Making a Makerspace Hack Chat Transcript

A event log for Making a Makerspace Hack Chat

This week we will be discussing how to make your own makerspace from the ground up!

ShaynaShayna 02/16/2018 at 17:440 Comments

Stephen : A big HELLO to @Vaibhav Chhabra and @Eric M!

Stephen : Could you both kick us off by telling us a bit about yourself and your makerspaces?

Eric M : Sure!

Vaibhav Chhabra :
Sure, Hey guys,

I am a mechanical engineer and photographer! I love to fly - Paragliding / diving. I studied at Boston University. Then worked at Eyenetra based out of MIT media labs. And eventually moved back to Mumbai in 2013.

Maker's Asylum our maker space here started in Nov 2013 in Mumbai pure out of an accident in the office of Eyenetra. When we called people to help repair the space with us and build some tables at the office.

The space use to be open only on sundays when eyenetra office was not in use. Eventually I met Anool and we setup a garage in a better part of the city. And now we have 2 centers. One in Mumbai and one in New Delhi:)

Vaibhav Chhabra : The space in Andheri and New Delhi were crowd funded and built by the community out here.

Vaibhav Chhabra : We run various programs, like the STEAM school and STEAM Fabrikarium that just ended last week

Stephen : Very cool! Those were such cool projects coming out of the STEAM Fabrikarium

Vaibhav Chhabra : Thank you @Stephen :)

Eric M :
Originally from New Jersey, went to school for CS but ended up with a Communications Arts degree......mainly because I never was able to stick with learning in the traditional teaching environments and just wanted to get out as fast as possible after a point.

I'm mostly self taught in any of the engineering disciplines I work in from manufacturing and programming. I've always sought out mentors wherever I’ve gone. I got my first job at Argonne National Laboratory in 2008 and was working in cyber and physical security. At that point already co-founded the lockport organization in 2004. During 2008 I had begun founding HacDC with a number of other co-founders by flying to DC very regularly with friends I already had before making it to Chicago.

Daren Schwenke : that's a heck of a first job..

sfrias1 : Cool @Eric M :-)

Eric M : As HacDC started to take off I was really bummed that there wasn’t a Chicago hackerspace so I decided to put my time into getting that off the ground and finding like minded people. Fast forward today it’s now one of the biggest of the country. I haven’t been involved since 2010 after I moved out of Chicago.

Stephen : So cool, Eric!

Vaibhav Chhabra : That sounds Awesome Eric:) I relate to you in multiple points

Eric M : Thanks @Vaibhav Chhabra also I just started getting into photography. I'll have questions for you later. ;)

Stephen : So both of you have multiple physical spaces you've founded, which is awesome. That leads us to our first question:

Stephen : So you think you might want to make a hacker space... Where do you start?

Vaibhav Chhabra : @Stephen, we always started by bring people together for a project or a meet. The tools and the space follow.

Stephen : I like that idea @Vaibhav Chhabra , gathering people around a similar mission first, and letting the space follow. Has the same been true for you, @Eric M , or have you done things differently?

Eric M : A little different

Eric M :
In the earlier US days….which weren’t by definitely the first generation hackerspaces, just the earlier ones that wanted to be really public imho.

So on the end of PS:One for Chicago as an example I was a fresh face in Chicago and didn't know anyone except friends information security(who did or didn't have interest a space per se). Having started groups before you need to have a critical mass before anything moves forward, and it really takes a village to get things done. Luckily Chicago is a large population center. I also didn’t have the money to start everything myself so I had to convince people that they could trust strangers (while mutually figuring out who could be trusted with also building an organization) to build something while living across the city with a $10-30k laser cutter and not burn the building down.

Vaibhav Chhabra :
We are setting up a new space in Jaipur India, next month, and its focused on Textiles.

We are following the same strategy of bring people together there over certain projects and events, but this time, we have also got the government and some companies involved to help bring in the tools at the start of the lab. As it always helps to have some tools in the start when people start coming in. It helps explain what the space can be used for.

Stephen : What tips do you both have for finding your core group of people to help you start that makerspace?

Vaibhav Chhabra : @Eric M Hey just released I visited your space in Chicago:) and I also have a sticker on my laptop from your space! Loved it:)

Eric M : So I decided to have meetings in Chicago weekly to start a hackerspace(which we didn't have a name yet(which is a branding exercise into itself)). Basically the people who really wanted to stick around did, and others didn't. Also you needed filter people…that’s hard…so you need to find people who have expertise and sound judgement to surround the organization with people who will help it succeed in the long term. That could even mean turning down people who want to give money with attachments. That can be hard and hard to see why that could be good or bad.

Eric M : @Vaibhav Chhabra rad

Eric M :
So basically the mission was the sustainable organization AS the project.

Not a "project" per se first.

Eric M : Then it switched into projects to rally people around the space.

Eric M : After the space.

Vaibhav Chhabra : @Stephen Maker events are a great place to meet people! I met @Anool Mahidharia at one in the early days:) And he has been a co-founding advisor ever since!

Sci : I can certainly understand that in the early days, the urge to admit anyone just to get numbers up would be quite dangerous

Eric M : One project as an example was getting people to rally people around the Power Wheels Racing series: and the board of directors put one of the members in charge of it as their project because they were so in to it and we let them run and take it to where it is today.

Eric M : I actually started it by sneaking in a Pink Barbie Power Wheels into the space and did that get into here....after fishing it out of a dumpster in Chicago.... ;)

Anool Mahidharia : Power Wheels is frickin' insane. We need to bring it here, @Vaibhav Chhabra

Vaibhav Chhabra : Hell Yes @Anool Mahidharia lets do it! You wanna lead?

Stephen : @Sci asks, What are some early failure states of hackspaces?

Eric M : Failure states. OMG

Eric M : They are legion

Stephen : hah!

Stephen : What are some common ones and how can they be avoided or mitigated?

Sci : Indeed. It seems that even distant maker groups trend toward similar behaviours. So presumably they also trend towards similar pitfalls.

Eric M : - a good list of things to do and not do.

Stephen : That's a great resource, Eric!

Vaibhav Chhabra : @Stephen @Eric M 's List is super intense

Vaibhav Chhabra : I think it covers everything.

Stephen : hah!

Eric M : 
This may help too:

Sci : Thanks, that's a compact source. Hadn't seen them referred to "design patterns" before.

Eric M :
@Sci That's why most of the Americans at the time heard about them before. As design patterns by Jens Olig who gave his CCC talk which inspired us.

Sci : @Eric M Cheers, that's useful context to have!

Vaibhav Chhabra : But, I would just suggest that its sometimes not that good to over research, else it can get super complicated. Its best to just get started, and follow these resources to help improve the space, and see how everyone shares the same problems. Thats how its helped me, by showing me, that im not alone

Stephen : Okay, another big question: How do you decide whether your makerspace should be for-profit or non-profit?

Vaibhav Chhabra : @Stephen - Maker's Asylum is both. It started as a not for profit, and now it has both. I think the business entity does not matter, as long as the ethos and the culture is maintained.

Eric M :
@Vaibhav Chhabra I would agree. Everything space has it's own flavor.

NYC Resistor was for profit. Noisebridge was categorically anarchist (minus the 501c3 bit), and other spaces were flavors in between. All had a goal of education.

Stephen : Next question: Crowdfunding vs loans, the benefits and pitfalls of each?

Eric M :
To answer the question. I would say you don't have to choose either. I would suggest whatever makes the least amount of work for the people founding and the people continuing to meet the mission.

Also 501c3 has a dogma of it's the best way. That's complete malarkey and SOOO MUCH WORK, don't default to it. Talk to people have done it before. I would often tell people to not do it because there are few benefits for certain ways. Also if the space is really large and a non-profit .... people actually get paid to run these things. Don't think because they are a director they are getting amazing benefits. If they aren't getting paid they need to have a day job to pay rent. Don't treat them like poorly.

Eric M : Also that comes from founding a few 501c3, and helping dozens get off the ground.

Eric M : Also I've founded a few for-profit companies.

Eric M : Also I'm not the end all be all. I've just failed a lot.

Vaibhav Chhabra : We went for Crowdfunding, as it has less liabilities and the helps asses the need for the space. As the people funding it would be future users. But again, we couldn't raise the kind of funds required using crowd funding, so we did have to take a loan form family and friends. The crowdfunding campaign helped here, as it showed that people want the space, and help create confidence.

Vaibhav Chhabra : In india, its hard to get a loan from a bank for such a space, or get help from the government as they are not recognised. We are still trying to figure out what kind of an grant do we fit into.

Eric M : @Vaibhav Chhabra I don't know the financial situation in the area. I would avoid grants and loans AT ALL COSTS. It requires less people to have their hands in your pockets.

Vaibhav Chhabra : I agree. @Eric M. We have now have now no liabilities.

Sci : @Eric M I've recently discovered "CICs" (community interest companies) in the UK, which seem to be be companies of community-oriented benefit, but more flexible and easier to set up than charities

Stephen : @Daren Schwenke asks: Best ways to recruit new members/gather community support/spread the word?

Eric M : I've found it best to have people chip in to build a thing bigger than themselves.

Eric M : Best ways to recruit members....I heard ICO's are really good. Have you heard of Hackerspace Coin?

anfractuosity : haha

Eric M : LOL

Eric M : I'm KIDDING!

Stephen : loooooool

Stephen : -can't--tell--if--joking----------

Stephen : :D

Eric M : But that would be for the funding question you haven't asked yet. ;)

Sci : (related to ClubMate-coin)

Stephen : hah!

Vaibhav Chhabra : haha good one

Eric M : To seriously answer the question. It can be a chicken and egg problem.

Eric M : Also if you have volatile people or personalities it can draw people or push them away.

Eric M : Before even answering the you live in a city that has a easy to access and relatively safe area for people to go to. Before that, people won't even show up.

Eric M :
If you do, move to step 2.


Eric M :
I posted this on Ada Fruit:

Marketing or Advertising

Identify markets or the niche your Hackerspace fits into.

Show marketability: create a solid “who we are” and what you offer (what can be done in your Hackerspace) on your website, pick your logo and Hackerpsace colors for consistency.

Who are your members? Can they offer anything toward getting the word out with activities like stickering, flyering, Tweeting, photo sharing, wearing your schwag?

Merchandise (schwag) can be in-house or affiliate-related.

Expand your tentacles – network online and off.

Would your Board and members be okay with paid advertising on other websites?

Stephen : Marketing *the engineer in me shudders*

Shayna : lol @Stephen

Daren Schwenke : same here.

Eric M : @Stephen I have a phrase

*hisssssss* come to the dark side

Stephen : hehahe

Eric M : 
Or better:

Would you rather have the perfect product no one knows about?

Or a product people know about, sells really well, but isn't the perfect product.

Eric M :
Marketing is a skill

Like engineering

Sci : A good piece of perspective to have.

Eric M : I learned that the hard way. Just because it isn't quantifiable like you want it to be, doesn't mean it isn't useful.

Vaibhav Chhabra : I agree. even I shied away from Marketing for the longest time. But its a skill that needs to be learned

Eric M : And! It is a skill.

Stephen : Okay, so we're coming to the end of our official Hack Chat time. I know there are some great resources out there. Would you both share some of your favorite resources for making a maker space?

Charlie Lindahl : Also may I suggest you try to emphasize why the makerspace is important to the community. In Houston I'm very proud of the fact that the makerspaces are being actively involved (still) in rebuilding the city after Hurricane Harvey; there are FREE classes offered on a regular basis on house rebuilding skills, etc., and members of TXRX Labs (downtown, largest makerspace) have been making furniture for Harvey victims.

Shayna : That's awesome @Charlie Lindahl

Sci : That's great work @Charlie Lindahl !

Charlie Lindahl : Working with local schools and homeschool groups is also quite beneficial in spreading the word and getting support for various programs.

Charlie Lindahl : Here's an article about TXRX volunteers building furniture for Harvey victims:

sfrias1 : Good initiative @Charlie Lindahl

Vaibhav Chhabra : I useto be part of Artisan's Asylum in Boston for a couple years. And its always been an inspiration for us. So when we ended getting the garage in Mumbai, I used the following resource:

Eric M : @Vaibhav Chhabra that's a great resource.

Charlie Lindahl : Here's the "Crafters For Good" program. Feel free to borrow some of the ideas ..

Stephen : Okay, the hack chat is /officially/ over, and I encourage anyone who wants to stay in the chat to keep asking & answering questions.

Stephen : Let's take a second to thank @Vaibhav Chhabra and @Eric M for sharing all of their learnings with us!

Vaibhav Chhabra : Thank you @Stephen, @Eric M :)

Shayna : Thanks so much @Vaibhav Chhabra and @Eric M !

Sci : Indeed, thankyou very much for your time!

Alex Ryker : Thanks for the information @Vaibhav Chhabra and @Eric M ! You guys are a great resource!

Vaibhav Chhabra : Nice to meet you guys and its been a pleasure sharing my thoughts. Please feel free to stay in touch over Facebook. - Vaibhav Chhabra

Charlie Lindahl : thank you for this chat. It is great to see so many people interested and active.

Anool Mahidharia : Great Hackchat.

Anool Mahidharia : Here's to more Hackerspaces around the world.

Anool Mahidharia : Go, build 'em.