Design Patterns for Starting a Hacker Space

Design Patterns for Starting a Hacker Space


I’m sitting in C4’s presentation room watching Jens and Lars give an awesome presentation about the design patterns for developing a hacker spaces. Download it now if you’re interested in creative communities. – PDF Link

C4 has been in their current space since 1999 and it’s version 3.5 for them. They’ve been through a lot and these design patters are really simple but go really deep into having a successful hacker space! What follows are my notes! They made it clear that these are just guidelines that have worked for them and that they contradict each other, but these are design patterns, not golden rules!

Infrastructure before projects. Get the place and the people and the infrastructure all set up and folks will come up with the most amazing projects. Get the space, power, servers, connectivity and all that kind of stuff all set up so that projects and community can be supported. You need to have a mailing list, wiki, and an irc channel (or jabber server).

You need 2+2 people. Two idea people for scheming and and two implementation people to get real work done. Don’t start until you have 4 and then once you’ve got it going, expand to 10 to start off. These people who start off should be really strong personalities who have experience. “Look for people who have authority (and get respect), not for people who use authority (and get laughed at).”

So you’ve got your seed group and it’s time to find the ultimate hacker lair. Don’t let anyone live there, privacy issues come up. You want to have good neighbors who are chill and ok with noise all night and a landlord who is hands off.

You should have smaller separate rooms so that different rooms can be used for all sorts of things. Smoking is an issue in all hacker spaces in Europe and it works for C4 to have a smoking room.

Food is a good thing. It’s good to be able to feed people and go beyond pizza. You’ll need fridges, dishwasher, and kitchen equipment. It’s good for nerds to eat healthy food. Selling soft drinks works to help raise money for the rent. A shower will make people smell less funny and really work on projects for an extended time. A washing machine is a good idea to wash the smelly towels.

Have couches, sofas, a stereo, video games make people comfortable and hang out and daydream and feel cozy.

Have 3 months rent ahead. Larger projects need to be funded. Elect a totalitarian treasurer. The treasurer doesn’t say names, but will say that there are three people who haven’t paid and he will go seek them out and make them pay!

Don’t meet at a company or a university. Independence is important!

Meet every week. Have an agenda and make people commit to tasks. This meeting is for members only. Have a monthly talk or lecture that is open to the public. If smart and interesting people arrive, you can invite them to your weekly meetings. Don’t invite weirdos to your weekly meetings.

To resolve conflicts you can use a number of different patterns. You can use consensus, democracy, or boss people around (as long as you are participating too!) People may slack off and it’s important to remind people about taking pride in their work! When having discussions, it works well to have people with actual social skills lead the discussion. Learn from them and learn not to interrupt others. You may also want to have private conversations with people who are trouble makers.

This presentation was one of the highlights of my hacker space tour around Europe! I’ve been thinking a lot about social networks and creative communities and this presentation was really fantastic!

Photo set from C4 – Link

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