It’s been a rollercoaster year for Gumbolabs, though this website may not show it. Let’s break this down with the good news, the bad, and what’s changing
Despite many problems, this was the year when we really acted like a hackerspace. And enumerating the things we’ve done will probably surprise even us. We attempted an entry to the 555 contest by crafting a mardi gras bead with a built-in breathalyzer. We had a magnet-based project that we ultimately scrapped, an installation at the Ogden involving tons of speakers and feathers, open houses with bristlebots, contact microphones with CMKT4 (and followup concert), OpenWRT hacking, a Space Balloon that was put on hold, and Drawdios, plus Mark and I just wrapped up a few classes teaching Kinetic Scuplture to Warren Easton students at the Ogden alongside Automata. We even got together and watched Tron before checking out the new one.
This is an improvement over past years, when we were a little too busy forming a hackerspace to do any hacking. It’s been a real learning process, and we lost a lot of members in our first year during that process. This year we saw that our bank account was quickly shrinking as a result of those members leaving, not to mention the bad luck of having a lot of our most dedicated members leave the city. We decided that the best option, the only option really, was to do stuff and hope that drawing attention to activity would attract new members. We had built up a few months rent and had time to do really push. I think we gave it a good shot and met some small success doing it, but the truth is our numbers were so few (just a handful at this point) that we didn’t have the critical mass to really push forward and make things happen as much as we wanted. Now we’re unsustainable enough that we have to do something about our situation and we have to do it quick
Here’s the thing: we still believe in the idea. Our facebook page has been steadily growing despite near-hibernation, and local tech culture grows but still lacks a good focal point. Most importantly, people still want to learn about this stuff (ourselves included!) and meet others interested in it. We think a hackerspace can work in New Orleans, but not this one as it is nowSo we’re going homeless: GumboLabs’ space didn’t provide any huge benefits to us without industrial machinery and a consistent group of people present. Even our open houses could have been held elsewhere. So that’s what we’re doing. When somebody wants to explore something tech-oriented, GumboLabs will use our mailing list, facebook, twitter, forums, and whatnot to help it happen. Want to try to circuit-bend some toys? Tell us “I want to circuit bend some toys. Let’s do my garage/z’otz/help me find a place on February 31st. Help me spread the word!” and it shall be done.
We’re hoping that this move will be more freeform, open to everybody, and more social. As more events happen and more paid membership grows, perhaps a space will be in order. But we’ll move in that direction as necessity dictates. Also, Marshall has been brewing up a maker/createspace (and will expand into GumboLabs’ vacant space). Those goings-ons will likely make their way to the GumboLabs listserv/fb/twitter/etc as well.
And about that paid membership, we’ll still be paying dues, as a little slush fund here and there can’t hurt, but it’s been reduced to $10 per month as we no longer need to meet rent. Those of you who joined at that level, congrats! You’ve been upgraded to full membership! Want to become a member? Hit the recurring $10 per month button on Paypal! That’s it! And please, introduce yourselves.