Hobo hackers

Skip to first unread message

David Hayward

Nov 6, 2011, 8:03:19 AM11/6/11
to notti...@googlegroups.com
I've been wanting to start this discussion on the list for a while, and have talked it over with a few people, but keep writing and rewriting this. Several times, I've been on each end of this situation:

Someone goes into the hackspace in the morning, and someone else is asleep on a sofa. Person one apologises and feels the need to be quiet, and person two says "No, no it's fine". I've been on both ends of it, and no matter how polite we are it's always uncomfortable for everyone.

London Hackspacers have devised a name for people that spend huge chunks of their lives in the Hackspace: Hobo hackers. I think there's also only one good solution, and that it might need to be come a new hackspace rule: The right of others to hack comes before the right of someone to sleep. If people agree, it's something we could all vote on at the next board meeting.

So, here is what I think, with some fairly strong opinions:

If any other member ever says to you "Can you not do that please? I'm trying to get some sleep", I think the answer is always "Go home then". As far as I'm aware, nothing this confrontational has ever happened at Nottingham Hackspace, but I've heard about people at London Hackspace occasionally asking people to not machine so they can sleep, or blocking doorways in sleeping bags. I'd hate for that to ever happen here.

Many of us have occasionally stayed overnight at the space. Personally, I think this is fine. For example, sometimes I'm not on my bike and miss the last bus home, or work really late on a project, or lose track of time while chatting to people on a Wednesday.

There are bad reasons too. Being evicted, not sorting out problems at home, or using the hackspace for your romantic dalliances and errors of judgment are among the much longer list of bad reasons to stay overnight.

Now and then is fine. All the time is not. Living in the hackspace, regardless of whether or not rent is being paid, is the embodiment of the Roommate Anti-pattern:

Spending time in the hackspace to the point of almost living there implicitly sets up parts of it as your territory, whether intentional or not. In turn, this makes other hackspace members feel awkward and hesitant.

Rather than "someone in charge" drawing a specific but inevitably too harsh or too lenient line on this, or even people having to deal with it on a case by case basis, I think it's something that should be dealt with behaviourally. Hackspace is not sleepspace, so projects take priority. When you arrive at the hackspace, at any time of the night or day, do what you planned to do. Typing, knitting, machining, making a video… whatever it is, do it even if there are people sleeping. Getting your projects done takes precedence over other people snoozing. They should have somewhere to go for that, and if they don't, the hackspace is not the solution.

People staying over occasionally isn't the problem. The problem is that when it's done wrongly or too much it makes other members uncomfortable. For people to use the space this way at all, it's reasonable for other members to expect the space to be tidier as a result, not messier or dirtier. So, if people do ever stay overnight, we should have consideration for other members and try not to do anything that would make them uncomfortable. Additionally, I'd expect to be woken by power tools or worse.


Tony Shannon

Nov 6, 2011, 8:20:47 AM11/6/11
to notti...@googlegroups.com
As someone who's spent more than a few nights past on the sofa, +1 to this.


Adrian Godwin

Nov 6, 2011, 8:49:38 AM11/6/11
to notti...@googlegroups.com
As an LHS member who can no longer occasionally sleep there because
some people have abused the facility, I say +1 for tackling it early.


Matthew Gates

Nov 6, 2011, 1:16:52 PM11/6/11
to notti...@googlegroups.com
I totally agree with this sentiment. It's really hard for me to come
to the space as it is, and if the ability to stay overnight once or
twice a month is taken away because of abuse then it probably means
that it doesn't make sense for me to be a member at all. Not something
I want.

David Hayward

Nov 6, 2011, 1:51:34 PM11/6/11
to notti...@googlegroups.com
Yeah, I take no issue with people sleeping in the space. De facto territory is a very bad thing though, and any members feeling they have to tread on eggshells around someone sleeping.

It's a complex issue I've been thinking about a lot. The problem isn't people sleeping in or not sleeping in the space, but people's expectations and behaviour at all ends of that. We have habituated responses (and corresponding expectations) to not disturb sleeping people in domestic environments. The hackspace doesn't count as one and hacking comes first.


Jake Howe

Nov 6, 2011, 1:58:33 PM11/6/11
to notti...@googlegroups.com
So basically if someone is sleeping in the space, treat it as an empty space and get on with your hacking. At least people know where they stand now, and the rules will back them up.

I still think some people will continue to step toe around sleeping people, just because it is in their nature to be nice.



Dominic Morrow

Nov 6, 2011, 2:09:35 PM11/6/11
to notti...@googlegroups.com
I think this is a good rule. I am very open to the idea of people crashing occasionally in the space, like Mouse does or if we have visits from other Hackspaces. For a very little while (about 2 weeks) I lived in the space pretty much. I'm not sure if anyone but the regulars really noticed at least I hope not. This was the same week the Richard Stallman and Tim Hunkin did their talks.


I was very thankful for the sofa to sleep on in my mini-crisis. 
Nottingham Hackspace Organiser 
For more information about the Hackspace please visit us at

David Hayward

Nov 6, 2011, 4:00:01 PM11/6/11
to notti...@googlegroups.com
Jake, it's not a rule until we've voted on it :)

I don't just mean the board either, I think this is something members at the next meeting (soon) should all vote on.


Spencer Owen

Nov 6, 2011, 4:09:59 PM11/6/11
to notti...@googlegroups.com

In case im not there to vote the rule in, please consider this email as a vote in agreement of the "projects come first, sleeping comes last" rule.

Whilst I've only slept at the hackspace during Barcamp, I might welcome the opportunity to do so in the future but not at the risk of anyone using the space for what its there for.


Matt Pritchard

Nov 6, 2011, 5:20:07 PM11/6/11
to notti...@googlegroups.com
Ditto for what it's worth, I've never slept at the space yet, but I wouldn't rule it out and I certainly wouldn't want to stop people hacking if I did, nor would I want to not make stuff if I went in the middle of the night for that purpose.
I'd vote for the rule of hacking over sleeping.

No virus found in this message.
Checked by AVG - www.avg.com
Version: 2012.0.1869 / Virus Database: 2092/4600 - Release Date: 11/06/11


Nov 7, 2011, 5:29:53 AM11/7/11
to Nottingham Hackspace - Nottinghack

It sees right to me.

Hacking comes first, sleeping second and people are generally nice to
each other anyway.

David Hayward

Nov 17, 2011, 5:40:40 PM11/17/11
to Nottingham Hackspace - Nottinghack
For those that missed it, this was discussed at the last board
meeting. I was asked to formalise it as a rule and update the wiki:


There's some elaboration on it here:

I'd prefer it if it could be a bit more lenient, but it was raised in
the meeting that our lease doesn't allow anyone to sleep overnight at
the space. Realistically, it might happen occasionally, but we want to
discourage it, avoid antagonising Bizspace, and avoid the roommate

If you accidentally fall asleep in the space, it's the other hackers
that are keeping you safe and they should never feel awkward about
waking you. This is especially true given the way sleeping at some
hackspaces has been abused, i.e. sleeping across the front door or
asking "Can you stop sawing? I'm trying to sleep".

Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages