Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Use of the word "Hacker"

Apparently, the US Legal System hasn't kept up with the use of words in the English language over the last Ten years.

From the blog Digital Bond:

Call Yourself A Hacker, Lose Your 4th Amendment Rights

It seems all you have to do is saying something like this:  “We like hacking things and we don’t want to stop”  on your website, and a court can decide you don't deserve your Constitutional 4th Amendment Rights protecting you from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Read the article and decide for yourself, but, this tells me using the word hacker in my little world of hackerspaces just got a lot more tenuous.  And that's sad.

We use this word because it fits what we do.  We hack things up by taking them apart and putting them back together in different, often better, forms.  We hack together something new out of nothing.  We hack our way into something that's broken or dead or no longer useful and fix it, bring it back to life and make it useful again; often with a new purpose.

Telling us that using the word hacker can cause a suspension of constitutional rights and protections, is just nuts.

So, now I'm thinking we should consider renaming our local hackerspace.

From this:

TinkerMill, The Longmont Hackerspace


TinkerMill, NOT Longmont's Hackerspace, but something else, like, close, but NOT a Hackerspace.  Really.


I'm starting the lean toward creatorspace.  I like makerspace, but the Make Magazine folks (i.e. O'Reilly Publishing) have made it clear that they own that name (maker, makerfaire, etc. etc.).  I'm pretty sure any place calling itself a Makerspace is going to have to, eventually, pay the Make Magazine guys a royalty fee.

So, as an alternative to Hackerspace, maybe Creatorspace is the way to go.  I know NASA calls their hackerspace "Creatorspace".  Maybe it's generic enough that all of us can start using that phrase to describe what our hackerspaces really are without opening ourselves to the risk of a 4th Amendment Rights suspension.

I can't even believe I'm writing about this, frankly.  Our legal system could use a good dose of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) training.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Starting a Hackerspace or Makerspace - some specifics

Lately, a bunch of people have been asking me about hackerspaces and makerspaces (same thing, different feel to the words, go with whatever you prefer).

I guess it's because I was a member of Denver's hackerspace (denhac) and on it's board of directors.  I also started the Longmont Hackerspace (TinkerMill) in the spring of 2013 and have learned a bit about the current state of hackerspaces, getting them started and running them.  This post is about starting the basics of how to start one with some specifics and some examples.  I may do more on running them in the future, but for now.. just get started.

A bit of background:

There was a time, 5-6 years ago, when it was hard to get people to understand what a hackerspace was.  That time is no more.  It's significantly easier to start a hackerspace today than it was even a year ago.

The two things that have changed are awareness of what a hackerspace/makerspace is, and tools for gathering like minded folks to help get it going, fund it and run it.

There's a kind of movement happening not just in the US, but globally.  You could call it Do It Yourself (DIY) or hacking, or making.  It's all the same.  People want to take control of their lives and their surroundings more.  They don't want an off the shelf from a large conglomerate retailer.  They want to make their own.  They also want to learn about how things work, and how things work together.  Mixing technology with art and with business and civic awareness.  Delving deep into education, both primary and adult.  A hackerspace is a sharing of tools and knowledge as well as a place of collaboration that every city in America (really, the world) should have available to it.  And every city should encourage and foster this for no other reason than new business formation and better educational levels for it's citizens.

How to start a hackerspace / makerspace:

It's substantially simpler than you might believe.  Don't overthink it, just do it.

1) Go to and create an account.  Set up your first meetup and call it [name of city/town] Hackerspace Meetup (or if you prefer Makerspace Meetup).  Meetup is a truly wonderful service and worth every cent they charge for it's use.

2) See how many people show up for the meetup.  It it's 4 or more, you have enough interest in your town to create a hackerspace/makerspace.

3) Have weekly planning meetings.  Leaders and truly interested folks will emerge.  This is your initial leadership team (and likely, the bulk of your first Board of Directors).  Once the leaders emerge, you're ready to start collecting money (membership dues) to pay for rent/utilities on a space.

4) Set up the rules.  You'll need by-laws (keep it simple) and you'll need paperwork that covers the various legal and liability issues of setting up a hackerspace.  Don't do this from scratch, it's already been done:  Copy other hackerspaces work.  When we created TinkerMill, we copied several different hackerspaces documents.  The basics you'll need are:

a) By-Laws.  These are the rules by which the group operates.
b) Memebership Agreement.  This includes everything needed to ensure members are covered and liability is addressed.

That's all the paperwork you need to run your operation, to start.

5) Figure out the money.  You'll need two kinds of money initially, startup money to pay for two things:  Ongoing costs (Rent & Utilities, to start) and Startup Costs (depost, liability insurance, 1st months rent, some chairs, maybe).  That's really all you need to start.  Most of the tools and other equipment in the first 6 month or so will come from your membership.  The way to raise this money, initially, is simple:  Founder donations and Membership Dues.

a) Founder donations.  Ask for a significant, but doable amount, to be a named Founder (say $300).  Payable whenever they can do it ($50 mo over 6 months, $25 mo over a year, whatever they can do).  Have them sign a pledge to do it.   This gives you capital to pay the upfront expenses of finding and occupying a hackerspace.

b) Member dues.  Pick a number that fits your location.  TinkerMill in Longmont, CO. has four levels:  Student/starving hacker ($25 mo); Regular Membership ($50 mo) Family Membership ($75 mo). and Organization (a group of people) membership ($100 mo).  Your mileage may vary.  NYC Resister, for instance, has a $115 mo Regular membership fee.  If your rents are high, your membership fees go up (and vice versa).

There's more you can do here, such as charge a 'desk fee' for a dedicated desk that members can use to startup a company, or as a place they can set up and longer term dedicated project space.  Don't worry too much about that at the beginning though.  It's a problem you'll be happy to have down the road.

6) Find a space.  Go for light industrial, low cost.  Try for cement floors and a space for a classroom/meeting room.  We found 2000 SF is a good starting size, although more is better and less can be doable, especially in higher cost markets (NYC Resister in NY started with 800 SF).

Once you've gotten enough people to throw in Founder donations and Membership dues to rent the space and get your startup costs in order, you now have a hackerspace / makerspace.

7) Fill it with chairs, tables technology, art and tools.  Your membership will donate pretty much everything you need.  Just ask them.  You'd be amazed what people have sitting around unused in their basements/garages/storage units.  You will find, within 3 months, you're turning away donations due to space limitations.  All the rest of it will come together from your members (websites, blogs, etc.).

Trust your membership.  They'll figure out quickly what it is the space should be used for and they'll make it happen.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A Colorado Hackerspace Council?

I'm wondering if it's time to put together a statewide Hackerspace Council of sorts.

We've got at least 5 hackerspaces in the front range (3 in place, 2 forming), all reasonably close to each other.

TinkerMill in Longmont
Solid State Depot in Boulder
Denhac in North Denver
The Concoctory in South Denver
Loveland Creativespace in Loveland

What if we all talked to each other and pooled our resources?  Made it possible to share spaces (someone from Denver's in Boulder for the day and could use a table and internet access to work from: drop by SSD!  Or if someone from Boulder's in Longmont for the day and needs a 3D printer for a couple of hours, drop by TinkerMill!  That kind of thing).

I wonder if it's time for that?

An excellent read from an ex-evangelical.

  As you know, I once was an evangelical megachurch pastor and my pastoral career stretched over many years. Eventually, I could no longer t...