Dublin is a bustling if rather small European capital and of course has a hackerspace. They call it TOG for reasons I’m not entirely sure about, they mentioned it was a thermal unit (yes as in the rating of duvets) which seems like an odd thing to call a Hackerspace. Maybe it means something else and I’m not in on the joke, TOG certainly has a sense of humour.
TOG is Ireland’s first and biggest Hackerspace. The community is fairly small at around 50 members, however unlike other spaces the majority of those members are highly active in the space. They’ve had their ups and downs with some in house power struggles, with a long time treasurer asked to leave the board (on freindly terms), disagreements over approach to new membership and scaling issues too. Having said that they have a strong sense of community and for me as a visitor it’s one of the friendliest spaces I’ve ever visited.
On my last visit in 2012 we enjoyed a wonderful BBQ that they’d scheduled to coincide as with the Dublin Mini Maker Faire as was (if you remember there were only a small number of Mini Maker Faires this side of the Atlantic in 2012) they now call their non-branded Maker Faire “Dublin Maker” and it’s become quite a big event.
This year TOG are very proud of their pizza oven, Jeffrey Rowe told me it’d enhanced the social meet ups. People gather round the oven, compare dough techniques, topping recipes and take pride in sharing the pizzas they’ve created. The most noticeable enhancements on tooling are the addition of a Warco metal working lathe and their Lasersaur DIY laser cutter which in spite of variable reliability has defiantly been a bonus in terms of scope of the projects TOG are takeling.
TOG have an interesting membership join up model. Prospective member have to visit TOG several times over a course of months before being allowed to be a member with membership levels of access (I.e. The run of the space and keys and such). Members may invite prospective members to join, this starts a process of the committee deciding if the new person would be a benefit to TOG. As I understand it only one person has had their membership request refused but compared to other Hackerspaces there is quite a lot more hoops to jump through and effort required.
Change is in the air at TOG however. They recently learned that they’re central Dublin base in The Liberties is to be pulled down and redeveloped. They are already surrounded by fancy executive boom era developments. They’ll probably be moving to a new shared building in Black Pits a little further out of the centre. New premises means a chance to reevaluate and replan, a new start, amen evolution of approach. Until now TOG has been able to get by with out incorporation but it’s a sign of a new approach that they are dotting every legal i and crossing the liability t’s. They also feels it’s a chance to thin out some of the junk they’ve aquired as well a plan a little better about how to handle “stuff” in the future. I was impressed to hear that in the last year or so TOG has provided corporate team building to local larger companies with tasks including soldering and laser cutting.
So whilst TOG are by no means exclusionary, the slower burn to membership keeps the membership small but involved. Sure, like every community they have the usual interpersonal day to day issues and problems but certainly as a welcomed visitor it’s a very pleasant place to be.