[hackerspaces] New Member Vetting

Danny O'Brien danny at spesh.com
Wed Sep 19 01:11:23 CEST 2012

On Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 3:21 PM, Pete Prodoehl <raster at gmail.com> wrote:
> So how much do you see equipment downtime?
> Even though we have equipment that hasn't really been "abused" we still see
> things fail, and they often take time to repair, and that's time lost for
> people who want to use the equipment, especially those who can only make it
> to the space once or twice a week at best.

Noisebridge lets anyone use our lasercutter, woodshop, network,
kitchen, and so on, which means that anyone can come in and fix them
too -- and are firmly encouraged to (that's what do-acracy is for).
The working assumption is that breakage is going to be balanced out by
a higher frequency of people fixing breakage. Obviously you need a
critical mass of visitors with an interest in hacking to pull this
off, but the same is true of getting enough members to help out fixing
stuff in a more controlled environment.

I'd love some way to empirically check this, but my anecdotal
impression of the result at Noisebridge that breakage ends up relative
not to the expense or fragility of the item, but to its popularity and
accessibility. So, despite much understandable concern, Noisebridge's
lasercutter and 3D printers are kept going a relatively large
percentage of the time, despite having literally no oversight, no
repair budget, and a  policy of letting anyone come in and use them,
exactly because we have a constant stream of people with an interest
in them working. Obscurer stuff that breaks can be broken for longer
-- or more likely, is dismantled for use as something else.

That means for the health of Noisebridge's systems, (desperately)
*encouraging* usage ends up being a high priority than narrowing
access. I'm not sure I'd go as far as to call it a *virtuous* circle,
but the experience of bootstrapping strangers into getting excited
enough about a complex people of machinery and self-cofidently angry
enough when it breaks to fix it is definitely a Comedy of the Commons.

One of the consequences of this is that people's "pet" hardware --
things which they regularly use, but not many other people -- can
struggle. That is why, I think, we have to emphasize to people that
bringing in their own equipment to "share" with others isn't going to
end well (they aren't around enough to maintain it, while no-one else
is going to fix your shit to your satisfactoin, even if they broke

Similarly with creating a special area of the space with special rules
is also going to be a problem, because maintaining the rule boundary
is a) at least as costly in terms of time and resources as maintenance
in this environment, and b) actually (we *think*) diminishes people's
tendency to take responsibilty for other stuff in the space. In the
end, despite an understandable desire to define the success of a
hackerspace in terms of how much cool stuff they have, there are some
items where people at Noisebridge end up going "you know, you might be
better off just inviting people over to your garage, or using
techshop's version of that". Or in other words,"This is why we don't
*want* nice things". But that set of items is far smaller than you
would think, and the intersection between 'can survive in the open'
and 'is cool' much larger.

Standard Noiseclaimer:  As Rubin says, no hacker space is required to
operate like Noisebridge, nor in fact should they ever.


> Laser cutters especially seem pretty easy to do damage to themselves by
> people not properly trained in their usage.
> Pete
> On 9/18/12 4:57 PM, Charlie X Wallace wrote:
>>> 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.
>> We have cnc mills, pick and place, laser cutter, vinyl cutter, tools,
>> lots and lots of electronic equipment and components.
>> We're not hesitant at all. I accept things might get damaged, but almost
>> everything we can either repair or improve. That which cannot easily be
>> repaired, would be  whip round/fund raiser to replace it.
>> charlie
>> nullspacelabs
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