HackLabTO Ignite at DemoCampTO19

I gave my first Ignite talk last week at DemoCamp.  If you’re unfamiliar with the format, you have 20 slides which advance automatically every 15 seconds, giving you a total of 5 minutes to talk.  It’s a fun format, but I was amazed at how much more quickly those slides flashed by when I was in front of an audience than when I was practicing.

My slides were mostly photos, and I had notes co-ordinated with them.  I’ve put the presentation on Slideshare, but they don’t share presentation notes well, so I’ll include them here.  The bullets are numbered the same as the corresponding slides.  Read them really fast and you’ll get an accurate impression of how my talk went (at least until the video gets posted, ruh roh).  Slides and notes below the jump.

  1. About me: I’m Leigh Honeywell.  Along with Seth Hardy and Paul Wouters, I founded HackLab.TO.  We’re a sort of geek community centre in Toronto’s Kensington Market.
  2. First, some background on hackerspaces.  We wanted to create “permanent hallways” the way BarCamp and DemoCamp are “all hallways” compared to a traditional conference – space to socialize and do nerdy things.  Space to lockpick and code and hack and make and break in the company of our friends.
  3. We came from a proud history – the Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT (pictured) and other university spaces, earlier hacker and geek houses like the L0pht and the Ghetto Hackers. In Europe the hackerspace tradition also had roots in political causes like the squatters’ rights movement and anarchist technologists.
  4. We had panels at conferences, shared knowledge and experiences, created documentation and community.
  5. hackerspaces.org was created.  Wiki, IRC, and mailing list – the three essentials of hackerspace communication infrastructure.  Props to Astera for all her work on that site, it’s an amazing resource.
  6. Jens and Lars wrote up some design patterns which served to guide many people setting up spaces, and to shut down an awful lot of bikeshedding.  We all meet on Tuesdays now.  Well, almost.
  7. This map never ceases to blow my mind.  There are established in India, France, Bulgaria, Colombia, Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto.  People are organizing in Thailand and South Africa and Calgary, Hamilton and Ottawa.
  8. The densest set of spaces is in Germany, where the spaces are linked in varying degrees of formality to the Chaos Computer Club.  Some of the spaces have been around for a decade.
  9. I’ve spent time at the C-Base in Berlin, and have friends at many of the other German spaces.  They really have amazing stuff going on there.
  10. Two random American spaces: CCCKC is in Kansas City, MO, and is in a mine.  ZOMG.  Those zombie road signs on CNN?  Yeah 🙂
  11. HacDC in Washington, DC, is in a church they share with 14 other non-profits.  They throw amazing parties and will be taking over additional space in the church’s basement once the asbestos is dealt with.
  12. And of course this brings us to HackLabTO in Toronto.  We had wanted to start a space for a while, but the right stuff all happened at the same time last summer.
  13. We leased our space in July 2008, and incorporated as a non-profit in September.  We’re up to 23 members, and have an amazing, bright, sunny space in downtown Toronto.
  14. Membership is $50/mo which gets you a key to the space.  We have the traditional IRC / wiki / mailinglist communications setup, as well as a blog at http://hacklab.to.
  15. Every Tuesday from 5pm on we have an open lab night called “Unpatched Tuesdays” where the lab is open to socializing, hacking on projects, and sharing knowledge and ideas.  We also run our weekly meetings at 8pm on Tuesdays, as part of an effort to make our processes transparent.
  16. Some projects: LED sign, RFID-proof duct tape wallets, getting the Lisp machine working.
  17. Moar projects: the lazzor, Roomba fixing and hacking, ham radio hijinx.
  18. On Thursday nights we have an informal, peer-taught Python programming class, taught using a great book which it turns out Noisebridge in San Francisco is also using to teach their Python class.
  19. We also have parties!  Our next one is March 14, in celebration of Pi Day!  Bring pie!
  20. You don’t need to be 1337 to participate, you just need to want to contribute to the community and learn cool new stuff.  Come hang out!

So I totally cheated and included lots of stuff I didn’t have time to say in the actual Ignite.  Oh well 🙂