[Noisebridge-discuss] Who won, DARPA V Hackerspaces?

Danny O'Brien danny at spesh.com
Mon May 21 12:54:52 UTC 2012

On Mon, May 21, 2012 at 1:41 AM, Corey McGuire <coreyfro at coreyfro.com> wrote:
> During my exhausting involvement at Maker Faire this year. I realized two
> things:
> I didn't hear anything about DARPA.
> Unless I brought it up, I didn't hear anything about hacker spaces.

I think Maker Faire was a bit too big for single points of anecdata. I
spent a day on what was effectively Hackerspace row at the Noisebridge
stall with Ace Monster Toys, Hacker Dojo, Crashlabs and a bunch of
other folks. It was in the expo area, and we got a *lot* more
passers-by than last year, when we were a bit off to one side near the
tesla-torium. We were also very close to the Arduino / educational /
hardware hacking area, which I think meant more of a crossover with
those folks, although it was Casey's improvised lockpicking stall that
I think grabbed the most attention (although our mycologists's stall,
the new spacebridge system, and the electronic's guys neural hack got
a lot of attention too). Anyway, in terms of numbers, I would say that
we equalled or surpassed last year's.

I had a few chats with people about the DARPA stuff -- one from the
Maui makers' http://hackerspaces.org/wiki/Hackerspaces_Global_Space_Program
who wanted to know if spacebridge would still be interested (I'm
guessing so -- Mitch isn't noisebridge, and noisebridge projects
aren't Mitch), and some others who wanted to know more about the
issue.  I was happy to talk them through the positions of everybody,
pro and con.

My happiest moment, actually, was when Jake came through past with a
big placard protesting DARPA. I don't think I saw him *not* talking
about the issue with people, and he was everywhere, not just in the
hackerspaces quarter. I also had an interesting chat with someone
(can't remember who), who had gone to somebody who was representing
DARPA I believe and giving a talk on it. He said that the speaker was
dressed in military fatigues, and there seemed to be a bit of a
"cultural mismatch" with at least a few people.

Meanwhile, spacecamp, a big meeting of hackerspaces, met on the Friday
at the San Mateo campground after their social at the Noisebridge
space. I wish I'd had a chance to go down there, but it was a workday
for me.

I think it's really important -- especially with Noisebridge, which
really doesn't *have* any individual "representatives" and doesn't
want any, to confuse some sort of movement with some sort of
individual positions. Mitch, and many others, protested DARPA, but
that spanned a number of "movements" and a number of communities. I
really didn't notice any difference in how hackerspaces were presented
or appeared at Maker Faire (and if you're on the hackerspaces main
discussion list, you'll know that there's far from universal agreement
about the DARPA issue anyway).

I think there's an interesting question to be had about growth-rates
though. Obviously, DARPA funded projects, and commercial concerns like
Techshop have a greater interest in growth, as opposed to
hackerspaces, which I'd hazard, tend to go for scaling through
forking, rather than through size or franchising. I think one of the
effects of that as the overall DIY movement grows, that it's easy to
live in one part of it and never know about, say, hackerspaces,
techshop, or the shipyard, or any of a bunch of different spaces and
communities. Whether hackerspaces need to race to keep up with other
communities in size, or concentrate on growing their own communities
organically is an interesting question.

There may have been more talk about this at the Spacecamp. I'm looking
forward to hearing more updates about it!


> What does this tell me?  This tells me the attempt to spite Maker Faire
> because of DARPA sponsorship was an utter failure, and not only that, as I
> predicted, because so many Hacker Space Luminaries were not promoting the
> movement, the movement was less visible.
> How involved in the event was I?
> I represented the following Maker projects:
> TE+ND Rover
> Weeviles
> Tweethaus
> Other projects I have contributed to which were present:
> Tympani Lambada
> Brolli Flock
> Dragon Wagon
> TechShop
> Nimby
> The Made
> Others I am probably forgetting or didn't see
> Again, unless I brought up Noisebridge or Hackerspaces, I heard nothing,
> even with the groups that utilized Noisebridge.  This, of course, doesn't
> include "non-hacker spaces" Nimby, Techshop, boxshop, american steel,
> shipyard, etc, etc.
> This lack of visibility is counter productive and leaves Maker Faire with
> the clear option, seek further sponsorship from DARPA.  Seek less reliance
> on hacker spaces.
> Yes, it's your prerogative to protest DARPA's sponsorship of Maker Faire.
> It doesn't mean it is smart to do so and it doesn't mean that your efforts
> aren't better spent representing Hacker Spaces at Maker Faire.
> This protest is a failure.  It is failing hacker spaces as a movement.
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