Given this diffusion of activity, how do you know when a hackerspace has succeeded? A hackerspace is a success when it helps people create things they could not have before. How does that happen? Either because another member has the right skills to help push through a sticking point or because there are enough people doing awesome things that something that looked impossible becomes much easier. Another way of establishing success for a hackerspace would be when they, as Mitch Altman says, "take something that was traditionally very expensive and make it cheap." The explosion of availability of inexpensive 3D printers is a prime example of this kind of hackerspace success story.
What hackerspaces mean to you
Why should you care about your local hackerspace? Well, as should be obvious, they are centers of learning. They offer both community — the kind of collaborative energy usually associated with the university experience — and an outlet for creative expression. As an individual, if you are interested in broadening your personal horizons, learning new skills, finding outlets for your creative desires, or hanging out with interesting people, there are few better avenues than interacting with your local hackerspace.
Organizations and managers within organizations should also look to their local hackerspaces. Why? Because hackerspaces tend to be hubs of entrepreneurial activity, and they can be a good place to recruit amazingly talented people, especially the so-called T-shaped people who have both an incredibly broad skill set and range of knowledge, as well as deep expertise and knowledge in at least one area.
Some hackerspaces are also open to collaborative ventures alongside local for-profit firms, or are at least willing to promote your organization through the channels they control. In exchange, a donation to sponsor the space is always welcome. For companies — in terms of community goodwill and "hacker cred" in your local community — there may be no better investment than sponsoring a local hackerspace.
Of course, you may be wondering what to do if you don't have a local hackerspace. The answer should be obvious: Start one yourself. Launching a hackerspace isn't necessarily difficult and there's plenty of information available from those who have gone before. For example, here's ahandy guide to starting a hackerspace, courtesy of the fine folks at Adafruit. Also, the hackerspaces website has a treasure trove of useful information, including an awesome list of hackerspace design patterns.
But in the end, it's really just the following, per Mitch Altman:
Envision a culture you want to be part of, and put it out there. Pick a name, get a website, make stickers, hand out stickers to anybody and everybody, meet every Tuesday, and eventually get a physical space.
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