Hackerspaces: The Beginning

This is the 3rd of 3 posts from my deceased blog that I wanted to make sure continue to live on the internet. The first was The Cult of Done Manifesto and the Second was a Survival Guide to the NICU.

This post was originally written on August 3, 2011. About 3 years after we started a 12 day project. My regret is that it never got made into a real book. At the time I had assummed we could upload the inDesign or pdf files to Amazon and they would just print the books on demand, but it turned out that our photo-heavy book was more than the 150mb limit. It’s still a relevant book that I think is very inspiring and if you’re thinking of putting together a group of folks to work together, you can be inspired by folks who overcame floods, rats and flame wars to make it happen. “Your excuses are invalid.” (I believe that Nick Farr gets attribution credit on that since I heard him say it 1000 times about starting hackerspaces)

Astera was amazing to work with. She is this book’s true champion. She made this book beautiful and took the brunt of the stress of interacting with dozens of hackerspaces and representatives to pull the content together. Jens is responsable for pulling it all together and making sure it got done after it had languished. Would also like to give a shoutout to Mitch Altman who has continued to spread the Hackerspaces gospel since we went on the Hackers on a Plane trip in 2007 and who’s electronics board graces the cover of the book.

I spent 2006 through 2009 being pretty active in both the hackerspaces movement and I’m proud that this exists as something beautiful and productive that documents the community at that time. In the book are a collection of articles I wrote about the history of CCC and Blinkenlights that are a good document for any hacker historians. There is also an great set of documents about the start of NYCResistor that I’m very fond of. Ok, here’s the re-post, read it, then go read the book online for free!

In December of 2008, a group of hackers was sitting on the floor with faces aglow with laptop light cruising the internet and skyping friends in and listening to death metal. It was 12 days before 25c3. Astera and I had a conversation that went something like this:

B: There should be a book.

A: Yes, there should.

B: We have 12 days.

A: We can do it.

The twelve days we had was until CCC started. We figured we would have it done by then. We contacted all the hackers we knew around the world and put the word out. We expected to get about a half a page of writing from each space. We reckoned that it would be a 25 page pamphlet. We also reckoned that it be easy for folks to write up a little summary within a few days of what it was like to get their hackerspace started and get back to us.

Within a week we had been scorched by a flame war, gotten a lot of both written and photographic material submitted and it seemed likely that the book would happen. Then the submissions kept coming… and coming. The hackerspaces around the world told each other about the project and many groups sent some writing in describing the beginning of their hackerspace. Word had even gotten round to groups that didn’t have a space yet and they were sending us descriptions of their pre-beginnings too! The 12 days came and went and still the submissions kept coming.

After a few months submissions had trailed off and Astera came to NYC and began designing the book. She’s a pro and it shows. This book looks beautiful because she took the material and somehow made it fit together aesthetically, not a trivial task. Jens Ohlig jumped into the process last year to help push the editing process forward. Remember, in our minds it was going to be a project that would take less than two weeks and it turned into something epic. It’s been a long wait and I hope you’ll think that it’s worth it.

Download HackerSpaces: The Beginning!

Or, go read it over at the internet archive using their online reading tool.

This book documents where the hackerspace movement was in December of 2008. In that way it’s a bit of a time capsule. It’s not an exhaustive book, but we hope there are enough stories in here to show that all your excuses for not starting up a hackerspace are invalid. Each group faced down their own dragons to bring their hackerspace into existence including floods, rats, and drama. If they can do it, so can you.

We did this because we wanted it to exist and so it is a reward in itself. If you feel moved and want to support hackerspaces, we suggest contributing to the Wau Holland fund which helps make awesome things happen for hackerspaces. We would also like to thank everyone who submitted photographs and writing, this is your book.

After these years, the book is finally free in the world as a pdf. Download it, read it, and share it. We’re open to the idea of making it into a real physical book and if you’re interested in making that happen, let us know.

Build, Unite, Multiply!

Note: First step if you want to start a hackerspace is to download the Hackerspace Design Patterns

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