The cult of the vagabond hacker

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?

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: (YC W18), Uber, Google.

5 thoughts on “The cult of the vagabond hacker”

  1. Big houses are great venues for events like this. Before the SuperHappyFunHouse, David lived in another house dubbed the Hacker Dojo. The idea was to get a bunch of smart people together that you could very easily throw events like this. One vision David and I have is to have a network of SuperHappyFunHouses or Hacker Dojos (big houses with smart, cool people in them) that could serve as a place to stay for someone like the vagabond hacker as well as residents of other houses in the network.

  2. Awesome! That’s exactly the thing I have in mind. Setting up this network (and perchance the software or web apps) to make this happen seems fairly inconsequential compared with the potential benefits.

    I imagine that there are also many more places already established similar to the Hacker Dojo that would be able to join the network. So outside of meetup, I wonder what we can do to begin turning this into a reality?

  3. Great idea. I contribute Wicklow, Ireland to the list of potential venues. I started a shdh worldwide map on mapbuilder. Check it out:

    I’ll add more from whoever volunteers. It would be great if we could just tags places at 43places with superhappydevhouse. But you can’t see who tagged a place with what so it’s awkward to give any further information. Plus, it would be nice to see a big superhappydevnetwork on a map 🙂

  4. Hi mr. Joe.

    I have just registrered – which is (to begin with) just going to be a wiki ( like the hughpage or a craigslist for places to stay ( and have conversations) instead of living in hotels)

    if you want to be a part of it, or want to do guidelines with me, it would be awesome *s*

    anyway, I think there should be some connection between people before they crash at other peoples house..

    but it’s a good thought…

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