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Welcome back anarchist hackers: Noisebridge reopens after cleaning house

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Hackerspaces have a habit of collecting junk; precious junk that represents the crazy ideas, dreams and curiosities of the spaces’ members. But when the junk piles so high that it threatens to overwhelm the room, it’s time to clean house.

The Noisebridge hackerspace in San Francisco’s Mission district underwent a needed facelift in July, when for the first time since its founding in 2007 it shut down. Members spent a whole month clearing out old equipment and bringing the space up to code. The organization is asking for $25,000 on Indiegogo to pay for electrical and other building updates, fixing equipment and building an A/V space.

Paying members receive few benefits, but one of them is storage space within Noisebridge. Photo by Signe Brewster
Noisebridge’s storage area last summer. Photo by Signe Brewster

“We took the opportunity to close down for the month of July and bring everything up to a really nice state, work on our infrastructure and get rid of all the stuff that’s been collecting there,” Noisebridge founder Mitch Altman said in an interview. “We would love to keep [operating] for seven more years and beyond, and with that amount of money we will be able to do that.”

Altman said Noisebridge also had to scale back its kitchen to a coffee area, as the building is not zoned for a full kitchen. Members redid the hackerspace’s floors and updated its lights. In general, it just feels like a newer, nicer space.

A new mural painted on a Noisebridge wall. Photo courtesy of Noisebridge.
A new mural painted on a Noisebridge wall. Photo courtesy of Noisebridge.

The update was prompted by a bit of drama. While Noisebridge classifies itself as an anarchist space run by all of its members, people are banned from time to time. When I spent several months working out of the space last year, I witnessed plenty of arguments, politics, questionable uses of resources and inappropriate behavior toward women. People have been kicked out for their behavior and for using the hackerspace as a home instead of a place to work.

After Noisebridge kicked out a member recently, he went to the city and complained about a code violation, Altman said. An inspector then visited the space. While the inspector didn’t find the reported violation, they did inform Noisebridge its electrical wiring was not up to code. Noisebridge has since hired an electrician to fix the wiring.

Members and visitors (the space is open to anyone) are welcome back today on Noisebridge’s soft reopening. The space will then offer seven days of classes and activities leading up to a grand reopening on August 15. After then it will be business as usual, with Noisebridge’s sole rule still in effect:

“Our one and only rule is be excellent to each other,” Altman said.

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