[hackerspaces] New Member Vetting

dosman dosman at packetsniffers.org
Tue Sep 18 21:21:29 CEST 2012

At Bloominglabs we have a new member requirement of showing up to at least 3 events (public meetings, workshops, ect) so we can get to know them and they can get to know us, then we will fill out a membership application for them. There is a sponsor, but basically that is just the existing member who helps them fill out the app form and shows them around. Group consensus is reached via email so if anyone has concerns they have an opportunity to voice them (which has never happened). We do take down emergency contact info which while posted publicly (kinda required for the purpose) no one has a need to rifle through that folder unless there is a true emergency rendering a member unable to communicate. No background checks. Other co-op spaces in our city require them "for the safety of the children". We are a kid friendly space but we're not a baby sitting service and require kids under ~18 to come with their own adult.

We did have one incident with a member which caused us to modify our bylaws however. This particular member was homeless but had cash to pay monthly dues and tools to share so we had no qualms about him joining. He was using the space nearly 16 hours a day which was no surprise, however after a couple months had passed his usage pattern changed. Rather than working on projects and things he intended to sell, it turned into him drinking beer and watching TV the majority of his time in the space. A little of either if fine, but 15 hours of this every day wasn't cool and made people felt like they were disturbing him when they actually needed to do work. There were some other nuisance issues as well too. We wanted to continue to work with him to resolve this situation, however when confronted about his behavior it turned into an excuse fest with nothing resolved. He wanted us to define specific rules to which he could abide. We have only two rules 1. Don't be on fire 2. Be excellent to each other - which has worked well for a few years now.  At this point he decided to leave of his own accord. One thing we realized was that our only recourse if he had not decided to leave was to hold a vote and terminate his membership. We never wanted to do this, but we needed a way to communicate to an uncooperative member that their behavior was unexcellent, so upon his departure we added a probation clause to our bylaws. Also we added a violence clause as well at that time as he had apparently attracted a 3rd party who had threatened violence towards him and knew he spent most of his time at our space. It was a sad incident as this person was interesting to talk with and otherwise had things to offer.


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