New Bay Area Hacking Space Forming Now

Noisebridge LogoThis evening I attended one of the preliminary meetings for Noise Bridge in San Francisco. I had heard that efforts were underway to create some sort of hacking space/den/lab in the Bay Area but I thought that they were only going on in a very preliminary way. While talking to Jacob Appelbaum on Tor matters recently, he mentioned that the efforts were a bit further along and that meetings had been happening a couple of times a month recently to create a space.

This space is Noise Bridge and it is intended to fill the same sort of role that the hacker spaces of Europe do. As the wiki for the group states:

Noise Bridge is a hacker space in the same spirit as the European clubs like Metalab of Vienna, CBase of Berlin, MAMA of Zagreb, ASCII of Amsterdam. Many other clubs of a similar stripe can be found on Hacklabs. It would not be out of the question to consider Noise Bridge to be a possible San Francisco Chaostreff. Noise Bridge is a hacker space that shares a Dorkbot-like ethic and indeed many of the members of Noise Bridge are long time Dorkbotters. Noise Bridge is a space for sharing, creation, collaboration, research, development, mentoring and of course learning. The group as whole has an interest in programming, hardware hacking, chemistry, mathematics, photography, security, robotics, all kinds of art and of course technology. It is a place for mentoring and asking questions.

This is all very much in formation and you can consider the above to be a bit of a manifesto of the vision that people wish to see realized. The first priority is to nail down the interests of people and to get the word out to those that would be interested in taking part in such a space.

A number of the attendees at the meeting this evening had just return from 24th Chaos Communication Congress (24C3), which I blogged about recently. This and similar events have inspired people, such as Jake, to think about why we don’t have  similar events here in the Bay Area and also why we don’t have a space to support people interested in hacking in the older sense of the word. Given that Silicon Valley is next door and we have one of the highest concentrations of tech people (of all sorts) in the world, it is surprising that it hasn’t happened.

This evening, there were probably about a dozen people in attendance. Meeting notes should be up soon but most of the discussion was around the idea of finding a space to rent and then of what kind of projects people would be interested in do. Everyone wanted to get a sense of the kinds of things people are interested in and where we could support and inspire each other. Jake and others discussed some of what they’d seen at 24C3 as well.

Quite a few of the people there tonight are actively involved in local non-profit organizations focused on technology or involved in open source software in some way. In some ways, it feels like very much the same sort of crowd that you see in the Mozilla community and other open source projects (though with a bit of pierced and dyed hair slant).

Right now, it isn’t clear that the group is far enough along to get a space yet since that has a fairly heavy financial commitment for people. There is an active disinterest in incorporating the group legally or forming some sort of non-profit. No one is interested in being the singular leader of a formal organization. Most people seemed to just want to see how things progressed over time and have an adhocracy more than anything else. This is a bit of a refreshing change though I do think that the requirements around getting a space may require more formality than this.

I encourage anyone in the Bay Area interested in Noise Bridge and the possibilities around it to join the e-mail list (or the announcement list), hang out on IRC, and start attending meetings. As of this week, there are going to be weekly, low-key, meetings on Tuesdays in an effort to keep things moving and to get people together. These are occuring in downtown San Francisco in the evening.