Thinking about joining HackLab.to

I’ve been taking month-long sprints of focusing on other interests, but now I’m getting ready to scale consulting back even further – enough to consider signing up for a coworking space like HackLab or ING Direct.

Here are some options:

  • A. Work on the kitchen table. Convenient, and I’ve survived the quiet before. It’s nice to be able to nap or go for a walk. W- occasionally works from home, so I can spend time with him. I can “bump into” ideas and people online, and build up more of a visible reputation.
  • B. Work in the basement or in the spare room. I can set up things the way I want them. I can practise drawing on large sheets of paper.
  • C. Work out of cafes. I can meet people without inviting them to the house or cleaning up. May be crowded, noisy, and expensive. Difficult to leave things or set up.
  • D. Work at a no-commitment co-working space once in a while. (Probably Network Orange, with their meeting rooms and lovely colour printer.) Flexible, although a bit further away.
  • E. Work at a co-working space with a monthly fee, and use the sunk costs to encourage me to go more often.
    • E1: HackLab ($50/month, no meeting room): hardware and software geeks, 3D printers, wearable computing
    • E2: Network Orange ($20 pass, $100 40 hours)
    • E3: MaRS ($25 day pass; $75/mo 1 day a week + 3 hours meeting room): Technology/entrepreneurship incubated companies
    • E4: Centre for Social Innovation ($125 for 20 hours + 3 hours meeting room) + $125 setup fee: social organizations
    • E5: Foundery ($25 pass; $190 10 day access, 90 minutes Boardroom): ?
    • E6: Co:Work ($20 pass; $175 part-time, 8-person meeting room): ?

Other things to consider:

  • I don’t plan to be at the coworking space most evenings. If I don’t have an event, I prefer to spend evenings at home. I’ll probably be there mid-morning to late afternoon or early evening.
  • I prefer to go when I can bike there. Free exercise is a plus, and I don’t have to buy TTC tokens. It takes me 30-45 minutes to get downtown.
  • Hacklab has a kitchen, not just a kitchenette, and people like cooking/sharing.
  • I know many people at Hacklab, so talking to people might be easier. I can learn more about co-working there, such as getting used to asking questions and being asked questions. (Also, dealing with the distractions of other people working on cool stuff.)
  • MaRS and CSI are a little more spread-out than Hacklab is because of the space, so it’s less distracting. I don’t know what the Hacklab dynamics will be when Hacklab moves to the new building in June, but it will probably be all right.
  • There’s a bit of a hum from the servers in Hacklab, but I can probably work around that with off-one-ear headphones, and the new building might fix it too.

So let’s say I’m going to go to Hacklab for at least 9 months if my membership application is approved. How would I want to grow in order for me to consider it a successful investment? Who would that future Sacha be like?

  • I know more about other geeks in Toronto thanks to ambient conversations and helping each other out.
  • I’m better at asking people for help when I get stuck, and at setting myself tougher challenges knowing that people can help
  • I’ve dug into some of the more difficult things that are easier to learn with other people who can help me. For example: web development, mobile development, electronics
  • I’ve gotten better at sketching ideas, asking other people for feedback, and fleshing out the ones that get people interested
  • I’ve improved serendipity (test different laptop cues to talk? talk to people about what they’re working on?)
  • I go to HackLab 1-2 times a week, and sometimes more often if the weather is great.
  • I’m good at managing my focus (do not disturb / yes, talk to me)
  • I’m good at talking to new people and hanging out with the regulars

Initial investment $~500 before I re-evaluate. I think I can make it work wonderfully. I’ll probably learn much more than I can anticipate now. The upside potential of connections and learning is better than the upside potential of staying home. The downside potential (time and opportunity cost; distractability) doesn’t look like a big deal.

I wonder how I can track the benefits and potential disadvantages. If I track my focus tasks each day that I go and I record serendipitous conversations and the giving/receiving of help, I think that might give me an interesting picture. I can use the same focus tasks idea to track my productivity at home, and I can track if I’m proactively “bumping” into other people online (either asking for or giving help) or how I’m interacting with people.

Okay then! Experiment on.

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