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    Sunday, November 16, 2008

    Discussion with Far McKon, The Hacktory

    In the car on the way home from The Last HOPE in NYC in July 2008, three of us (Nothingface, Professor Rad, and Infochown) decided we want a hacker space in Maine. We were inspired by a presentation at HOPE about other hacker spaces.

    Since then, we’ve attended four 2600 meetings where we’ve spent a bit of time discussing the hacker space idea. Funding and a name (“hack” or not “hack” is the question) are the sticking points for establishing the space. With all of the companies going under in Southern Maine, there is a plethora of rental space (both business and industrial), so we have plenty of space options, but just not the funds yet.

    To find a solution to these issues and learn from others’ experiences, I’ve summoned wise hacker space organizers and asked if they could share their ideas, organizational structure, and “don’t make these mistakes like we did” stories with me. (The “hippy problem” stories are always the funniest.)

    The following is a discussion I had today with Far McKon, organizer of Hacktory in Philadelphia. (I took notes while we were talking, so forgive me, Far, if I don’t have everything exactly as you told me.) Far also said that the numbers are a general ballpark, so please don’t take this as a price quote.

    If Maine’s hacker space can pair with the art community and, perhaps, also attract the entrepreneur/writer community like IndiHall in Philadephia, I think we could have a pretty awesome co-work place!

    Discussion with Far McKon, November 16, 2008

    I spoke with Far, organizer of Hacktory in Philadelphia, about how they set up and manage their space. They are moving from a free space they had that was loaned to them by a company, but that space is too small and it’s not possible to use heavy machinery and big tools in that space; they cannot get it up to their 3rd floor space. It has a crazy, narrow winding staircase and zoning would not allow it.

    To solve their space problem, they grouped together with the art community in Philadelphia. (Brilliant! This is something that Maine’s Hacker Space surely could do—we have a HUGE artist community in Portland.) They will soon have a tech incubator space in the basement of a building that is zoned for heavy machinery/industry.

    Hacktory’s affiliation with the art community is crucial for what they are doing. The hacker space in Somerville, Massachusetts also paired with the art community. Many artists are using heavy machinery and tools for their art and either they don’t have the space in their homes/apartments, cannot use fire and big machinery without violating zoning or fire codes, or cannot afford their own large studio.

    The way the deal will work with the two other organizations grouping together with Hacktory is that one of the groups (not Hacktory) is always there (9-5) and controls access, signs for package deliveries, phones, secretarial services, etc.

    Physical Space:

    They have a large industrial space with a big, open work space in the middle. Locking studios (cubicles?) are grouped around the central open space. Those studios are small (about 50-100 sq. ft.). Some of those locked studios contain the more dangerous or expensive equipment; you get a key by taking 1-2 hour classes about “how not to break the stuff.” Some of the studios are rented to hobbyists who what a locked space and others are rented to for-profit businesses; there is a different fee structure for these two groups. All of the studio renters get the benefit of an address, secretary, shipping, etc.

    Another idea, although not what Hacktory is doing, is that some hacker spaces rent the use of your own Craftsman rolling case for about $50.-75.00./month. You use the shared work benches with your tools in your rolling case. When you’re done, you put your stuff away in your case and roll it into a locked area.

    Fee Structure for Studios:

    $1.25 sq. ft. for hobbyists

    $2.25 sq.ft. for-profit business, secretary, shipping

    Organizational Structure:

    Hacktory is a 501c3 non-profit. They have also registered with the state as an educational organization. With that status, they pay a lot less for insurance which is about $180-200/month.

    For paying members, they have about 5 active members and 7 who are occasional.

    How Does Hacktory Raise Funds?

    They offer classes and they have paying members. The classes they run are about $15.00 per hour of class time. The classes a member would need to take to operate the locked machinery is about $30.00 for 2 hours of instruction.

    Membership Rates for Hobbyists:

    • $15.00/month open hours, open means when there is an organizer/manager there;
    • A few students pay no fees if they watch the space, so could allow for more open; hours;
    • $65-85.00/month for Saturday and Sunday access only;
    • $125.00 open access with your own key card.

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