[hackerspaces] New Member Vetting

Sam Ley sam.ley at gmail.com
Tue Sep 18 17:46:04 CEST 2012


Good observation - while we all are similar enough organizations to fit
under the term "hackerspace" somehow, the actual day-to-day workings of the
space can be very different. Some groups here have hundreds of members, and
possibly all the equipment is owned by the space itself. Others have only a
few members, and most equipment is owned by individual members. Some places
probably have hand tools, basic power tools and soldering equipment, and
others may have $20k+ machines.

The Phoenix Asylum has a "bureaucratic process" described in a previous
email with a lot of bullet points, but in our model, we only have ~20
members at a time, who all have some physical space attached to their
membership as well as use of the common areas. They typically are
individuals who already have a craft or discipline they are following, and
specialized tools for that task. Members may work on their own items, but
also teach one another their trades, sharing equipment to do so. In that
end, the space owns very little common equipment and tools, but many
individuals bring with them very expensive or delicate equipment, such as
glass-blowing setups, digital 12kW kilns, CNC routers, CNC lathes, TIG
welders, etc. This environment calls for a higher level of certainty that
someone is a good fit. We are very inclusive people, but we won't take
risks with our members equipment. We've never rejected a potential member,
but would do so if there were legitimate concerns.

Our level of detail may not be appropriate for some spaces that have a more
informal structure, and risk less by being more inclusive.


On Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 8:11 AM, Pete Prodoehl <raster at gmail.com> wrote:

> Throughout this thread I've wondered what exactly a "member" is, and what
> privileges they have, and what access they have, as it differs with
> different spaces.
> At Milwaukee Makerspace we've got a lot of equipment, some of it very
> expensive, and some of it very dangerous, and all of it owned by individual
> members, so we don't just let anyone walk in and join. We do the whole
> "come to open night, meet us, get to know us" routine, and have an existing
> member vouch for you.
> We also give members a key to get in to the space 24 hrs a day, assuming
> they will follow the rules, be safe, and not use equipment they are not
> checked out on. If your space just has tables, wifi, and a few tools, that
> may be safe/fine for anyone, but if you've got a mill, lathe, forge, kiln,
> laser cutter, etc. you might be a bit hesitant to let people in.
> Pete
> On 9/17/12 6:17 PM, James Carlson wrote:
>> At Bucketworks in Milwaukee, we welcome anyone to join -- there is no
>> vetting process. Folks fill out a standard application and sign off on a
>> member agreement that we walk them through. We do run a standard
>> background check and perform a County-Cap search (an online search in WI
>> you can do on anyone to find their court cases / prosecution history.)
>> So it's easy to become a member--but where we've put much more energy
>> (as with the Phoenix Asylum and i3 Detroit) is in the on boarding
>> process for a new member.
>> New members get a full tour of the facility (at 34,000 sq. ft. it takes
>> a while to show people around) and are invited to attend the monthly
>> member meeting. We create a profile for each member with information
>> about them in the space, when they'll be around, and what they want to
>> work on. If they are joining at a level where they have their own space,
>> they schedule a move-in date. We also schedule training or follow-up
>> workshops with teachers or mentors who are usually other members to show
>> them how to operate tools, equipment, and whatever else they might need.
>> Only after all these steps are completed do we consider them a full
>> member, even though they have access to Bucketworks before they are
>> finished. This has helped us--by spending the energy up front we have
>> avoided needing to vet members or throw anyone out in the last 10 years
>> that we've had a membership program!
>> In sum-- I think vetting on a basic legal safety level is good, and the
>> rest of the energy and time should be spent with on-boarding a new
>> member so they become a part of the community. As Sam said, having a
>> 'sponsor' who guides the new member through really helps. (In our case
>> it's the full-time staff director Tim Syth who does this for each member.)
>> On Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 5:47 PM, Roland Hieber <lists at rohieb.name
>> <mailto:lists at rohieb.name>> wrote:
>>     Hash: SHA1
>>     On 18.09.2012 00:26, Edward L Platt wrote:
>>      > At i3 Detroit, we're pretty much open to anyone who wants to be a
>>      > member.  We just record their home address and check their ID, and
>>      > we don't require new members to be sponsored.  We've never had any
>>      > serious problems.
>>     What Ed says. At Stratum 0 in Braunschweig, Germany, we don't even
>>     have an "application form", anyone who wants to be a member just
>>     writes an e-mail to the board stating that she or he wants to be a
>>     member, and more thatn 50% of the board members have to agree. The
>>     only things we need are the applicant's real name and a valid e-mail
>>     address. I must admit that we have only existed for a year now, and
>>     have a rather small hackerspace (60m²), so we're very open to any
>>     support we can get, given that about 80% of our members are local
>>     students who might leave the town in a few years ;-) But despite this
>>     very open policy there were never any problems with members, and we
>>     didn't have to reject anyone (yet).
>>     Concerning member vetting or even police checks, there was never even
>>     the slightest discussion in our community to introduce that. We have
>>     however an (unwritten) rule that only good-known members are given
>>     access to a key.
>>     - -- Roland
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