With the success of hacker meetups like SuperHappyDevHouse and HackNight, it dawned on me that there need not be a specific, pre-planned event in order for hacker-types to converge in a physical location to hack on problems that are of interest them. This can, and perhaps should, happen in a much more ad-hoc, spur-of-the-moment manner and be just as successful and integrative. Additionally, there is a role for folks (like David Weekly, host of SHDH) who want to encourage this kind of behavior, especially those who understand that they can benefit from it.
I envision cults of traveling hackers, venturing from one city to the next, war driving and shacking up at homes and offices, seeking caffeine, a decent work environment and space for sleeping bags. Such places need not be permanant destinations, but rather convenient, temporary quarters for such hacking gatherings. Stay-overs may last as little as a day or may carry on over a week; indeed, it’s doubtful that more than a fortnight would even work for such a situation (for that, perhaps we would need hacker hostels).
Results from these events would be contributed back to a “code trough” where other intrepid hackers could either pick up the work or could remix it towards other projects, following the open source model. And the hosts would of course get some kind of working product out of the exchange or could continue to offer space in order to encourage the completion of the work should it not be finished in time.
Would hackers actually work on projects that they themselves didn’t come up with? Well, given the free room (and board, potentially), supply of caffeine (or other hacking supplement) and connectivity, the tradeoff seems more than fair for those hackers who want to work but also want to explore the world.
If such a networked, Meetup-like system were developed and I knew that I could plan a trip across Europe just stopping off at such hacker havens and not pay for anything but transportation, I would surely do so! Indeed, by pushing the social component and randomness of this kind of situation, you would be exposed to new and interesting people with diverse ideas, approaches and experiences that, it would seem, would contribute to creating fundamentally more interesting and valid products that solve more than just your own personal peeves. And if you happen to take a project with you on your travels, you get the compound benefit of having a myriad cross-section of the hacker subculture looking at and refining the ideas in your project as well as contributing effort hours towards getting something done!
I’d love to see such a system emerge and if anyone wants to offer up their home, office or… backyard? for this kind of event, let me know. Perhaps we could see something like this off-shoot from OSCON in August?