vrijdag 8 februari 2013

Join The Club, Part III: Build what you need, share what you build, be awesome

[This is part III of a presentation I gave at Open Space Aarhus  about why expats/foreigners have a lot to gain from joining a hackerspace - see part I and part II]

 Build what you need, share what you build, be awesome

That is the motto of Open Space Aarhus. Now I am going to tell you how the things I said about hobbies, as described above, dovetail nicely with what OSAA is about.

First of all, and this may sound contradictory, but most Danes in a hackerspace speak excellent English, because it is their working language – most of them working in the computer business. This is great when you are a newcomer, and provides a nicely cushioned comfort zone.

Build what you need: it is all about doing or making things. Language comes in the second place. By showing and pointing, your message will be understood, and you will understand theirs.

Share what you build: hackers are very much attached to the idea of Open Source: knowledge is free, and everyone is free to add to it in order to improve the final (or latest) version. This is a very practical, or pragmatic, approach, and that attitude helps in creating an atmosphere where you feel welcome as a foreigner

From this follows that being unconventional is rather an asset than a drawback in OSAA, or in any hackerspace, and from this follows that the social codes there are not very strict.

This creates a breathing space for non-technical persons, too. You are welcome to contribute in your own way! Since a hackerspace is about sharing, and sharing knowledge, it is good to know that you do your part by accepting the knowledge others want to share with you. People will like your curiosity, because that will make them feel knowledgeable. People in general like their strong points to be appealed to, and in OSAA you can provide just that. 'Be awesome', is part of OSAA's motto. You can start by doing the admiring part.

'Can you help me?' These are the most powerful words in any language, together with the words yes, no, thank you and where is the toilet. I don't know why, but it works more often than not to appeal to people's capacity to help. The same goes for a hackspace. And, even better: in OSAA they'll help you by showing you how to do it AND handing you the screwdriver in order to have a go at it yourself. Talk about empowering :-)

So be patient with yourself. You don't have to share your knowledge if you think you don't have it, but you can also share by bringing a cake, sharing work in cleaning up, or joining in social events, because those are part of The Great Hobby Experience, too.

All then, of a sudden, you may find out that you can contribute in a way hackers themselves would never have thought of. To give an example: I thought it would be nice to make Christmas decorations from computer parts, and to my great surprise lots of hackers joined in the fun – both in harvesting parts and in making decorations.

And now we are entering the realm of soft values – and I may sound a bit like a convert to a religious sect here: there is lifehacking:  Lifehacking is about chasing The Good Life, with or without the help of technology. What is the best way to make a sauce béarnaise? At OSAA they found out by organising a Béarnaise Battle. How to preserve your iceberg lettuce in the fridge? Another mundane question that begs to be answered. Not life-saving, but life-hacking: using knowledge and computers to make everyday life easier. You don't need to be conversing in five different computer languages in order to join in here.

Finally, don't forget the fun part of being member of a hackspace. It is fun to admire and to be admired, it is fun to blow things up, set fire to things, make loud noises, do silly things. Just try it. You can always stop and start doing something else. But please, do get a hobby and join the club. Any club :-)

4 opmerkingen:

  1. Great series of posts with many good observations. I wanted to attend Tech Talk Tuesday, but was hindered by a severe headache.

  2. Though clubs like OSAA where people more or less by definition are geeky and thus unconventional AND thus more likely to be ope to differences. If you join a handball club you might find yourself with people who speak less well English and who are more suspicious of foreigners and different people in general.

    1. True... you might... and then you might not... hobbies can help to overcome those kind of barriers (language, suspicions).