Labs and Hackatons

25 Jan 2015 - São Paulo

For the past 50 minutes I’ve been surfing the web, looking for an octopus picture to serve as a dummy for a design that I’ll transfer to a piece of leather and then glue it in the new satchel that I made at my son’s school yesterday. He studies at a Waldorf school, so it is trivial to have moments where the parents get together to make things that will be used pedagogically to teach something for the kids. Eventually, this things also teach something to the parents, while they are doing stuff in a collaborative way.

Well then, our twenty little toddlers are upgrading their school levels. Now they should have homework, stop with their fast afternoon naps and are supposed to have more responsibility, as they are going to the pre-adolescence. We, the parents had the task to give them the satchels that are supposed to accompany the kids until they go to the College.

And so yesterday we get together to make the bags. At the beginning, we were interested in build the best bag for our own sons. As we get there at 9am, most of us were thinking in going out untill 14pm or something similar. But, the father that was there to teach others told us that mostly, the task was tough and parents generally left the place after 8 hours of work. If they get helped, less.

Suddenly, our collective objective changed from “making the best satchel for my son” to “everybody going out with their bags before 8 hours of intense work”. It was a tacitus agreement. All parents started to work in pieces of the satchels. At the beggining the collective was a little bit messed but as time passed and tasks went more clear, each one found the best place to work and we started a “production chain” for the products that we were going to build.

I choose the “cutting leather” part. Others were preparing the glue, others mounting pieces, others hammering and so on so forth. All of a sudden I stopped and noticed that I was in the middle of a temporary collaborative lab. More: there was no competition. Maybe because no one was specialist on making a satchel, maybe because we all had the same objective (to go out before 8 hours of work) or even because no one wanted to show their skills to a head hunter of a big enterprise from sillicon Valley.

image of People working hard

urthermore, we did not wanted to sell those bags. There was no chief, no director, no authority. The thing worked so tuned that we could get the satchels ready before we could predict. And we had fun. We were not working incessantly, as we had cakes, water and coffee to take, but when someone stopped to drink or eat, there was no one to take annotations on their time out as prejudice for the group.

And, we had a great time. We talked to each other, we could know better the other parents of the class: the new ones and the old ones. We bring the tools from our homes and borrowed to the activity, and the food too. I realized, when I saw the tables with tools and people working and talking to each other, that I was at a hackathon. The kind of hackathon that do not exist anymore because we changed our objectives. When I was adolescent we made hackathons to make something useful and/or fun, now we make hackathons to get the better product, to be recognized, to get the better app (or, to make a million dollars app).

The objective is always ego-oriented, and we are always trying to prove something to someone. I see labs and “maker spaces” that have implicit capitalism in to their foundations, besides the manifests on collaborative bullshit nailed to the walls and geek names glued on to their nice and new machines (funded by some f** foundation).

Despite having being part on a lot of hackathons at my work, I think we missed the point of the so proclaimed “hacker culture”. We are doing some other derived line of culture that is not hacker, nor based on collaboration, but based on the same winner-take-all philosophy that is on top of the economy since we started to make things with some help of technology. The kids now wants to work with technology to make a billion dollars, not to help to solve some problem. Hackathons exchange good coffee and gifts for ideas, mining for pearls in a sea of similar ideas.

I keep thinking in other models of experimental work. I know that this models that runs today can make kids dream on having a better life, just like football used to inspire sometime ago. But at the same time, I know that to change the financial system, to drain inequality and slavery, it’s necessary to change this culture based on stars.

After all, we went to our homes at 9pm. Everyone was with their satchels, satisfied, tired. For a day, we experimented real collaborative work and exchange of ideas. We abandoned our objective on having the best satchel for our own kids for the objective of having the best bags to everyone in the class, since all parents could benefit of being together to produce something.

Never Mind. I’m going back to my search for a nice octopus to put in the satchel. I’m thinking also in making the octopus’s eyes glow with some leds lights…. and maybe for this I can call for help and make a mummy-hackathon in my house so that every kid can have his own light…