Did you know we upgraded our internet connection last year?

We probably got something of a reputation for having a poor connection early on so thought we really ought to crow about having such a great connection these days. Liverpool city centre is awful for internet access, BT have been terrible at upgrading what’s there and availability of Virgin is hit and miss. Fortunately our building was upgraded to a much faster connection meaning we have a fully synchronous connection that tops out at 100Mbps in both directions. Not only can you see your entire team in a HD video chat but they can see you in crisp clarity! Upload those gig photos that have been sitting on your hard drive, publish that HD video documentary you’ve been working on or become a millionaire with your latest mobile phone game!*

* DoES Liverpool can provide no guarantees regarding game sales.

So, if you’ve been avoiding coming into DoES remembering our days of ADSL that could barely provide 5Mbps, give us another try!

DoES Liverpool Wants to Move

DoES Liverpool is readying a move to new premises and we’re going to need your help to do it. But first, let me tell you a story…

Five years ago, a group of six friends started an experiment.  They thought that a space to learn, work, and play with new technology and tools, and alongside others with similar interests, could help everyone in the city do epic shit.  They founded DoES Liverpool and took on a thousand square feet of space in Gostins.  It was one of the first wave of makerspaces and hackspaces founded across the country, and has always had a focus on diversity – of interests and of the sort of people using the space: hobbyists, freelancers and businesses.

Come to DoES Liverpool, we have cupboards!

They had big ambitions.  Believing that the best way to get a company like Google to open an office in Liverpool is to grow a company like Google within Liverpool.  However, that ambition is always tempered by a realism of what can be achieved at a given point in time; not because they’re happy to settle for less, but because of a belief that better living through technology is a journey rather than a destination and they’re in it for the long haul!

The open plains of early DoES Liverpool, where obviously the CNC mill is next to the coffee machine and printer.

In the five and a half years since setting up the DoES Liverpool space our community have been involved in some really great projects. If you follow our #weeknotes blog posts you’ll already know but we hack our lives, and the lives of others. Making efficient wave energy happen. The Wheredial to keep in touch with loved ones. A 12 year old girl 3D printing the new hand she designed and customised herself. 3D printed quad-copters, and rolling out technology tackling loneliness in older people.

DoES Liverpool has expanded a number of times over the years, taking on a dedicated workshop and then an events space but we’ve hit the limits of what the Gostins Building can offer and it’s time for a change.

By moving to a new home we are aiming to make big changes to what our community can do within our walls. We want to expand our workshop to fit more people in and to house more exciting equipment. We want to expand our co-working to let more hot-deskers and small companies join us. We want to make it easier for people to work to their own hours, allowing 24/7 access too. We also want DoES Liverpool to be an inviting space that people really want to visit, with considered aesthetics and a warm, welcoming vibe.

See, we can do aesthetics! (Ignore the cables!)

To put some numbers on it, we currently reside in approximately 2000 square feet of space in the Gostins building. We have decided that to make a move worthwhile the minimum space that will let us grow to support the community in the ways we want is 4000 square feet. We currently get a great rate for our rent so anywhere we move to is going to cost more, in fact more than double (pretty obviously given the size increase!) DoES has never relied on external funding for our running costs, instead charging a reasonable sum for services. This means that to be able to afford a new, bigger, space we have to be sure that it’s going to generate the income we need.

What do we need to make this happen? What can you do to help? Well the best thing you can do is to start making use of our services. If you’ve been thinking of taking a permanent desk, we have some available already in our current home. If you’ve been thinking of taking workshop membership then get in touch. Even if you just want to start popping in once a week or once a month, it will all help.

As our new space is going to be substantially bigger we intend to welcome in small companies too, around 5-10 people in a self-contained room for example. Obviously we would struggle to accommodate you now but if working alongside the DoES Liverpool community with regular access to our workshop is something that interests you then get in touch. Knowing that you’ll be joining us could make the difference.

We have lots of chairs!

While we do have a few viable options, if you know somewhere that could be ideal for DoES then we’re still open to suggestions. We need a minimum of 4000 square feet but would be happy with more, cost permitting. We’re not a fan of strings (except when they’re CNC controlled and drawing pretty pictures) so offers of space that are dependent on promises we can’t meet or that restrict who we can allow into the space are not going to cut it.

If you just want to give DoES money to help us make this happen then that’s always an option too! We always appreciate our Friends (who donate £9/month by standing order and PayPal) and we’re planning to run a Kickstarter campaign once we have a better idea of overall costs so there’ll be opportunities to help there too.

We have fantastic ideas for where we can take DoES in the future and we’d love to fill you in so we’re going to follow this post up very soon with some detail on that. For those who are really interested in the numbers we’ll also follow up with more detail about what we’ve been paying and how much we’ve been making over the years.

And what will we do when we get our new space? Well more Epic Shit of course! More 3D printed prosthetics, more laser cut artworks, more apps, more electronics, more cake, and of course.. more bubbles!

Not all of our desks are this small


Merry Christmas

Seasons greetings to all from DoES Liverpool. Don’t forget our Christmas party this Saturday from 2pm. There’ll be various things happening through the afternoon and possibly into the evening! Bring some festive cheer, and some food and drink along, and enjoy Christmas with us.

You can get some festive cheer in early by changing the colours on our Christmas tree! Simply send a tweet mentioning a colour and the word “cheerlights” and our tree will change colour, you can even see it on the webcam below! (Updated once a minute now disabled until next year!) More information on how to control CheerLights here.

Even more impressive, you can control the LED screen at FACT in a similar way due to a new installation by MCQN!

Building a Self Sustaining Community Space

DoES Liverpool is three years old! Over these three years we’ve gone from 6 people who thought it might be an interesting idea to set up a shared space for co-working and making stuff to a much bigger community including great tech startups, published authors, internationally recognised conference speakers, and awesome moustaches (and all that’s just Adrian).

It’s been mainly good times during these years but we’ve also had some difficult times. We’re getting to a tricky time at the moment so please read on to the end to hear more about that, but first…

A Little History

Actually DoES Liverpool did exist as more than 6 people before we opened “DoES Liverpool” the space. We had already been running “Maker Night” at the Art & Design Academy (now the John Lennon Art & Design building) at Liverpool John Moores University. These events were great and their popularity helped to confirm that there would be a market for a co-working and maker space in Liverpool.

Setting up a new company and opening a physical space was always going to be a big step though. It’s one thing to run some free events in a space graciously provided to us, but in DoES Liverpool we wanted to build something important, something that would change the landscape of Liverpool and Liverpool’s position in the world (as Adrian says – return Liverpool to it’s rightful place at the top!)

One of the earliest decisions we made was how to fund the space. As we were looking to nurture a community, and one of the ways we might be doing this would be running events, it was tempting to look for funding. Many times we were told “there’s easy funding out there, you just need to apply for it” but we’d also heard of experiences from other people running similar spaces that funding led to paperwork, and could easily cause you to change your mission to match what the funders would be looking for.

On the other hand four of us in the community were already paying around £120/month for a desk in a small office. We realised that it may actually be possible, and more scalable, to build a business charging people money in exchange for services.

We knew straight away that before we could go ahead with the plan, we had to make sure that we had enough people paying for services so that we could afford to pay our outgoings. In the end we did cheat a little. ScraperWiki (one of those aforementioned “great tech startups”) donated £300 and OpenLabs (John Moores University’s team of startup action men & women) donated £175/month for the first 3 months but these really were just going to help us get started and we knew straight away that we had to have a sustainable business or it wasn’t going to last very long.

We moved into our new home in the Gostins Building on Hanover Street in central Liverpool on the 8th July and opened our doors to the public just a week later. Not long after we’d sent out our first invoice for 10 days of hot desking (thanks Chris!) and a short while after that welcomed our first two new permanent desk members. From that moment on we haven’t looked back, we’ve made new friends and welcomed new people into our space. From that point we’ve been consistently profitable, well almost…

Making a Profit

Although we’ve asked for sponsorship when we’ve put on specific events, such as BarCamp Liverpool or Howduino, beyond those first donations we’ve never asked for outside funding to cover the general running costs of DoES Liverpool. All of our costs are covered by the services we provide. We have tried to keep our list of services short and simple: permanent desks, hot desks and workshop access, but have recently extended this to include a registered postal address service.

Originally, when looking at our finances and balancing the books, we tended to only consider the permanent desks. At £150/month and reasonably stable they were a lot easier to consider than the hot desks which could be so variable. However when we did eventually look at the hot desk figures – by adding up all the revenue and dividing over the number of months we’d been running – it turned out that we were making £150/month, so equivalent to an entire permanent desk, not to be sniffed at.

Francis Irving decided 2 years ago that he wanted to pay us £9/month as a “Friend of DoES”. He saw that, while he was an active member of the community, attending events and participating on the mailing list, we didn’t actually offer him a service that he could pay for. Others followed suit, many set up a standing order and pay each month but some people donate a few months at once. While £9/month may not seem like a huge amount it does add up. Since Francis suggested the idea we’ve had 169 “Friend of DoES” payments, amounting to over £1500 in donations. That’s pretty awesome, thank you Francis for starting this and thank you to all of the friends that have donated.

Down to Brass Tacks

This blog post was inspired by a recent conversation on the mailing list in which Karl Ablitt – who’s looking to set up a hackerspace in Norwich – asked for some information about DoES Liverpool. My response went into some of the information above and also gave a run-down on the current state of DoES’s finances. Adrian’s response suggested that it would be useful for there to be more visibility on these numbers and that led to this blog post.

So here’s our income:

Hot desks (avg) £193.95
Permanent desks £1,200.00
Workshop £60.00
Friends £114.75
Events £50.00
Petty Cash £125.00

And our outgoings:

Main rooms rent £850.00
Workshop £324.00
New Dinky rent £350.00
Electricity (approx) £150.00
Phone & Internet £175.03
Sundries £200.00
Recycling £16.20
TiR £150.00
Cleaning £40.00
Hosted Services £38.80
Admin Role £292.93
Laser Payments £150.00

You will probably notice that one of these is actually bigger than the other. If you’re even sharper-eyed, you’ll spot that it’s not the good way round. For most businesses that would be a sign that things aren’t going right, but as with many things relating to DoES Liverpool it isn’t quite that simple.

Our mission isn’t to fill a certain square footage with paying desks, nor provide a laser-cutting bureau. We have a bigger aim – providing what Liverpool’s tech, maker and startup community needs to prosper.

What does success look like then?

It could be a business using the laser-cutter to prove the market for their jewellry, and growing it to the point where they can justify buying their own machine. Or a startup forming from a few hot-deskers getting to know each other, and then heading off to focus on their idea at an accelerator programme. Or a startup using DoES as a base until they get their own office. Or local businesses finding talented freelancers who join them on-site for a few months to help both business and freelancer thrive.

There are other definitions of success for the DoES community, but we highlight those for a reason – all result in people giving up workshop membership, full-time desks or hot-desking, even if only for a while.

Normally it isn’t a problem, but over the summer we’ve had a few of those coincide with some growing pains which had already pushed our costs up to just over our income.

The admin support that Sean is providing is proving really helpful, and we’d hit the limits of our Internet connection so the new bonded line and router are still essential upgrades.

Obviously we need to address the shortfall, but rather than shrink our capacity, we’d rather ask the community to help us push through this to the next level.

How you can help

The best way you can help is to move in, then we get the benefit of your cash and your presence adding to the activity, conversations and connections being made – be that at a full-time desk, workshop membership or just as a frequent hot-desker.

If that doesn’t work for you, then consider becoming a Friend of DoES or setting up a regular donation. We always appreciate any donations, no matter how small… or large 😉

Everyone can help get word out about what’s available at DoES – tell your friends who are looking for a desk, or who might be interested in laser-cutting or 3D printing. The more people who know about us, the better.

DoES Epic Trip #5 – Do Excellent Stuff in windy places? Another Epic journey

The fifth Epic Trip was to the Scout Moor wind farm and Paul Marrow kindly wrote up a report:

Image from Paul Anderson via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA licensed

Following in the emerging tradition of epic DoES Liverpool journeys yesterday the journey was indeed epic, from Liverpool via Maghull to Scout Moor, in what remains of Lancashire, 0.5 miles from the edge of Greater Manchester (Rochdale) and only 5 miles from West Yorkshire. Scout Moor is apparently the location of the largest (in terms of energy production) wind farm in the UK and it was indeed an impressive site. The trip from Maghull was supported by the wind turbine development company responsible, in order to assist greater understanding and support for a smaller, pending, project in a lower-lying area north of Liverpool (about which more later.) I met people from FoE Liverpool and FoE Southport but I am not sure whether anybody else who identified this from the DoES mailing list attended.

More about Scout Moor: as its name suggests this is exposed moorland which from its plant biodiversity appears to have been used for sheep grazing for a long period. (The nearest human habitation is a sheep farm.) It is open access land so walkers (and sheep) can walk around the turbines without limit (except attempting to gain access to the interior of the turbine tower where the transformer is located.) In order to be an effective wind farm it needs to be windy, and indeed it was, also rather wet. Is this a surprise in Northern British moorland?

While the weather might be bad for humans, the turbines kept turning. The rotation of the blades is converted into electrical power through the gear mechanism at the hub of each turbine, and then transformed through several different voltages before being fed into the national electrical grid presumably some distance away.

Key disadvantages that people have suggested: the disruption of natural viewpoints, the obstruction of traffic in transporting turbine components to the site, the impact on biodiversity on the site. Well, having lived near a nuclear power station I think Scout Moor looks more aesthetically pleasing, but I understand that must be subjective. There are issues in transporting components to the site when building the wind farm: wind turbine towers and blades are very large and do cause congestion on motorways (I have seen them) and it must be worse for the inhabitants of the nearby towns. It was conceded by representatives of the firm that this is a major hindrance in Wales, where planning applications for a number of onshore wind farms have been accepted, but there is not the road network to bring the components in without paralysing some Welsh towns. Constructing an onshore wind farm does involve some construction activity in a typically remote site, but not on the same scale that would be needed for a conventional or nuclear power station – and there is no primary growth biodiversity on this island in any case. Advantages: the technology is well established at other sites, once constructed it’s easy to start up, and easy to shut down.

But there remains the challenge of what do we want in our back yard, it is a bit crowded on this island. Not everybody will have the same viewpoint. I have on paper information about a proposed site at Lower Alt between Maghull and Formby which I shall leave at DoES Liverpool next time I come in.

From a technology point of view, because onshore wind farms are monitored remotely, I can see some interesting potential for linking monitoring and reports on weather conditions with information about power input and distribution into the electric grid (this comes from my background in telecoms.) I don’t know whether there are any lessons to be learned for smaller-scale technology integration and power generation. Wind farm on the roof of the Gostin’s building. Comments anyone?

DoES Epic Trip #4 – Waste Not

DoES Epic Trips are occasional trips to interesting places arranged by members of the DoES Liverpool community. So far we’ve visited the Stafford Beers Archive at LJMU, the Liverpool Traffic Control Centre, and Toxteth Fire Fit Hub Fire Station & Community Centre. The fourth trip (back in June) was to the Merseyside Waste Recycling Centre. I posted a report on the mailing list and am finally posting it to the blog!

The trip to the Waste Recycling Centre will be repeated soon, so if you’re interested take a look at this post on the mailing list.

Just back from the epic trip and thought I’d send a report before I forgot everything. The trip was to the Merseyside Waste Recycling Centre and showed us all about how the recycling for Liverpool, Halton & Knowsley is handled.

Essentially we were shown a large warehouse building with lots of equipment and conveyors in. The recycling comes in mixed together as Liverpool and the other areas have a single bin into which plastic bottles, cardboard, paper, glass & metal cans all go. Out the other end of the system comes bales of cardboard, paper, plastic bottles, aluminium, steel and piles of broken glass. A mixed collection tends to result in more recycling, assumedly because it’s easier for us lazy people. As well as I remember the process works as follows:

  • Mixed recycling goes up big conveyor.
  • Humans watch conveyors and pick out big obvious things that shouldn’t be in there as it passes through, plastic bags etc.
  • The mix is then jiggled over essentially a large sieve. The holes are quite big so most things fall through but the cardboard is generally quite large and stays up, is then taken and baled.
  • Humans then check again for any problem items.
  • Paper is then separated out by only allowing flat things through, can’t quite remember how that was done, this may have been air blowing through the material blowing the paper up or a simple filter that only allowed a certain thickness through.
  • A secondary check is then done for paper that looks for bottles & cans that have been flattened or plastic bags, etc. that have got this far. They shine infra red light onto the materials and check for the absorbency of the material and then use air jets to push the non-paper items away.
  • Next is a set of magnets that go around on a conveyor above the recycling that picks out the steel and drops it, which is then also baled.
  • Aluminium is filtered by having a magnetic field induced which repels the aluminium, apparently, wasn’t too clear on that one. Again, that’s then baled.
  • We’re now left with plastic and glass. This is all dropped onto metal spikes. The glass shatters, the plastic doesn’t, I guess they then use a size filter to take away the broken glass.
  • They have suction devices that can take labels and other contaminants off the plastic bottles so this is another stage they go through.

(I’m pretty certain I’ve got the order of some bits wrong but you get the gist.)

It’s all very organised and as you can see many of the processes they use are actually quite obvious, once you know them. A big aim of theirs is to reduce the number of “contaminants” that make it through the process. Obviously the best way is to stop them entering the system but they also have lots of ways to reduce them along the way. Most of the time contaminants can be dealt with at a later stage (e.g. glass bottles should have labels removed, but they can deal with it if they’re left on). It was quite interesting as they tried to juggle the message of “please prepare your recycling” and “we recycle as much as possible of whatever you send to us”.

Main takeaways for what they want people to do:

  • Follow the instructions given by the council, don’t infer things.
  • Don’t bag up your recycling, the plastic bags can get stuck in the system and can’t be recycled as part of this process.
  • Plastic cartons & boxes are not bottles. If you’re told that they can recycle bottles, that means they can only recycle bottles (this actually goes for DoES too!)
  • Don’t crush bottles and cans, because this reduces the thickness they may actually end up being considered paper until late in the sorting route.
  • Recycle as much as possible!

Quite a long [post], always worth writing things up when fresh in your mind 🙂 They do these tours regularly because they’re trying to get the message out about how to recycle and why. If it turned out that more people wanted to go then we could probably arrange another tour. I imagine the above will suffice and that you will all now recycle lots.

Press Release: Bringing Internet of Things to Internet World 2013

You might think that “things” have always been connected to the internet. Computers, mobile phones, even printers have been connected for years. A lot of the current talk and investment in Internet of Things is large sensor networks and taking information from our environment. What we at DoES Liverpool like to think of when we talk about the Internet of Things is a whole lot more personal and unexpected. How about a bubble machine that blows bubbles when people mention you or your business on Twitter? Or perhaps a clock or dial that instead of showing time or statistics shows where someone is? These are just two of the ideas that members of the DoES Liverpool community will be bringing to Internet World this month.

But first, what is DoES Liverpool? We are many things. We are an online community of creative and often tech savvy people, of tech startups and “makers”. DoES Liverpool is also a physical space. It provides a co-working office space for members of the community to hot desk from or to take a permanent desk. There’s also a shared workshop with lots of equipment available for use; traditional tools such as soldering irons and band-saws to the more modern digital fabrication equipment like the laser cutter and 3D printers. We also hold regular events on many topics from specific programming languages like Python and Clojure through to more business focussed events like Lean Liverpool and Saturday Startup Club. We have a great community coming up with some wonderful ideas, and we’re looking forward to showing some of these to you at Internet World 2013.

DoES Liverpool logo on our Makerbot

Adrian McEwen has been putting things on the Internet for many years. He led the team who developed the first full web browser for a mobile phone, and his code (he’s slightly ashamed to admit) made it onto the Amstrad Emailer. He was recently described as an IoT pioneer by Kevin Ashton, the person who coined the term “Internet of Things” in the first place! Adrian will be bringing two of his IoT inventions to Internet World. Bubblino, the aforementioned twitter activated bubble blowing machine, was actually one of his first IoT projects but is well loved at conferences around the UK and has now been sold to various people in the UK and Europe. The Acker’s Bell was a more recent commision to provide Liverpool Startup ScraperWiki with a bell that would chime each time they made a sale. The mounting for the bell was designed and laser cut in DoES Liverpool with Adrian developing the software and electronics. Usually living in ScraperWiki’s office in Liverpool the Acker’s Bell will be visiting London for you to see at Internet World 2013

With another DoES Liverpool co-founder, Hakim Cassimally, Adrian has spent the last year writing the definitive IoT book – Designing for the Internet of Things. Both Adrian and Hakim will be available to discuss their book and IoT in general, and of course you can pre-order the book on Amazon!

Inspired by the clock owned by the Weasley family in the Harry Potter books, the WhereDial provides a delightful way to make a personal connection with a family member or friend. The WhereDial is made from laser cut plywood or colourful plastic and features a list of location categories around the dial. Through the cloud based location aggregator – MapMe.At – the WhereDial can retrieve a person’s location from FourSquare, Google Latitude and a variety of other services. It then rotates the dial to show where the person is. It’s a great device for people who are less comfortable using mobile phones and computers but is also a really handy glanceable object that fits nicely on the desk of a technophile too. The WhereDial was designed and is built in Liverpool by John McKerrell, also a co-founder of DoES Liverpool.

Perhaps saving the best for last, the final headline item that we’ll be bringing to Internet World 2013 is the Good Night Lamp. Darling of CES and Gadget Show Live, these lamps have a superstar team behind them. They are the brainchild of Alexandra Deshamps-Sonsino, previously a co-founder of smart product design studio Tinker London and the organiser of the monthly Internet of Things meetups in London. She launched the Good Night Lamp as a startup a year ago by committing to taking a booth at CES; 10 months of development later and with a live Kickstarter campaign garnering much publicity she took CES by storm. Her team includes our own Adrian McEwen as CTO; John Nussey as Head of Products and interior designer & architect Konstantinos Chalaris as Lead Designer.

We really hope you will enjoy our exhibition and go away inspired, potentially with some ideas for an IoT product of your own! DoES Liverpool is all about inspiring people to start interesting businesses and while our focus is in Liverpool, we know that IoT is going to take off around the world!

Week 96 – Pure Gold, Laser Lollies

Each week we’ll endeavour to publish some details of the interesting things that members of DoES Liverpool have been up to over the past seven days. You can find out a bit more about them in our introductory post.

And remember, if you’re involved with DoES Liverpool at all, let us know what you get up to so we can include it here!

Things of Note

  • <mcknut> Lolly sticks etched on our laser will be shown on BBC TV (again) tomorrow morning! #weeknotes
  • defproc: Now I think about it, maybe the upside down print bed on the #3DPrinter was a stealth April Fool’s joke @DoESLiverpool #weeknotes
  • defproc: The calibration of the #3Dprinter @DoESLiverpool for a new filament paid off with good clean prints today #weeknotes
    • amcewen: Excellent #RepRap calibration indeed! I hereby hand my @DoESLiverpool #3Dprinting Expert badge to @DefProc 😉 #weeknotes
    • defproc: @amcewen @DoESLiverpool #RepRap #3Dprinting #weeknotes You keep yours, I’ll print off a new one in the gold filament!

Coming Up in the Next Week

Wednesday 10th April, 6-9pm (TONIGHT!) Maker Night
Thursday 11th April, 7-9pm Lean Liverpool
Saturday 13th April, 10am-5pm Maker Day
Saturday 13th April, 11am-2pm Future Makers

Jolly Lolly Sticks

This is a guest post from Jo Leng, a regular visitor to DoES Liverpool who’s has hot desked and used our workshop:

I have always liked jokes, the shorter the better, so when Emily Watkins phoned into DoES needing help how could I resist.

Emily is a chef who lives and works in the Cotswolds. She must be good because when she rang she was competing in the Great British Menu (for Comic Relief) which airs on BBC2 tomorrow morning 9:05 (Thursday 4th April). She needed jokes fast and she needed them to be etched onto lolly sticks. A quick web search had given her DoES – an artist had used the DoES laser cutter to etch lolly sticks last year.

After a quick negotiation, training on using the laser cutter, a web search to find jokes, joke testing and expert consultation from John and Paul on etching and alignment the lolly sticks were delivered.

It’s fantastic to see something produced at DoES Liverpool appearing on BBC, even if it’s just a simple lolly stick!

Week 91

Each week we’ll endeavour to publish some details of the interesting things that members of DoES Liverpool have been up to over the past seven days. You can find out a bit more about them in our introductory post.

And remember, if you’re involved with DoES Liverpool at all, let us know what you get up to so we can include it here!

Things of Note

Coming Up in the Next Week

Monday 4th March, 6:00-9pm (Tonight!) Liverpool Sewing Club
Tuesday 5th March, 6:30-9pm Clojure Dojo
Saturday 9th March, 10am-5pm Maker Day
Saturday 9th March, 11am-2pm Future Makers