In the comfort of these rooms, you can write a computer program. You can talk about the meaning of life. You can just sit there quietly...
In the comfort of these rooms, you can write a computer program. You can talk about the meaning of life. You can just sit there quietly, reading.
The only real expectation at Saturday House, a weekly gathering in Sodo, is “background friendliness.” And even that bar is set pretty low.
“If someone asks you what you’re reading, you can’t glare,” said Lion Kimbro, 30, a software engineer and one of the founders.
For the past several months, a group of self-described geeks has gathered weekly to re-create the feeling of kindergarten, where everyone has a project and stays for the day, learning in a free-form kind of way.
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Saturday House began last spring, a few tech-savvy friends sitting around each Saturday in someone’s living room. Now it has migrated to an $850-a-month, 1,000-square-foot space in Sodo where as many as 25 people settle in each week for tasks and talk.
People in Ballard like the idea so much, word is they want their own. Their Saturday House is expected to begin next year, with a focus on sustainability.
The Sodo Saturday House is open to all types and all ages, from toddlers to seniors. But this weekend, it was, as usual, mostly men who liked to talk computer code. They sat around a long table in the front room, comparing notes on programs. Next door, a child was learning from his mentor how to create computer graphics.
The big attraction early in the day was the XO computer, a colorful, compact, low-cost machine designed for children in developing countries. Members described it as more durable, and more sophisticated, than anything currently on the market.
At various times, they huddled around it in awe.
“That’s a weird little piece of static,” said one person. “Ah, sneaky,” said another, studying the screen.
Another XO arrived, via its owner, and the men played with the “acoustic tape measure” feature, tracking the distance between the two machines using sound.
Saturday House is hoping to draw in other kinds of geeks — people who are really, really passionate about working on cool stuff. Knitters would fit in just fine, someone pointed out. Still, recruiting has proved a challenge.
Ryan Kabir, 24, of Bellevue, said he was working on a friend whose hobbies include sewing and cooking noodle soup.
“She was a little apprehensive,” he said.
But Kimbro insists: Saturday House is designed to be a community where different kinds of people can learn from one another. That’s what he had in mind last spring when he blogged about re-creating the atmosphere of his daughter’s free-thinking, progressive school.
A friend, Brian Dorsey, sent the posting to his friends, with the message: Let’s try it. And so Saturday House was born, with the hope of sparking some learning and a different kind of friendship along the way.
The problem with friendship these days, Dorsey said, is that you meet every once in a while, for a set period of time, with a specific purpose: catching up. When that’s done, you leave.
“Then a month later, you repeat,” said Dorsey, 33, a database developer for Vulcan.
But if you come to a place, he said, and stay for the day, there’s plenty of time for something meaningful to emerge.
“One day, we had a six-hour session on ‘what is a soul,’ ” said a smiling Rob Eickmann, 29, who works with computers at The Polyclinic. “I was ready to drink hemlock at the end of it.”
For Anders Conbere, 24, a Microsoft employee, it’s been invaluable, finding this kind of community.
“In the online world, it’s easy to find,” he said. “But in the physical space, that becomes more troublesome.”
Plenty of Seattleites work with computers. But there aren’t as many, he said, who are (1) social, and (2) interested in exchanging ideas. At Saturday House, right away, he found a group of like-minded people who wanted to help him create an online version of the European board game The Settlers of Catan.
Saturday House survives on donations now; anyone who gives $100 or more toward the rent may use the space during the week. There are monthly meetings where the group discusses things like how to decorate the space, and regular talks about how best to grow.
Kimbro has his dreams. One day, he said, the event could expand to a gathering of 50,000 people every week at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center.
Of course, Dorsey notes, this is also the man who thinks Saturday House should have its own stealth fighter plane.
“Not for fighting,” Kimbro says, smiling. “Just for rapid transit.”
Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or firstname.lastname@example.org