When in California last year I visited the NoiseBridge  Hackerspace. I was very impressed with what I saw, good equipment and very friendly people. The general concept of a “HackerSpace” is that it is an environment to support random creative projects. The first picture is a sign near the door which is clearly visible to anyone who is leaving, it encourages people to be “AWESOME” and “EXCELLENT” by cleaning up after themselves (and maybe others). I think that this demonstrates the core of what is needed to get such a community project going.
Generosity towards others was on display everywhere, there was some free fruit on a table as well as a bottle of Port for anyone to drink. Someone had written a note saying that it’s “not an insecure Port” (a computer security joke). Someone had created an artwork that resembled an advert which some idiots had mistaken for a terrorist bomb (the creature displaying the Impudent Finger).
The main (only?) phone in NoiseBridge is apparently a VOIP phone, it is located next to an old pay-phone along with some Magnetix and other toys that can be used by curious people of any age. Magnetix have had repeated safety problems that caused recalls so maybe such things are best placed in an 18+ environment.
When I visited about 10 people were working on electronics projects. There were a number of soldering irons in use and some serious test equipment (including a couple of CROs) was available. The people doing the soldering were eager to teach other people about their work. Other equipment that was available included some serious industrial sewing machines and some drill presses. A lot of that equipment is unreasonably expensive to buy for personal use and is also rather bulky to store, having it available in a central location is a great service for the community.
Finally Noisebridge has a lot of space. There are rooms that could be used for giving small lectures and couches in the central area for people to relax and have impromptu meetings. Of course they had wireless net access too.
Australian Hacker Spaces
The Connected Community Hackerspace is a new one in Melbourne . It operates out of the homes of members so it’s not nearly as big as Noisebridge (which has a substantial property rented for 24*7 operation). I hope that we can get something running permanently in the Melbourne city area in the near future. The Noisebridge membership dues are $80 per month (or $40 for starving hackers). I would pay that for a comfortable chair in a convenient city location with net access surrounded by cool people!