Hacker Dojo Startup Weekend Bay Area 2009

Hacker Dojo is an open-to-the-public warehouse in Mountain View, Calif. where any computer-savvy individual or startup can come and use the space on a daily basis. Pinterest used the Dojo as its primary workspace in 2009 and also hired its first two engineers out of the Dojo’s membership. Recently, the city of Mountain View has mandated strict and costly upgrade requirements to the space, putting the Dojo in danger of being shut down (members are already prohibited from entering two of its three buildings).

GamesBeat sat down with Katy Levinson, director of development, to discuss the Dojo’s current woes, what they’re doing about it, and why this place is worth saving. It’s a lengthy interview with tons of interesting insight so let’s just get straight to it!

GamesBeat: Let’s start from the beginning. What is Hacker Dojo, and how did it come about?

Katy Levinson

Above: Katy Levinson

Katy Levinson: If you imagine 300 hackers sharing a warehouse for communal use, you would probably think it was a Neal Stephenson novel. But this is how we are. We’re a community of more than 330 members, more than 550 alumni, and over 12,000 engaged guests. We operate a warehouse space of 8,000 square feet in Mountain View for communal usage. The three primary uses are…. Startups use us as coworking space. Events use us as a venue. And the community uses us kind of in the same way that you would gather around the quad in your college and chuck a frisbee around: a lot of light intramural activities, like a juggling club, or on Saturday morning there’s 20 or 30 people who meet to do yoga. In a lot of ways it feels like a college for people who don’t happen to necessarily be between the ages of 18 and 22.

GamesBeat: What does it take to become a member?

Levinson: If you’re financially able, we ask that you contribute $100 a month. That money goes strictly to light, heat, and rent; it does not go anywhere else. We do have three paid employees, but I assure you, we’re paid shit, and we’re mostly paid out of corporate donations. People donate because they want us to be staffed and available. The three people who are not volunteers are…. We have an office manager who handles paying the bills, just keeping the doors open, and answering the phone. We have a guy whose job it is to make sure the city keeps us open. And then my job is to make sure we have enough money that the city doesn’t shut us down, so we’re both temporary, kind of…just [here] to deal with this emergency we’re having. So it’s $100 dollars a month if you’re financially able. If you’re not financially able, we have alternatives. We do reduced rates for hardship. Being in a startup does not count as a hardship. This would be, like, some unfortunate circumstance that you’ve fallen upon. We also do work trade for electricians and architects — people who have resources that the Dojo needs to operate.

GamesBeat: Like a barter system.

Levinson: Yeah. We have a lot of bugs in our open source Python, a Google app engine code that runs the whole Dojo. If you want to schedule an event, then you put it in the event app. You want to book a room for a certain purpose…. You can imagine that distributing keys to 330 members and making sure that when they quit, those keys are reclaimed…. We had to build an RFID system. That’s open-source, too. You can check out all of our code at github.com/hackerdojo: anything that has a schematic involved. The only thing with that is the mag lock. I built the schematic for that. Basically, we have a breadboard in a box with a relay and a couple of diodes that trigger the magnetic lock on the door. You can find documentation for how to make all these things — totally open-source, totally knock yourself dead.

Hacker Dojo front

GamesBeat: What’s the background of yourself and the other staffers?

Levinson: I am a roboticist. I’m an automation engineer, basically. I started at NASA when I was 20 as an intern, and I worked my way up. By the time I left, I was 22. I was running the software on a lunar rover team — a lunar prototype team called Project Constellation, a return to the moon. It got shut down. So I went to Google for two years, and I hated it.

Update: Katy has clarified her previous statement in a comment on this article: “At NASA I worked on a team called LMR which was part of Project Constellation. I was in no way the head of software for the whole of Project Constellation.”

GamesBeat: What was wrong with Google? Why’d you hate it?

Levinson: It’s more important to remember why you do things as a culture than what you do. The “what” will change as the company scales because some things aren’t practical at scale. You need to change the “what” to be consistent with the “why”: why you do things. I felt like the focus was too much on the “what” and not the “why.” Also, my boss was a dick. I think that’s one of the things we really focus on here. We’ve had to change a lot as we scaled up. We started as a community of 60 people, and we’re 330 now. We had to look very often at…. It used to be that you didn’t get a key until you came in and somebody vouched for you. We said, “That doesn’t scale.” The “why” is to make us feel like a community. The “what” is making sure you come in and know someone.

So we got rid of the “what.” In order to promote the “why,” we started having a member dinner every month. The Dojo serves dinner. Sometimes we cook; sometimes we get it catered. Everybody comes and we sit down and have a big meal together as a family. That’s a much better implementation of the “why” at scale. I worked at a small VC-ish firm. It makes investments in companies and lends them engineers. So you get this much money and you can borrow Katy for three months to help you get your product off the ground. I wasn’t passionate about it. And then Hacker Dojo got really screwed over. I’m an engineer. I’m not marketing; I’m not sales. I’m not any of that, but…. A good engineer figures out the “how.” Whether it’s code or not code, you figure out how to make the system work. So now I do marketing, fundraising, and press. [Laughs]

I’m pretty much slated to do this until the Dojo gets out of the giant hole that we’re in. The Dojo plans to build long-term sponsorship programs. I really enjoy this, actually. I really enjoy the liberal intellectual property for my engineering side project. It’s something I’ve never enjoyed as a software engineer for any firm, ever. So I really enjoy this. It’s a neat experience.

GamesBeat: How long have you been here?

Levinson: Since January. The other two guys…. Brian is a director of engineering. That’s the guy who’s in charge of not spending money. So he’s also an engineer. And then Marie is kind of this strange jack-of-all-trades who came to us while she was finishing her undergrad. I’m not sure what in. But she’s done everything. She’s done a ton of events planning. She worked as a caterer for a while. She’s just an eclectic soul.

Hacker Dojo

Above: An electronics hacking course.

Image Credit: Katy Levinson

GamesBeat: Can you talk about the trouble? Like, how Hacker Dojo kind of got into a hole and what you guys are doing about it now?

Levinson: Basically, what happened was that when the Hacker Dojo moved in…. That was in August of 2009. We wanted to hold classes, and we wanted to hold a lot of them for free to the public. That’s been a very core part of us. But unfortunately, if you want to have strangers together in a building for learning or whatever else, you need to get a building that’s zoned for assembly usage. And that’s basically a school or a church. You look on Craigslist, and you can’t find any of those to rent. So we moved into a light industrial warehouse. Our use of that warehouse is…. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not in a position to say if it is or it isn’t light industrial. But there’s no assembly involved.

We’d been talking with the city, and they wanted us to make a couple of upgrades just because we were moving it more toward offices than light industrial. But when they realized the scope of the classes and conferences we were holding…. We’ve held BayThreat twice. We’ve held Random Hacks of Kindness twice. We’ve held FreeBSD National. We’ve held DC650. We hold some pretty big events. We’ve held job fairs with more than 300 people here. We operate at scale, and that really freaked the city out. In the beginning, they were going to have us pull new water mains — the whole area of town. They wanted us to commission a traffic study, a parking study, and a noise study. There was a lot of distress. Brian’s been working with them for the last nine months now to scale that down. But what they did do is they capped all our events at 49 attendees, which is really hard.

We really want…. By the way, BayThreat needs a new venue. We love them. They’re great guys, they run great events, and they need a new venue. Wonderful event. They clean up after themselves. We have three employees, but if you think three employees can manage 330 people, I’d like to meet those three people. This is a community-run thing. When a conference comes in, we tell them to go to Costco and buy toilet paper to replace all the toilet paper they’re going to use up. If you look in the kitchen, there are lots of corporate cafeterias that donate every day. After they’ve served the food to their employees, they box up the rest of it and ship it over here. So you’ll see lunch showing up around two here…

GamesBeat: What are are some of the companies?

Levinson: IMVU has been a big buddy to us on that. They’ve been good guys. Pretty much the only time we have a person hired is when they have to interface with the outside world. That’s because the outside world expects a single point of contact that they can call at any hour and demand…. They don’t want to write to a mailing list that will have a debate. They want to build a rapport with someone. They get angry, you know, when they’re always talking to somebody different. Even if all those people are saying the same thing, they find it alienating and bizarre.

You’ll notice: All three of us, our positions are to interface with the public. Internally, we’re kind of a big happy thing that I didn’t really think would work out in reality. I think the fundamental difference between the Dojo government and another government…. Because they say communism doesn’t work. Yes, it doesn’t. But I think the fundamental thing that makes the Dojo work even though we’re always one happy hippie whatever, is that every day, every person has to feel like they get more out of it than they put in. If we fail to maintain that threshold, they’ll leave. And they have the option to leave. I think that keeps us very honest as a community: making sure that we treat everyone well and that we provide value to everyone.

Hacker Dojo

GamesBeat: Speaking of that, I was looking on Yelp, and I noticed there’s a lot of good reviews. And then there’s a few people who felt alienated. One in particular was just saying some basic sentiments, like, “The group…the community is not really friendly to newcomers,” and also there were some notes of concern about security. Because you’ve got hackers all in the same place, and everyone’s using the same Internet and stuff like that…

Levinson: The alienation from the community…. The very glib answer to that is some people confuse someone not liking their idea with not liking them. And not everyone can get their way. We’re not going to make everyone happy all the time. I don’t know quite how to answer this and give the unhappy minority their fair whatever. I’ve been really impressed with the low number of fights we’ve had on the mailing list. I think most things are resolved amicably or at least civilly. I don’t think we had…. The only real major thing we ever had was actually when I was still a member. I was a newcomer, and someone said they wanted to hold a women-only event to discuss sexual harassment. I said that was sexist because it’s excluding people based on their sex. Thus, sexism. That was a significant debate that went on.

But we do work really hard to make more things available to newcomers. It’s a little intimidating to come into this whole very organic system. A system like this has very much evolved, and evolution is very conscious of its history. Even our bodies have bits in them that…we don’t know why they’re there anymore. They only made sense for our ancestors. An evolved community like this — and by evolved, I mean we all sat down, we didn’t know what we were doing, and we saw what worked and what didn’t — it has these vestigial things. We work really hard to routinely evaluate everything and eliminate vestigial things, and we’re also working really hard to have our community…. The “why” of introducing new people to the community: we’re working to scale that and make it welcoming to newcomers. That’s part of what member dinners are about. We hold new member orientation. We try to hold it every other week on Friday.

In the last two years, I’ve had less than 10 Fridays off, and I think that’s being liberal — including Christmas and stuff like that. Other than that, I am here; we’re having a beer. Brian, one of the other guys, and I work every Friday night, welcoming everybody. We all sit around and have beers. So it’s not the worst job on the planet: greeting people and having beers. You do have to make a very conscious effort to be accessible. I think the other thing is that once people get used to the idea…. If you want to change something, then get on the mailing list associated with that and say it. Once they get used to that, it’s a very accessible community. But training people into that behavior and training them to check their Dojo email address, login, and all of that momentum…that’s something we struggle with and will continue to struggle with.

GamesBeat: What about the security concerns?

Levinson: That’s really exciting. I feel good about it. I think that’s the best statement I can make. I feel good about it. I do online shopping in the evenings after work. If I have to order something, I feel comfortable ordering from Amazon or wherever else. We did have a brief incident when the Firesheep tool was released. There’s an issue where 13-year-old jackwads will think they’re “l33t” hackers and then go try to hassle other hackers. You know what I mean? The solution to that was to just put on a default. Like, skript kiddies can’t even compile their own Firesheep.

Firesheep was meant as a kind of artistic, tongue-in-cheek thing, which just took all the data that was being sent over HTTP, as opposed to HTTPS, and dumped it out: Amazon passwords, Twitter passwords, Facebook passwords, and all that. The default compilation of Firesheep couldn’t handle encrypted Wi-Fi. So we just put in an SSID and password. The password is “hackerdojo;” everybody knows it. But even something as simple as that keeps the skript kiddies out because the tools are made for unsecured Wi-Fi. As far as more sophisticated folks, there’s a lot of monitoring — not what you’re going to and what you’re doing, but like…. Are computers in the Hacker Dojo talking to other computers in Hacker Dojo for long periods of time, or a lot of them? Is that weird? Stuff like that will show you bad things.

We’ve had adventures with physical security. We get crazies. We attract crazies. There are always people who want to take more than they give, whether coming in to wreck the place, stealing, or anything else. We have had one theft incident, where we nabbed him. We used all the systems that run the Dojo to catch him and put him in jail. He plead guilty to seven counts of burglary or something, and that was the end of that. The doors lock at 10 p.m; that helps a lot. We’ve had three or four crazy homeless people come in and try to set up shop. We throw them out. We have a rule that says you can’t sleep at the Dojo or in the parking lot more than two nights in a row or use it as a residence.

GamesBeat: Were any of those people any good with a computer? (Laughs)

Levinson: We actually do have a strong nomadic community in here. A nomad is someone who’s homeless by choice. A homeless person is someone who’s homeless because of challenges in interfacing with reality. We have trouble making rules that welcome nomads but isolate homeless people or people abusing the community. So there’s a nomadic community, and the Dojo community welcomes them in places that are not at Hacker Dojo. But we can’t really make nomad-only rules for Hacker Dojo and still keep it comfortable for everybody. We work with the nomad community on an individual basis. And there are a lot of resources for nomads, I would say. I think the communities are supportive of nomads, but we can’t do it in the physical Dojo or through the Dojo’s official anything.

Hacker Dojo

GamesBeat: Back to the trouble that you guys are in. You stated during our tour that you were renting out two other buildings, but you can’t use them?

Levinson: More than half of our space we’re not allowed in right now. We’re not allowed to use it for Dojo purposes.

GamesBeat: How does that work?

Levinson: The city of Mountain View shows up and says that this is a zoning violation for you to go in these buildings. We use them for storage right now. But it’s really sad. Almost half of our square footage is shut down. We got that space because we were bursting at the seams, and our growth has remained strong, but we’re crowded. This is a need. We have the money to operate more space, and we have the staff, the infrastructure, and the community that wants to be in more space. The city just won’t let us in. They’re pretty much holding that as the carrot to us getting upgraded. And then if we don’t upgrade by the end of this calendar year, the stick will be to shut the whole thing down.

GamesBeat: What are the exact upgrades that they’re looking for?

Levinson: [Heavy sigh] They want $100,000 dollars, approximately, in Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades. They want fire sprinklers. They already were like, “You’re installing a fire alert system, or you’ll be shut down in February.” We did that. We raised the $25,000 dollars to keep the doors open in February and install the fire notification system, fire sprinkler system, and ADA bathrooms. And there are some things that we really wanted to do that we just can’t do anymore until we raise a lot more money. For example, we wanted to have a kitchen that was not going to be used to serve food to the public, but one that members could use so we could hold cooking classes and stuff. We thought that would be really cool. But we can’t legally do that because it’s not a kitchen in a residential home; therefore it is not a residential kitchen, and therefore it is a commercial kitchen,  and therefore we have to hold it to the standards of a restaurant. That’s sad.

We really wanted to have a communal kitchen — even just so members could make a meal in the evening. We have a member who just lives off of cheese quesadillas that he heats in the microwave because he’s always here. We’d love to have a stove for him. We wanted to have a big machine shop. We wanted to have a lot of things. But right now, the focus is to be allowed to exist and to be allowed in all the buildings we pay rent on. The good news is the Dojo is profitable, and so if we can just…. I wanted to buy a building. That’s what I really wanted to do. I wanted to buy a building and start a campus — a real campus. But if we can just live through this, the Dojo makes enough money that, over time, we’ll still make all of those dreams come true. We just have to get through this one big lump in the road when the city demanded more money in upgrades to be done in six months than our entire annual income for last year. They asked for a lot of money.

GamesBeat: And so you’ve launched a Kickstarter?

Levinson: We have. We’ve also been doing some corporate sponsorships. We have Andreessen Horowitz, AT&T, Palantir, Microsoft, Google, Guidewire, GoDaddy, SmugMug, and Safari Books. They’ve been our sponsors. We also did events. We ran a mile in our underwear…. That was a sight. A surprising number of girls. It’s a male-heavy industry that most of our things are in, but we actually have…. I believe we have a percentage of women as members that’s three times the national average graduating in computer science, which floors me. Our t-shirt sales are an even higher percentage for women. That totally blew me away. I don’t know why there are so many girls here, despite the statistics about women in engineering. But yeah, we ran a mile in our underwear.

[We’ve launched] a charity auction where we’re auctioning everything from consulting to speaking gigs to borrowing a programmer for so many hours, who’ll fix your whatever. We hope it’ll be popular, like Y Combinator’s on Hacker News or something. People’s significant others are offering to cook a meal or volunteer to help you move by driving around their pickup truck. It’s been really amazing how much the community…. There’s $130,000 in there, and then we’ve done almost $15,000 on the Kickstarter. That’s just from expended community love. We’ve been touched. Times like these, you find out how many friends you have, and that’s a really wonderful experience. We’ve had people throw fundraisers to benefit us in their homes. I had someone call me and say, “Are you going to the Hacker Dojo benefit dinner?” I’m like, “Whoa, what?” I’m the director of development, and I don’t know anything about this. I get a call a couple of days later, and they say, “Yeah, we’d like to invite you to be our guest of honor at this event. We’re going to throw a dinner to benefit Hacker Dojo.” And this has actually happened five times. So thank you, guys. This is really touching.

We’ve had people make things. We’ve had authors offer to donate books for our Kickstarter. There’s like 100-plus books just being donated as prizes. Mitch Altman, the leader of the hackerspace movement, has donated a bunch of soldering kits that teach kids how to solder. The guy who invented Pong is gonna sign a Super Pong machine that we restored here at the Dojo. Volunteers restored a Pong machine, and now we’re selling that. A very talented artist has offered to give us a mural. People have been donating t-shirt designs to print out. You’ll see that there’s a shirt where in the first frame, everyone’s talking in a meeting, and in the next frame they’re building something that looks like a robot, and then in the next frame the robot is breathing fire and killing them all. That was a donated design. This morning I had seven more shirt design donations. This artist was like, “Hey, I had this concept for a shirt. Here’s seven iterations of it.” So that’s probably going to be a Kickstarter shirt.

If any artists want to donate a t-shirt design, I’d be more than pleased to link them to our logo and branding rules and give them a free shirt when we print them. It’s been really humbling to see. Hackers and Founders has been incredibly supportive. A lot of companies are looking to recruit. They’re putting their recruiting budget here because they know that “We support the Hacker Dojo” means that when the people here meet someone who says they need a job, they’ll say, “Hey, go to this guy.” Andreessen Horowitz just wrote us a check, and they didn’t even care. They didn’t know they’d be recognized as a sponsor. They just heard us on NPR and they said, “This is so important, so here you go.”

GamesBeat: What was the check for?

Levinson: $20,000 dollars. We’ve been really blown away.

Hacker Dojo Underwear Run

Above: Hacker Dojo Underwear Run

Image Credit: Jean Fan

GamesBeat: So you’re on track, then, to be able to do what you need to do by the end of the year?

Levinson: The hard thing is that the city doesn’t want us to have the money raised. The city wants the changes to be made. I really need the Kickstarter to be successful. I really need it. That will put us at $60,000, and then after that I’m going to have to raise another $100,000 or so through corporate sponsors. We’re hoping that the press will bring us people who are interested in getting the attention of some of the finest engineers in the Valley. Pinterest made their first two hires out of the Dojo crew — engineer hires. We’re really hoping that people understand that this is a great way…. Maybe it’s not like, “I would like to order an iPhone developer.” Maybe not in the next week. But over the long term, to make an investment in their recruiting…. We’re really hoping that gets out there. We need to do more work on promoting the startups that come out of here. When Andreessen Horowitz gave us the money, they were an investor in Pinterest, and they didn’t even know Pinterest came from here. I think we need to explain how good the startups that come out of here are. I don’t think people understand that. Pinterest was huge. Word Lens is huge.

It’s the iPhone app that you hold up and it sees text in one language and then outputs it on the screen in another language. It works without data plans, and it has a dictionary with really amazing software. The new Hasbro iPhone integrated laser tag system was made here. Pebble Watches was briefly here before they launched their Kickstarter. Open Photo is here. That’s an open-source project, but that just shows the variety.

We’ve got a bunch of really hardcore Haskell guys. Tons of our guys go on to found their own startups. Last year, everyone was excited about Your Mechanic. They’re here. There are good guys here, and there are good guys who come here every day after work to be challenged and to take classes. Most of the classes are free and open to the community. But to take classes that really challenge them…those are the kind of engineers that you want. The guys who say, “I want to go home and learn some new shit.” I think we hadn’t done a good enough job of explaining the value that we provide. I would really love it if our 501(c)3 status comes through. That would make donations to the Hacker Dojo tax deductible. We’re too young of an organization. The IRS is like, “How are you so successful?” We did not get fast-tracked for approval. [Laughs] It’s the greatest problem to have, ever. Most 3-year-old nonprofits don’t operate 13,000 square feet. Well, we only operate 8,000 because of the city. But we’ve been extremely fast-growing. We’ve been in the black, and that’s only been through dues. We count sponsorships as gravy. Except for right now. Sponsorships only go to building improvements, like when we put the air-conditioning system in. That’s what we use sponsorships for.

We’re very passionate about the fact that we never put ourselves in a position where we…. The city has put us in a bad position. But the Dojo’s operating principle during good times is that we never put ourselves in a position financially where we have to take a sponsorship. I think that gives us a certain amount of legitimacy. We don’t need the sponsorships when we’re not in a situation like this. If we hadn’t gotten sponsorships for the HVAC, we would have just saved our money and paid for the HVAC ourselves. It’s nice because there’s a lot of conferences, especially security conferences. Nobody wants to be a sponsor on a security conference. Or if they do then everyone’s like, “Now can we talk about exploits at the sponsor’s company?” There’s no proper third-party venue that’s just about the ideas. I think this is one of the best gifts we can give to the community. It’s the fact that when we finish the events space, we have a policy. We never charge for use of the events space. All you have to do is be a member in good standing and explain that you will make sure the police don’t get called and that you will clean up after yourself. That’s all it takes. You can hold a giant conference, and we love it. This is what a university was supposed to be, right? Before universities got bought out. Before pharmaceutical companies started paying for the drug trials. This is how science and technology were meant to be developed, discussed, and polished. I really want to preserve that.

From a financial perspective, it’s ridiculous that people go to college for four years and pay $40,000 or $50,000 dollars — maybe $20,000 if you’re lucky, and you go to public schools. And they come out with no skills and no income. They graduate, and they get a salary that should pay for that, and then we stop selling it to them. It’s ridiculous. Good makers…. We consider a maker to be anyone who creates something. You could even say that being a reporter is being a maker because you make stories. Writers are makers, and sewing is making. These people want to make things. They want to always be making things and always learn to make better things. To just cut it off and say, “Either you have to dedicate yourself to this fully and be a grad student” — which means there’s no opportunity for breadth, only depth, and there’s a lot of downsides that come with that — “or you just stop….” That’s not right. I think the economic incentives agree with that. All ideas that change the world need to be fiscally solvent, or they stop running. This is, part of a really powerful vision that I think really could change the world. I do want to change the world. I want to run a university with a giant campus and have dormitories that people can stay in. And they won’t be shit dorms like they have in college. I want to have an apartment building that you apply to get in, and you live there in a community full of challenging people, and you walk down the hall and you’re like, “Hey, dude, what are you working on? Oh my God, look what I got this chip to do! This is amazing!” We’ll have classes and conferences, and it will just be amazing. We’re on such a trajectory to do it. We’ve just got to get past this. It’s all lining up. We’re learning really expensive lessons. Just being profitable is not enough. You have to be really profitable so you can afford to make all these local governments happy. But we’re profitable enough that we can do that, too. We’ve just got to get past this.

Hacker Dojo

GamesBeat: So it sounds like a lot of people — not just the members, but also other sponsors and other companies, and even big mainstream companies all supported the idea of the Hacker Dojo. So why do you think the city of Mountain View is putting up such resistance?

Levinson: Because people don’t understand that…. Everybody wants innovation. Innovation’s great! We wanna be innovative! But the thing about it is that innovation and risk go hand in hand. People want the innovation, but they don’t want the risk. If you’re going to try something new, different, and maybe even sexy, you’re going to fail sometimes. Thank God that hasn’t happened to us yet. I’m sure we’ll have many failures along the way. Consider this to be a mini-failure, with the city. But a lot of governments want all the innovation, and they don’t want the risk. It’s just so hard to explain that. Yes, we don’t look like a school. We don’t look like a church. We started from something that was not designed to be…. This was a rented building, right? It’s not like we built a building and cut the corners. We started up in a rented building. This is not our building; we’re upgrading it as fast as we can because we want our members to be safe. Safety is important. But the pace that they demand is high. We’ve actually put a lot of…. There’s a lot of little safety things in here that weren’t mandated by the city, but we did them because we thought that was the right thing to do. The city just wants to eliminate risk immediately, and they want to keep the innovation. We had a former mayor — a now-former mayor, but mayor at the time — attend one of our job fairs. He was thrilled. They love us, and they love what we stand for and what we do. But they just can’t understand that there’s two sides to a coin. That’s a hard thing for governments, and it’s a hard thing for bureaucracies because when something goes wrong, someone gets held responsible, and that’s hard. My heart goes out to people…. If a fire burns down a building in San Francisco, some building manager gets in trouble for not making sure that building was up to code. I feel really bad for those people. I wish the system didn’t work like that. I feel their pain. I understand why they’re scared. I just wish that they had a different method of dealing with that fear.

GamesBeat: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Levinson: Anybody who wants to help, email iwanttohelp@hackerdojo.com. That is our volunteer inbound mailing list. We will direct you to either SWAT…. The SWAT team is a deal where you show up at this time in your painting clothes, ready for manual labor. Someone will instruct you on how to do what needs doing. That’s how we do all the renovations that don’t legally require a contractor. So we’ll put you on SWAT, or we’ll put you on internal dev, which fixes the bugs in our software. If you want to donate something that we can use as a sponsorship prize of some variety, email sponsorships@hackerdojo.com. If your company wants to be a sponsor, email sponsorships@hackerdojo.com. Our awesome volunteer teams will get back to you as soon as humanly possible, but they are staffed with volunteers. We try to deal with sponsorships very promptly. But give them 48 hours on iwanttohelp because that’s a bunch of people who are just passionate about the Dojo routing people around. We love mural donations. If you want to be auctioned off to support the Hacker Dojo in the charity auction, we will be continuing to take volunteers for auctioning after the launch. Please help. We need help. It’d mean a lot.

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