[hackerspaces] [Noisebridge-discuss] accounting software / websites

Mitch Altman maltman23 at hotmail.com
Wed Oct 6 04:12:56 CEST 2010

Hi Al, Kelly,
I started with a simple spreadsheet.  That was do-able when we had only 35 members when we started.  It was do-able, but took lots of time, when we had 50 members.  And it was barely do-able, with lots and lots of time, and was very error prone, when we approached 100 members.
The problem is that each month the people who are and are not members changes.  We need to keep track of that.  And people pay variable amounts of money every month.  And the money people pay each month can go for any combination of starving hacker rate, full membership rate, and donations -- and can go for a fraction of one month, or any number of months in advance payment (plus fractions of a month).  And some people are some number of months (including fractions of months) behind in their payments.  So, keeping track of who's a member in good standing is not a very simple task.  It is not difficult, but it is time-consuming using a spreadsheet.
I had a separate worksheet for each month.  Each spreadsheet had the members who were required to pay membership dues that month.  As members paid their dues, I marked them off as paid for the month.  I had two other worksheets:  one for active members in good standing, and one for people who were voted in, but for whatever reason are no longer a member in good standing (like, they told me they no longer wanted to be a member, or they stopped paying dues for 3 months without communicating with me).  
I actually didn't keep track, on the worksheets, whether a member was a starving hacker member or a regular member that month.  But I kept track of the amounts paid on my bookkeeping software (I used Quicken -- not the best, but it worked totally fine -- except it did not allow for me to download data from our bank accounts, or from PayPal, or from Square).
If we had software that could do all of the above, then the treasurer's job would be way less time-consuming.
And if it could automatically generate nag-emails when a member hasn't paid their monthly dues by a certain date, that would also help a lot!  (Of course, the emails shouldn't go out without the approval of the treasurer, or the ability of the treasurer to edit the email).
As you can see, a simple spreadsheet is helpful, but is not really OK for an organization as complex as Noisebridge (or most hackerspaces).
There are people at other hackerspaces working on software for all this, but it is (as you know) complex and time-consuming to write such software.  But whoever gets theirs going will make treasurer's around hte hackerspace world much happier.
> From: asweigart at gmail.com
> Date: Tue, 5 Oct 2010 17:06:59 -0700
> Subject: Re: [Noisebridge-discuss] accounting software / websites
> To: maltman23 at hotmail.com
> CC: hurtstotouchfire at gmail.com
> I started writing some software that would help us track membership
> dues, but the more I kept looking at the problem, the more I thought
> we were overengineering it. If we can't figure out a way to get Xero
> to issue reoccurring invoices, then a simple spreadsheet would work
> just fine.
> I have loose plans for writing up some reporting/emailing software,
> but the spreadsheet idea is (I'm convinced) the simplest way to go.
> I'll notify you guys on the progress for the other software tools.
> -Al
> On Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:51 PM, Mitch Altman <maltman23 at hotmail.com> wrote:
> > Perhaps not exactly what you're asking for -- but there are people at
> > various hackerspaces around the world currently writing software to take
> > care of hackerspace treasurers' needs.  Whoever gets some software up and
> > running first, will share it with the world.  Isn't Al in the process of
> > writing such software for us?
> >
> > Mitch.
> >
> >
> > ---------------------
> >> From: hurtstotouchfire at gmail.com
> >> Date: Tue, 5 Oct 2010 16:47:30 -0700
> >> To: noisebridge-discuss at lists.noisebridge.net
> >> Subject: [Noisebridge-discuss] accounting software / websites
> >>
> >> Wherein you are invited to disclose your opinions on things you will
> >> never take any action on yourself! A rare Noisebridge opportunity!
> >>
> >> Here's the deal:
> >> I, your new treasurer, already hate xero.com (our current bookkeeping
> >> system). I'm planning to finish out 2010 using xero, but I'll have a
> >> good 9 months of 2011 to look forward to, and they could be accounting
> >> bliss. That's the fantasy.
> >>
> >> Here are features we need:
> >> -import and reconcile transactions from Wells Fargo, Paypal & Square.
> >> -keep repeating invoices for membership dues and an option to have the
> >> member invoiced automatically via email.
> >> -some smart suggestions to reconcile incoming transactions with their
> >> matching invoices (xero is betarded at this. It searches only by
> >> amount, not by name and amount)
> >> -custom categories for flagging transactions as various types of
> >> expenses and income to make taxes easier
> >> -some reasonably convenient way to output data (graphs and reports
> >> would be nice, but good clean csv files would do. I can matplotlib
> >> that shit.)
> >> -clear tracking of unpaid invoices
> >> -reasonably forgiving and customizable system (i.e. xero won't let you
> >> delete invoices once created, you can only mark them invalid. Not A
> >> Feature.)
> >> -generate receipts easily
> >> -web-based or linux-compatible local app. Some sort of remote data
> >> storage and ability to access from multiple machines is required.
> >>
> >> Here are features that would make me especially super happy:
> >> -direct access to the full details of paypal or square transactions
> >> (i.e. notes to the payee, etc)
> >> -really smart algorithms for invoice reconciliation, alteration and
> >> deletion (i.e. delete invoices for this member during these dates or
> >> change the invoice amount on individual invoices without affecting
> >> repeating invoices)
> >> -an interface which isn't bleeding edge flash that trips up in Linux.
> >>
> >> Ideas?
> >>
> >> -Kelly
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> Noisebridge-discuss mailing list
> >> Noisebridge-discuss at lists.noisebridge.net
> >> https://www.noisebridge.net/mailman/listinfo/noisebridge-discuss
> >
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