth opinions about what others should do, you should do a thing yourself, with your own stuff and not trouble others with how they should work on their stuff.
But, of course, as the Hackspace was being developed and worked on, people came up with ideas about what should be done, yet not wanting to do that themselves they’d say “Someone should_______” and that might be “make a woodwork area” or “build a door bot.” Rapidly in the Nottingham Hackspace, Rule 3 got moved to tackle this sort of “suggestion”. There was something similar at the London Hackspace.
Well Volunteered, uses the Engineering Professor animal advise meme template and can be found http://jonty.co.uk/bits/wv.jpg on Jonty Wareing’s website. Implying that the person who suggests the thing, should do the thing. In the best case scenario this means that people will do good things. In the worst case it means people won’t speak up for fear of being lumbered with a responsibility they can’t handle, or worse will end up being volunteered for a task for which they are ill equipped or prepared.
Now you know what Bikeshedding is. All that has to happen now is I tell you how to fix this problem… now if we paint the problem red then…
todays photo thumbnail is a picture of railway arches at Herne Hill, Lambeth in South London. The South London Makerspace is in a railway arch a few yards up from these “lock-ups”. I believe that railway arches make excellent homes for Maker and Hackerspaces.