By Marty Graham
October 20, 2007
Imagine a device that looks like a lawnmower, rolls up to you and shows
you your wifi password. It's Hackerbot, and 3ricj says people react
kindly to the little bot, not like they do to the evil hacker
stereotype. Or a CDMA device sent up in a balloon that works until the
This is what happens when hackers have a space - Hackerspace, in
Seattle. Founded on April Fool's 2005, it's full of things that explode,
burn, whirr and hum, and people who play with them.
"It takes money to do this, but you've got a bigger pool of people to
raise money," 3ricj says. With an evolving group of members, people try
art, hardware hacks and collective projects in the 3,000 square foot
Members have lots of freedom inside, but they also think through the
results of what they do.
"It's important you don't disrupt the local ecosystem because once the
cops start showing up your project is in trouble," 3ricj says. "Sharing
a case of beer and sitting in a corner isn't really a good use for the
They've got dozens of projects underway, a pile of electronics finally
sorted for easy use. They use wikis to track supplies, keep project
lists and notes.
Hackerspace is a real example of hacker gatherings, infrastructure in
the community that the Hacker Foundation is promoting.
"You have to organize," says Nick Farr, who set up 'hackers on a plane',
hauling hackers from DefCon to Germany for a hacker camp. "All it takes
is getting a group of people who are local and interested and start
talking about it, get to a shared vision."
"It gets really hard to pursue projects in a house, it's important to
have a space you can invite people into," he says.
NYC Resistor is creating a space in Manhattan, another group is working
on an art gallery/hacker space in San Francisco, possibly the two most
expensive cities in North America.
"Almost any potentially public space that you can build walls and lay
network cable in can be a hacker space," Farr says. "Look at any public
space in your community where you can start to create a hacker space."
Almost all the public hacker spaces created have failed because the
people who started the project burned out from the drama of it all. And
there's the risk of surprise expenses - holes punched or insurance
"Noboby's going to do the community organizing for you," says Farr.
"We're encouraging you to do this because it's a cool idea for people to
have a place to collaborate."
Some of the things that come from hackerspaces are fascinating - Lara
Sobel's RFID shielding pouches wallets, made from trash and essentially
an open source project.
"I posted instructions for making them online so anyone can do it,"
Sobel says. "I learned how to fuse the trash bags and defeat RFID
readers from available information and I'm sharing how to do it."
Besides fused trashbags, Lara uses aluminum can bits to provide
shielding whether the pouch is open or closed. They Velcro shut and fit
credit cards, licenses and passports.
Sobel started making them because she wanted to be able to turn her RFID
technology on herself to people she trusts.
"I want a human interaction to make a trust decision," she says.
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