My first Hackerspace was Noisebridge. It was full of smart and interesting people and I never felt like I belonged, but I had just moved to San Francisco and it had interesting events, like 5MoF, and provided access to basic stuff I hadn’t moved with me, like a soldering iron. While I was never a heavy user of the space I very much appreciated its presence, and availability even to non-members. People were generally welcoming, it was a well stocked space and there was always something going on.
These days my local hackerspace is Farset Labs. I don’t have a need for tooling in the same way, being lucky enough to have space at home and access to all the things I didn’t move to the US, but it’s still a space full of smart and interesting people that has interesting events. And mostly that’s how I make use of the space - I attend events there. It’s one of many venues in Belfast that are part of the regular Meetup scene, and for a while I was just another meetup attendee. A couple of things changed the way I looked at. Firstly, for whatever reason, I have more of a sense of belonging. It could be because the tech scene in Belfast is small enough that you’ll bump into the same people at wildly different events, but I think that’s true of the tech scene in most places. Secondly, I had the realisation (and this is obvious once you say it, but still) that Farset was the only non-commercial venue that was hosting these events. It’s predominantly funded by members fees; it’s not getting Invest NI or government subsidies (though I believe Weavers Court is a pretty supportive landlord).
So I became a member. It then took me several months after signing up to actually be in the space again, but I feel it’s the right thing to do; without the support of their local tech communities hackerspaces can’t thrive. I’m probably in Farset at most once a month, but I’d miss it if it wasn’t there. Plus I don’t want to see such a valuable resource disappear from the Belfast scene.
And that would be my message to you, dear reader. Support your local hackerspace. Become a member if you can afford it, donate what you can if not, or just show up and help out - as non-commercial entities things generally happen as a result of people turning up and volunteering their time to help out.
(This post prompted by a bunch of Small Charity Week tweets last week singing the praises of Farset, alongside the announcement today that Farset Labs is expanding - if you use the space and have been considering becoming a member or even just donating, now is the time to do it.)