Warren and I went to HackerDojo in Mountain View last week. HackerDojo is a self-run community center where hackers can congregate and write code. It’s mostly funded by donations, but our company has a paid membership.
We thought we’d try to work in the Dojo for a while, since it was noisy back at the office (we were in the middle of moving to a new location in Palo Alto). The inside was a cross between a Southeast Asian backpacker hostel and a soup kitchen. The air was musty, the surfaces sticky, and I was afraid to touch anything.
The problem is, self-assembly simply does not work for this demographic. The personal hygiene standards of your average 20-something is already abysmal; pair that with a house full of male computer programmers and a close proximity to Indian takeout joints and you end up with a Dojo that smells like a squat toilet outhouse.
HackerDojo offers a valuable service, a safe haven where nerds can escape the oppressive confines of their mother’s basement to congregate and play Magic: The Gathering. But computer hackers still need their mommies to clean up after them. That’s not an affront; they’re just too busy changing the world to worry about throwing away their leftovers.
There’s an existing solution to all of this: Public libraries. Free wifi, tables and chairs, and underpaid civil servants who ensure that the interior meets Department of Health standards. Maybe Mountain View Public Library doesn’t quite have the sex appeal of HackerDojo, but as Warren would say: If your intention is not to actually do work but to be noticed, go sit in a Starbucks with your shiny new MacBook.
Support your public libraries, folks.
This video clip gives a fairly accurate portrayal of life inside HackerDojo. Just picture it without the mommy character.