Wired did a nice write-up of hackerspaces, featuring Mitch and Jake‘s NoiseBridge, where Lung and Natasha and I slept over our second night in San Francisco:
DIY Freaks Flock to ‘Hacker Spaces’ Worldwide
Noisebridge’s members have filled this small space with an enviable collection of shared tools, parts and works in progress.
"Since it was formed last November, Noisebridge has attracted 56 members, who each pay $80 per month (or $40 per month on the "starving hacker rate") to cover the space’s rent and insurance. In return, they have a place to work on whatever they’re interested in, from vests with embedded sonar proximity sensors to web-optimized database software. (…)
Noisebridge is located behind a nondescript black door on a filthy alley in San Francisco’s Mission District. It is a small space, only about 1,000 square feet, consisting primarily of one big room and a loft. But members have crammed it with an impressive variety of tools, furniture and sub-spaces, including kitchen, darkroom, bike rack, bathroom (with shower), circuit-building and testing area, a small "chill space" with couches and whiteboard, and machine shop. (…)
The drawers of a parts cabinet carry labels reflecting the eclecticism of the space: Altoids Tins, Crapulence, Actuators, DVDs, Straps/Buckles, Anchors/Hoisting, and Fasteners.
Almost everything in the room has been donated or built by members — including a drill press, oscilloscopes, logic testers and a sack of stick-on googly eyes. (…)
In Noisebridge’s case, the community had a boost thanks to Altman’s geek cred (he’s the inventor of the TV-B-Gone) and his connections to existing geek societies, such as Dorkbot, a monthly gathering of San Francisco techies. Other cooperative arts-and-technology spaces in the San Francisco area — such as NIMBY, The Crucible and CELLspace — also helped prepare the ground. And of course it helps that San Francisco is already receptive to geeks, anarchists and other square pegs.
The recent crop of hacker spaces has followed a rough blueprint prepared by Jens Ohlig called "Building a Hacker Space" (.pdf). Ohlig’s presentation is a collection of design patterns, or solutions to common problems, and outlines some of the best practices used by German and Austrian hacker spaces.
Many are governed by consensus. Noisebridge and Vienna’s Metalab have boards, but they are structured to keep board members accountable to the desires of the members. NYC Resistor is similarly democratic. Most of the space — and the tools — are shared by all members, with small spaces set aside for each member to store items and projects for their own use."